Using Your Words Wisely (Part 4)

by Sam Bierig June 15, 2017

Editor's Note: This post is Part 4 of a 5-part series entitled, "Using Your Words Wisely." Click to read previous posts in the series: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 

The Christian life is somewhat analogous to a glass filled with water. When we come to Christ, we are as a glass filled with useless dirty water. After Christ does his transformational work on our heart, we become more like a glass of dirty water that has now been placed under a faucet that is pouring in clean water. It takes time to clear out old habits, postures, motives, and tendencies. But after a while, that old, dirty water (e.g., deathlike words) slowly begins to be pushed out and replaced with clean, refreshing, and useful water (life-giving words).

So, if we’re going to speak life-giving words similar to Jesus (John 11:43), we are going to have to fill our hearts with his clean, refreshing, and useful word (Colossians 3:16). Only then will our mouths follow suit and speak words that honor and bring life to those around us. In this fourth post, we want to turn the corner on this sin issue. In the first post, we saw how weighty the stewardship and discipline of our words are. We also saw that no person has ever spoken even one single neutral word (Proverbs 18:21). Nope, every single word we deposit into someone's life is a deposit for either life or death. Then, in the second and third posts, we saw that the problem is our heart, and that each and every careless word we speak will be brought up on judgment day (Matthew 12:36). 

In this post, we will cover how to start down the road to recovery. We’ll get a prescription for our diseased heart and mouth. For starters, you need to know that the road to recovery begins with a humble posture as you bow your heart before Christ and plead with him that he change your heart. And secondly, you’re going to have to create heart-habits of thankfulness, love, kindness, affirmation, and encouragement. These sanctified heart-habits and postures will then, in turn, push out and replace the toxic leftover postures that manifest themselves in your life as anger, slander, filth, covetousness, and greed.

You could summarize the big idea of Colossians like this: as the only true sovereign of the universe, Jesus is to be worshiped above all else, unchallenged. Because of this truth, we ought to follow him unwaveringly. The way Paul unfolds Colossians is by proclaiming the transformational nature of the gospel in the life of the Christian in chapters 1-2, but when one gets to chapter 3, we see that he pivots and starts to hand out prescriptions as to how Christians ought now to live in light of their redemption in Christ. You could say his point to Christians is, “You’re saved, so be saved!” The gospel is what you look back to for remembrance and it is the fuel, the example, by which you move forward in the Christian life. We don’t live in such a way that reflects salvation as though it were not saving! No, we see the death trap of sin as it truly is, and we live in accordance with the gospel. Colossians 3-4, then, serves as the imperative section, the prescription for life in the Spirit.

All of Life is Broken Up Into Words and Deeds

For our purposes, I want to focus on Colossians 3. In 3:17, Paul seems to divide your Christian life into essentially two areas: words and deeds.

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

This is an amazing idea set forth by Paul considering how little thought most of us give to stewarding the influence our words. God has invested in each of us an enormous stewardship by allowing us to speak millions upon millions of words in our given lifetime.  By the Spirit writing this verse through Paul, he is showing us just how important words are to one’s life. Your life can be broken down into two areas: words and deeds. That means for the Christian, Christ’s honor and name are at stake with each and every word that piles out of our mouth.

Do Not Use Your Words This Way.

In Colossians 3:8-10, we’re told not to use our words for “anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk...  Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self.”  This is how you and I naturally use our words outside of the saving and sanctifying work of Christ. 

I’ll bet that you, at times, tell crude jokes and laugh when others tell them. This is a tremendous temptation for many. But falling prey to this does not adorn the gospel.  Lashing out in anger against your kids or coworkers does not show mercy, as you have been shown mercy in the cross of Christ. Slander is a form of verbal manslaughter (James 4:2) - a type of murder that attempts to tear down a fellow image bearer in the mind of another. The motivation in this is usually to lift yourself up in the minds of your hearers.  Lying tells a lie about the gospel that saves you from living in mistruths.

Of what we ought to take stock is that Christ died so you might live a different life than what’s represented in the sins of Colossians 3:8-10. You don’t have to live like that anymore. You’ve put off the old self and have now put on Christ. You are free to extend mercy, not wrath. You are free to speak honorable words, not obscene ones. You can devise plans to honor fellow image bearers instead of devising and spewing malice. You can encourage and affirm by telling the truth about God’s work in a fellow Christian brother or sister. You don’t have to tell lies in order to appear greater in some worldly venture. 

Do Use Your Words This Way

In 3:12-15, we’re told that Christians are to replace words of anger, wrath, malice, slander, obscene talk, and lies with words of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness, love, peace, and thankfulness. 

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

This is the way that a local church is to live out the “one-anothers” in community together.  Of course, what is implicitly understood in verses 12-15 is that the hinge on which all these Christian characteristics turns is one’s words. Christians are made known as compassionate, kind, humble, meek, patient, etc., through the vehicle of words. The realities Paul is speaking of are what typifies a Christian’s speech. We have been loosed from the slavery of a destructive sin nature, and therefore we can speak life instead of death.

Filling Our Mouths with Something Else

In Colossians 3:16, we read: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” 

We see that our hearts and words overflow with thankfulness and singing. We are to admonish one another with wisdom, thus building up one another. That’s what our words are for. 

In our final post we will look to the Apostle Paul in the book of Philippians. He’ll show us how to guard the gates of our hearts and minds that we might form righteous postures and grow in the discipline of stewarding our words for life and not death.