The following is a summary of my teaching at the Cornerstone Church on Sunday, January 15, 2017.
Part 2 of Deep Love. Ephesians 4:29
January 15, 2017. The Cornerstone Church.
I have “inherited” two t-shirts from my son, Michael. He got them in high school as a member of the bench-press club. On the front you can see the 250 pound bench press club logo. It's pretty obvious that it's not my shirt. I don't lift weights. I have arms of spaghetti - and that's giving spaghetti a bad name. But I like wearing the shirt when I'm out walking. Even if I don’t have much in the way of muscle, I feel stronger just wearing the shirt.
Do you know what the most powerful muscle in the body is? The Bible says the tongue is a small part of the body, but it has tremendous power - James 3. What this says is really exciting: Our words have the power to transform lives.
I was listening to an interview with Michael Steele - the former chairman of the Republican National Committee. He told how his mother's words shaped his character and his vision for his life. She was uneducated, the daughter of southern share croppers. His dad died when he was 4, and his single mom raised him on a minimum wage income. BUT ... but she spoke into his life with so much power that he went on to earn a law degree at Georgetown and to serve as Lieutenant Governor of Maryland.
Today, I want to share with you God's design for positive communication - powerful words. You can use what you learn with kids, spouses, co-workers, friends. If you do this, people will listen to you. They will love you. They will thank you.
The design is in Ephesians 4:29:
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” - Ephesians 4:29 ESV
There are three keys to positive communication:
A. SPEAK CAREFULLY - "let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths"
Positive talk starts with acknowledging that sometimes we aren't real positive. "Corrupting talk" is anything that hurts or harms people.
There's lots of ways to hurt with words, but critical words are THE worst! I'm talking about putting people down. Pointing out every nit-picky fault. Showing disdain for who they are or what they do. This is what James calls a "poison tongue" (James 3:8).
Negative communication is like a hammer to the heart. It crushes the life out of people. Parents: this doesn’t work well when correcting kids. Critical words make them anxious and bitter. Supervisors, you already know that criticism does not improve performance.
Once when Jesus was eating supper with a Pharisee, a woman with a bad reputation anointed his feet with expensive perfume. Two men spoke into her life:
Jesus spoke life: “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace” - Luke 7:50.
The religious guy spoke death: “She’s a sinner.” Meaning: She’s so bad, even God can’t help her. That’s a great example of “corrupting talk.” Godless, critical and mean.
So ... be careful. Before you speak, ask three questions:
Ask yourself: “Will this build up or beat up? Are my words positive or poison? Am I speaking in love or anger?”
Ask the Lord: “Please give me wisdom to use the right words at the right time with the right attitude.”
Ask the person: “May I speak into your life? Do not assume the right to say anything.
”B. SPEAK EXPECTANTLY - "that it may give grace to those who hear."
We speak to impart grace: Expect your words to be channels of grace by which people are empowered by God to live "beyond-normal" lives. There's a very dramatic example of the power of grace in the Apostle Paul's life:
“I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” - 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 NLT
Grace empowered Paul to live beyond normal; to be an overcomer; to stay on course. That’s the same kind of grace God channels through our words. It is supernaturally powerful with great results. For example, Proverbs 12 tells us that "the tongue of the wise brings healing."
Expect your words to have supernatural impact. Jesus spoke into Peter’s life with tremendous results:
“Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” - Matthew 4:19 Result: Peter preached the first Christian sermon and 3,000 people came to faith.
“Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” - Matthew 16:18 Result: Peter became the leader of the mission to the Jewish people. Thousands saved, revival in the nation, etc.
When you speak, expect God. Ask him to use your words to channel his grace and power. Trust him to do it - even if you don’t see immediate or obvious results.
C. SPEAK POSITIVELY - “such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion”
The Bible says that Christians are like houses under construction; that’s the meaning of the phrase “building up.” What are the building materials? Our words - what we speak into people - our positive communication. What does the finished house look like? The Lord Jesus Christ. Our words are one of the means the Lord uses to sanctify his people as he conforms them to the character of his Son.
Here’s how this works: A friend or family member comes to you and asks to talk. You listen and try to understand what’s on their mind. Then, when you sense you have permission to speak into their life (but not before), you whisper a silent prayer and ask the Holy Spirit to speak through you - the right words at the right time with the right attitude. Then you speak words that build.
There are many different ways to speak into a person’s life. The words you choose will be determined by the situation and the leading of the Spirit. For example, you might use encouragement or warning or correction or coaching or information or wisdom or parable.
1 Corinthians 14 describes the powerful effect of these kinds of words:
“One who prophesies (speaks) strengthens others (builds up - the same phrase as in Ephesians 4:29), encourages them, and comforts them” - 1 Corinthians 14:3 NLT
I was sitting in Starbucks about a year ago. Two men were sitting together at a table next to mine, so I listened in. They were both business men. The older man was acting like a mentor. He was listening and speaking wisdom about strategic planning and staffing for growth. He was recommending books, telling stories, sharing experiences. I thought: this would be so helpful at the Cornerstone - men mentoring men; women mentoring women. Good news: I see it happening here. Let’s keep speaking into each other’s lives.
Two of the most effective kinds of positive communication are what I call affirmations and declarations.
Affirmations say, “This is what God has DONE in your life.” I often use Ephesians chapter 1 for this. Affirmations are very helpful when someone is discouraged. The goal of affirmations is to stoke up joyful faith in Christ. “This is what Jesus has done for you. Look what he’s made you.”
Declarations say, “this is what God is DOING in your life.” My go-to declarations are found in Romans chapter 8. These are powerful when someone is anxious or lacking confidence. The goal of declarations is to propel people into joyful action for Christ. “God is for you, so what’s stopping you?”
It’s truly amazing that the Holy Spirit uses our words to build Christians - to bring life, renew faith, deepen obedience, inspire worship, impart vision and confidence, encourage, comfort, heal, restore, warn and bring back to the path of life.
Think for a moment how positive communication can impact your marriage, your kids, your church, your workplace.
Have you ever been asked to speak in public and you’re responded, “No thanks, I’m not a public speaker?” The truth is, we’re all speakers. We all use lots of words. Let’s commit to use our words to build and boost and bless.
Right now, as a church, let’s dedicate our lives and our words to God.