The Heart Wags the Tongue
Here’s inviting you to join me in assessing and redressing a small but important slice of daily life: the words we speak to the people around us.
But first some context to orient you. Two weeks ago, I preached from Proverbs 9. In the preceding chapters, we overhear a father counseling his young, soon-to-be-launched-into-the-world son by means of a series of ten fatherly talks: “Listen, my son . . .” (1:8-19; 2:1-22; 3:1-12; 3:21-25; 4:1-9; 4:10-19; 4:20-27; 5:1-23; 6:20-35; 7:1-27). Then, in chapter nine, we come to the climactic conclusion in which we hear two competing “counselors”—"Woman Wisdom” (vv. 1-6) and “Dame Folly” (vv. 13-18)—bidding for the allegiance of the son’s heart: “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” (vv. 4; 16). Now the kicker: You and I are the ones who must decide between the two!
The rest of the Book of the Proverbs speaks practically to a variety of seemingly mundane matters in life—especially our speech. But these matters are anything but mundane because our “horizontal” actions express our “vertical” allegiances; that is, the words we speak to one another reveal whether we are dining with “Woman Wisdom” (a poetic foreshadowing of Christ-our-Wisdom; cf. Lk 2:40, 52; 11:31; Matt 11:19; 1 Cor 1:30; Col 2:3) OR dining with “Dame Folly” (a poetic personification of the devil).
So, over the next two Sundays, I plan to preach again from Proverbs 9, but in combination with subsequent proverbs that contrast “foolish words” (in the image of “Dame Folly”) with “wise words” (in the image of “Woman Wisdom”).
Here’s how you can roll up your sleeves and make this two-part series very personal and practical. First, pick one person you talk to regularly—perhaps your spouse, friend, coworker, or fellow church member. Second, take time to prayerfully reflect on the way you speak to that person by journaling your answers to two sets of questions: four questions that expose foolish words, and four questions that rescript wise words.***
This Week: Four Questions to Expose Our Foolish Words
Q1 Heat: Your situational “trials” are always significant (Jas 1:2). What exactly was happening around you and was being said to you that brought pressure, temptation, and trouble? Be specific.
Q2 Thorns: “The works of the flesh are evident” (Gal 5:19ff). So, what rotten words came out of your mouth in response to what was said or done to you? What exactly did you say to your neighbor? Be specific.
Q3 Roots: The works of the flesh spring from the desires of the flesh (Gal 5:17ff); out of a heart ruled by the flesh, the mouth speaks words that tear down (Lk 6:45; Eph 4:29). What lies and lusts hijacked your heart to drive and shape your rotten words? “I wanted _____. I needed _____.” Be specific.
Q4 Harvest: “The one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption” (Gal 6:8). What negative consequences resulted from this way of defecting from God (Q3) and talking to your neighbor (Q2)? Be specific.
Next Week: Four Questions to Rescript Our Wise Words
Q5 Redeemer: Scripture everywhere reveals the God who enters your world, diagnoses your struggles, and works to change what you are living for (Q3) and how you are living (Q2) in the midst of your circumstances (Q1). Who is God for you in Christ? What does he say and do to change how you talk? Be specific. Soak in it.
Q6 Root: The Spirit works by and with His Word to renew your heart to return to God in dependent faith: “I grieve my wayward heart (Q3) and my rotten words (Q2) . . . I need your pardon and power (Q5) . . . I trust you to give me what you promise in Christ . . .” How must you engage God in honest, candid, faith-filled conversation? Be specific. Do it.
Q7 Fruit: The desires of the Spirit produce the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:17ff); out of a heart ruled by the Spirit the mouth speaks words that build up (Lk 6:45; Eph 4:29). As you receive God’s transforming grace (Q5) through your dependent faith (Q6), how will you talk to your neighbor with constructive words? Be specific. Do it.
Q8 Harvest: “The one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Gal 6:8). What positive consequences can you envision as a result of this new way of relating to God (Q6) and talking to your neighbor (Q7)? Be specific. Look for it.
A Concluding Thought
Why give ourselves to this humble self-examination, and why look to God for this Holy Spiritual transformation? Because “reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Pr 12:18). Brothers and Sisters of Harvest, let’s excel still more in “learning Christ,” so that we “let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph 4:20; 29).
In His Service,
***These “eight questions” are adapted from the model of biblical change that I’ve learned to apply from one of my counseling professors, Dr. David Powlison, as taught by him in the Dynamics of Biblical Change course at Westminster Theological Seminary and the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation’s School of Biblical Counseling (Glenside, PA).
What Greg is reading . . .
In the Fullness of Time: An Introduction to the Biblical Theology of Acts and Paul
by Richard B. Gaffin Jr.
I’m pumped because my copy was just delivered to my doorstep. For many years, Dr. Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. taught his course on the biblical theology of Acts and Paul at Westminster Theological Seminary, and now his priceless lectures are accessible to us all through his recently published book, In the Fullness of Time. If I don’t answer the phone, it may be because I’m tucked away and taking in the riches of Christ so wonderfully expounded by this wise and gentle father in the faith. :)
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