December 12, 2015

Words of Life

Jeremiah 23:1–24:10; Romans 3:21–31; Proverbs 18:1–24

Suggestion has a power that shows itself in many ways. Tell a child he is stupid often enough, and even if he is not, he will think that he is and behave accordingly.

This works in positive ways too. When I was told my failing heart was now “functioning normally” — immediately I felt better. I can even run upstairs without running out of breath. Proverbs 18:21 says that “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” and I believe that is true.

God used the power of His own Words to created the universe: “And God said, ‘Let there be . . .” and what He said appeared. He also used the power of the prophets’ tongues to declare what He was doing and what would happen in the future.

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’” (Jeremiah 23:5–6)

“Both prophet and priest are ungodly; even in my house I have found their evil, declares the Lord. Therefore their way shall be to them like slippery paths in the darkness, into which they shall be driven and fall, for I will bring disaster upon them in the year of their punishment, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 23:11–12)

By saying that the ‘Lord is my righteousness’, which is true, I overcome doubts about who I am, doubts that overwhelm me when I look at my performance to bolster my identity instead of Jesus Christ. Not only does truth about Him overcome doubt, it actually changes my behavior so that I begin to live according to what God says I am because of Him.

Yet this principle works both ways in that negative words have negative results. So do lies. God continually warns His people about false teachers and false prophets: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’ ” For who among them has stood in the council of the Lord to see and to hear his word, or who has paid attention to his word and listened?” (Jeremiah 23:16–18)

No matter what the false prophets say, God says to those who believe their lies: “I will bring upon you everlasting reproach and perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten.” (Jeremiah 23:40)

The power of the tongue holds life, but also death. Solomon said, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion . . . . A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul.” (Proverbs 18:2, 7) I need to be careful what I say to others. Speaking my opinion can be disastrous to them as well as to myself.

Of all the words that God uses to bring life through the power of the tongue, the good news expressed in the Gospel is the most important and the most powerful. The New Testament expresses these words in several ways, such as: “The righteousness of God (is) through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:22–24)

This is another way of saying what Jeremiah said, “The Lord is our righteousness.” My sin makes righteousness impossible, but the gift of God is forgiveness, justification, and redemption from sin because Jesus came as a baby, lived a sinless life, died to pay my penalty for sin, and rose from the dead proving His power over that last great enemy. Truly these are the words of life, the words that set God’s people free from the power and penalty of sin!

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