Community Group Study Notes
- What damage can our words have on others?
- According to what we heard in Sunday’s message, how does slander differ from what our speech should be like?
- What is the connection between what we put in our hearts and what comes out of our mouths? What should this look like?
- What is one action step you can take with what you heard in Sunday’s message?
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. -Ephesians 4:29
I remember sitting at the dinner table. It was, I don't know, maybe a couple of years ago, maybe three. I don't remember. All of us were at the dinner table at the same time, which is a big deal when they get into the older teenager years, that everyone was at the dinner table at the same time. We tried to make it a point of doing that most of the week. Sometimes I was gone or sometimes Edie was gone, but whatever. We were having a conversation and I remember Tanner, my younger guy at the time, I don't know, he's probably 16, I don't remember, and he was just saying stupid stuff. I was like, "Tanner, please. What are you doing, man?" Finally, I remember saying to him, I'm like, "Dude, you're not even my kid. The police dropped you off." He looked right back at me, and he said, "That explains why I'm so much better looking than the rest of the family." I told him something that was completely untrue, and he was really quick to do that.
How many of you in your whole life have ever had a parent? How many of you are parents? That's a bunch of us. Every parent of all time forever have intentionally said ridiculously untrue things to their children on purpose. They've done it. You've done it. Everybody's done it. Some of the maybe not so bad ones were things like, "Hey, be careful when you eat that watermelon. Do not swallow one of those seeds because you will have a watermelon tree growing in your stomach." I'm thinking, "Why do we say that to kids?" That's like the movie Alien. There's like branches coming out of their stomach. That's an awful thought for a kid, right? Same thing with chewing gum. "Do not swallow that gum. That gum will stay in your stomach for seven years." It will not, and everyone knows it won't, but you still tell them that for whatever reason. Right? Yeah, I don't know why we do stuff like that. There's a bunch of them like, "Don't crack your knuckles or else you'll have arthritis." Not true. I looked it up. I crack my knuckles all the time. That's why I looked it up, because I was like, "Am I really going to have arthritis from cracking my knuckles?" The answer's no.
This may have been more in the South. I don't know, but you'd get rice and then your parents would be like, "Do not leave one kernel of rice in that bowl because for every kernel you leave in that bowl, it's a year of bad luck." I'm thinking to myself, "There's more bad luck than I got life to live. This is a lot of pressure on a child." I mean, that's awful. Right? Those are funny, and everybody does them. The ones that make me laugh, though, are the ones that parents say that don't make any sense, like from the jump, you know that they don't make any sense. They know it doesn't make any sense, but they're willing to say it anyway, things like, "All right. You just wait until you get to the real world." Quick question. Is the world I am presently living in not real? Did I somehow swallow the red pill when I was supposed to swallow the blue pill? What exactly happened? This one, parents love this one. "Money doesn't grow on trees." You know, I've thought about it. It does. Tree, paper. Paper, money. It doesn't make any sense.
Here's the worst one of all, though. The worst one of all is this, "Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you." Really? Because as best I can tell, in the United States, there are actually laws against libel and slander because it can completely destroy people when those kinds of things go on. Oh, by the way, if that's true that sticks and stones might break my bones, but words will never hurt me, why would I much rather, when I was in fourth grade, why would I have much rather been hit in the head with a boulder than for little Suzy to tell me I'm ugly and my breath stinks and she doesn't want to be around me? That is patently false because what we know is we know the damage that words can do.
Now, Paul in what we have been studying over the last number of weeks in Ephesians four, we've really been tackling kind of a one sentence excerptation that Paul gives relative to some things that we need to get rid of. If you don't remember it, it's in Ephesians chapter four, and it's verse number 31. We've been studying it for a number of weeks. Here's what it says, "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice." Now, we've studied the last couple of weeks. We've talked about what it looks like to get rid of bitterness. We talked about kind of both ends of anger, whether that's the seething rage that's underneath or whether that's the passionate outburst and explosion of anger. Paul actually covers both of those, but those are things that kind of well up inside of our hearts. Then Paul takes it a step further and says not only are we to get rid of these things, bitterness and rage and anger, that are crawling around in our hearts, but we've also go to be careful about what's coming out of our mouths. You see, that's what he's saying when he's saying brawling and slander.
You say, "That doesn't sound like brawling." It is a slightly confusing translation, but the word there for brawling in some of your translations is translated clamor, but in the Greek language, it could simply be rendered yelling or shouting to bring derision to somebody. That's not a word we need in our culture because no one on TV and no one in our culture tries to yell over each other. It never happens. We just live in such a pacifist society. You just want to yell, "Calm down." Seems like every show you watch, everybody that's talking, if you've got talking heads on the show, it is a yell fest. Sometimes it's that way in your house. Sometimes it's that way among your roommates. Sometimes it's that way among your friends. Paul says you need to get rid of this yelling and shouting over one another to try and be derisive. That's not any good. You don't want that, but he also says that we need to get rid of slander. He's talked about these things that are coming out of our hearts, but now he's talking about things that are coming out of our mouths.
Now, that word slander that's translated right there, that comes from a really interesting Greek term. The Greek term there, it's a word that when I say it in the Greek kind of, you're going to hear, "Oh, I know that English word that comes from that." Here's the Greek word for slander, blasphēmía. You heard it, right? Blasphemy or blaspheme. That's actually what that word is talking about. Many times where this word is rendered in the New Testament, you see it blaspheme or blasphemy or slander, kind of coming from the same word. Sometimes it's translated slander or blasphemy, depends on what you're reading and what's being explained. Now, what exactly is this idea of slander or blasphemy? It's this. It's the idea when we kind of, it's deceptive speech that is intended to injure someone's reputation or intended to sully someone's good name. We're doing this in a real way, in a calculated way, in an intentional way. We're saying things that aren't true so that it will damage people's name and reputation.
By the way, that's very closely linked to gossip. They aren't exactly the same because in gossip what we're doing is we're trying to learn the secrets of people, and then we're passing along those secrets either if they're true or if they're not. That's kind of what gossip looks like. Slander is when we intentionally say things that we know aren't true but we're willing to pass them along anyway. Gossip and slander are part of the same kind of sins of speech family. Many times when we're reading the scripture itself, it actually talks about them kind of at the same time. In fact, when Paul was making a couple of lists ... Paul likes to make lists, by the way, in a lot of his writings. Even what we're reading here in Ephesians four, there's a lot of lists of things. He makes a lot of those types of lists. In 2 Corinthians 12 and in Romans chapter one, in lists where he's talking about kind of how people live and behave that aren't really walking with God, he mentions both gossip and slander in both sets of those lists kind of next door to one another. Why? Because they are somewhat intimately linked. They are sins of speech.
Now, the reason that I'm bringing this up is because when Paul is talking about them, he's always talking about our need to get rid of them. Why do we need to get rid of them? Because of how damaging they are. Contrary to sticks and stones will break our bones, but words will never hurt us, Paul is saying these sins of speech are super damaging and I want you to get rid of them. Now, there's this proverbial story about a rabbi who was living in a particular community. In that community, there was a woman who kept slandering him. She was saying things that she knew weren't true because she was trying to injure his reputation. She did that for some time, but then she finally came to her senses. Maybe God got ahold of her heart. Maybe she just felt bad. I don't know what the reason was, but she came back to the rabbi and she said, "I need to confess to you this is what I've been doing. I've been kind of slandering your name and your reputation. I'm sorry for that. Is there anything I can do to fix it?" He said, "Sure."
He said, "Do you have a pillow at home?" She said, "Yes." He said, "Is it a feather pillow?" She said, "Yes." He said, "Great. Would you take it, and would you go to the top of the mountain here in our community," it's not a super high mountain. "Would you go to the top of the mountain, and then would you open up the pillow, and would you shake out all the feathers? Then, after you're done, would you come back and see me?" She said, "Sure." She took the pillow. She went to the top of the mountain. The higher up she got, the windier it became, as happens when you get elevated. She opened up that pillow, and she kind of threw it like this. The wind took those feathers every which way, a million different ways, carried on the wind all kinds of places. She did what she was asked to do. She went back and she finally saw the rabbi. She said, "Hey, I did what you asked me to do."
He said, "Great. Thank you so much for doing that. Now, would you go collect all of those feathers, and would you put them back in the pillow and sew it up?" She said, "That's impossible. The wind has taken them all over the place." He said, "Yeah." He said, "I want you to think about that next time that you slander someone because the damage is already done to me, but maybe you can think about that before you do it to somebody else." You see, this idea of slander is something that is extraordinarily damaging. As I've studied through the scriptures, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, here's what I've come to find out. I don't know this for absolute sure, but I would be willing to say to you that one of the most rebuked sins, specific sins that's named outside of idolatry, which is what we see kind of the meta narrative in the Old Testament that people are engaged in, but in terms of specific sins that are being dealt with, sins of speech are probably one of the most rebuked sins that are named specifically in all of the Old Testament.
In other words, speaking untruly about God to other people or speaking untruly to other people about other people or whispering about people whether you know it's true or not true because you're talking to everyone except the person, those are sins that are called out constantly in the Old Testament. By the way, the New Testament is not silent on them either. Why is that? Here's why. Because sins of speech like slander and gossip are inherently evil. I'm going to show you what I mean by that, but let me just give you some characteristics of what I mean when I say that slander is inherently evil. Here's the first. Slander is cowardly. I know that's kind of weird thing to say maybe on a Sunday in a church.
What do you mean by slander is cowardly? Well, the Bible's really clear about our ability, particularly in the body of Christ, that if there's something that's at issue, we go to that person and we talk to them, that we find out from the source. If you heard something or something's going on or somebody's offended you or whatever, you go and actually speak to that person. What slander and gossip do, that's the exact thing that they don't do. They can kind of talk to everybody else but that person and they talk to everybody about that person and never talk to that person about that person. That's cowardly, or in this day and age that we live in with all the computer cowboys who can sit behind a keyboard and get really bold because every article has a comment section and every post you can put stuff up, and so everybody can get really, really sassy and bold, but it's cowardly.
It's cowardly when we're saying things that either knowingly untrue about someone or maybe things that we shouldn't be saying at all because we don't know whether they're true or not or maybe we know they're true, but we're not helping anybody but what we're doing. These are sins of speech. Ultimately, it's cowardly. You know that to be and I know it to be true because I've seen it play out a million different ways. For instance, sometimes we don't even represent when we're saying to someone else and we're talking about somebody else and we're talking to some person, not that person that did it, but we're talking to somebody else, and we misrepresent what they said and we misrepresent the tone and the intention, we misrepresent all of that.
If I were talking to a lady and she said to me, by the way, this is just an example, lady were talking to me and she says, "You wouldn't believe it, Pastor Jerry. This woman," and then she names her. "This woman came up to me and she said, 'What are you doing here?'" "What was it she said?" "She said, 'What are you doing here?'" "Really? She said that?" "Yeah, that's what she said." "Okay. You know what? She's actually right over there. Hold a second. Hey, come on over here. Would you tell her again what your concern was?" Then it usually goes like this, "Do you remember when I came over here?" The lady's like, "Yeah." "Do you remember when you asked me like, 'Hey, what are you doing here?'" I was like, "No, no, no. Say it how you said it to me." They're looking at me like, "No, no, no." You know why? Because in a cowardly manner, they were maligning this person's character so that that person's character in my eyes would go down and they would be elevated. You know it's happened, right? You know you've probably done it, right? We all have. Let's be honest. We've done it, and we've been a part of it. It's cowardly.
There's a second reason that slander is so bad, because it's a relationship destroyer. That's what it does. Slander ends up destroying relationships. You're talking about something you shouldn't be talking about to people you shouldn't be talking to it about. It ends up destroying relationships as a result of it. Listen to what the Proverb writer says in Proverbs chapter 16, "A perverse person ..." Did you hear that? "A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends." Another way of saying it is this. Slander and gossip, it destroys relationships. That's part of the damage that it does. It's not only cowardly, but it destroys relationships.
Here's a third thing to think about in terms of its inherent evil. It's something God hates. Did you realize that? Slander and gossip, these sins of speech, God actually hates these things. Now, by the way, the Proverbs writer talks about this pretty clearly. Here's what the Proverbs writer says in chapter six, "There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him." Now, let me pause for a second. You're going, "Is that it? He only hates seven things? If I can clear that hurdle, we're all done here?" No, this is just a way of talking. This is kind of how it's a literary device. In fact, the Proverb writer wasn't confused. He doesn't go, "There are six things the Lord hates, no, seven that he hates." He didn't do that, right?
This is a literary device to just say these are things that are despicable to God. He doesn't like them. What are they? Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a person who stirs up conflict in the community. Let me just summarize it this way. God hates sins of speech, where we are lying, where we are a false witness, where we are stirring up hostility, all of those things. It's not only something God hates, but here's another one. It's lawbreaking. When we look at the idea of slander and gossip, it's actually lawbreaking.
Let me explain to you what I mean by that. The New Testament writer James, the half-brother of Jesus, remember, they had the same mom, not the same dad, right? James writes this in James chapter four, "Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another." Pause. Full stop. Hear this. I want to make sure no one's confused. "Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another." Everybody clear on that? That's what the command is. Do not slander one another. "Well, Jerry, does that mean ..." Here's what it means. Do not slander one another. "Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one law giver and judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you, who are you to judge your neighbor?"
You see, here's the problem that James is saying. He's saying when we're involved in slander and gossip that we're destroying kind of the big picture of the law. Do you remember how Jesus summed up the law? You can sum up the law and the prophets this way. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself." You can't do that if you're involved in slander and gossip. You can not be involved in loving your neighbor as yourself. You are kind of destroying the summation of what the law and the prophets were all pointing to. By the way, if you want to get real specific, it's also violating the commands that God gave to Israel through Moses on these tablets of stone like the ninth command, right? Can't bear false witness against someone. You can't do that. You can't lie about somebody. That's what slander is.
By the way, I could make the argument as well that you would also breaking the commandment against stealing because you lie about other people, you are stealing and vandalizing their reputation. You could even make the argument, if Jesus does, you could make the argument about you shall not kill because you are functionally trying to kill their reputation. That's what you're doing. Do you know where it comes from? It comes from anger. It comes from bitterness. That's where those things come from. That's why Paul keeps those all together. That's why he's talking about the things that come out of the heart lead to things that are coming out of the mouth. It's lawbreaking, but you know what else it is? It's heartbreaking.
Let me explain why it's heartbreaking. I'm not just talking about it's heartbreaking to the people that end up receiving this. I'm talking about it being heartbreaking to God because in our context here where we're kind of parked in verse number 31 of Ephesians chapter four, but when you look at verse number 30, look at what it says, "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." Then it goes on to say so get rid of these things that grieve the Holy Spirit of God, bitterness, rage and anger, brawling or clamor or yelling and slander. Get rid of these things. Why? Because it grieves the heart of God. See, what we have to realize is in relationship with God that God has feelings, that God emotes. When we sin, listen to this, we're not just breaking a rule, we're breaking a heart. This grieves the Spirit of God.
Lastly, if I need to put a finer point on this, it's demonic. It's the reason why we want to avoid these things called slander and gossip because it is functionally demonic. Again, Jesus' half-brother, James, when he was writing his letter, in chapter three specifically, he started talking about the tongue. You've probably read some of those things. The tongue, it's an evil. It's been set on fire by hell. Just one little piece and it starts a big forest fire. It's kind of a poison. It talks about all of these things related to speech. Then, a little bit later, right after that, it says this in verse 13, "Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not," here it is, "boast about it or deny the truth." That's functionally what slander is, by the way.
"Such wisdom does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice." James is functionally talking about that which comes out of our mouths that we know is inconsistent with truth and he's calling it demonic. Why? Because slander is basically a nickname for Satan. He's the accuser of the brethren. This is what he does. He is a slanderer. That's kind of where we get that word in diábolos in the Greek language. We even talk about that idea of slander. He's a blasphemer. He's a slanderer. If you want to be fluent in the language of hell, keep slandering and gossiping. You will be fluent in the language and dialect of hell.
Now, there's a ton of material related to sins of speech that we could spend much more time on, but I think I have demonstrated to you fairly enough that this is something we want to get rid of. Right? I've not tried to put too much emphasis, but I've tried to put a reasonably fine point to say this is inherently evil. We could even say it's demonic. Therefore, it needs to go because it causes so much damage, but graciously, Paul doesn't leave us alone with just saying get rid of it. Paul actually tells us what holy speech should look like. That's why I'm so grateful to God for the grace of his word because we're not just told, "Hey, get rid of it." We're also given this other picture of what it should look like.
If you're in verse 31 of Ephesians chapter four, if you just back up two verses, you will find Paul talking about this in verse 29. He says, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Now, if we just take that one verse, I can give you four words that should be characteristic of our holy speech as opposed to what it would look like with slander and gossip. Here's the first thing that it would look like. Our speech should be pure. Why am I saying that? Because of what Paul says in the negative. Notice how he begins that verse, "Do not let any," what? Here it is. You can look this way and you can talk back. Do not let any what? Unwholesome talk come out of your mouths.
Now, the word there for unwholesome is where generally it's translated rotten. It's used about rotten fruit, rotten fish. That's a common terminology that was used in the time of the writing of the Bible. It's talking about rottenness. Some of you are going, "Okay. Don't let any rotten language come out of my mouth. That means I've got to stop cussing." Somebody told me you gave away your Southern when you said that. Instead of swearing or cursing, you said cussin', like with no G on the end, just an apostrophe on the end. You got to stop cussin'. You got to stop swearing. You got to stop cursing. Some of you are like, "Okay. All right. Is that the bar? I've got to eliminate that." Some of you are trying to figure that out, "I'm going to lose about 12% of my vocabulary if that's the case."
Yes, we need to get rid of that, but it's not just talking about saying a curse word or a swear word or a cuss word, whatever you call it. It's actually talking about the way that we talk about people and the way we talk to people. It's talking about rotten speech. Instead, our speech should be pure. Think about it this way. If what's about to come out of your mouth stinks, leave it in there. That's what Paul is saying. If what's about to come out of your mouth stinks, don't let that stink get on everybody. Just leave it in there. Don't let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth. It should be pure, but our speech should also be helpful. Not only pure, but helpful.
As that passage moves on, he says, "Don't let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths," but then he says this in verse 29, "but only what is helpful for building others up." How often do we weaponize our speech? We do it a lot. In the world that we live in, it's what is common. Everybody does that. They weaponize their speech. You look at anybody in politics and basically they use speech as their weapon to tear down, I'm not saying everybody does, but most everybody does to tear down and demonize so that it makes them look better. That's kind of the deal. We use our speech as a weapon to tear down instead of to build up. That's not helpful, particularly as we're talking about in the body of Christ, that's not helpful.
You see, sometimes that comes out of insecurity. Sometimes it comes out of a feeling of being insufficient. Sometimes it comes out of anger at someone else. Sometimes it comes out of envy for someone else and even in the body of Christ. We talk about them in such a way that we want to tear them down so that when people look at us, it looks like we are here and they are here, but that's not helpful. That's not actually building others up. That's why we're reminded that this shouldn't be what we are about. Our speech should be timely. Not only pure, not only helpful, but also timely. Notice how Paul says it. He says our speech should be only what is helpful for building others up, here it is, according to their needs.
Let me say something to you here that I want you to hear. Every word is not always exactly for every time. Everything that we say is not always exactly for every situation and time. There are seasons in our life where, when somebody is walking through something, that there are things we could say but if we are wise to the leadership of the Spirit, there are also things that need not be said while they're in this space. Maybe when they're in this place, it would be right to say this, but when they're in this place, it's not the best time for it. Have you ever had somebody say something to you that was true but was really not timely? What they said was true, generally, but it was really the wrong timing. Let me flip that. Have you ever had anyone say to you exactly the right thing at exactly the right time? That is an incredible feeling.
In fact, the writer of Proverbs says it this way in Proverbs chapter 15, "A person fights joy in giving an apt reply, and how good is a timely word." I know that you've probably experienced that, as have I. Our speech should be pure, it should be helpful, it should be timely, but it should also be gracious. I'm getting all of this right out of the text. I'm going to teach you something in just a moment that I don't want you to miss, but our speech should be gracious. Notice what the text says again. It concludes that verse in verse 29 saying that it may benefit those who listen. That word benefit right there, the Greek word is charis. It's where we get our word grace. That's why I said gracious because I'm taking it right from the text, that it may benefit or it may be a grace to those who listen.
I wonder what people think of you and me when they leave a conversation with us. Do they think, when they leave a conversation with us, "They are a grace to me," or do they think, "Note to self. Don't tell them anything that you wouldn't want everyone to know because they can't be trusted"? It depends, right? It depends on how we've lived our lives, how we have lived with integrity, how we have controlled our speech by the activity of the spirit. What we want is we want people walking away from conversations with us saying, "They are a grace to me." By the way, sometimes what we say, it doesn't mean that it's always, you know, Mary Poppins sitting on a rainbow eating Skittles on a unicorn. It's not always that, right? Sometimes it can be a little bit challenging.
Some speech is helpful and gracious even when it's hard because we have to speak the truth in love in some circumstances. In doing that, in speaking the truth in love, if our motive is ultimately to build them up, I don't know if you know this, but sometimes you have to pull weeds for plants to be able to grow as they should. That's not the pleasant part, but that's a part of it. Sometimes that happens in our relationships where we have to pull some weeds for the sake of saying we want to see you grow, we want to see you flourish, we want to see you built up. That sometimes can be difficult, but that doesn't mean that that's not holy speech. It certainly can be as long as we're speaking the truth in love for the purposes of seeing them built up.
That's gracious. We are being a grace to them. I've had people that have said some hard things to me in my life, people that I know. I've had a lot of people say hard things to me that don't know me and that aren't aware of what they're saying, but that's another story for another day. I've had people close to me who've had to say some hard things to me in my life that I had to be receptive to that and just go, "Hmm." You know how I look back on them? They are a grace to me. Those people are a grace to me because they know me, they love me, I know they have my best interest in mind. They said some things that were helpful to me even if they didn't feel so helpful at the time.
Now, if our speech is to be like this, pure, helpful, timely, gracious, how do we do that? That's the question, right? How do we do that? If this is what it's supposed to be, how do we do that? Well, what we can't forget, ladies and gentlemen, is what I've already hinted at earlier in my talk. We can't forget how intimate a connection there is between our words and our hearts. That's what we can't forget because that's going to be the key to everything. In fact, if you remember Jesus' words in the gospel of Mark chapter seven, he said this, "What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within out of a person's heart that evil thoughts come, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person."
In fact, when Jesus was talking to some of the religious leaders, the Pharisees, notice what he said in Matthew chapter number 12. He said, "Make a tree good and its fruit will be good or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of." Some of you know that phrase by, "Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks." Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. The mouth speaks what the heart is full of. That's why the only way for us to move forward on seeing our speech become holy and become purified is going to be a three-layered process that I'm about to give you.
I want you to stay with me here because I'm going to teach you something that I don't want you to miss. I'm going to give you a three-layered way that we can get to the end result of purified speech. Here's the first layer. As the word fills us, the Spirit fills us. Hear what I'm saying. As the word fills us, the Spirit fills us. Some of you are going, "Man, I don't know that I've heard someone say it quite like that before." I'm going to tell you why I'm saying it quite like that. Because Paul says it quite like that. In fact, you have to look, but Paul, in his writing, does something very unique when he talks about how the Spirit fills us and how the word dwells in us. He actually uses them, listen to this, he uses those phrases interchangeably.
He wrote in Ephesians a letter to the church at Ephesus. He wrote in Colossians a letter to the church at Colossai. I want you to see what he said in both so that you'll see how he uses these interchangeably. Just in a few verses from where we are in Ephesians chapter five, notice what Paul writes after talking about don't be drunk with wine. He says, "Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the spirit, sing and make music from your heart to the Lord." Paul says some things very specific. He says be filled with the Spirit. Then you'll be able to, through what you're saying and what you're singing with other people, you'll be full of songs from the Lord and able to give people wisdom and able to admonish people as a result of being filled with the Spirit.
Notice what he says in Colossians, "Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts." Do you know what he did? He wrote the exact same thing in both letters. In one letter, he says this, "Be filled with the Spirit." In the other one, he says this, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly." That's why I'm saying to you as the word fills us, the Spirit fills us because this is the word of the Spirit. It is the sword of the Spirit that he utilizes in our hearts and lives. Do you know why people make so bad decisions in their life? Because they don't have enough word in it. They're like, "I haven't really thought about that." Well, think about it now.
It's part of the reason people make such terrible decisions. Do you know why? Listen to this. Because the Spirit can only call out of you what you have put into you. When you've not filled your heart with the word, why do you expect the Spirit to recall what you have never put in? As the word fills us, the Spirit fills us. This is actually what Peter was talking about, by the way, in 1 Peter chapter two. He was saying, principally, the same thing. Here's what he says, "Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk so that, by it, you may grow up in your salvation." Basically, Peter was saying the same thing Paul was. You know how you can get rid of all of this stuff, of slander of every kind? By craving the milk of the word, the message of Christ. As we are filled with the word, we are filled with the Spirit.
Let me give you a second thing. Not only as the word fills us, the Spirit fills us, but as the Spirit fills us, our hearts are transformed. These all kind of stack one on top of the other. As the word fills us, the Spirit fills us. As the Spirit fills us, our hearts are transformed. Notice how Paul said this in 2 Corinthians chapter three. He said, "You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry written, not with ink but with the Spirit of the Living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts." You see, that's what happens when the Spirit invades our life. He begins to reshape our hearts. He is transforming our hearts to be more like Jesus. As the word fills us, the Spirit fills us. As the Spirit fills us, our hearts are transformed. Guess what happens then. As our hearts are transformed, our speech is purified. That's how this goes. As our hearts are transformed, our speech becomes purified. Why do I say that? Because out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. The mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
Now, why do I tell you that? I tell you that because this is about us allowing the life of Jesus to come out of us, to live out of us, for us not to put a cap and a lid on the light of Jesus by our slander and by our blaspheming of the way we talk about other people. That's what the word means. Jesus, of all people, knows how to deal with slander. He had to endure it. In fact, he endured with slander to the highest degree. No one has ever dealt with slander like Jesus has, no one, because when you are the Son of the Living God and sinless and you are still slandered, that's as bad as it gets because there are people that will say things about me and I'll just have to agree with them. "That Jerry, man, he's a ..." I'll think to myself, "You don't know the half. I could give you material," but Jesus, and he had to endure it from every side.
In fact, listen to this in Mark chapter three, "Jesus entered a house and, again, a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said he is out of his mind." His family was calling him crazy. "The logos of God and the teachers of the law, they were joining in too, who came down from Jerusalem said, 'He is possessed by Beelzebul, by the prince of demons.'" He is driving out demons. His family says he's crazy, and the teachers of the law in Jerusalem say that he's possessed by the lord of flies, the devil himself. That's what Beelzebul means. Family says you're crazy. Of course you're not. The most sane human to ever walk the face of the earth is the Son of the Living God. They can't slander someone more than that. That can't be more untrue. That he's possessed by the devil, could not be more untrue.
How does Jesus deal with it? As you might imagine, his speech is pure, it's helpful, it's timely, it's gracious. Notice his response. Jesus called them over to him and he began to speak to them in parables, "How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom's divided against itself, that kingdom can not stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house can not stand. If Satan opposes himself and is divided, he can not stand. His end has come. In fact, no one can enter a strongman's house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strongman's house. Truly I tell you people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever slanders or blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. They are guilty of an eternal sin." He said this because they were saying he has an impure spirit.
Now, in this passage, there is some bad news and there's some good news. I'm going to start with the bad. There is such a thing as the slander of the Spirit that is so pronounced in a human's life that they are beyond saving, that someone has gotten to a place in their life where they have so belittled the activity of the Spirit, maybe ascribing it to the devil himself. I don't know. I don't know all of the elements associated with it, but they have so done this that there comes a point that they are beyond saving because, listen to this, because they have belittled and they have slandered and they have rejected the Holy Spirit, who is the only one that can show them Jesus, the only one that can draw them to repentance so that they may be saved. That exists and it's real.
"Well, Jerry, where's the line of that?" I'm not telling you that because I don't know. Number one, it's a bad question because often times when people are asking that question, it's because they want to know how far up to the line they can run before crossing it. The issue is real. Jesus was talking to some religious leaders who knowingly, when you read it in the Greek language, they knowingly were saying things about Jesus that were not true. They were knowingly ascribing to Jesus the work of the devil, and Jesus was saying, "Listen, every sin and every slander can be forgiven except when you slander the Holy Spirit to an extent." This isn't just about one word that came out of the mouth like, "I don't know Jesus." If that were the case, Peter never could have had a chance. Right? This isn't about that.
This is about a posture of heart, more like Pharaoh who kept hardening his heart against the work of the Spirit and against the miracles that God was showing. He hardened his heart, and he hardened his heart, and he hardened his heart many times over. Finally, God did for Pharaoh what Pharaoh had been doing had been doing himself all along. God hardened his heart. Then, he was beyond help. You say, "That could only happen to somebody, like we would only know that when they die." Well, we might only know that, but God knows it because it can actually happen in our living. When you read another one of the gospels, Jesus says that this sin can not be forgiven in this age or the age to come because we have so slandered the Spirit that we are past saving.
Now, I don't know where that is. I don't know what that looks like. That's obviously a grievous thing. Here's the good news. Jesus actually says prior to saying that one exception clause, Jesus says, "Every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven." That's the news that I hold out to all of you today. Every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven. Listen. Let me tell you something specific that people engage in that is slander against God. It is the suggestion or the narrative that they tell themselves or tell other people that they don't need him, that they can pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, that they can be master and commander of their own ship, that they can be ruler of their own life.
That is slanderous to the only one who can save and to his Son who died in place of sinners who even say these things, so that if they might turn and see the glory of how God has loved through his Son Jesus Christ who stood in our place, bearing the slander that came at him, so that we might be able to be forgiven and changed and reconciled to the Father through faith in what Jesus did in dying for us and rising from the dead. This is what the Holy Spirit testifies to. He testifies to the glory of who Jesus is. I hold out to you today that if you've never come to that place where you have turned from sin and received Jesus Christ by faith, that if the Spirit is calling you, thank God that you can still be called. Thank God. Today, this time is the day of salvation. Now is the appointed time. Let's bow our heads together for prayer.
First, to those of us who may be here and you may say, "You know what, Jerry? I'm not sure if I've ever come to that place where I have surrendered my life and entered into relationship with Jesus Christ, had my sins forgiven, my life made new, my heart transformed." If you don't know, the biggest decision you'll make in your life is not what kind of bean dip you're having for the Bills game. The biggest decision you'll make in your life is whether or not you'll receive Jesus' invitation to come to him and find salvation. If that's your need, when we dismiss in a moment, whether you're in this room or the East Worship Center, I would encourage you to come by our Fireside Room. It's right out in the atrium. It's clearly marked. It's lit. It's not scary. There's people in there. They'd love to talk to you about what it means to yield your life to Jesus and to find forgiveness and hope in him. If that's your need, I hope you'll just come in there and just take somebody by the hand and say, "I want to give my life to Jesus. I want to surrender my life to Jesus." They'll take a few minutes and talk with you about that very thing. I hope you'll do it. It will be the most important decision you've ever made.
Father, for those that are here that know you, that have been transformed by you, Lord, we know that sometimes we allow too many things to come into our hearts that don't belong there. In our hearts, there are too many things that are dwelling around and that when we leave them there unattended and un-dealt with, that they end up coming out of our mouths. They cause damage and destruction. We know, God, that that is not your intent. You want us to be filled with your word and filled with your Spirit because when we are filled with your Spirit, we know that your Spirit transforms our hearts. When our hearts are transformed, our speech is purified. Lord, it always comes back to the heart.
I pray that you would teach us what it looks like to fill our hearts with your word daily, not only when we gather here on a Sunday to learn, but how we can do that in our time with you alone, and let the word of God saturate our hearts and our minds so that the Spirit of God can call to remembrance and can help us to obey and give us the strength to persevere in light of the obedience we have to the truth. We trust you to do that, God, in our hearts because we want the world to hear the praise of God on our lips and the gracious words of Jesus to the world on our lips because, just like we hang on every word you say, God, there are people in our circles of influence that hang on the words that we say. May we be people whose speech is one that gives away a heart that has been transformed by the Savior of the world. We pray you'd help us with that in Jesus' name. Amen.