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Bear, Believe, Hope and Endure (The Tongue pt. 2)

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When I saw that both Jesus and James mentioned “hell” and “fire” in reference to the use of our tongue, I knew there was something there worth looking into.  James says our tongue IS a fire, ignited by hell (which I think means the tongue tends toward judgment/condemnation and can easily incite widespread damage).  Here’s a passage from James chapter 3 which I find very thought-provoking:

(James 3:2-12 ESV): “And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 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. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.”

The tongue is simply an outlet to express the heart (mind, awareness, thoughts), so the heart is the real issue.  That being said, our words are uniquely important because they carry the internal things of our heart into the external world, with tremendous potential for a lasting positive or negative influence on the hearts of others.  (A simple example would be this).  James seems find it especially repulsive that our tongue is used as an instrument of both blessing and poison/cursing, using several analogies to show how perverse this is.  As I read, I began to wonder: what does it actually look like and mean to “curse” someone?  I realized many scriptures mention blessing and cursing as opposites, so if we know what blessing is, then it’s reverse will be cursing.

The Greek word for “blessing” is eulogia, a compound of eu, meaning “good, well,” and logos, meaning (roughly) “speech, communication.”  Generally speaking, I would say blessing means “to speak well of, to put in a favorable position.”  Cursing then is the opposite, meaning “to speak negatively of, to put in an unfavorable position.”  Again, the mouth is essentially the heart’s outlet, therefore if our heart (mind, awareness, and thoughts) is focused on someone’s flesh – their old, selfish, corrupt nature – then sooner or later our mouth will follow; pointing out flaws, criticizing, and condemning, thus putting that person in an unfavorable position before God and man.  That’s speaking a curse, even if what we’re saying is true.  Cursing highlights sin and flaws, as opposed to love, which “covers a multitude of sins.”1

If our heart (mind, awareness, and thoughts) has been purified by the realization of all things being made new in Christ, we will see according to love,2 seeing everyone (at least potentially) as “made in the likeness of God” and a new creation in Christ.  If that is so, how can we speak a curse to them?  Didn’t James say blessing and cursing from the same mouth “ought not to be?” In another place, the apostle Paul wrote that love thinks no evil of anyone, but always bears, believes, hopes and endures all.3  I believe he meant this: love does not in any way relate to men by their flesh or sins, but bears the burden of men’s ignorant and selfish ways, believes they are still made in the image of God, hopes they will “come to their senses” and acknowledge this, and endures whatever hardships come until this takes place. 

Hopefully it’s now clearer why blessing and cursing from the same mouth is a bad sign – it shows a mind/heart that isn’t matured in love, and love is the goal.  Jesus Christ, as “the last Adam” and “the second man,” became in his death the end of Adam’s race, and in his resurrection the first member of a new race of men.4  Many don’t see or acknowledge that, and what will happen to those people is God’s business, but those who do are to regard no one according to the flesh anymore.5  To speak a curse is to be an agent of the law, making people self-aware by pointing out their shortcomings and failures.  Interestingly, when James say the tongue is “full of deadly poison,” it literally says “death-bringing poison,” and scripture teaches law is what empowers and brings death!6  To speak a blessing is to be an agent of grace, seeing beyond the flaws of someone’s flesh and thus speaking to them life-giving things, making them aware of the divine spirit of God within them, the hope of the new creation that began with Christ.  This doesn’t mean we pretend no flaws exist, and sometimes we might need to point out things that are hindering people from walking as sons and daughters of God.  But it does mean we don’t consider or speak to people based on their flaws, but based on the presence or potential for the seed/spirit of God within them.

I’m not sure if I’ll make another post about the tongue next time or not, we’ll see where I’m led.  Grace and peace to you all.

 

 

  1. 1 Peter 4:8
  2. 1 Peter 1:22
  3. 1 Corinthians 13:5-7 KJV.  “Things” isn’t in the original Greek, but was added by the translators.
  4. 1 Corinthians 15:45, 47.  See also this and this.  
  5. 2 Corinthians 5:16
  6. Romans 7:5, 1 Corinthians 15:56
 
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Posted by on May 18, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The Deceitfulness of “Sin”

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Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”  (Hebrews 3:12-15 ESV)

It’s so easy to lose focus on the central issue in one’s walk with God – the inward, invisible heart.  In the passage above, the one thing we must take care to avoid is a “falling away (literally: departure) from the living God.”  We’re told that this departure is a result of an “evil, unbelieving heart,” and that an evil, unbelieving heart is a heart which has been hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  That all sounds great, but WHAT DOES IT MEAN???

I don’t think this was intentional, but I see a general progression given in these verses: deceitfulness of sin → hardened/evil/unbelieving heart → departure from the living God.  The starting point seems to be “the deceitfulness of sin.”  I think sin remains greatly misunderstood.  You can quit or avoid all kinds of bad actions, but still remain in “sin.”  Sin isn’t a set of actions, it’s an inward nature or power.  For example, scripture says that sin can dwell within us and that it “desires” certain things.1   Under the old covenant, sin was essentially the violation of the law as given through Moses.  Sin had to do with behavior.  But in the new covenant, Christ has redeemed us from the old way of the law to the new way of the Spirit.  He has become our one, final propitiation (sacrificial offering) and “taken away” our sins.2  Sin now has to do with the one’s spirit.

Within the new covenant, sin could be defined as anything which does not conform to the heart of God or the love of the Spirit.  Sin is the nature of the flesh, the fruit of the carnal mind.  In that light, sin is actually much more broad and dangerous than a bad attitude or behavior.  In God’s eyes, sin could look like following the law instead of the spirit, or promoting religion and judgment instead of love and mercy.  It could look like refusing to consider or accept another viewpoint, or holding to tradition over revelation.  Sin in God’s eyes could be many of the “good” things which religious men promote.  A prophet once said: “maintaining truth without revelation is deception.” 

Sin and what Paul referred to as “the works of the flesh” are related, but not the same thing.  Galatians 5:19 says that the works of the flesh are “evident” or “manifest,” meaning they are easily seen and recognized; things including violence, drunkenness, sexual deviance, jealousy, debauchery, etc.  If you see those things, you immediately know the flesh is at work.  However, sin is different.  Sin is said to be deceitful, meaning that it can be very subtle and difficult to recognize.  The serpent in the Garden of Eden was said to be extremely “subtle” or “crafty.”  His temptation wasn’t for Adam and Eve to do something outright evil, but simply to be like God!

All that said, let’s look again at the phrase  “the deceitfulness of sin.”  First of all, in chapters 7-10 of Hebrews you’ll find the most plain statements in the entire Bible that sin (as it was known to a Jew 2,000 years ago) is no longer an issue which believers need worry about.  In these chapters we are told things like: Jesus purged our sins, made reconciliation for our sins, that God will not remember our sins and iniquities anymore, that there is no more sacrifice for our sins after Christ, that there is a “remission” of sins, that sin has been “put away” in the offering of Christ, that we need have “no more consciousness of sins,” and that we have been “perfected forever” by the offering of Christ.  So, I don’t believe the “deceitfulness of sin” is simply being somehow tricked or tempted into doing bad things (“sinning”). That’s “sin” under a covenant of law.  Hebrews 9:15 (ESV) says: “Therefore he (Jesus) is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.”

I think falling away from the living God begins with sin’s subtle nature (deceitfulness) causing us to mislabel and fail to recognize it.  Therefore we may remain in sin and darkness, all the while being satisfied with our behavior/performance or preoccupied with issues which God has put away from Himself in Christ.  This causes a “hardened heart,” meaning a mind which resists new truth or ways, because we’ve been deceived into thinking we’re following God already.  The result is “falling away from the living God,” meaning ceasing to commune with God and walk by fresh spiritual revelation and insight (faith) into current righteousness.  Righteousness is by faith, and is maintained by fresh faith.  Because our human nature, which is inherently sinful, is always bent toward the natural realm and way, including law and behavior as a means of righteousness or judgment, we are to “exhort each other daily” to live in the new way of the spirit, abiding in Christ, and refuse to return to the natural way of law, fear, and deception.  

 God bless you, thank you for reading.  I hope this was edifying.

 

 

 

  1. Romans 6:12, 7:20
  2. Galatians 3:13, Romans 7:6, 1 John 2:2, 1 John 3:5
  3. Titus 3:9-11
 
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Posted by on February 28, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The Ground – A Deeper Look at the Parable of the Talents

In Matthew 25, Jesus tells what is known as the parable of the talents.  In an attempt to keep this post reasonably short, I’ll summarize it: 

A man is going on a journey.  Prior to leaving, he gives all his possessions, including a varying number of “talents,” to his servants to tend in his absence.  (A talent is a measure of weight, I believe representing grace, – the influence of the Holy Spirit.  I first heard this from Dan Gochnour).  After a long time, the master returns.  He calls a meeting with his servants to review his affairs.  The one who had five talents had labored and gained 5 more.  The one with two had labored and gained two more.  The one with one talent hid it in the ground in fear, and hadn’t gained anything.  The master was pleased with the first two servants, and rewarded them with more trust and responsibility in His kingdom.  The fearful servant had his one talent taken and given to the one with ten, and he was cast into “outer darkness.” 

Here’s one thing I found interesting: the master in this story didn’t directly order these servants to gain more talents.  So, the two profitable servants labored to gain more talents simply because they wanted to please the master and make him wealthier.  As we will see, the primary difference in the unfaithful servant was his fear-based perception of the master. Ironically, he ends up being rejected because of his fear!  Here’s his explanation for failing to produce a profit: 24 …Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground.”  (Matthew 25, ESV)

“I knew you to be a hard man” is the main excuse this servant gives for his failure to produce.  This phrase could translate: “My perception of you is that you are a harsh, stern man…”  I think his perception was such because he never had any real intimacy or relationship with the master.  Notice also, he accused the master of a history of expecting yields where he had made no investment: “reaping where you did not sow.”  It therefore seems he didn’t trust that the talent (measure of grace/Holy Spirit) the master had given him was capable of producing an  increase.  This mistrust, perhaps more than anything, dishonored and offended the master.  More could be said, but the bottom line is this – the unprofitable servant was self-focused and didn’t truly care about the master’s affairs.

The unprofitable servant chose to keep his one talent in the ground.  In Matthew 13, Jesus tells a parable about seed, representing God’s word, being planted in various types of ground.  Only one plot of ground yields mature fruit.  Jesus explains that understanding is the key to God’s word bearing fruit.  I believe “ground” represents a fundamental, basic mindset or way of perceptionRemember, the Kingdom of God is within you and I.  So, the ground within you and I is the seedbed of our heart which God’s word enters.  Our ground will either nurture the seed into mature fruit, or somehow hinder and render it useless.  

The fearful servant’s ground, from his own mouth, was this: “the master is a harsh and stern man, and expects more than He rightfully should.”  I believe this common mindset caused him to cling to and hide what little he had been given, rather than use it.  Do you see the application?  Seeing God through a lens of fear and mistrust will hinder you from going out and using the influence of the Holy Spirit He’s given you to gain more.  It will keep you stuck in the same place.  TRUST Him.  Seek and ask Him.  And get to work using what He’s given you, large or small.  Amen.

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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