August 7, 2010

To Live is Christ — heart revealed by speech

Today’s reading includes this thought: words are windows that give others a glimpse of what I think about myself. The verses that supposedly prompted it come from Ephesians 5.
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. (Ephesians 5:3–4, NIV)
It is sometimes said of sermons, “great sermon, wrong text,” but I’m not about to fault the quote for having little to do with these verses. It is still true. Jesus said “Those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart” (Matthew 15:18–19). Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.

Putting the two verses together, my words do reveal my heart and what I think about, particularly what I think about myself. If I think too highly of myself that is what my words will convey. If I am a humble person who realizes that all goodness comes from the grace of God, my words will convey that.

Sometimes I listen to myself talk far too much about me, or my interests. Part of the problem is that this is the easiest form of conversation. I know the topic well and don’t have to think very hard to say anything. Yet this is not like Jesus. Talking about me might be okay at times, but for the most part it is simply selfishness. Philippians 2 challenges me with this,

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant. . . .  (Philippians 2:3–7)
Jesus rightly considered His own interests — God sent Him to do the most important thing ever done and He needed to keep His focus on that mission. However, as He did fulfilled His mission, He did it in the interests of others. Although Hebrews 12:2 says that “for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross,” Jesus didn’t die for the joy that would come afterward, but for us. There is no self-centeredness in Jesus Christ.

To live is Christ means to have that same attitude. Certainly it is not there if I open my mouth and out comes the foolish talk spoken of in Ephesians 5. However, it is just as much not there if all I ever talk about is me and my own interests. How I talk reveals what I think — and right now silence seems very appealing.

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