Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Our Words Matter

"Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversations be always full of grace … so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
 Colossians 4:5-6

About 10 years ago, I was officiating a funeral for an older widow who had attended my church for many years. (To protect the innocent, I’ll call her Martha.) There I was at the mortuary, standing 12 feet or so from her casket as I spoke at the service. I wasn’t sure I was really connecting with her grieving family, so I thought I would share something about Martha that demonstrated that I had known her personally. So I said, “One thing that stands out to me about Martha is how she used to always wear white gloves to church during the winter. I appreciated that because, like her, my hands get cold during the winter. In fact, my hands have two settings: They’re either hot and clammy or cadaver cold.”

And then it hit me. I had just used the word “cadaver” in a funeral message while standing just a few feet from the poor lady’s casket. For some reason Martha’s family never contacted me again after that service.

Do words matter? Absolutely, words matter. A judge says a few words, and a defendant’s life is either spared or condemned. A doctor says a few words, and a patient will either throw a party or start finalizing her will. And as followers of Jesus Christ, our words can either lead to many unbelievers turning to Christ—or many unbelievers running as fast as they can in the opposite direction. Words matter. As Paul writes to the Colossians, he gives his Christian readers some powerful insights about how we should use our words for good.

1) We should be praying. Too many of us pray only at certain times: for 15 seconds before a meal, for 30 seconds before bed, or in a church service. But God’s word says, “Devote yourselves to prayer.” As followers of Jesus we should be in constant fellowship with God so that we maintain an open line of communication and talk with Him naturally throughout the day. Our prayers should also be thankful. When we focus our minds and tongues on praising God for who He is and thanking Him for what He’s done, it gets our prayers moving in the right direction. And our praying must be purposeful.  In verses 3-4, Paul asks his readers to pray for him and his ministry team so that God will “open a door for our message, so that we may [clearly] proclaim the mystery of Christ.” And that leads us to the second thing that our words should be doing every day….
2) We should be proclaiming God’s Word. Paul wrote most of his letters from a prison cell. Now, if you or I were in prison, our instinctive prayer would probably be, “Please, God, GET ME OUTTA HERE!” But Paul didn’t submit that prayer request, did he? He simply wants the Colossian Christians to pray that he and his companions will be able to proclaim God’s word clearly and effectively—even though that was what put him in prison in the first place. Whenever Paul was arrested or beaten or imprisoned, it was either because people didn’t like the plain truth he shared about Jesus, or it was because far too many people were accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior, and that ticked a lot of people off. Which leads us to Paul’s third point…

3) We should be witnessing to the lost. Every day Paul tried to make the most of every opportunity to point people to Christ with his words and with his actions. As followers of Jesus Christ, we live in a culture that has become downright hostile to biblical Christianity. Every day there are people around us who are just waiting for us to screw up. We’re accused of being hypocrites, narrow-minded, judgmental, hateful, intolerant and homophobic. Now, I’ve been around thousands of Christians in my lifetime, and in my experience, Christians who truly love the Lord and are hiding His word in their hearts and are following Him faithfully are NOT these things. But it’s an uphill battle to prove this to many who Paul calls “outsiders.” He advises us: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversations be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone (vs. 5-6).”

We need to be wise in the way we act and in the way that we speak. When we do, guess what happens. People who desperately need to hear the truth about their sin and Jesus’ salvation begin to listen to the truth that we speak. And many who begin as “outsiders” end up repenting of their sin, getting saved and becoming Christ-following “insiders.” That’s exactly what the Lord has called us to do.

Dane Davis is the Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information, visit www.YourVictorvilleChurch.com  and join us for worship Sundays at 10 am.

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