In the United States today, we are celebrating Memorial Day. It is a time to remember all of those who have fallen defending our freedom. There will be ceremonies (although subdued because of COVID) at veteran memorials. People will also celebrate the unofficial start to summer by grilling in their backyards. While some will make an issue of what to eat, as believers, we are free from the diet police.
“It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.”
It’s What Comes Out
The Jewish diet is very strict. The Pharisees made it even more rigid. Defiling yourself by eating something unclean was one of the worst sins you could commit. Jesus turned that thinking upside down when He told the crowd, “It’s not what goes in, but what comes out that defiles you.” By this, Jesus meant our words, not our food consumption. Last week I wrote about unwholesome words coming out of our mouths. Jesus backs that up by saying it is a sin that needs to be confessed.
Too many people obsess over their diets. Vegetarian or Carnivore camps have turned what they eat into a religion. On top of that, they bash those who don’t believe the way they do. Jesus tells us the bashing is the real sin here, not what you eat. It is too easy to fall into the trap the Pharisees did, majoring in the minors. It is so important that we focus on the main thing as believers, and that is being obedient to Christ.
Free From the Diet Police
Be considerate of what you say to others. Not only does it tear them down, instead of building them up, but it also causes you to stumble into sin. Let your words lead with love so that they can glorify God. Put more thought into what comes out of your mouth than what goes in. It will make your world a better place and prevent a wall from being built between you and God.
Remember the childhood saying, “Stick and stone may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?” That was another lie we tried to tell ourselves growing up. The truth words do hurt more than sticks and stones. Some words cause permanent damage. Paul tells us to let no unwholesome talk proceed from your mouth. Instead, we should be using them to encourage and build up.
“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, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”
Words Inflict Harm
There were a lot of hurtful words being slung around the church in Ephesus. It was probably happening between the Messianic Jews and the Gentiles. When we use our words to inflict harm in the church is causes lasting damage. Paul reminds all of us that we are to lead with grace and love when we speak to others. We don’t know what the other person is going through, and we can only make the situation better by speaking wholesome words.
Giving grace is becoming a lost art form. To extend grace means we overlook what someone says and see behind it. Another way to look at it is to give others the benefit of the doubt. When someone doesn’t measure up to your expectations or act how you think they should err on the side of grace. When we speak unwholesome words, it throws gas on the fire. You may be the only one who shines the light of Jesus into their life.
Words Do Hurt More than Sticks and Stones
Words can build up or tear down. Edification is the process of us using our words to build others up. Look for ways to encourage people. Be sincere because everyone can detect flattery. Spur others on to good works by being the example. A well-timed word can propel someone through the storm they are navigating.
Our house is almost one hundred years old. It has a detached garage that was made for a horse and buggy, so it doesn’t fit a car. We use it for storage and my tool bench. Recently we started remodeling it so we would create an area for our four teenagers to have a place to hang out and practice their instruments. It is a labor of love for my wife and I. The church is also built by love.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Work of the Ministry
Chapter four of Ephesians is all about God building up the church. He does that through the leadership whose job it is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. That should bring spiritual growth and unity to the Body of Christ. When things get out of line, it is the leadership’s responsibility to speak the truth in love to bring people back into alignment.
In a culture that exalts “doing their own thing,” there will be people that buck this system. They don’t want anyone telling them what to do, but that is a sign of immaturity. Jesus wants us to grow up in every way. When each believer is doing their part, the whole church grows and builds itself up in love.
Labor of Love
The work of the church is a labor of love. When the leaders and the people are motivated that way, there is no stopping what God can do through it. Make sure you are being equipped to do the work of the ministry, that your motivation is love, and that you are growing in your faith. When this happens, the church benefits, and the world is reached with the Gospel.
Most fitness places say you should get ten thousand steps in a day. That is approximately ten miles. When you get that much activity, your heart receives the workout; it needs to stay healthy. The Apostle Paul likens our faith to a walk, and he wants you to walk worthy of your faith.
“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love,”
It’s a Journey
Paul loved to use the metaphor of walking as a way to describe our Christian faith. He wants us to look at it from that perspective because it’s not a sprint; it’s a journey. We are sojourners on our way to eternity with Christ. Each day is a step forward in that direction when we look at it like that it prevents us from getting overwhelmed by the details.
With that said, Paul wants us to walk worthy of our calling. We have been called by Christ to follow Him, and now we need to live up to that standard. Paul implores us because there are many Christians who don’t live to that standard and bring the witness of the whole church down. Whether you realize it or not, people are watching you. They are looking to see if Jesus is the answer to their problems or they watching to see if you are devoted. You say a lot more with your actions than you do with your words.
Walk Worthy of Your Faith
How are we to walk? In humility and gentleness. The humble person doesn’t promote themselves but exalts others. The gentle person is kind and considerate and doesn’t look to hurt others with their words. This is going to take patience because people won’t treat you the same way. You will have to show your love by taking their hurtful words and letting them slide off of you. Walk worthy of your faith.
Are you one of those people who ignore the warning lights on the dashboard of your car? I must admit that there have been times where I have. Those lights are there for a reason, and we need to heed the warning. God gives us warning lights through His Word, the Holy Spirit, and through people who act as a watchman in our lives.
Son of man, I have appointed you a watchman to the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from My mouth, warn them from Me.”
Hearing from God
Ezekiel was a prophet to Israel with the purpose of telling them whatever God was telling him. God likened it to be a watchman on the wall. In ancient times cities were surrounded by walls to protect them from attacks from neighboring nations. They would post soldiers at strategic points to alert the armies of oncoming attacks. Ezekiel operated as a watchman, but he would tell the people of Israel what God was warning them about.
We still need watchman in our lives. People who are willing to warn us about the potential danger we might get ourselves into. These people can come in all different forms. It could buyout pastor, a mature saint in your church, or a family member who loves you. Whoever it may be, we need to listen. They play a vital role in keeping us out of sin. Resisting their warnings could prove disastrous.
Heed the Warning
Israel didn’t heed the warning of Ezekiel, and it led to their demise. Instead of listening, they attacked him. They didn’t want to hear anything negative. People are the same way today. They want people to tell them positive things. We become dull of hearing when we only listen to what we want to hear. Be open to words of warning. It may not be pleasant, but it may prevent you from going down the wrong path.
I live in an area with very rich farming land, much of what the call the Salad bowl of America is grown there. Everywhere you drive, you see this rich fertile soil that produces crops 52 weeks a year. Jesus likened our hearts to the soil, and the ones that have fertile soil produce fruit many times what was planted. Is your heart fertile soil?
“And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”
Get Your Heart in the Right Place
The parable of the soils is a reminder to believers that their hearts need to be in the right state for fruit to grow. If our hearts are hard to the Word of God, then there won’t be any growth. If our hearts are full of rocks and weeds, you may see some growth, but it won’t be substantial or last. Only the heart that has been tilled and weeded is capable of producing a bumper crop. For that to happen, we need to remove the cares of this world.
Fertile hearts are a result of the constant work of the Holy Spirit. There is the work of repentance for our sins that breaks up the hard areas of, and then there is the work of conviction that alerts us to the soil that looks good, but underneath has rocks that won’t allow roots. Finally, there is the work of denying ourselves, which removes the thorns that choke out the purposes of the Lord. If you allow the Spirit to take you through this work, you will see fertile soil in your heart.
Is Your Heart Fertile Soil?
Too many Christians focus on the hundred-fold fruit in their lives than they do the hard work that produces it. No good fruit grows in an untended garden. Submit your heart to the work of the Spirit today and let Him clean it up and produce fertile soil.