September 2, 2011

Out of the heart . . .

Last week I observed a young couple who came into a restaurant and sat near us. The girl was well-dressed and very pretty. Her companion was very much the opposite. I wondered at this pairing until the girl opened her mouth.

Scripture speaks often about how the heart is revealed by what comes out of our mouths. Many examples come to mind. A former pastor was a godly person. For him, using phrases from the Bible in ordinary speech was as natural as the twinkle in his eye and his overflowing good humor. Others speak with skepticism, or sarcasm, or enthusiasm, revealing their hearts.

This morning, I was doing a Bible study on gossip. Several verses pointed out that those who do this are often motivated by envy or fear. Their attitude comes out in words that cut down others in an attempt to appear better or above the other person. It made me think about my own words and the source of negativity that is too often there.

Words are small units, yet they have great power. Proverbs 18:21 even says that life and death are in the power of the tongue. Proverbs 15:4 says that a gentle tongue is a tree of life. Words can hurt; words can heal.

God gave nearly everyone the power of speech. For most of us, the tongue is an instrument of self-expression. We use it to say what we think. Yet this is not all that God intended. I’m created so I can talk, but that talk is not supposed to be totally me-centered.

Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ (John 7:38)
Today’s devotional reading points out what Jesus did not say. This verse is not that believers would realize and enjoy the blessing of God, but that all of God’s blessings would flow from Him through us to bless others. His purpose for my life is the opposite of what most think. Instead of becoming all that I can be (which seems noble), God promotes anti-self-realization. That is, I am to become less like me and more like Christ, never forgetting that one of Jesus’ main characteristics is self-expenditure.

Believing in Jesus is about personal gain in some ways. For instance, I gain forgiveness, peace with God, the life of Christ and with that eternal life. However, Jesus says that what I gain is not as important as what He pours through me. The devotional says, “It is not that God makes us beautifully rounded grapes, but that He squeezes the sweetness out of us. Spiritually, we cannot measure our life by success, but only by what God pours through us, and we cannot measure that at all.”

Mary of Bethany broke a box of precious ointment and poured it on Jesus’ head. The disciples said it was a waste, but Jesus commended her extravagant act of devotion. He said that wherever His gospel was preached this would also be spoken in a memorial of her. What she did gave Him joy. Not only that, her actions instruct believers for all time that we are not to be concerned about ourselves but be abandoned to Him. Just as He spilled out His life that the world might be saved, we are to spill out our lives for Him by obedience, by sacrificially loving others.

Lord, those “rivers of living water” You give are not for my pleasure, but for the refreshing of others. I could be like the girl in the restaurant who made an effort to look good on the outside — but did not guard her heart. I could strive for my own satisfaction, even satisfaction in knowing You, but with little consideration for others. This is not Your plan. Instead, I’m to pour out what You give me so others are blessed and satisfied. Any self-focused talk, trivia, gossip, slander and so on will not bless others but makes me like a garden hose clogged with sand. I just block the flow. Yet even without the sand plugging the channel, it seems I give out but a mere trickle compared to what You have poured in. Am I willing to be a river? Only You can make that happen. Just keep me from blocking the flow.

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