August 6, 2010

To Live is Christ — thankful from the heart

Talk is cheap. The person who first said this no doubt referred to those who made promises and didn’t keep them. That kind of talk has little value, but it seems to me that a lot more talk is costly.

For example, gossip can ruin lives. False accusation smears reputations. Harsh words discourage, even cripple and bring down souls. The “venting” column in the local newspaper is funny at times, but grumbling and bitterness robs all joy from those who do it. Lies may be the most expensive words as they lead people astray and destroy trust. Franklin P. Jones rightly said, “Anybody who thinks talk is cheap should get some legal advice.

The Bible has much to say about how God’s people should talk, and how we should not talk. The passage I’m reading offers this:

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)
Following these verses is the author’s paraphrase with an emphasis on the talking part. He says,
Use your words wisely. Don’t gossip, use vulgar talk, coarse joking, or participate in any meaningless or harmful talk that tears down instead of building up. Instead, replace those words with expressions of thankfulness and praise to God.
While the focus is put on the outward expression, verse 3 indicates that at the root of foul talk is immoral attitudes, impurity, and greed. As Jesus said, “Those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matthew 15:18–19). Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.

Christian integrity means being the same on the outside as on the inside. If I nurture and do not confess any sin in my heart, it will show up somehow. Yet that isn’t the most important aspect of integrity. Jesus Christ lives in my heart. Because He is there, He will show up also. I need to cooperate with that. Those verses from Ephesians are prefaced by “imitate God” which is not an external thing. It is more like, “The life of Christ is in you — let Him out!

One way to that is by being thankful, not mere words, but deeply, from the heart. This is the attitude of Jesus Christ. It comes from the mind of Christ which He has given me (1 Corinthians 2:16). It is taking seriously the words of Philippians 2:5-8 which say, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus . . . who humbled Himself and became obedient.

Some days all I want to do is vent and complain. I might not speak obscenities, but my heart is wrong. God shows me even then, thanksgiving is a choice, like patience. When I’m caught in a long line of slow traffic, I can decide to be patient. When life hands me sour grapes, I can decide to be thankful. God is still sovereign and He still loves me. Being thankful becomes much easier when I think what my life would be like if God gave me what I deserve and when I remember that Jesus lives in me.

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