Robert Jeffress - Speech Therapy 101
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress. Welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Most of us have suffered through awkward moments when we've said something we truly regret. Something slipped past our lips and the damage was done. Nothing could reverse what had been spoken. Well, no one escapes this problem. And all of us, myself included, need help in taming our tongue. Well, today, I'm going to help you understand what God's word says about wielding the power of the tongue. My message is titled, "Speech Therapy 101" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
The poet Robert Frost said, "Half the world is composed of people who have something to say, and can't say it. The other half is people who have nothing to say and keep on saying it anyway". Somebody else said, "Nothing is more frequently opened by mistake, than the mouth". Can you relate to that? Can you recall something you said that you quickly regretted saying? As Dr. Criswell would say, "That's all of us". James wrote in James 3:3, "Now, if we put the bits into the horses' mouth so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well". Ain't that an interesting thing, that you can control a horse by that tiny piece of metal in its mouth? I've only ridden a horse twice, and I fell off both times. But to me, for the brief time I was on the horse it was an amazing thing that just by turning that little bit of metal you could control the direction of that mighty beast.
That's what he's talking about here. Here it says in verse four, another illustration, "Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the desires". A tiny rudder can control a massive ship. It's the same way with the tongue. As small as the tongue is like the bid in a horses' mouth or the rudder on a ship, it can control the entire direction of our lives. Verse five, he says, "So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set a flame by such a small fire"!
One more illustration James says, just as one careless spark can ravage hundreds of thousands of acres of a forest. So one careless word can destroy the reputation of an individual, the intimacy of a marriage, the spirit of an entire congregation. Our words are very very important. And so when we come to Colossians chapter three, Paul is going to give us some insight into how we should do that. Look at Colossians 3:8-9. "But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. And do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices". And specifically he mentions, laying aside slander and abusive speech, and lying. And what I want to do for the few minutes we have this morning is to first of all talk about each of these types of speech, what they really mean. And then I want us to look at some very practical ways that we can transform our speech to mirror that of Jesus Christ.
First of all, Paul says we're to lay aside slander. Slander, what is slander? To really understand what slander is, you have to understand how it's different from its cousin in the Bible called gossip. Let's first of all, look at gossip. They share some similarities but they also share some important differences. The word gossip. The word gossip means secret harmful communication about another person. To gossip about someone is to engage in secret harmful communication about that person.
By the way, it doesn't have to be false communication. Just like slander doesn't have to be false communication. It can be absolutely true what you're saying, but it's the intent. It is sharing sacred harmful information about another person with the intention to hurt that person. But the word here that Paul uses in Colossians 3:8, is not about gossip, it's about another closely associated word, and that is slander. Slander is to openly speak negatively about another person. Whereas gossip is secret behind the door's communication, slander is to speak out openly against another person. The word slander comes from the Greek word blasfemen, or the word blasphemy. When you blaspheme God, what are you doing? You are openly speaking out against God. What's wrong with slander? Let me mention three problems with slander.
First of all, slander like gossip is divisive. Nothing will separate friends and families and churches more than open negative communication. Proverbs 16:28 says, "A perverse man spreads strife. And a slanderer separates implement friends".
Second, slander necessitates making judgements about other people we are not qualified to make. It necessitates our making a judgment about somebody we're not qualified to make. When you openly criticize another person, you speak out against them, you are saying this person has a right to have his reputation destroyed. I am the judge, jury and executioner of this person's reputation. He deserves to have his reputation destroyed. No man can make that judgment, only God can make that judgment, problem against slander is, it's a divisive, it requires our making judgements only God is capable of making.
Number three, slander causes irreparable damage. That's the main problem with slander. It causes irreparable damage. Listen again to James 3:5-6. "So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set a flame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity: the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell itself".
It is impossible to repair the damage that can be done by our speech. The Bible says, if we're going to become like Christ, first of all, we lay aside slander. Secondly he says, to lay aside abusive speech. The new international translates that filthy language. Well that's obvious. Course humor, dirty jokes, they're not to have any part of the vocabulary of someone who is like Jesus Christ. But I think the New American Standard perhaps captures the entire meaning of this phrase. It translates this phrase, abusive speech. It's just not filthy communication, it is abusive communication. Listen, when you tell a dirty joke or use obscene language or curse words with another person especially another Christian, you are assaulting, you are abusing that person with your mouth. But also when you engage in verbal abuse, when you belittle another Christian.
When you teenagers listening, when you bully someone, that's a big phenomenon right now, bullying, when you abuse somebody, belittle somebody with your speech, that is abusive speech. Ephesians 4:29 gives this filter for all of our words. Paul says, "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, that it may give grace to those who hear". Don't let any unwholesome word. Whether it's slander, dirty talk or abusive talk, don't let anything come from your mouth that tears down people. Discourages people, but only words that are good for edification. That word edification or ectomy refers to the building up of a house. Only speak words that build up other people. Before you say anything to another person or about another person ask yourself, is what I'm saying, building up this person, building up their reputation, or is it tearing down, discouraging to that other person? The third kind of speech that Paul says we're to lay aside if we're a heavily minded Christian is lying.
Look at verse nine, "Do not lie to one another, since you have laid aside the old self," see that? "With its evil practices" you're a new person in Christ, you've laid aside your old grave clothes, you need to make sure you've laid aside any line from your mouth. The Bible says God hates lying because God is the antithesis of lying. In John 14:6, remember what Jesus said? He said, I am the way, the what? The truth and the light. Jesus is the embodiment of absolute truth. There is no shadow in him. On the other hand, John 8:44 says that the devil is what? Jesus said he is a liar and he is the father of all lies. Simply put, when you and I lie, exaggerate, distort the truth, we are behaving more like a child of Satan's than we are a child of God. That's why God hates lying. And that's why it's to have no place in the heart of a heavenly minded Christian. So how do we go about bridling our speech, controlling our tongue. Let me give you in the final moments today six very practical ways to help in controlling your speech. Six important principles for doing that:
Number one, realize that you and I are accountable for our words. Did you know Jesus taught that one day you and I will give an account for every word we have ever spoken? Does that strike terror in your heart as it does mine? The idea that you would be held accountable for every word that you have spoken. Listen to Jesus' words in Matthew 12:36-37, "But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting of it in the Day of Judgment. For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned". Just the realization of that is a strong motivation, isn't it? To control what we say.
Secondly, memorize and meditate on scripture concerning our speech. If you have difficulty in this area, I want to encourage you to jot these scripture verses down and commit them to memory. They're not hard, but just thinking about them will be a great encouragement to you. First of all, Proverbs 13:3, "The one who guards his mouth preserves his life: the one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin". Or Proverbs 29:20. "Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him". Or the verse I just mentioned a moment ago, Ephesians 4:29, "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, that it may give grace thanks to those who hear it". Memorize and on those verses.
Third, refuse to give a bad report about anyone you've not personally confronted. Just make that commitment today that you are not going to say anything negative about somebody that you have not personally talked to. Matthew 18:15, Jesus said, "If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private: if he listens to you, you have saved your brother". Listen, if the reason you're tempted to say something negative about somebody else. Well, you know, I'm really concerned about bill and I really think he may be having a problem in this area of his life. And man, we need to pray for bill. No. You don't say that to somebody else. If you're really concerned about bill, you go talk to bill about it. You don't talk to your prayer group about it, you don't talk to anybody else about it, you go and confront that person privately with the hope of redemption.
Fourth, abstain from all forms of lying. We talked about how much God hates lies and liars. And that means we have to abstain from all forms of lying. You see, lies coming various shapes and sizes, don't they? I mean, for example, exaggerations. You're having a fight with your mate and you say something like, "You never do anything for me". Is that really accurate that your mate and all the time you've been married has never done anything positive for you? Are you saying to your child, "You always disobey me". Is that really true? Has your child disobeyed every single thing you've said? Don't say amen, anybody, but most of us, that's not true. Most of us can look st our children and think of times they have obeyed us. Don't exaggerate. Also don't distort. To distort the truth is to bend the facts to suit your needs.
Calvin Miller is a professor at southwestern seminary and he tells a story about a time he was working full-time while going through seminary. And it turned out he had a final exam the next day and he really needed to study instead of going to work that evening. But he didn't want to call his boss and tell him that he needed to stay home. So he came up with his plan, he asked his wife when he got home from school, "What are we having for dinner tonight"? She said, "Well, we're going to have fish". He said, "Okay". So he went into the bedroom, lay down on the bed. He said, "Would you bring the fish to me right now"? So she brought the frozen fish to Calvin. Calvin says while he was flat on his back, he threw it up in the air, caught it again, gave it to his wife and said, "Now go call my boss and tell him I'm flat on my back in bed and I've just thrown up my dinner". Well, that was true, but it was a lie as well. That's what it means to distort the truth. It means to take the facts and twist for our own need. The Bible says we're to abstain from all kinds of lying.
Number five, develop the art of silence. Develop the art of silence. White house spokesman Larry Speakes once gave this invaluable piece of advice to incoming white house press secretary, Marlin Fitzwater. He said, "Marlin, remember this, you never have to explain what you don't say". Those are good words for all of us to remember. You never have to explain what you don't say. Solomon actually had said the same thing thousands of years earlier. In Proverbs 17:27-28, "He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise: when he closes his lips, he is counted prudent". Or Proverbs 21:23, "He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles". Remember this, nothing is often a good and always a clever thing to say. Learn to develop the art of silence.
Number six, fill your mind with positive input. Jesus said, our speech is simply an indicator of what's in our heart. Our tongue is kind of like a dipstick in a crank case in your automobile. It simply reveals what's in your heart. Jesus said it this way in Matthew 12: 34-35, "For the math speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out his good treasure what is good: and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil".
Our speech is simply reflective of what we're putting into our minds and our hearts. If you're having trouble with your fault life, if you're having trouble with immorality, we talked about a couple of weeks ago, you need to really guard against what you watch and what you read. Because what you see affects your thought life. It's the same thing with your speech. If you're having difficulty with your speech, with anger, with slander, with lying, be careful about the kind of people you listen to and associate with. I was speaking about a couple of weeks ago over at Dallas seminary. And after the chapel service a man came up to me, he's said chaplain in one of our area hospitals. He talked about how much he appreciated our church, the ministry of our Pathway to Victory program, he listens every day. But then he said to me, he said, "As a chaplain I deal with a lot of senior adults in our hospital". He said, "Well, you know what the two problems senior adults are dealing with? Emotional spiritual problems, they're dealing with depression, they're dealing with fear and anger".
Depression, fear and anger. He smiled, he said, "You know what I tell them to do if they're having trouble with depression, fear and anger? They need to quit listening to talk radio". He said, "I tell them to quit listening to talk radio and listen to kcbi". Listen to something that will build them up, rather than making more angry. By the way, some of you need to follow that same advice. You're angry enough already, you don't need some hard head on the radio getting y'all worked up. So when you get to work, you're about to blow a gasket. Quit listening to that stuff. You say, "Well, I've got to learn the facts, I've got to learn what's going on".
Listen, to somebody who's kind of involved on the peripheral with some of that stuff, it's all show business, okay? They're all just trying to get you worked up, keep you tuned in. Remember what proverb says, "Do not associate with an angry man, lest you learn his ways". When you hang around angry people, when you listen to angry people, guess what? You're going to become an angry person. And that's why the Word of God says in Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence, if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things". Fill your minds with positive input. Speech that hurts other people, whether it's slander, abusive speech, lying, is symptomatic of a hostile wrong attitude toward other people.
We're going to see next time in Colossians 3:11 that Paul says the remedy to that wrong attitude is to remember this simple truth, Christ is all, and he's in all. Don't ever forget, Jesus Christ reside resides in the heart of that person to whom you're speaking and about whom you're speaking. To drill down a little further, when you slander another Christian, you're slandering Jesus Christ, because Jesus is in that Christian. When you tell a dirty joke to another Christian, you're telling that dirty joke to Jesus Christ. When you abuse another Christian with your speech, you are abusing the Lord Jesus who died for you. When you lie to another Christian, you are lying to the Lord Jesus Christ. The heavenly minded Christian is one who measures his every word as though he were speaking for the Lord himself.