As Christians we must be careful how we use words. Children of God must always testify truthfully, and in order to speak truthfully we must use words correctly.
We have been blessed by God because many English words were developed in the light of his Word. We have words like sin, good, evil, and God; and most everyone still understands the meanings behind these words and the truth they represent.
However, imagine traveling to a land where they do not have a word for the idea of sin. Or to them the word “sinful” is associated with ideas like delicious. Then when someone like John the Baptist proclaims, “Repent of your sinfulness,” they hear but do not understand.
When Satan speaks, he lies because that is his native language. And one of the first tactics of a liar is to use words incorrectly. This causes confusion.
When we consistently misuse words we cause them to lose their incisive meaning in our lives. We lose the ability to cut through a fog of confusion. For example, when we hear the phrase, “Buy one, get one free,” do we stop to think that “free” means we do not have to pay? Are we able to get the “free” burger without paying? No. No matter what he says, the Burger King does not give out free burgers. On the other hand, the King of the Universe has prepared an eternal banquet, and it is free.
However, some Christians still preach a message similar to “Buy one, get one free.” They say, “Do good works, and then get salvation for ‘free.’” But we are destitute. We have nothing. In fact, we have less than nothing: We are sinners who owe an eternal debt that we can never repay. Must we pay for what is “free”? No! Such a “gospel” is absurd. We might as well tell penniless people to go to Burger King for “free” burgers.
If we must work for something, then “free” is no longer free. If salvation is by “grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” (Romans 11:6).
True faith is not useless.
Only after God makes us realize through faith that salvation is free, do we then begin to do good works. This is because we no longer work out of fear of punishment or greed for reward, but rather our works are motivated by His love. True good works are done for their own sake, and therefore can only come from a heart that is already free in Christ. Salvation is what sets us free.
God’s free promise creates faith, and this faith loves and will work because this faith wants to work. True love is free, and true love loves willingly. Only God can make our unwilling hearts willing. Then without fear or greed or self-conscious thought, we do good works motivated by Him. Having received freely, Christians give freely. Having received what is free, we have been made free.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. [Galatians 5:1].
This true faith is living and active in our lives because Christ works in us to produce his fruits through our faith.
On the other hand, dead faith is mere historical knowledge that Jesus died and paid for the sins of the world. Dead faith is not a relationship of trust in Jesus. Dead faith is useless. Dead faith knows that God exists, but does not actually trust God. Dead faith believes about the promise of salvation, but does not actually trust the promise. Dead faith knows of Jesus, but does not know Jesus.
Anyone who calls himself “Christian” but makes a practice of sinning and does not daily repent and struggle against sin, and does not strive to do what is right, is no Christian at all. Anyone who calls himself “Christian” and says, “I have faith” should ask themselves what they mean by “faith” and, “Faith in what?” Is our faith merely knowledge that Jesus is our savior? Or is our faith actual trust in Jesus? Do we trust our “faith in Jesus,” or do we trust Jesus?
The person who trusts Jesus, believes Jesus’ words, and Jesus says: “Repent.” (Matthew 4:17). Do we know what it means to “repent”? Do we really trust Christ? Then we should care what he says, and we should believe what he says.
Correctly using words keeps our minds clear.
If we want to communicate Jesus’ message of the Law and the Gospel we must always use words truly and correctly. Only then will people’s minds be clear so that they can hear and understand and believe.
We should never say “bad” when we mean good, or “free” when we mean not free. Misusing words is similar to misusing God’s name, which is a violation of the Ten Commandments. Just as misusing God’s name causes confusion about who God is, so also misusing words causes confusion about reality.
Another word that people abuse is “truth.” Some gibber, “That’s your truth, not mine.” They might as well say, “Lies are true” or “Everything is true.” To them the idea of Truth does not exist and the word “truth” has no meaning.
God’s word is truth. It is a like sword that flashes like lightning. It is sharper than “any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12, Ezekiel 21:28, & Revelation 19:15). However, when we misuse words, we dull the impact of that sword in the minds of the hearers. When we misuse words we make ears that cannot hear and eyes that cannot see. (Isaiah 42:20 & Jeremiah 6:10).
So we must be careful how we use the tools that God has given us for communicating his word of truth. Through misuse they can become dull and lose their incisive power.
If a prophet says, “Repent of your sin!” and the people who hear him identify the word “sinful” with ideas like delicious, tasty, and indulgent, then they won’t understand what he is saying. We should be grateful to God because our language was shaped in part by an understanding of his truth. The English language contains words like God, sin, grace, justice, love, and truth. But if we allow or participate with the world in changing the meaning of those words, then we will have lost some very powerful weapons for communicating the truth.
Satan is smarter than we. He is a prowling lion seeking whom he may devour and he is on the attack on fronts we do not even imagine. But God is all powerful. We are his servants who are at war with the spiritual powers of this dark world, and we must keep our swords sharp. (Ephesians 6:12-17).
Free. Grace. Faith. Love. Works. Truth. Prepare your words/swords for the battle!
copyright © 2008 Rick T. @ vdma.wordpress.com
Notes: This article was first published in the St. Peter Church newsletter May 2008 A.D.
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