|It Matters | Your Words Matter|
|October 18, 2008|
Part 1 of 3 | October 19, 2008
Welcome to a brand new series called It Matters. In this three-week series, we’re going to explore the little New Testament book of Jude. Douglas Rowston calls Jude, “the most neglected book in the New Testament.” And he might be right.
The book is short. Only one chapter long. It’s buried near the end of the New Testament. It’s got some weird sounding stuff in it. For a lot of different reasons, the book of Jude doesn’t get a whole lot of press. Some of you have never even heard of it until today.
As soon as I said the name “Jude”, a lot of you immediately start humming the song Hey Jude in your mind.
We’re going to get into God’s Word today and say hey to a guy named Jude. The book of Jude in the New Testament was written by a guy named Jude. See? The Bible isn’t always as complicated as you think.
Jude was the brother of Jesus. Actually, he was the half-brother of Jesus since Jesus was conceived while their mother, Mary, was still a virgin. But still, Jude grew up in the same house with Jesus.
They probably did all the stupid stuff that brothers do, although I’m sure Jesus could have stopped any of it if he wanted. “Oh, you think you’re going to gang up on me? Did I mention that I’m Jesus? BAM!” I don’t know. It could’ve happened.
But even though Jude was Jesus’ brother, it’s likely that he didn’t believe Jesus was the Son of God until after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
In fact, look at these verses from the book of Mark. “Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, "He is out of his mind." (Mark 3:20-21, NIV)
I’m sure Jude was with the rest of the family when they said, “There goes Jesus again. That boy is off his rocker.” Jesus’ own family thought he was crazy! Jude thought his older brother was a loon. It wasn’t until after his resurrection that Jude came to believe that his brother really was the Son of God.
Look at how Jude describes himself in the first verse of his book. “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ…” (Jude 1)
Jude had gone from thinking Jesus was insane to believing that he was the risen Son of God. Jude had gone from making fun of Jesus to serving him in every possible way in his life.
Some of you can relate to that. You were skeptical of Jesus. Didn’t buy this whole church thing. Didn’t think God made any difference, if he was even there.
And now, you not only believe, but you’re serving him with everything you have in your life. Jude would totally get that.
This is the guy who wrote the book that we’re going to be exploring over the next few weeks. We’re not listening to some good little church boy who always believed and never doubted. We’re learning from a guy who had doubt upon doubt about Jesus, but came to the conclusion that Jesus was the real deal and that the only thing that counts is pleasing him in our lives.
So there’s some background about Jude. Let’s pray, and then we’ll listen to the truth that Jude has for us today.
One of the core messages of Jude’s book is that the actions of our lives matter. Our world may not believe that these things are a big deal, but Jude reminds us that these things are a very big deal to God.
Jude’s message for us today is that your words matter. Usually, we buy into the lie that our words really don’t make that big of a difference. They’re just words. Here and gone.
Louann Brizendine estimates that the average man says around 7,000 words a day. She says that the average woman says over 20,000 words a day. Some of the guys are thinking, “I knew it! I knew they talked too much!” Well, I wouldn’t tell your wife that, or she may share some very special words with you.
Actually, I don’t think I quite believe those statistics. But the point is that most all of us talk all the time. Thousands of words a day. It’s just not that big of a deal, right? Well, today God is going to reveal a far different truth…your words matter more than you can imagine.
Jude points out several different types of words that have no place in the life of a Christ-follower…like critical words.
Jude opens his book by pointing out that a lot of sinful people had infiltrated the church and were having a destructive impact. A lot of the book is spent pointing out exactly what these people are doing and what they are like.
Jude writes, “…these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals—these are the very things that destroy them.” (Jude 10, NIV)
This little phrase from this little-known book of Jude rocked me this week. Jude was warning his readers about the evil people who had invaded the church, and one thing he said about them was that they “speak abusively against whatever they do not understand.”
Some other Bible translations say, “These people scoff at things they do not understand.” (NLT)
They “speak evil of whatever they do not know.” (NKJV)
“These people sneer at anything they can’t understand.” (The Message)
I think the truth is starting to come into clearer focus now. The people Jude was talking about were always shooting off their mouths when they had no idea what they were talking about. Now I know that none of us have ever done that, right? Right.
The truth is that most criticism is born of ignorance. Benjamin Franklin said, “Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain…and most fools do.” The plain truth is that if people didn’t criticize out of ignorance, then criticism would be nearly eliminated altogether.
What we have to understand is that this is a big deal to God. God expects more from his people than continuously allowing ignorant words to spew out of our mouths. He has set a higher standard than that.
In the book of Proverbs, the Bible says, “A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions. (Proverbs 18:2, NIV)
If you are slow to get the facts but quick to criticize, the Bible calls you a fool. It’s blunt, I know. Don’t get mad at me. I didn’t write it. If you want to be a fool, according to the Bible, don’t bother getting to the truth. Just shoot off your mouth.
As a leader in the church, I hear a decent amount of criticism at times. It just happens. But it is amazing how often the criticism is, at best, based on a half-truth. Sometimes it’s based on no truth at all.
Earlier this year, I received a phone call from a man who attends another local church. Apparently he felt led to call me to tell us that there were some good things about our church, but there are also a lot of things that we’re doing wrong.
Now, I had never met this guy. Never heard his name. But all of a sudden, I found myself on the phone getting schooled with all this unsolicited “advice.”
Finally, I asked him if he’d ever been to our church. Nope. Never been here. Never even been inside this building. He’s driven past it a few times, but that’s it.
So I asked how he knew all this stuff about our church. He said that he knows one person who attends Amelia from time to time. That was all he had to go on, and yet, in his mind, that was enough for him to advise me on all the things that are wrong with our church.
I hung up the phone feeling angry and completely frustrated that I had just been bombarded with unexpected and very ignorant criticism. It was obvious the dude had no idea what he was talking about. The things he said were either based on half-truths or, more often, absolutely no truth at all.
As disciples of Jesus, we have to know the standard that God has set for us regarding our words. You do not criticize when you don’t have the facts. Period. End of discussion. Ignorant criticism brings dishonor to the name of Christ. Instead of participating in ignorant criticism, God has told us to work at eliminating it.
The Apostle Peter writes, “For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.” (1 Peter 2:15, NIV)
It is God’s will that our good deeds will silence ignorant talk. And sometimes that good deed is actually calling a person on it. Not only are we supposed to remove ignorant criticism from our own lives, but we are called to take it on whenever we hear it from somebody else. That takes courage. It flat out takes guts to do this, but God never intended for his people to be mamby-pamby wimps.
When you hear someone criticizing something or, more importantly, someone, ask how they know this is true. See if they have all the facts. Have they done anything to learn more about what they’re criticizing? If it’s clear that they haven’t, then you have a right to stop them. Actually, it’s more than that. According to the Bible, you have a responsibility to stop them. You have a responsibility to lovingly call them on their sinful behavior.
What if they don’t listen to me? Listen to what the Bible says. “Anyone who hates to be corrected is stupid.” (Proverbs 12:1b, NIRV)
You get the feeling that a lot of the Biblical writers didn’t care who they offended? But offensive or not, this is the truth. If you correct someone about their ignorant criticism, and they reject it, the Bible says that they just moved beyond ignorance into full blown stupidity.
The bottom line is that the people of God simply do not criticize out of ignorance.
Before you criticize somebody, have you thought about what their life might be like right now? What is going on in their life that you might not be aware of? If you had more information, would you be more understanding of what they’re saying or what they’re doing instead of being critical?
Before you criticize something at church, have you talked to a leader about it? Have you taken the initiative to learn why we do what we do?
In any area, home, church, work, anywhere, ignorant criticism is not how the Lord has called his people to live. God is not honored when that kind of garbage comes out of our mouths. He has called us to guard against it in our own lives, and correct it when we see it in somebody else’s life.
Let’s go back and see what else Jude has to say about the sinful people who were showing up in the early church. Picking it up in verse 16, Jude writes, “These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.” (Jude 16, NIV)
Look at the two words Jude uses to describe these people. They are grumblers and faultfinders. These are essentially two different sides of the same coin.
First of all, he calls them grumblers, meaning they’re critical of a situation. In other words, they complain.
I’ve struggled with this one the last couple of weeks.
A couple of weeks ago, Ryan got sick. So I took him to the doctor, who said that his strep throat had returned. So we made a trek to the pharmacy for another antibiotic.
Later that day, Nicki told me that Brock had a fever. Took him to the doctor. Ear infection. Another trip to the pharmacy.
Two doctor visits. Two pharmacy runs for two antibiotics in the same day. Grrr… I wish I could say that I went through this whole thing without complaining, but…yeah.
And then last week, we had to have a significant repair on one of our cars. That significant repair came with a significant price tag. It wasn’t fun, but we did it, got through it, moved on.
The very next day, Nicki called me and said, “Did you know that the check engine light is on in our other car?”
I went into a tangent right there on the phone. I was whining, griping, complaining, grumbling, and any other “ing” that you can think of. I couldn’t believe it. I just had our other car at the mechanic the day before, and now this? Are you kidding me?
And you may be thinking, “Well, what’s the big deal? I would have done the same thing. I would have went off, too.” Maybe you would have, but what you and I tend to forget is that we’re called to a higher standard than that.
In Philippians 2, the Bible says, “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe… (Philippians 2:14-15, NIV)
Can I point out an ugly word in this verse? Everything. Do everything without complaining… I don’t mean to insult your intelligence, but everything means…everything. Do everything without complaining. Whining, griping, grumbling, and complaining have no place in the life of a Christ-follower. My reaction about our sick kids and our broken cars did not bring glory and honor to Jesus. The Holy Spirit drilled me with that this week.
Look at the reason why this stuff has no place in our lives. We do everything without complaining so we can be blameless and pure. Complaining and grumbling gums up the works in our lives. It can become the sludge of our soul, because complaining chokes gratitude and thankfulness completely out of our lives.
I was convicted of my whiney, gripey attitude this week. I flew off the handle about our two broken cars. You know how many people in the world can’t even imagine what it’s like to own a car? They don’t have enough money to feed their family, and yet I’m blessed enough to own two cars and to have the means to repair them when they break down. How can I not be thankful for that?
I complained about having two sick kids, which took my eyes off the goodness of God in my life. Instead of complaining that I had two sick kids, I should have been praising and thanking God that I have two awesome, wonderful kids. I live in a country where we can get them the medical treatment they need. I am more blessed than I even realize…and so are you.
Jude told us that, “These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires;” (Jude 16a, NIV)
They’re grumblers, meaning they complain; they’re critical of a situation.
He also tells us that they are faultfinders, meaning that they are critical of another person.
This is where Jude really gets in our kitchen. So many of us are critical and judgmental of other people. We claim to love God, and yet we say some of the nastiest things about people who are created in God’s image. We claim that Jesus has changed our lives, and yet we ignore the raw sewage that pours out of our mouths.
This has got to stop, church. It has to. In James 3, the Bible says, “The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth! My friends, this can’t go on.” (James 3:8-10, The Message)
A few months ago, one of our staff members told me that they walked in on a conversation here at church where somebody was criticizing them. The person who was doing the criticizing looked up and saw the person they were criticizing looking right at them. Guess what they did? Got really quiet really quickly. They obviously hoped that the staff member hadn’t heard what they were saying.
James is right. This can’t go on. As the people of God, we can’t go on criticizing and tearing down other people. Especially when the people we’re criticizing are also part of God’s church! We’re on the same team. Let’s start acting like it.
In Ephesians 4, the Apostle Paul writes, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:29, 32, NIV)
Instead of criticizing and tearing down, this is the picture of how we are called to relate to each other. Building each other up. Kindness. Compassion. Forgiveness. That’s the picture of how a disciple of Jesus treats other people.
If you are constantly critical of other people, can I tell you something? The person you are most unhappy with is probably you. You are attempting to build yourself up by tearing other people down. And with all the authority of God’s Word behind me, I’m calling you to stop it. Today. Right now. In this moment. Stop. There is no place for this if you claim to be a follower of Christ. And if you’re going to do nothing but keep spewing negativity and criticism, do it somewhere else. Don’t bring it into our church. We’re too busy following God’s vision for our church to deal with that.
Negativity is contagious. It can wreck a church, a family, a marriage, and a friendship. If you do nothing but criticize and complain, you’re going to be miserable. And sooner or later, the only people who will want to be around you are miserable people.
God desires better for us. He desires encouragement instead of criticism. Building each other up instead of tearing each other down. Critical words simply have to be removed from our lives.
Now, there is another kind of word that Jude calls us to remove from our lives. Manipulative words. Lets go back and look at this verse again, keying in on the second half of the verse.
Jude 16 says, “These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.” (Jude 16, NIV)
These people who had wormed their way into the church were boasting about themselves. They flattered others to get what they wanted. In other words, they used their words to manipulate other people. Their words came with an agenda attached.
From the day the church began, there have been people who tried to push their own personal agenda in the church. They would say and do things to manipulate others into letting them have their way. It happened in the earliest days of the church here in the book of Jude, and it’s still happening today.
Personal agendas have no place in God’s church. It’s not how the church operates. If you’re going to try to flatter and kiss up to the right people to get what you want, take it somewhere else. That kind of manipulation has no place in God’s church.
Now, the Bible does call us to be encouraging. We read some of those verses earlier. What we have to understand is there is a big difference flattery and encouragement. There is a big difference between building someone up with encouragement and propping them up with patronizing fluff.
I was reading another pastor’s blog this week and he wrote about a time where he was a guest speaker at another church. Before he got up to speak, the worship band played several songs. The preacher wrote, “As I took the stage, I said what any good guest speaker would say: “Thanks band, that was wonderful.” Only it wasn’t wonderful. It was mediocre at best. By saying that it was wonderful, I wasn’t encouraging anyone. I was just being political and slightly dishonest. I immediately wished I hadn’t said it.”
Now, he’s not suggesting and I’m not advocating that we be tactless. I don’t think he should have got up and said, “Guys, that was really bad. You need to practice more, because that was painful to sit through.” That’s crazy.
But for encouragement to be valid and helpful, it has to be honest. If it’s not honest, then it ceases to be encouragement and it becomes flattery. Flattery comes with an agenda attached.
“If I say this, this person will like me. If I say this, they’ll let me have my way. If I say this, they’ll think that I really have my life together. If I say this, they’ll do what I want them to do.”
Where in the Bible does God tell his people to use their words to manipulate others? Where is that Scripture exactly? You can look all day long, but you won’t find it.
Listen to what David wrote in the book of Psalms. “Help, LORD, for the godly are no more; the faithful have vanished from among men. Everyone lies to his neighbor; their flattering lips speak with deception. May the LORD cut off all flattering lips and every boastful tongue… (Psalm 12:1-3, NIV)
Now there’s a heck of a prayer, isn’t it? God, all the people around me are using flattery to get what they want. Cut off their lips! Cut out their tongues! When is the last time you prayed like that?
David knew how dangerous flattery is. Words that are rooted in dishonesty, words that are laced with a personal agenda are deadly poison.
This is what Jude found in the early church. He issued an urgent call for the church to cut out this cancer. When we try to work our own personal agenda in the church, it’s actually extremely arrogant. What we’re really saying is that we know better than God. God has a specific vision for every single church that exists. But when a person pushes their pet projects or personal agenda, they are in essence telling God that their vision for the church is more important than his. And they’re willing to use slick, deceptive words to accomplish their personal agenda.
The test lies in our motives. It can’t be encouragement if I expect to get something in return for it. Encouragement is given solely for the benefit of the other person. Encouragement comes with no strings attached. If there is an ulterior motive or a personal agenda attached to your words, don’t even say them. It’s not encouragement. It’s flattery. Save your words until you can honestly say them expecting absolutely nothing in return.
One more verse. David wrote in Psalm 141, “Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.” (Psalm 141:3, NIV)
As we wrap up today, I want to invite us to pray this prayer that David wrote. We’re going to pray it out loud. But don’t say it if you don’t mean it. If you have no intention of allowing God to work in your life by changing your words, don’t lie to him. If you are content to walk out those doors just like you walked in them, don’t pray this prayer.
But if you’re ready to follow God in this, if you’re ready to honor Jesus by the words you say, then pray this out loud with me.
“Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.” (Psalm 141:3, NIV)
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