Sermon Manuscript …
The Worst Speech to be Known for as a Christian
Once, while at an airport waiting for a flight, a friend of mine was sitting at a cafeteria counter when a severely burned girl came in with her mother and sat at the other end of that same counter. She was burned so badly that people could not help but stare as they walked by, and just as obviously they would quickly turn their heads away so as not to make eye contact. As my friend watched her, she continued to slump down and hide from the looks, and my friend found himself becoming more uncomfortable and embarrassed the longer he sat there.
Then a moment later another man, an older man came and sat between my friend and the burned girl at the curved counter they were all camped around. Almost immediately the older man began to stare at the burned girl, and before long the girl began to get fidgety as he continued to glue his eyes on her. My friend grew increasingly upset every second as he watched the mother almost try to shield the girl from the uncomfortable look. Then just as my friend was about to say something, the older man broke the tension by speaking to the burned girl. With incredible sincerity he said, “Excuse me for staring, Miss, but I just have to tell you that you have the most beautiful blue eyes I have ever seen.”
My friend said that through those sincere words of praise, he watched the transformation of a physically marred girl into a beautiful blue-eyed woman. In the moments that followed, she not only straightened up, but she smiled and actually giggled. What happened there was simply Proverbs 12:18–“Wise words bring healing.” That’s true isn’t it? Can you think of a time when someone’s words brought you healing? I can.
At the same time, your speech can be extremely damaging. Most of you in this room know how hurtful words can be, but I wonder, do you feel the huge weight of the things you say? Have you come to a righteous fear about normal conversation? Your idle chit chat, discussions, comments and hanging out with friends, what you say after church, at lunch, at home, in the car really does matter to God.
If we would just read our Bibles, we would see how God feels about our speech. Turn back to Exodus 14 and watch the children of Israel lose the battle over their mouths. In Exodus 14:10 to 12, the Israelites have been miraculously delivered from Egypt, and now they are trapped against the Red Sea with the Egyptian army bearing down on them. What’s their response? “Hey, God did it before and He can do it again.” No, with sarcasm and a grumbling heart they say, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness??” No trust, even after ten miraculous plagues. Basically they say, “Hey, what’s the deal? After all we’ve been through God, you bring us out here in the middle of nowhere to die?”
But it didn’t stop there–even after the Lord parted the Red Sea. In Exodus 15:24 to 26, it says the people grumbled again because the water was bitter. God made the waters sweet, but God is already tiring of this verbal challenge to His character, so God also gives them a stern warning. If you do what is right, God says, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians. If you stop grumbling, then life will be great, but if you continue to complain, you are going to suffer disease. Still they did not stop mouth sinning–one chapter later . . .
•In Exodus 16:2, the entire congregation of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron because they were running low on food, so our gracious God satisfied them with manna and quail.
•In Exodus 17:2 they again quarreled with Moses and tested the Lord concerning water again. Then as the story continues chronologically in the book of Numbers . . .
•In Numbers 11:1 they again complained about their hardships and the Bible says when the Lord heard it His anger was kindled, and so He sent fire from heaven around the camp.
This is crazy–you’d think they would get it, wouldn’t you? Picture it, you are camping out with your family and all of a sudden you are surrounded by fire. You are trapped–except it is not a natural event but a divine sign, and each of you know what it means. The reason is simple. You have been grumbling and complaining, and God wants you to stop. What are you going to do–stop or continue? Seems obvious–yet the Israelites didn’t stop complaining.
•It got so bad that even some of the leaders and relatives of Moses got into the act in Numbers 12, when Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses.
•Then in Numbers 14, the spies went into the land and all but two came out with a complaining and negative report. And because sins of the mouth are contagious, there was even greater complaining, whining and grumbling. God finally expresses to Moses His great displeasure with the people, threatening to smite them and even to make Moses into a new and better nation. Fortunately, Moses intervened and prayed, but judgment still fell–in two ways.
First, because of their grumbling heart they would walk for forty years in the wilderness and only Joshua and Caleb, the two faithful spies who gave a positive report, would enter the Promised Land. And second, do you remember God’s threat to send a plague on those who would not stop complaining? Well, in verses 36 to 37 of Numbers 14, God sends a plague on the men who brought back the negative report and kills them all. They had contaminated all of Israel with their words, and every single person in the nation paid an awful price for it.
Like tuberculosis, speech sins are contagious and deadly. Finally these complaining hearts infected the leadership in Numbers 16, and they rebelled against Moses, criticizing his leadership. So Korah and the leaders of the rebellion are killed when the earth opens up with a point 9.9 earthquake and swallows them up, all his key leaders, all their families’ children and all their possessions. God is serious about cutting out this infectious cancer talk. How bad was it? Those families closest to the Korah rebels, 250 more of the critical crowd, were also consumed by fire–not a pretty sight.
Then to make things worse, the entire congregation of Israel slept on it for a night, woke up and blamed Moses for all the deaths the day before, saying, “You are the ones who have caused the deaths of the Lord’s people.” That was it as far as God was concerned. God tells Moses to step away from the people, because He’s going to kill all of them. The plague God warned about much earlier finally was sent. Again, gracious Moses immediately acts by telling Aaron to make atonement for the people and to stand between them and the plague. Quickly Aaron took his stand between the living and those who had already died from the very fast plague, but before He is done, over 14,700 died because of the sins of the mouth. God is serious about your speech.
You say, “Chris, please–that’s the Old Testament. We now live in the age of grace.” Well, Paul reminds the New Testament believers in 1 Corinthians 10:6, speaking of the Old Testament, “Now these things happened as examples for us.” Then he says in the same chapter, in verse 10, “Nor [let us] grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.” God tells us not to forget what happened to Israel when they opened up and let their mouths run. Don’t forget what happened to them when they said whatever they wanted, expressed what they didn’t like, and shared their negative opinion.
Turn to Philippians 2. In this book on unity, Paul appeals to us to live without two damning qualities, when he says in verse 14, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.”
•Paul says, live all of life without grumbling–that’s the emotional murmurings and dissatisfactions of the heart. Grumbling is the word gagusmos–it sounds like complaining.
•Paul also says live all of life without disputing–that’s intellectual debating and arguing. Not an emotional response, you’re just expressing your well-thought-through negative analysis–disputing.
But why should we, Paul? Verse 15 says, “That you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God, above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.” We’re to live all of life without grumbling or disputing in order to be a witness.
• Paul states it as an unalterable truth–if you live a life without sins of speech, you are going to stand out as those who uniquely belong to God in a world that is distorted and fallen.
•When you live without a complaining mouth, you will shine like the sun during the day and the moon at night–as lights in the world.
•Paul says, if you put away your grumbling talk, then you will be a witness of the Gospel to those who desperately need Christ.
Yet Paul warns, if you want to extinguish your witness as a believer and as a church in this world, then allow grumbling and complaining to continue. So many churches and individual Christians are a dull, dim or dark light because of the sins of speech. When we complain about people, what do we have to offer this world that they don’t already have? When we grumble, is there anything we have that is truly attractive? And what do we show the world about the Sovereign King of the universe when we are involved in complaining? Answer: nothing at all.
Verse 13 makes it clear, every time you complain or grumble, you are taking a shot at the sovereignty of God. Paul just affirmed in verse 13, “For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” The very next verse is to “do all things without grumbling.” When you grumble you’re affirming your belief that God is not in control. Complaining does not glorify Him, it actually maligns Him. When you complain, you are saying to God, “Lord, You do not know what you are doing, or I don’t like what you are doing!”
The sins of the mouth are still very serious today. Remember Ephesians 4? As we are going verse by verse through this book, Paul has been very pointed about the sins of speech. Look at Ephesians 4:15 and notice what Paul has said already about your speech. “Speaking the truth in love,” then verse 25, “laying aside falsehood, speak truth,” verse 26, “be angry, and yet do not sin,” verse 29, “let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth,” and verse 31, “let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”
Paul was very concerned with the speech of the Ephesian Christians, and God is very concerned about your speech as a church and your conversations as a Christian. Notice the principles of speech found in verse 29, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
1 No rotten dialog allowed— the word unwholesome means rotten, like food gone bad. There is talk that smells and is useless. You not only don’t want to eat rotten food, you don’t want to be near it. Whether it’s off-color jokes, profanity, dirty stories or crude speech, rotten talk is out for the Christian.
2 Control your talk–the word proceed means to go forth. Don’t let it. If God commands it, you can do it, by depending on Him. Like the Psalmist says in 141:3, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.”
3 Only edifying chat allowed–conversations from Christians are to build up, encourage and strengthen others.
4 Only needed speech allowed–according to the need of the moment asks us to check to make sure it is necessary. I used to tell my Mom, “Hey, did you hear what so-and-so did?” and she’d say, “Is that necessary? Do I need to know that?” No . . . Christians are to speak words that are necessary and needed.
5 Only gracious words allowed–our conversations are to give grace to the one that hears, whether reflecting on the character of God, the good news of the gospel or speech that blesses those who hear, sharing healthy facts or kind encouragement. We are to be gracious in our dialogue.
So right now, are you a little more impressed with the importance of the way you talk? Are you hearing God’s principles of speech found in His Word, things like . . .
Your speech is only a reflection of your heart–do not dismiss your words as trivial. Your tongue can do tremendous damage–do not underestimate the danger. Sins of speech are taken very seriously by God–do not disregard His warnings. And your communication is a great vehicle to glorify God and bless others–use your tongue wisely, which leads us to our study for this morning . . . all that was introduction. We are studying the book of Ephesians verse-by-verse and find ourselves in chapter 5. Today we are looking at verse 4—turn there and follow along with your outline.
Start in verse 3, “But do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you, as is proper among saints; 4 and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.” In these two verses, Paul is being very pointed, especially verse 4.
1 This kind of speech displays ingratitude for all the blessings of chapter 1
2 It demonstrates you are not humbled by how God saved you when you were dead in chapter 2
3 This kind of talk does not display the power of the Spirit in chapter 3
4 This kind of dialog is not in harmony with a worthy walk or a unique walk from chapter 4
5 And this type of talking doesn’t reflect a life imitating the Father as a beloved child or walking in love like our Lord Jesus Christ found in chapter 5:1 to 2
These sins of the mouth are Satan’s cheap imitation of Gods design for our speech. This kind of talk has no place in the life of a Christian–it is improper, it doesn’t fit and should never be named among you. Take a look at the boxes in your outline–the main verb in these verses is the phrase “even be named”, and the supportive points are “not proper” and “not fitting”. Verse 3 told us that there is certain behavior that is not proper, and today Paul says,
#2 Do not be known for unfitting talk
I don’t struggle too much with the behavior in verse 3–I really don’t . . . especially romance novels–not my problem. For me, it is my mouth–I say too much. I say things and instantly think, “I shouldn’t have said that.” If I could see words, I would be chasing after them the instant they came out of my mouth—“Come back!” It is like I am throwing grenades out of my own mouth. I spit word bombs, I hawk hurts, I drool damaging dialog. Sometimes I get afraid of hurting others with normal conversation. And Paul takes it a step further when he says in verse 4, “and there must be . . .”
First No Filthiness
This refers to sick speech–a twisted tongue. Isaiah said what I feel deeply about myself so often, in Isaiah 6:5, “I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips.” The word filthiness means general obscenity. The root word has to do with that which is disgraceful. In fact, the same idea is found just a few verses later in Ephesians 5:12 when it says, “For it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.” Filthiness is disgraceful talk. This kind of talk is typical of movies, books and TV shows that are filled with obscene conversation. The point is this–our conversation should reflect Christ and not obscenity.
We say things we shouldn’t say to people we shouldn’t say them to in ways they shouldn’t be said. And sometimes we try to vindicate ourselves–we say, “It’s only in my car to those people who got their license at K-mart on blue light special. Hey, I only say harsh things to those people who don’t know that turn indicators are supposed to correspond to actually making a turn–these people need to be informed.”
But the filthy words of verse 4 are addressing just that–the cussing, screaming, yelling, complaining and saying what should not be said. It’s just sewage coming out of the heart through the mouth. Isn’t that just what Jesus said in Matthew 15:18, “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.”
Yet we live in a day when obscenity isn’t even obscenity. Do you remember Gone with the Wind–what the big scandal was? He said the D word, “Frankly Scarlet, . . .”, you know the rest. Some of you are asking, “The D word? What is the D word?” You can see how far language has deteriorated. There is a D word? There is no D word–well there was. Now it is just a regular old word. There are words we use that we just shouldn’t use.
The Greek word filthiness, when it first became a word in the classical Greek usage, long before the New Testament, meant ugliness and deformity. Paul is saying here, do not use ugly words–do not deform the message of the Gospel with poor word choices. In fact the word filthy later came to mean that which causes shame. Don’t bring shame upon Christ, the Church and your testimony by the use of filthy words. Paul says filthy words are not fitting. As believers and as a Church we are not to be known for certain vocabulary–words that are filthy. Paul also says no to . . .
Second Silly Talk or Foolish Talk–what is this?
This is not the Pillsbury dough boy giggling with silly things to say. Silly talk comes from two root words–foolish and words. The word foolish is the Greek word moros where we get our English words moron and moronic, and that is exactly what Paul has in mind. God is telling us Christians we are not to allow our conversations to deteriorate into talking about dumb things that don’t matter.
My college buddies and I talked about a lot of stuff. We talked about good stuff like doctrine, we talked about Frisbee, Dr. Pepper and Nachos–surely one of the highlights of heaven. But we also talked about moronic stuff. We talked about whose feet stink the worst. Which guys’ smell the worst? Guys have spent days of their life in bitter disagreement about odors related to the human body. Men, am I a truth teller? Sometimes you get done with a discussion and ask yourself–was that a good use of five hours? Was there anything else I could have been doing?
How many guys grew up in a neighborhood where you’d fight about Ford versus Chevy? Or which cola is better, Coke or Pepsi? In my youth and in my neighborhood, that was a big deal. I don’t know why–we would just talk about the dumbest things–just wasting time fooling around with foolish talk. It’s talking about things that don’t matter, things you don’t need to talk about. But silly talk degrades into even worse conversation. The word silly talk means stupid talk, and actually refers to conversation that comes from somebody with an intellectual deficiency–can I say it? The Jerry Springer Show? This is what one commentator calls low obscenity. It is discussion which comes from the lips of a fool or a drunkard–it is low class, obscene, filthy gutter talk and moronic unnecessary empty talk.
Maybe you ladies have experienced this like us men? Have you ever been on the phone with another lady–you get off the phone and say, what did we just talk about? Your husband asks, what were you talking about, and you say, “I have no idea. We didn’t talk about anything”–it was foolish. You might have the need to talk–possibly your husband needs to become a better listener, but your sin is to just keep talking even though it’s empty. A favorite verse of mine for you is Proverbs 10:19, “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise.”
Some of you say, “I don’t feel convicted about talking too much–so maybe you just listen to empty speech. Any of you watch daytime TV or listen to talk radio? If you want to see the devolution of human kind, watch daytime talk television. The reason we watch daytime talk television is we feel bad about ourselves. We know just how disgusting we are, but when we watch daytime TV, we start to feel good.
Here I am feeling dumb, but watching the TV I find myself saying, “At least I didn’t marry my mother! I am a genius. I am a Rhodes Scholar, why? I don’t eat things I find under the couch–I am a Nobel prize winner. For some of us, we love to listen to foolish talk on TV because it makes us feel better about ourselves. Some of you listen to talk radio related to sports–and do you know what they talk about most of the time? Nothing, nothing at all–this guy’s swing has changed, this guy is having marital problems which will affect the game. It’s just a male version of a gossip magazine.
I ask you, how many times do you have to be reminded by conservatives on talk radio how BAD the liberals are? Apart from making you more and more angry, and giving you justification to move your family to Canada, instead of reaching out to the lost with the Gospel, which is the only answer–what good does it do to listen to that commentary day after day after day?
And be warned, Christian–we have our own spiritualized version of empty talk. Sometimes we use solid content in a non-biblical manner. We have spiritualized some of our conversations in such a way that foolish talk sounds godly. But God warns you–the same root word for silly talk is used in 2 Timothy 2:23, “But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.” And then in Titus 3:9, “But shun foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the law; for they are unprofitable and worthless.”
Some of you make theology into an argument. You turn truth into a debate to be contentious over, instead of edifying words that honor God’s character and point to the Gospel. Some of you want to talk about Christian practices and turn them into issues. You argue about music style or clothing or tattoos or income or shoes or rocking back and forth in worship or raising hands or expressing emotion or pumpkins or Christmas trees or Easter eggs or card playing or owning a Mercedes or drinking beer–and you turn it into foolish talk, another excuse to complain.
We blast liberals, but we don’t share the Gospel with anyone. We critique sermons, but don’t apply them. We complain about foolish students, but don’t love the kids in our body. Instead of being burdened about those who don’t know Christ, or like verses 1 and 2, instead of desiring to be a true reflection of the Father and loving like the Son, we spend most of our talk about things that really don’t matter. Foolish talk–does that mean we can’t laugh or have fun conversations? Yes we can, but check your mouth and check the conversation.
What does James say? James 1:26, “If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.” Make sure your conversations have value, build, point to Christ, promote the Gospel, exalt God’s character of love and express thankfulness and grace. Paul tells the Ephesians and us to also stay away from . . .
Third Coarse Jesting
This word is also only here in the New Testament. It comes from two words, “well” or “easily”, and the other word “to turn”. Course jesting is that which easily turns and adapts itself to the moods and conditions of the listeners. Coarse jesting refers to talk that is more pointed and determined than silly talk. It carries the idea of quickly turning something that is said into that which is obscene or suggestive. It is the filthy talk of a person who uses every word and circumstance to display his immoral wit. This is the talk show host who is never at a loss for a sexual innuendo. This is the conversation that suddenly and without warning gets vulgar and turns fowl. Course jesting is poking fun at the human body. It is where a lot of guys refer to women, as far as parts go, with very pejorative implications.
I worked warehouse in college and early seminary. WOW, that is a PhD level class in course jesting–unbelievable. Some of you guys work blue collar trades. Sometimes it is hard to be a believer when you are working around a bunch of guys who have committed themselves to course jesting. There is a white collar version too. A lot of guys after work take their buddies to the bar and have conversations about all kinds of people and inappropriate talk–they even call them business dinners. Course jesting, crude, crass, vulgar, vile, sexual ways that is just not appropriate–not proper and not fitting.
John MacArthur calls course jesting high obscenity–someone who can take anything that is said and with intelligent perversion, turn it into something dirty. How does this make its way into Christian conversations? There is supposed to be some discretion and modesty and beauty in what we say as Christians. Think about this–profanity is taking something that is beautiful and private and bringing it out into public. A man’s relationship with his wife is supposed to be beautiful and private–when he starts talking about her to the guys, it is now profane. He’s made it common; he’s taken away the beauty of that relationship. And that is what course joking is, it’s profanity–bringing things out that don’t need to be said, or saying things that are not appropriate at all.
Among young men today, there are popular radio programs where the entire purpose of the DJ is to be vulgar. These depraved men actually instruct other men how to be crude, immoral, and say things about women that are inappropriate. And they instruct men how to take advantage of vulnerable women. Their goal is to get men to be sexual predators. They are sick teachers who live to instruct others in their sickness. Why are these guys so popular? Because times change, but the sinful tendencies of the human heart do not.
Course jesting is humor in bad taste–the comedian who ridicules for humor sake, the one who makes jokes at another’s expense or turns every situation into that which is inappropriate. So to drive this home, Paul wants you to know how important avoiding filthy, silly, and coarse conversation is. He lists three reasons at the end of verse 4.
ONE This type of speech is not fitting. As one translation says, they are out of place, like Hillary on the back of Rush’s motorcycle. Verse 4 words are not fitting because they are not worthy of the calling with which believers were called–it is inappropriate talk.
Not fitting is present tense–a continual, ongoing action. In other words, using these words is never fitting. Speaking this way is under no circumstances proper for a Christian. In any context, this does not fit the heart of a believer. All the time, everywhere, with every person, no matter who they are or how they make you feel, this kind of speech does not fit anyone who claims to be a Christian.
TWO The distinction between your conversations and the world’s kind of talk must be dramatically different. Did you notice how Paul wraps up verse 4? “And there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.” Greek is exact, and most often when the author wants to make a contrast he uses the Greek word de for but–yet when he wants to make sure you know that he is making a very strong contrast, he uses the Greek word alla, but–which is the contrast Paul uses here.
With the strongest contrast in the Greek language, Paul is telling us have nothing to do with this kind of talk, but have everything to do with a different kind of talk and a different kind of behavior. Paul uses this strongest of contrasts to make a point. We must be so far away from this kind of talk that only the opposite is true. Do not emulate the improper talk of the world around you–that kind of talk is out, and thankful talk is in.
THREE Christian talk is thankful. Paul concludes verse 4 with “but rather giving of thanks.” We are to be about not verse 4 kind of speech, but Paul says rather giving of thanks. One translation says, “these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God.” Thankfulness is seen in redeeming that which Satan perverts, to make that which is evil now something we can be thankful for.
From verse 3, instead of immorality Christians celebrate intimacy in marriage. Instead of impurity Christians esteem that which is pure. Instead of filthiness or silly talk Christians speak the truth in love. We redeem back what Satan corrupted, and demonstrate the vast superiority of God’s initial design for us.
From verse 4, we speak the truth. We are thankful we can speak the truth about God, ourselves and the Gospel. We can communicate to one another about the amazing character of God. And as we do, that makes the cheapened words of foolish talk and coarse joking reprehensible. Again, having fun and a great sense of humor is great. The God who made monkeys is not humorless. The problem discussed here is maligning what God designed as good, distorting truth, turning what God made beautiful into something common or ugly. We are thankful for His good gifts, and as Christians and as a Church we seek to honor His perfect design for sex, for possessions and for speaking the truth in love and grace–amen? What must we take home? Here are some thoughts.
#1 Be warned–God takes your tongue seriously, so should you. If this kind of talk continues unchecked in your life, it is true evidence you are not His child.
#2 Be gracious–here are three gracious sentences you must master.
I am sorry–not sorry, but say you are sorry anytime you speak or act badly.
I forgive you–stop keeping lists and truly let go of hurts.
I love you–the most necessary sentence of all, yet it’s not said nearly enough.
#3 Be Dependent–you can’t control your tongue, but God through an obedient, willing heart can make progress. Only the Holy Spirit through you will speak words of love, joy and only the Spirit will exercise self-control so that you can stop speaking those words that hurt and demean.
#4 Be Maturing–only the mature make progress in controlling their tongues. James 3:2 says, “For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.” Perfect means complete and is the indicator of maturity. Listen, it doesn’t matter how much Bible you know, if you can’t control your tongue, if you can’t stop complaining, if you can stop gossiping, if you won’t build up others, if you refuse to stop angry outbursts–then you’re not a mature Christian.
#5 Be Repentant–all of us in this room have some speech to repent of. All of us, but a few of us here need to be awakened. You see, your speech is a window into your heart, and it is showing you that your heart has not been born again. Your talk indicates that you desperately need to turn to Christ for forgiveness of sins, to be made right with God and to have a new heart that wants to speak the truth in love.
Do not try to control your speech in your own strength. Do not get more religious and speak of Jesus here, then get off on jesting elsewhere. God hates that. Turn to Christ and He can transform you into a new person, where you will want to speak gracious, loving and kind words that bring joy to those who hear.