On Tuesday, as I was listening to my morning devotional, I heard a verse for the first time that I have read a hundred times. I know that sounds odd but I have learned as I study the Bible that when we really listen the Holy Spirit often guides us to a new understanding we never realized before. The verse struck me so profoundly that I immediately chose to share it with all our folks as our morning Bible verse and I have been haunted by it ever since.
He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him. (John 7:18)
In this verse Jesus is replying to the Pharisee’s and He is speaking about Himself that His words are intended to honor “the one who sent him” The Father. But in the first portion of the verse He is addressing one who “speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself”.
I felt like I had been hit with a hammer. How many times had I spoken on my own? Then conversations began scrolling in my head and I could see myself speaking on my own and sure enough the goal was often not to honor God but to honor myself.
This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
I cannot speak for anyone but myself; but I do know I have spoken many, many times on my own without seeking His guidance. That when I speak on my own, my words are much like those God warns against in this passage from the book of Jeremiah. Words that attempt to make me look wise, or strong, or well off. There is a reason that God warns us in the Book of James about our tongue and its effects.
Now when we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we also guide the whole animal. And consider ships: though very large and driven by fierce winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So too, though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts great things. Consider how large a forest a small fire ignites. And the tongue is a fire. The tongue, a world of unrighteousness, is placed among the parts of our bodies; it pollutes the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is set on fire by hell. For every creature–animal or bird, reptile or fish–is tamed and has been tamed by man, but no man 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 men who are made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things should not be this way. (James 3:3-10)
Or how David asks for God to “Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.” (Psalms 141:3)
Jesus wants us to stop and think about what we say. He does not want us to speak on our own. He wants us to learn to seek God’s guidance and speak not of ourselves but of what He has done. In John Chapter 9 we see a story where Jesus heals a man who was born blind. The Pharisees again are trying to deal with what happened and to try and explain it away. They do not believe the miracle and question both him and his parents over and over again until finally they accuse Jesus as being a false and sinful man.
“So a second time they summoned the man who had been blind and told him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner!” He answered, “Whether or not He’s a sinner, I don’t know. One thing I do know: I was blind, and now I can see!’” (John 9:24-25)
Like the testimony of the blind man our words need to be about who we were before we met Jesus and who we have become since then. In the 1980’s the U.S. Army had an advertising campaign based on a jingle that said “Be all that you can be”. Not to take anything away from my brother Vets, but it is impossible for anyone or anything besides Jesus to show us how to be ALL that we can be. And the process of walking with and sharing with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is what teaches us how to have joy and peace and love. It seems only proper that we would express that by asking our “Partner” to guide us when we speak.
Song: Mending Broken People