Episode 64: Breakthroughs, Part 4- Avoiding Careless Words

Peace to Live By Episode 64: Breakthroughs, Part 4- Avoiding Careless Words - Daniel Litton
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[Transcript may not match broadcasted sermon word for word]

       I hope everyone is doing well today.

       Today’s message and next week's are ones that I’ve been looking forward to giving for a while now. One reason for this is because I think that some are going to realize something for the first time. They are going to have a life-long mystery solved. And I do not say that lightly, but I believe that what the Lord has laid on my heart to say can be particularly beneficial for people if they allow it to be. So, today and next week we are going to be talking about our mouths, or our tongues—the things that we speak out of our mouths. I think for most of us, this is an area that we haven’t kept as close of a watch on as we should have. The message today will focus on the negative versus the positive side of our speaking, while next week’s will focus on speaking God’s Word in our lives.

       Some of you out there today feel that your life is cursed. You feel you’re one of those people of whom unfortunate things happen to. You may feel like you have ‘bad luck’ in your life. Or, it could be that you feel that you have it good in some areas, but then there are those certain areas that never seem to work out the way you want them to. There always seems to be disappointment in those categories. Perhaps for some of you it is your career. You get a new job, and things go well for a while. Then maybe you get laid off or even fired. And this cycle seems to repeat itself over and over. Or, perhaps you feel relationships don’t go your way. You get into a new relationship, and things are good, but then the relationship slowly but surely falls apart. And you can’t figure out why. You don’t know why this misfortune always seems to happen to you.

       Now, you may be asking yourself at this point, “What do the problems you're describing have to do with my mouth?” And that’s a good question. Let’s start by looking at a couple verses of Scripture from Proverbs chapter 18. If we go over there, we read, “From the fruit of a man's mouth his stomach is satisfied; he is satisfied by the yield of his lips. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits” (vv. 20, 21). Now, these verses tell us some powerful things. First, we read that our lives will be satisfied, that is, we will be happy with our lives and have our heart’s desires met, by bearing good fruit from our mouths. That’s pretty interesting. Good fruit comes from good words? Very interesting. The verse goes further though. Again, it says, “he is satisfied by the yield of his lips.” That means if we want to be satisfied with our lives, we need to have a good yield, a good crop, from the things we speak.

       To put it another way, the Apostle Peter said, quoting Psalm 34, “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit” (ESV). So, according to Peter, the way we guard our lives, the way we find that we love our lives and see good times, is when we guard what we say. And notice that the psalmist does not exclude this to watching what we say just when we are speaking to other people. He doesn’t limit it to that. This includes everything we say, even when we speak just to ourselves. The Lord Jesus Christ, in John chapter 6, stated the following: ““It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life"" (John 6:63, 64, ESV). We should all be aware, and I think many of us are, that it’s the Holy Spirit who has given us our new life as a Christian. He has made us new creations in Christ. Nothing good came out of our flesh, as Jesus tells us. But he goes on to say that it’s his words, the words he speaks with his own mouth, also which gives spirit and life to himself and to others.

       So, both the Lord Jesus Christ and the Apostle Peter have shown us that if we want to have life in ourselves, that is good life, then the things we say with our mouths matter. But what I want you to see today is that there is far more to this than just being careful not to say bad things about other people, like gossiping or slandering. There is much more to it than that. I would purpose to you today that every word we speaks matters, no matter what we are talking about. As a matter of fact, Jesus also said, “for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:37, ESV). Now, just before he said that, he stated, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” (Matthew 12:34-36, ESV). So, first, we are Christians, so we are the ‘good’ people because we are new creations, having been sanctified by Christ. And, second, we will have to account for every word we speak? Wow, that’s pretty humbling.

       If I am to give account for every word that I speak, I probably want to watch what I say, and make sure that I say the right things at the right times. I probably don’t want to have a lot of negative “I can’t” statements in my vocabulary. After all, Jesus has made me that new creation we’ve been talking about, and he says I can do all things through him because he strengthens me. So, I probably don’t want to go around saying I can’t do this or that. And I probably don’t want to be negative in general, because there isn’t much life in negative speaking. If I am always looking at what is wrong instead of what is right, I am not thinking about good things, am I? I’m not filling my mind with life. And if I am speaking negative things, no matter how seemingly significant or insignificant, I am filling my life with death instead of life. I am speaking death to myself and others, doing the opposite of what the Lord Jesus Christ talked about. Instead of speaking life, like him, I’m speaking death. So, I’m not being like him.

       Our mouths guide our lives, like a ship’s rudder. Let’s turn over to James chapter 3, and look at one of the things that James taught us about our mouths. He told us to look at the ships: ““Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things” (James 3:4, 5, ESV). We’ve all seen the small ships that are out and about at places like Alum Creek, Indian Lake, or even Lake Erie. Wherever you go, if there is enough water, there are small ships. It’s a very small rudder that guides a ship and yet it steers the whole ship. Something small makes something big happen. And that’s the way it is with our mouths. They can have a dramatic impact on our lives. If we say the right things then, the good things, then we will be having a good life over time, but if we say the wrong things, and continue to say them, we are cursing our life, over and over again. That’s why many don’t have the lives they want.

       The reality is, if we speak negativity, we will ruin our lives. Again, I’m not talking about just arguing with your friends, or saying rude things to people. I’m not just talking about lying. I’m talking about watching every word that comes from our lips, our mouths. I’m talking about things like when you’re working a project, and saying something like, “I hate this.” I’m talking about when your son is struggling on the sports team, and you say, “I’m afraid he’ll never be any good.” I’m speaking about when you look in the mirror and say, “Man, I don’t look so hot.” Saying these kind of things to ourselves and to other people matters. Even if no one is listening, it matters. And it is significant for a lot of reasons. Jesus said we are responsible for our words. Would he look into the mirror and say, “Man, I just don’t think I look good.” Would he be working on a project and say, “Man, I hate this.” No, I think we all will agree we don’t think he would say those types of things. Then why do we so often do that? Why do we curse ourselves by speaking negative things with our mouths, using the power of our mouths to speak death into our lives?

       Jesus said to the Pharisees, “"Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:33, 34, ESV). We know that the Pharisees were not believers in Jesus. And Jesus called them out for it, saying they were evil, of the wrong father as he said on another occasion. But, again, we who have believed in Christ are good. We are not good because of anything we have accomplished for ourselves, but because of what Christ accomplished for us on the cross. So, if we are good, we should be like him and speak good things—speak life. We shouldn’t be like the unbelieving Pharisees and speak evil—speak negativity. We have the ability to speak negatively, to speak death, but we should be careful not to do that.

       Now, some of you are saying, “But didn’t Jesus just speak negatively when he told the Pharisees they were vipers and evil?” Yes, of course, he spoke negative truths, for a lot of truth is negative. I am not saying we should never deny the truth, deny what is true. Sometimes we say things that aren’t pleasant because the truth isn’t alway pleasant. But we need to be careful that we have a right motive when we speak. Many of us, again, say negative things only to hurt ourselves and others, and not to shed light on the truth of a matter. And that is key here. Many say negative things to themselves because they don’t like themselves, but Jesus taught us to love ourselves. People say hurtful statements to others many times just to hurt them. It’s not wrong to say negative things to others when our intention is for the truth of God’s Word to be known, or to just help someone. But we shouldn’t judge, criticize, condemn, and do like things because we are envious or jealous of people, or just negative in general. We should not be faultfinders, but good-finders.

       Many of us have been taught to be discerning of teachings and people, but a problem is that we have let our discernment get out of control to the point where our discerning actually becomes a faultfinding attitude that invades all areas of our life. So what happens is that we end up looking at everything in life through negative faultfinding glasses, and then we spot something wrong, and we speak what is wrong with our mouths to others. Remember, a faultfinder will always find fault because you can find fault in just about anything if you look hard enough. We often excuse our faultfinding as a good thing because we think we are doing it in a spirit of ‘discerning.’ We think we are supposed to faultfinders. But that’s not true. And, when we have developed an attitude like this, Satan can then use us to hurt others by saying hurtful things to them. When others say hurtful things to you, often it is because Satan is capitalizing on the weakness of that person to bother you. That particular brother or sister hasn’t been keeping watch on this faultfinder area in his or her life, and Satan can take advantage of that weakness greatly to hurt you and others.

       And often we judge and criticize other people without asking them anything first. Most of the time when we are thinking negatively about someone else or another ministry, we are just jealous of whatever it is. But, if we do have a legitimate concern, which is rare, we typically go ahead and criticize and speak negatively before we find out if our assumption is correct or incorrect. A problem for us is that we often like to criticize others who do things differently than we do. Remember, with God there are many ways to doing things, and all of his ways are correct in his eyes. Like, there are many ways to share the Gospel, for instance. Often, though, we think that if someone doesn’t do things how ‘we’ think they should do it, then the person or ministry is in fact in the wrong. And then sometimes we feel it is our job to go and correct that person ‘we feel’ is in the wrong. Satan can have great victories in this area if we let him. He can get us to criticize others, and be a bother and hurt to them, when that’s not God’s will at all. The Bible tells us to “encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, ESV) in the body of Christ.

       Now, another struggle for us can be complaining. When we complain in our lives, whether on a big level, or even on a smaller level, we are actually sinning and preventing God from helping us in our lives. For one, complaining is the opposite of thanksgiving. If we are complaining about things, with a critical mindset, we are not giving thanks to God and living in a thankful attitude in our minds. When a problem arises, we have two choices. We can either complain about it with our mouths, or we can keep quite and believe that the problem is going to clear up. When we complain with our mouths, God can’t help us. It’s as if he looks down from Heaven and says, “Man, I’d love to help her. But she’s sinning by complaining.” I think many of us are so use to complaining that we have excused it in our minds by saying, “Well, everyone complains. It’s not that bad.” But to God, it’s bad. It’s not utilizing our faith. Proverbs 21:23 states, “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble” (ESV). When we complain, we just add more trouble upon our already current trouble.

       Again, in Proverbs, King Solomon told us, ““From the fruit of his mouth a man is satisfied with good, and the work of a man's hand comes back to him” (Proverbs 12:14, ESV). Again, we are talking about the ‘fruit’ of our mouths, the good things that we say that make our lives better. If we say things like, “I believe I can do this,” when we are doing something that we find difficult, we speak life into our lives, and we bear good fruit from it. If we say, “I believe my son is going to get better at his football,” again we speak life in our situation. If we say when looking into the mirror, “I look good. God has crafted me, and I am good looking,” we feel better about ourselves. The Apostle Paul taught us that love believes all things and hopes all things (see 1 Corinthians 13:7, ESV). He also said that two of the three most important things in life, attitudes that we can have, are faith and hope. A lot of time we are focused on love, which is good, but there is also ‘faith’ and ‘hope’ which are important for us. We exercise our ‘faith’ when we believe good for ourselves and others, and ‘hope’ when we believe good will happen in the future. This is just not ‘feel good’ stuff I’m talking about, but this is important for us if we want to live successful, happy lives.

       Solomon said in the next chapter over, ““Disaster pursues sinners, but the righteous are rewarded with good” (Proverbs 13:21, ESV). Again, if we are sinning with our mouths, being like a sinner, a person who doesn’t know God, we are calling for disaster in our lives—negative things. But, as we are righteous, called by God and justified by him, we should be speaking good things into our lives, which calls for good, and therefore we are rewarded with good things. When things aren’t going like we want them to, we use our ‘faith’ to say something good and then our ‘hope’ to believe that the good we have spoken will in fact come to pass in the future. This is critical. Often we don’t feel like saying good things, but we shouldn’t live by our negative feelings, just saying what our negative feelings want us to say. We have to use our faith to say good things anyway and then hope to believe better is coming for us in the near future.

       To state it more plainly, our mouths release life to us both in the good times and in the harder times. Our words can make us feel emotionally up, or feel emotionally down. A way we can curse ourselves, and make ourselves feel even worse, is when we image the worst is going to happen in a situation, instead of imaging that good is going to happen. Instead of believing for something good, we believe and are anticipating something bad. Most of us are used to speaking something negatively and watching more negative come, but we need to try speaking positively and watching good things come. I believe you will be amazed by the difference that speaking positively will make for you. But, remember, you have to ‘believe’ that good is going to happen. You have to ‘believe,’ accept it, in your mind. I can say something good, but if I didn’t really believe what I said, it’s not going to have as strong an impact. And if we find it hard to believe that good is going to happen inside our minds, we should go against those thoughts and speak positively anyway.

       In closing today, perhaps you’ve been listening to what I have been saying today and you want something different in your life. You want to experience ‘real’ life, truly fulfilling life, and you're believing that the words I have been speaking today contain that life. Jesus sounds appealing to you today. Well, I want those who are not Christian today, or who are not practicing Christians, to realize that God loves you, and he wants to be in a personal relationship with each one of you. God showed his love for everyone some 2,000 years ago by having Jesus die on the cross of all sins of all time. He did that because each of us is born with a sin nature, and we have to accept Jesus' perfect sacrifice on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins, and to be truly made right with God. You see, Jesus can make you free from sin’s power today. He died on a cross and rose from the dead by God's power so that anyone can be forgiven and set free from sin.

       By believing in Jesus for the forgiveness of the wrongs you have done in your life, you can be at peace with God. He will forgive any and every offense for anyone who comes to him in agreement with him. There's no need to continue living with the weight of your sin on your shoulders. There's no need to live with regret about anything wrong you’ve done in your life. God can take that burden off your shoulders, and you can be made right with him. Not only will you be in a good relationship with him, but he also freely gives eternal life to whoever will believe in him. There will be no Hell in the future for those who accept Jesus. There is no more condemnation for them. They are free: free to live and have a new life. God will help us with all of our troubles, fears, and problems as we speak life into our lives. And God is with us now and will be with us forever in the future.

       If you would like to accept Jesus today as your personal Leader and personal Savior, then just follow my lead in this simple prayer:

God, I have messed up in my life. I have sinned against you, and against others. I have lived speaking death into my life intend of good, right things. I understand today that through Jesus I can have forgiveness for my sins, that the weight can come off my shoulders. I want to accept Jesus' sacrifice on my behalf, and I believe that he rose from the dead. I turn from willingly doing wrong today, and count Jesus as my Lord. Please, change my life and make me new. In Jesus' name, Amen.

-Daniel Litton