Sermon Manuscript . . .
The Test of Speech
Test Series–Titus 2:8, Sound in Speech
Imagine, for a moment, you are in a small courtroom in the year 1800. A military court is in session and the charge being brought against the defendant is treason. The defendant is a young lieutenant named Philip Nolan, and he is being court marshaled for his participation in a conspiracy to set up an independent nation in the Louisiana Territory. It is the end of the trial and the judge asks young Nolan one final question, “Will you affirm your allegiance to the United States?”
Brazenly, the lieutenant stands to his feet and says this now famous statement, “I wish I may never hear of the United States again.” What he did not realize is that his uncontrolled statement would cost him dearly. The court pronounced its sentence, and young Nolan got his wish–he would never hear of the United States again. He was to be aboard a series of large ocean going ships and never again set foot on American soil. More than that though, all of the crewmen aboard each of the many ships he would stay upon were forbidden to mention the United States in any way in his presence–and all of his reading material was censored of all references to the United States as well. As a result, Philip Nolan died an old man aboard a ship, paying dearly for one uncontrolled statement while he was young. What that true story illustrates to us is the devastating consequences of an uncontrolled tongue.
But I would like to suggest, it also reveals our attitude toward our speech. It shows how little we regard the sins done with the mouth. You see, most of us see the punishment of Philip Nolan for a misspoken word as severe, but in actuality it demonstrates the kind of scrutiny each Christian here is under concerning his or her speech. Every one of us. We Christians will think nothing of an angry word, speaking unnecessarily, passing on rumors, gossip, slander, half-truths, and a host of evil words. We will make insinuations, utter swear words, boast about our accomplishments, lie, criticize, speak contentiously, and continually complain–all the while we ignore the fact that like Philip Nolan, our speech is on trial.
We not only forget that two of the ten commandments refer to the tongue. The book of Proverbs is packed with over 100 warnings against unprincipled talk. But Jesus Himself said in Luke 12:3, “Whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.” Even though we may think nothing about sinning with our words, Jesus says in Matthew 12:36 and 37, “Every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it in the day of judgment. 37For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned.”
Jesus is telling us we need to take “the little slips of the tongue” more seriously. You see, what we Christians forget is our words are powerful. One of the greatest lies I ever told while growing up was, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” That is a lie right out of the pit of Hell, for bones can be broken and heal even stronger than before, but some names, some words can break a person.
Just think for a moment what words can do–they can start wars, end friendships, split families, bring joy, exasperate children, change lives, disqualify leaders, end bitterness, heal wounds, express love, pray to the living God, cure ailments and begin marriages. Our words are powerful–that’s why the Scripture says so much about our speech.
But the Scripture goes beyond telling us our words are powerful, for the word of God tells us our speech is a thermometer of the soul. Just as a thermometer gives a good reading of the temperature, the Bible says our speech gives an excellent reading of what we are really like, what our true spiritual condition is. For Jesus says in Matthew 12:34, “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” That means if we really want to know how we are doing spiritually, to really know whether our hearts are right before God or not–don’t trust in church attendance, saying grace before meals, loyalty to the Bible, sporadic prayer, or giving some.
But examine your conversation with fellow employees, your comments about superiors and lunchtime topics. If you want to know your true spiritual temperature, recall what you said to your spouse during your last argument, or what you said to your children when you were angry. If you want to see inside your soul, then examine your verbal response to the last juicy rumor, tantalizing gossip, critical statement or complaining campaign. Did you fight the current, or float downstream with everyone else?
We all battle with our talk, amen? My tongue is a continual reminder I need to depend upon Christ every moment. That is why James 3:9 and 10 warn us, “With it [our tongues] we bless our Lord and Father; and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; 10from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.”
Our speech is one of the best indicators of our true spiritual condition. And since our words are first) under the scrutiny of Jesus Christ, second) very powerful, third) a thermometer of the soul–it is essential we learn how to talk in a way that pleases Christ to have sound speech. To do that, take your outline and look with me in your Bibles at Titus 2:8. How can a Christian have healthy speech? Here Paul is exhorting the young men of Crete, and specifically Titus, what qualities are essential in the life of a Christian man. Paul wraps up the goals of a godly man in verse 8, when he says for men to be sound in speech which is beyond reproach, in order that the opponent may be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.
In the midst of our series on testing your assurance, it is right and biblical for you to look into your heart via the lens of your speech. Because of your desire to bring God glory, because you trust God’s Word to bring God’s best, because of all Jesus did for you that you could never have done yourself (His grace), because the only way to become a dynamic witness for Christ is to pursue these qualities–then every man who’s been transformed by Christ in salvation, and who is daily relying upon the indwelling Holy Spirit seeks to be mentally sensible, visually an example of good deeds, theologically pure in doctrine, socially dignified, and today finally verbally sound in speech.
This verse is a model for Christian conversation, a Biblical standard for teachers to teach God’s Word, and a plan for the use of our tongues. What is it? Titus 2:8 says our words are to always be true, tested, tonic and a tactic. What do I mean? Look at point number one . . .
#1 Healthy speech is True
Tell the truth in what you say. A Christian’s conversation is always to be true. The word used for speech in Titus 2:8 is logon–it is used in the pastoral epistles to mean Gods Word, the truth or a true and trustworthy statement. Our speech is to be the truth, and in no way contain any lying or any deceit. That’s why Colossians 3:9 says, “Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices.”
This is a continual command–our whole way of life is to be marked by the absence of deceit. Remember, a lie is any misrepresentation of the truth. Even if our words our accurate, if we mislead with the tone of voice or even a gesture, we are violating God’s Word here. That’s why Revelation 21:8 says, “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars [circle that], their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
Those who lie as a pattern of life, without confession or repentance, are manifesting whose family they belong to. Their father is not God, but the father of lies, Satan himself, who has lied from the beginning. What is so difficult about telling the truth is our whole society is based upon lying and lying has become a way of life. A recent book titled, Do you lie with finesse?, carried a subtitle that is characteristic of our day. It said, “The complete alibi handbook will teach you to be a perfect liar and will give you an ‘out’ for almost every situation.”
Just think for a moment on how many ways there are to lie in our day. There’s the direct lie, such as when Jacob said to Isaac his father, “I am Esau, thy firstborn.” There’s the professional lie, when you’re paid to lie or you pay someone else to lie–like the Little White Lie Service . . . they’ll call anyone for $6 and tell a lie for you. There is the consumer lie–you know, the candy wrapper that’s twice the size of the candy inside, the new toy that lasts about three minutes instead of three years. There’s the social lie like, “I have another meeting to go to tomorrow,” or “I’m real busy this Saturday night.”
There’s the slogan lie–is it true that you “Save Money. Live Better” if you shop at WalMart? There’s the perspective lie–you know, when your wife comes home and says, “Honey, I saved you thirteen dollars today!” (Uh oh, you know you didn’t save–she just spent $100). There’s the half-truth, lie like Abraham calling Sarah his sister. The double-meaning lie, like saying I caught this huge fish, when the butcher actually tossed it to you. The mental reservation lie, such as, “If it’s for me, say I’m not in,” because I am not in to that particular client. Finally, there’s the lie of flattery–a compliment is based on truth, but flattery is based on a lie. So tell the truth–God loves the truth and hates flattering so much He says in Psalm 12:3, “May the Lord cut off all flattering lips and the tongue that speaks great things.”
All of us here long to have the news media tell the truth and not embellish, edit or state opinions as fact, yet do we want the truth bad enough to have it invade every aspect of our lives? Our problem is we don’t want to hurt anyone, but face it folks–the choice you have is to hurt now by telling the truth, or cause them to lose all trust and respect for you when they later figure out you lied.
Gals, when he asks you out and you give an excuse instead of the truth, you only delay the hurt and you’ve destroyed any respect he could have for you. In marriage, graciously with wise timing, tell the truth or you will erode trust and respect, which is the glue of all strong marriages. Yes the truth can hurt, but when it’s said with grace and love, it builds others up, where lying destroys. I often wonder how many guy/girl relationships would change if we really believed God hated flattery? What if truth-speaking were the norm in the Church? What if teens really told the truth to their parents? Do we really want to honor God with the truth?
Beloved, the point of Titus 2:8 is our speech is to be as true and as reliable as the Word of God itself. If we are to glorify God, be ambassadors of Christ who is truth, be filled with Spirit of truth, then we must speak the truth. That’s why you hear Jesus say in Matthew 5:37, “Let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; and anything beyond these is of evil.‘ ” And you hear Solomon say in Proverbs 6:16-19, “There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him, [two of which are] a lying tongue and a false witness that utters lies.”
To be like Christ, 1 Peter 2:21 to 22 says, “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth.” Jesus always spoke the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth–will you? Please turn back to Titus 2:8 understand why our conversations in private and our public statements must be tested.
#2 Healthy speech is TESTED
Guard what comes out of your mouth. Verse 8 says a godly man is “sound in speech which is beyond reproach.” When Paul tells Titus his speech is to be beyond reproach, he means his conversation at any place or any time cannot be accused, criticized, or judged, but should always reflect a heart right with Christ. In other words, the godly Christian’s mouth is guarded and his words are tested before they are spoken.
Listen to what the Bible says about a guarded mouth. Psalm 39:1 says, “I will guard my ways that I may not sin with my tongue, I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle.” In Psalm 141:3 the writer prays, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth, keep watch over the door of my lips.” In Ephesians 5:4 Paul gets a little more specific when he states, “There must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.” We must be selective in what we let out of our mouths. And Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth.” Don’t let it out.
Even though what you’re about to say may be true, God reminds us it doesn’t mean it’s proper, right, best, kind or even allowable for it to be said. Like the little girl who was trying to find her parents after performing her part in the 6th grade play. When she finally spotted her daddy talking to another man, she cried, “Daddy, Daddy,” and ran up to grab his hand. She was still jumping up and down in the expectancy of his reaction to her part in the play when he said sharply, “Barbie, don’t interrupt me! Can’t you see that I am talking to Mr. Jenkins? I’ll be through in a minute.” Immediately, the light in her eyes was extinguished–why? What she heard was, “Your performance was not as important to me as my interest in what my adult friend is saying.” An untested tongue can be devastating.
Teens, collegians who still live at home–have you ever been tempted to say, “My parents don’t listen to me. I try to talk with them, but they just don’t listen.”? Then you need to develop a tested tongue–why? Because Mom and Dad feel the same way about you. If you still live at home, let me suggest four ways to develop a tested tongue with Mom and Dad.
First Avoid trapping your parents in their contradictions
You know what that is–Mom says one thing, then Dad says something totally different. And you being fairly clever say, “Aha! I caught you making a mistake”–and you’re right. You did catch them. But who wants to live with a smart aleck? Who wants to talk with someone who only listens to you to point out your mistakes? Understand, there are no professional parents. This is their first and final shot at parenting, and they will not be perfect. So first, don’t make a habit of pointing out their mistakes.
Second Learn to admit your mistakes
Show your parents they’re needed sometimes. Talk about your weaknesses, mistakes, even your fears.
Third Ask them their opinion on some issues
They’re always asking you questions–turn the tables on them. (You’ll find that most parents are very interesting.) Ask mom about her dating life, or dad about how he courted your mother, or what he was like in college. I’ll never forget the time I asked my dad about World War II–he was the skipper of an air-sea rescue boat, the fastest boat in use during the war, which was used to pick up pilots who had crashed in the ocean during battle. I don’t know why, but I asked my dad if he ever picked up any men who were still alive. And in the midst of a noisy restaurant, he just stared off into space, his eyes filled with tears and he sat in silence, reliving the memories. I saw in his eyes the horror of war lived out in silence upon his face. He never verbally answered the question, but he didn’t have to. Ask your parents questions.
Now that can help in the home, but realize friends, the main cause of conflict among those around you is an untested tongue–an unguarded mouth. You see, true conflict arises by sharing and listening to bad/evil reports about others, whether intentional or unintentional. What’s a bad report? It’s the communication of distorted facts, incomplete facts or out-of-context information, causing the hearer to come to an incomplete or inaccurate conclusion and shading their opinion of someone negatively.
How does this happen? The Bible says evil reports are passed on by whisperers, gossips, slanderers and busybodies–all of whom the Bible condemns severely. You see, as far as the Bible is concerned, there is little difference between a gun and a tongue–both assassinate people, and unfortunately some groups are full of verbal assassins. So how do you stop the process? Two simple solutions–
1) Talk less and listen more. You have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Listen to what Jesus said when He was accused falsely. We need to become Christians of few words. When we want to speak, don’t. When we think we should speak, wait. Again, listen to God’s clear Word about talking. Ecclesiastes 10:14 says, “The fool multiplies word.” Proverbs 10:19 says, “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” If you keep talking you’re gonna sin. James 1:26 says, “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.” And one of my favorite verses that has kept me from many a pang, yet I long to apply it more. Proverbs 17:28, “Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise: when he closes his lips, he is counted as prudent.” Just don’t talk and people will think you’re smart. Don’t talk and people will like and respect you. But not only talk less, but a tested tongue is one that . . .
2) Develop the habit of screening what you hear
Whatever you hear, ask “Is it true?” If not, stop it. “Is it confidential?” If it is, stop it. “Is it necessary?” If not, don’t listen to it. “Is it kind?” If not, stop it. Are you presuming? For Proverbs 17:9 says, “He who repeats a matter separates intimate friends.” When you hear something you shouldn’t, what can you do? Walk away, change the subject, say, “Let’s talk about the Lord!” or gently confront by saying, “I have a real problem with gossip, so don’t tell me anything I couldn’t pass on with your name attached to it.” Or be direct, “I don’t think the Lord is happy with this conversation.”
True Christians refuse to listen to anything that’s not true, is confidential, is not necessary and is not kind. Ask yourself, “Is what I’m hearing going to help or hurt?” One godly woman said it best–whenever she heard gossip or slander of any kind, she would not go to the phone, but go to the throne in prayer. No Christian has to sin, so those who love Christ work at talking less and screening what they hear. Again, go back to Titus 2:8 to understand why our speech is designed by God to be true, tested and even a tonic.
#3 Healthy speech is a Tonic
Let your speech bring healing. When Paul says Titus’s speech must be sound, the word sound literally means healthful. In fact, the same word for sound is used throughout the New Testament as bringing healing or making one whole and complete. It is from the Greek word where we get the English word hygiene, meaning that which is clean, good, well, healed and whole. In other words, our speech is to reflect Ephesians 4:29, “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.”
Do your words build up and benefit the hearer–are they tonic? Our speech should reflect Colossians 4:6, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person.” Is your speech pleasant? Are you careful that what you say is expressed at the opportune time and that it is appropriate to each individual? I’m just beginning to make some progress with this, being a say-whatever-is-on-your-mind type of person. I am seeking to only say things that build
When I was young, my mom would have me stick my tongue out–and her response would be either, “Looks real good,” or “That’s terrible, you’re sick.” I wonder what God’s response is when He looks at the words our tongue produces. Does He say, “It looks real good,” or, “You’re sick”? Jesus is our model for tonic talk, for it was said of Christ in Luke 4:22, “All were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips.” Men and women, we must continually remind ourselves as Proverbs 18:21 states, that “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”
When it comes to our comments about people, each of us are either hummingbirds or vultures. When a vulture flies over a desert, it will find a carcass, because that is what he’s looking for. But when a hummingbird flies over the desert, it will find a flower, because that’s what it’s looking for. When you talk about or evaluate people around you, what are you looking for–carcasses or flowers? Put-downs or build-ups? Death words or life words? That red muscle in your mouth is either a sword that brings destruction or a scalpel that brings healing.
When sitting at an airport counter, a friend of mine watched a severely burned girl sit down with her mother at the same counter. Everyone who walked by stared at her severely burned face, then quickly look away. My friend could see she was uncomfortable because of the staring. But then an older man came and sat between my friend and the burned girl. Immediately he began to stare at her intensely. She tried to hide herself behind her mother and my friend was about to tell him to stop looking, when the older man spoke. With incredible sincerity, he said this. “Excuse me miss. I am sorry for staring, but I have to tell you–you have the most beautiful blue eyes I’ve ever seen.” It was true, and within minutes she was not only sitting up, but smiling and laughing with the older man. What happened at that airport counter was Proverbs 12:18, “Wise words . . . bring healing.” Practically, how can our words become tonic?
First Master three simple phrases
1 “I’m sorry”
This is not hard for me, because I know what I am capable of as a sinner. But I have noticed for some people, saying “sorry” is very hard. I’ll never forget the first time my dad said “sorry” for being hard on me when I needed his support. It was then I began to respect him the way I should have. Unfortunately, some have learned to say “sorry” and not mean it. They say the word, but everyone knows they don’t mean it. Learn to say it and mean it. Another key phrase is . . .
2 “That’s okay, I forgive you”
. . . and mean it, without holding grudges or keeping a list of past offenses. Spouses who keep lists destroy their own marriages. Learn to forgive, forget, and refuse to bring up the past. And the final phrase to be mastered in order to have tonic talk is . . .
3 “I love you!”
Don’t be like the husband who for 25 years of marriage never told his wife he loved her. When asked why, he said, “I said it to her on our wedding day, and if anything changes, I’ll let her know.” Some of your family need to be told.
Second Work at kind speech
Whether it’s through sincere compliments, public praise, surprise phone calls, or notes of encouragement–start using the tongue they way God intended. You see, if you get busy talking God’s way, you’ll be too busy to talk the wrong way. Many negative commands in the New Testament have a positive one attached to it, like “flee lust” and “pursue love“. One of the best ways to deal with your struggles with gossip, slander or a critical tongue is to fill your speech with building up others, with compliments, thankfulness, praise and encouragement. God designed your tongue to be used for edification, evangelism, encouragement, prayer and praise. Finally . . .
#4 Healthy speech is a Tactic
Let your speech share the Gospel. Our speech is our tactic to win souls for Jesus Christ. Look again at Titus 2:8, which says we are to be “sound in speech which is beyond reproach,
in order that the opponent may be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.” Now why should Titus be sound in speech? So that if the false teacher on Crete were to put him on trial over his speech and words, they would find no accusation against him. His tongue is his tactic to show Christ.
Just like the scribes and Pharisees were plotting against Christ to catch Him in something He might say, there are unbelievers who’re listening to your speech to catch you and discredit you in what you say. That’s why complaining is so devastating to the cause of Christ. Remember Philippians 2:14, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.” Why? Read on in verse 15, “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.” No complaining is linked with being a light to the world for Christ.
If we Christians complain, what do we have to offer the world they don’t already have? Nothing. We who serve the King in control of everything, the God of abundant grace, the Savior who loves us, who empowers us, who forgives us, who is with us, should have the most positive, encouraging, delightful things to say. People around you will want Christ if you begin to practice sound speech. Or at least they will have Titus 2:8, “nothing bad to say about us.” Share the truth, share the Gospel, tell people about Christ. Bro and sis, those who are listening to what you say, will they find your speech to be true, tested, tonic, and an effective tactic for sharing Christ? In prayer? Will you bow your heads with me as I lead you to consider three steps?
A Come to CHRIST
Did you notice it is Christ who is the model of someone who is sound in speech? His words are true, tested, tonic and a tactic. You say, “It’s impossible,” and you’re right. You can’t do, it but He can do it through you. Christ can not only mend your speech, but is able to mend your marriage, free you from an enslaving habit, cleanse a guilty conscience, give you purpose, joy, and a love you never thought possible–if you turn from your way of living and follow Christ.
Believe Christ died for your sins on the cross and rose from the dead and lives today to transform you from the inside out through His Holy Spirit. Only Christ can live the Christian life for you, to change your speech–He must do it through you, and that starts with turning from your sin to follow Him.
B Work on your WORDS
By the power of the Holy Spirit, will you choose to pursue to speak the truth? What is it you need to say to your spouse, or parents or children? What do you need to say to your community group or ministry leader so they can help you? What phrases do you need to stop saying or start saying to have sound speech? Which person needs to hear your words that will attract them to Christ?
C The best way to grow is to use your words to BUILD
As you start encouraging, building, and loving others, you will grow in your use of words–and you will grow to be more like Christ. Luke 4:22, “All were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips.”