I had two incredibly encouraging meetings today. The second one was with Drew, who in September is going to be a minister in the Hebrides. It is great news that God is still calling people into the ministry of the Church of Scotland. Some who may look aghast at the Church of Scotland in the light of some of its decisions in the past decade may find it difficult to believe that God is still calling people into the ministry of that denomination of which I am an ordained minister still. He is: it is simple fact. Facts are powerful if at times inconvenient things. May God bless that new ministry in the Hebrides. May He bless one of our own members, Brian, who has just heard he has been accepted for training. Incidentally, he is from the Hebrides. May He bless another of our members Scott, who is already well through his training. Speaking with Drew brought back memories of our early days in Orkney, and good memories they are, as well as warm thoughts of friends who have ministered in the Hebrides in the past and who have wonderfully blessed ministries there in the present.
However, it is the first encouraging meeting with a friend, Andy, over breakfast at IKEA that is the main impetus for this blog! This morning he told Morag and I something of the story of his coming to Jesus Christ in the time of my predecessor, Stan. He said that of course life got better! His lifestyle changed which meant he didn’t need to fear people coming to his door with Samurai swords, or machetes or knives!! There was one thing that he said in his humorous way that made me both laugh and feel sad at the same time. He said that in the church he discovered that Christians can have “Samurai tongues!“ He told us that when he took courage to pray out loud for the first time, someone came up to him afterwards and said, “Andy, Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords, not Lord of lords and King of kings.” The fact that he can remember being spoken to like that in his early days as a believer so long after they were said to him, shows the power of words to harm. Of course they can bring life too.
I think it is wonderful that on the day of Pentecost God redeemed tongues! That part of our body that can cause damage as destructive as a forest fire according to the letter of James, was empowered by the Spirit of God to declare the mighty deeds of God. The tongue of Peter which had denied Christ was proclaiming Him and encouraging people to come to Him.
This is not a complicated blog today though it is longer than recent ones! Have our words this very day brought life or harm? The bible assures us that though mankind has trained all sorts of animals, no one has tamed the tongue. We need the help of Jesus by His Spirit. He had no fault in His speech.
The bible tells us in Romans 7 that we, as Christians, belong to Christ. The imagery is of a bride belonging to her husband. That is not a popular idea when it comes to marriage these days, that a bride belongs to her husband. Though cultural understanding of the marriage relationship between a man and a woman may have changed, and may have always differed a bit from culture to culture, changing culture does not change the essential relationship between Christ and a believer. We belong to Him. The wonderful thing is belonging to Him brings us freedoms that no other power can give us; freedom from our inabilities to walk in God’s ways; freedom from guilt and shame. However though Christ our husband gives freedom to those who belong to Him, the greatest freedom is simply to belong to Him, to belong to His heart and love and promises and strength and to belong to His good will and purposes for us. This is the strange thing: captivity to the will of Christ brings freedom to us to become who we really are.
Has there been evidence on our tongue today that you and I belong to Jesus Christ, that we speak in the manner He would ask us to speak with people, to people etc.? There used to be bracelets going around: “WWJD”; what would Jesus do? Well, some people liked the bracelets some mocked them. More and more I think if something helps people to live for Jesus I am not going to cynically judge it. I think however that at least mentally we could do with putting on a bracelet and looking at it in our encounters with people throughout any given day: “WWJS”: What would Jesus say?
Oh I may as well put this in here too though it makes it a long blog: Jesus did not blaspheme His Father’s Name, nor did He use foul language. Someone who does blaspheme and use foul language however cool or funny it may seem, shows that at in the very kindest light, they have not allowed their belonging to Jesus to influence their speech yet.
One of my most favourites stories I have ever read in any Christian book, was the account of a man who came to Christ through the mInistry of Martyn Lloyd Jones. This man was really despised by everyone. He was simply known by the name Staffordshire Bill. However he heard Martyn Lloyd Jones’ preaching being spoken about in the pub and started to think, “Well if that man is really saying there is hope for anyone there is hope for me.” He didn’t quite make it over the steps of the church a this first couple of attempts. The next time however Mrs. Lloyd Jones invited him in and he went in and stayed. He found Christ. Mrs Lloyd Jones introduced him to someone else at the end of the service: “This is Staffordshire Bill.” He winced as she used that name and said, “That was a bad old name for a bad old man.” He had been changed by Christ. He knew it and everyone could see it.
However the weeks passed and he found himself shouting down the stairs to his wife asking for a pair of socks. The sentence he used was full of foul language. He felt a sudden despair: “Oh Lord I cannot even ask for a pair of socks without swearing.” He threw himself face down on his bed in shame and despair. Christ met him and from that moment he never blasphemed or used any foul language ever again. Not one more foul word passed his lips. That was his own testimony and the testimony of all who knew him.
Oh I know this sounds old fashioned. Please don’t dismiss it so easily. Please don’t do what is common now, namely to dismiss the marks of a genuine Christian as being “religious talk and what we want is relationship not religion.” We have taken that truth and made it a sword which destroys so much of what it really means to be a follower of Christ. I am talking here about a genuine relationship with Jesus. Yes, I know it is cool to think that as Christians we can swear and blaspheme as good, or as bad, as the world. I have even heard ministries exalted that use foul language and crudity and blasphemy. However, at some point in our Christian journey the challenge of the King of kings and Lord of lords comes to our speech. In fact according to the bible if we live as those who belong to Jesus there, in the place of our speech, then we will find all sorts of other victories in our Christian walk. You will have won one of the main battles you will ever fight according to the bible, and you will find other defeats turning to victory in its strong wake.
“Jesus, may my speech show that I do not belong to myself. I have been bought with a price. I belong to another, to You. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight O Lord , my Rock and my Redeemer.”
God bless you follower of the One of perfect speech.