(These are notes taken during the session, not a manuscript.)
There are three things I know about you:
- You talk. Every day of our lives and every relationship is filled with talk. Words are God's idea, and they belong to him. So when you hear the word "talk" you ought to hear something that is high and holy and important. Let us never regard talk as something that doesn't matter.
- Both the saddest and the most celebratory moments of your life have been accompanied by talk.
- Your world of talk is a world of trouble.
This last point is defeating, but the redeeming love of God is extremely zealous. And because of that we can have the courage to look at this difficult area.
What is the trouble of our talk?
For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:43-45)
Christ teaches us in this passage that we live out of our hearts. What does the Bible mean by the word "heart"? It means the causal core of your personhood. It is your directional system, your steering wheel. Your behavior isn't caused by the situations and relationships outside of you. It's caused by the way your heart reacts to those things.
Word problems aren't vocabulary or technique problems. They are heart problems. Christ uses the example of the tree. Apple trees are apple-istic all the way down, a principle of organic consistency. We want to think that our problem is outside of us rather than inside of us. But that is a very dangerous heresy, because when you can convince yourself of that, you quit being a seeker after the transforming grace of Jesus Christ. You must come to admit that you are your greatest communication problem.
Much of what we do in our attempts to change communication is nothing less than trying to nail apples onto a fruitless tree. You may get it to look authentic and good for a little while, but those apples will soon rot and the tree will be fruitless again next year.
It's only when you stand before your Redeemer and are humbly willing to say, regardless of the flawed people you live among, "I am my greatest communication problem," you are heading in a direction of fundamental change.
What is the war for the heart?
It is most briefly summarized in a little phrase in 2 Corinthians 5:15: "[Jesus] died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised." Sin is fundamentally antisocial. It makes myself the primary focus. It is all about "I want, I want, I want, I want, I want." Apart from Christ we are vats of desire and entitlement. Notice Paul's warning in Galatians:
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. (Galatians 5:13-15)
We must never say that harsh, proud, unloving, ungracious communication is ever OK. It's not OK. God has invested words with power and Paul says that people can be destroyed by what you say. Sin dehumanizes the people in our lives. It makes them either into vehicles that help me get what I want or obstacles that get in the way of what I want. If they help me get what I want, I speak kindly to them. If they're in the way, I speak harshly to them.
God didn't give us grace to enable us to serve our own kingdom. He gave us grace to enable us to serve his kingdom. The entire law is summarized in a single command: love your neighbor as yourself. Why is that a summary of all that God calls me to? Because it is only when I love God above all else that I'll ever love my neighbor as myself. You don't fix language problems horizontally. You fix them vertically.
What kind of kingdom is the kingdom of God? It's a kingdom of boundless, glorious, powerful, personal, transforming love. The center event of that kingdom is a shocking sacrifice of redeeming love. You know nothing about his kingdom unless you understand that it is a kingdom of love. And it's when our hearts are taken up with the mystery of that great love that our words become words of love and peace and healing.
True love is not propelled by duty. It is propelled by gratitude. We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19).
What is this thing called love that is to drive my world of talk?
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:7-12)
You don't define love through a set of abstract concepts. You define love according to what God did. Love is willing self-sacrifice for the redemptive good of another that doesn't demand reciprocation or that the person being loved is deserving.
But as long as sin still lives in me I get lured into the desires of my claustrophobic little kingdom of one. I try to get satisfied with the little glories that will never really satisfy me, and I need the saving grace of Christ.
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Peter 1:3-4)
If you are God's child the power to live according to love is already in your storehouse. This is not a future "will be." It's a redemptive present "is"! He has given us everything we need for life and godliness so that we have access to it today.
O that we would live out of that identity! Instead we live in the poverty of inability when we have been enabled by Christ.
What are the gifts of our redemption?
- Forgiveness of our sins by the blood of Christ
- Empowerment to do those things that he calls us to do, and
- Ultimate deliverance from every ounce of sin in our hearts.
The glorious kingdom of transforming love is ours for the taking. “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32). Why would you enter once again the claustrophobic confines of your own little self-centered world?
What kingdom rules your words? Whose kingdom do you speak in service of? The claustrophobic kingdom of self or the big-sky glory-infused kingdom of God? For most of us this is mixed, and so we still need the redeeming grace of Christ.
Three ways to pray each morning:
- God I am a man in desperate need of help this morning.
- I pray that in your grace you would send your helpers my way.
- I pray you would give me the humility to receive the help that comes.