Proverbs 12:18 – “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
Recently, I watched a Geico commercial poke fun at the maxim, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” In the commercial, the spokesperson said, “Did you know that words can really hurt you?” Then, it switched to a parody of an old Western movie ending, where a cowboy rides off into the sunset and leaves his lady love as the words “THE END” came up on the screen. Usually, when those words show up, the cowboy just phases through them as if they weren’t there, but in this commercial, he bumps into it and falls off the horse. Words did really hurt! Although this commercial played on the idea of “words hurting” in a clever physical way, on a more serious sense, words do actually hurt in an emotional and spiritual way. Often times, we don’t take our words seriously, because it leaves no lasting mark physically, but words can leave a scar emotionally that can never go away. I have caught myself often saying things that I regret moments later, when I have realized what I just said. Instead of taking the time to consider my words before speaking, I speak rashly oftentimes to my regret. For example, just a few days ago, I snapped at my coworker because I was in a bad mood. I didn’t say anything that was offensive, but I did say things in a way and tone that were not honoring to God. I hurt my Christian witness and actually caused my coworker to wonder if I was okay or not. Those words must have had an impact and could have hurt. Thankfully, she was caring and forgiving and did not take it as an offense, but those impetuous words could have really done some damage.
Our proverb today is just a short reminder of something we all already know – that our words have an impact and that we should watch what we say. Our words can be used as swords aimed at killing or tools of healing, comfort, and encouragement. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we must be wary how we use our words for they are an important part of our witness. In James 3, we are reminded of the power of the tongue. It is something that cannot be tamed and should always be looked over carefully. Very often, we find ourselves using our tongues just as James described – instruments of both blessing and cursing. But this should not be so. Our words should be used to bring honor and glory to God, to draw people to Him, and to encourage our brethren. Let us commit ourselves to using our words to heal not to hurt, to bring life not to kill, to encourage not destroy. Next time, you find yourself ready to speak out rashly (quickly and without thinking), consider what it will do to your witness and hold your tongue. And instead, use it to praise God.
Proverbs 28:19b – “…But he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty.”
Just last weekend, I went to the world-famous San Diego Comic-Con, the world’s most-renowned comic book and pop culture convention. This convention takes place once a year in San Diego, CA, bringing in millions of people from around the world to the historic Gaslamp district in San Diego. The convention originally catered to comic book nerds, who would meet to talk about comic books, as well as, shake hands with their favorite creators. But over time, it grew to a convention that catered to pop culture fanatics in general. Nowadays, Comic-Con has a little something for everyone, whether you are into cosplay (dressing up in costumes), collectible toys (from Mattel and Hasbro), gaming (tabletop or electronic), anime and manga (Japanese comics and cartoons), and/or even TV/movie entertainment (related to Sci-fi, Fantasy, Action-Adventure, or Horror). Comic-Con has really grown into one of the largest conventions of all time.
All together I have attended this convention three times (2008, 2011, and 2014), and each time has brought a new and different experience. The first time I went was in 2008, and I can only describe the experience as captivating, for my jaw dropped when I saw the massive exhibit hall filled with goodies for me to pick up and enjoy. I wandered down the aisles looking for missing issues in my collection; I waited in line to get my favorite comics signed by writers and artists; I admired the beautiful exhibits and costumes put together by companies and people. I really loved it. It was paradise for a fanboy. The second time I went was in 2011. This time I was prepared for what I was going to see, so I planned out routes and schedules for me to get everything I wanted to get done done. Although it was still fun and appealing, my simple stroll in 2008 had now transformed into a mission to achieve all that I wanted to achieve. My goal switched from just meeting comic book creators to getting as many freebies as I could, and I must say I came home with a lot. The third time I went happened this weekend, but this time everything was different. I had planned to get my freebies, meet the creators, and enjoy the show all together. But when I got into that hall and saw the massive lines of people waiting to buy “con-exclusive” toys, I could not help but notice that my convention was gone. All that was left was a marketplace that catered to the covetousness and discontentment found in the heart of all mankind. It was all about buying stuff. You want this thing, pay $20. You want this other thing, pay $50. You want this con-exclusive statue, pay $100. Everybody was there to buy and sell and do business. I was caught up in it too and in reality still am, for I often find myself entrapped in the weeds of this world, desiring the temporary riches of this earth.
Observing all these people who were just interested in getting more and more stuff, as well as, reflecting on my own heart reopened my eyes to discontentment. All of us have a problem with wanting to get more and more things. We spend all our lives trying to get the things of this earth. We chase after luxury cars, model homes, and upcoming tech, but every time we obtain it, we are still left empty. And even worse, these are things that over time will just break down. Our passage in Proverbs today reminds us how foolish it is for us to pursue these worthless things. The proverb states that following after worthless things only ends in poverty – financial poverty for those who chase after worthless time activities, emotional poverty for those who try to find fulfillment in these plastic objects, and spiritual poverty for those who seek hope and salvation in these things. Although the proverb was likely referring to activities that simply waste time instead of being productive, it can easily apply to chasing after the things of this earth, for these things are worthless if we use an eternal viewpoint and can only lead to more discontentment of the heart, which is true spiritual poverty. Instead of investing our time in creating a closer relationship with God, we waste our time on these fleeting pursuits. Christ reminded His disciples in Matthew 6:19-20 what their hearts should pursue – ““Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Instead of following worthless pursuits that will end in poverty, let us sow, reap, and harvest things of heavenly value like a close relationship to Him, the fruit of the Spirit, and the salvation of souls. It is only in Christ, that we can find true contentment, for the gifts He gives are not fleeting but eternal.
John 1:37-38 – “37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, ‘What are you seeking?’ And they said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?”
“What do you want out of this relationship?” Isn’t that one of the most important questions to ask when a two people are developing a relationship? The relationship could be between a boy and girl who are falling in love, between two random people who are to become best friends, or between two people who are about to make a new business partnership. If we decide to put in the effort to answer that question in all our earthly relationships, then why would we not put in the same effort to answer this question in our spiritual relationship with Christ?
In our passage today, Christ asked this exact question to two disciples who were going to follow Him. These two disciples were first disciples of John the Baptist, but when John declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” they left him to follow Christ. As they were following Him, Christ asked them this critical question, “What are you seeking?” He was basically asking them why they were following Him, or simply, “What do you want?” These two disciples then answered that they wanted to see where He was staying. Now, these disciples were not looking for this answer to bring a bunch of paparazzi to that location; they were asking so that they could know the location where they can visit Christ. Matthew Henry’s commentary stated that they likely did this so that they could come back at a more appropriate time to learn from Him. They wanted to know Christ in a more intimate way. They didn’t just want to hear that He was the Lamb of God from John the Baptist, but they wanted to see and know if it was true themselves. Christ then said, “Come and see,” which was His way of inviting them to see first-hand who He was and what He was going to do. This one day that they spent with Jesus Christ moved them so much that one of these disciples, Andrew, even, brought his brother Peter to follow Christ as well. Andrew and this other disciple sought Christ to know Him more and to learn of Him and that is what they got. Eventually, Andrew, Peter, and the rest of Christ’s apostles would follow Him not merely for what they could learn or what they could get but simply because He was the Son of God.
The question every Christian should ask himself today is “What am I seeking when I follow Christ?” Are you looking for security? Are you looking for guidance or direction? Are you looking for comfort? Are you looking for salvation from hell? What is it that you want? If you answered, “Yes” to any of these questions, then the truth is that you are seeking Christ for what He can give you instead of for who He is. Simply, you are pursuing Christ for selfish reasons. He can and will certainly provide all these things but should this be the reason why a disciple follows Christ – for what he can get? Of course not! Many Christians, including myself, began pursuing Christ for what we could get out of Him. But as we mature spiritually that reason should shift so that we stop following Christ for what we can get but for who He is. Andrew and this other disciple followed Christ because the wanted to learn His teachings, but after three years of following Him, their reason changed – they followed Him because He was the Son of God.
What are you seeking when you turn to Christ? He will be your Savior if you seek salvation. He will be your Comforter if you seek comfort. He will be your Rock if you seek security. But most importantly, let Him be your Lord, maturing your faith to the point where even if all these blessings were taken, you would still follow Him for the express reason that He is LORD.
 Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: Complete and unabridged in one volume (1922). Peabody: Hendrickson.
Acts 13:38-39 – “Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.”
This weekend, as Americans, we celebrated the 4th of July, the day we declared our independence from England in 1776. It is a time of joy and celebration, where most families throw a barbecue or picnic, watch fireworks, and give thanks for the freedoms that we enjoy as Americans. It is truly a very patriotic day. My family doesn’t tend to do anything big on the 4th, but we do get the day off to reflect on the wonderful freedoms we have like freedom of religion and freedom of speech. But even though many of us get to enjoy these freedoms (whether you are an American or not), many of us are still enslaved. Enslaved to what you may ask? The simple answer is to sin and to our desires to sin and to the results of sin. Jesus stated it best in John 8:34, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” Sin is a horrible curse that has fallen upon all of humanity. We all have practiced sin and are/were slaves to it; without Christ changing the sin nature in our hearts, we cannot help but sin. Even the Law, which God had set for us in the Old Testament, could not do anything to free us from sin. All it could do was temporarily pay for the punishment of our sins. It could never fully deal with the sin problem of the heart. It dealt with the surface issue of a sinful act but never with the deep issue of a sinful nature. Paul addressed this in our passage today, when he was speaking to the Jews in Antioch of Pisidia, when he said, “…Through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by Him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.” Paul was speaking of the one Person who could set us truly free from sin – Jesus Christ.
In our passage today, Paul said that Christ could set us free from everything by which we could not be freed from by the Law of Moses. What were those things? The first thing is the penalty for our sin. The Law of Moses provided sacrifices that could pay the penalty for the individual sins we do like lying, cheating, stealing. Each of one these actions had a specific offering that could be brought before the Temple and used to cover for the sin, but it could not pay for the actual problem – missing the mark that God had set for us – perfection. That penalty is clearly stated for us in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death…” That penalty was paid for us by Christ’s death on the cross. The perfect, sinless Lamb of God died in our place so that we would not have to pay that penalty. All we need to do is trust Christ as our Savior. The second thing is our sin nature, in other words, our natural inclination to sin and to be in the wrong. Ever since the fall of man that fateful day when Adam and Eve ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, we have all fallen prey to sin. Once again, sin simply means that we have missed the mark that God has set for us, which is perfection. We can never be perfect; therefore, we will always miss the mark and will always be considered sinful. But when Christ came and died for our sins, He not only paid the penalty for them, He completely wiped out that nature and replaced it with a new one for those who choose to give their lives to Him. That is why 2 Corinthians 5:17 states that we are all new creatures in Christ. Our sin nature which could not be changed by the Law of Moses can be changed in Christ. All we need to do is trust Him as our Lord. The third thing is the guilt from our sins. Before we became Christians, sin did not really matter to us. We may have felt a little sorrow for doing what was wrong, but that sorrow always went away with time. But when we gave our lives to Christ, whenever we sin, guilt overcomes our hearts. It is a good thing, for it is a reminder that we have sinned. But the thing is that we need not dwell on that guilt any longer and allow it to bring us to depression, for Christ has forgiven us of our sins both now and forever. 1 John 1:9 says that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The Law of Moses allowed for us to wipe away the guilt of a particular sin, knowing that it was covered until we sinned again, but it could never place us in the right standing before God all the time. We could only be presented before God as fully forgiven for everything from all our sins to our sin nature if we accept Christ’s gift of salvation from sin. All we need to do is trust Him as our Forgiver.
What the Law of Moses could not do, Christ did for us. He is our Savior, Lord, and Forgiver. Find your freedom from sin in Him. You no longer are a slave to sin but free in Christ (and in actuality a slave to Christ – 1 Corinthians 7:22). Let Him set you truly free, so that the next 4th of July, you won’t just be thanking God for the freedoms you enjoy here on earth but the freedom in Christ as well.
Job 9:1-2, 20, 32-33 – “Then Job answered and said: ‘Truly I know that it is so: But how can a man be in the right before God?…20Though I am in the right, my own mouth would condemn me; though I am blameless, he would prove me perverse…32For he is not a man, as I am, that I might answer him, that we should come to trial together. There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both.’”
I told you I would share with you some of the experiences I had on my last vacation to Greece and the Holy Land, but from the time I told you that until now, I have only shared two main things – my observation of how many people seem to worship “holy” things and places instead of God and my new friendship based on God’s timing. So I figured that now would be a good time to use an experience that occurred during my trip as an illustration of the point that will be made today – “None of us are righteous in the sight of God without Jesus Christ.”
One of the places we stopped at during our trip was the Grecian island of Patmos. Patmos is extremely beautiful and is known for being the island upon which John the Beloved was exiled and spent his last days. Here he received the visions that are written in the book of Revelation. To commemorate his time there, a giant monastery was built under his name that is now run by Greek Orthodox priests. The monastery is located on top of a mountain near the shore and can be reached either by hiking up the mountain using an old path or taking a taxi. For us, we decided to take the strenuous hike up the mountain. After climbing up for over an hour, stopping for multiple breaks, we reached the top and entered the monastery. The architecture was beautiful both inside and outside as if you were entering a medieval castle and church combined into one. We wandered through the balcony and patio and even got to see a copy of a manuscript of the Gospel of Mark that pre-dated 1000AD. One of the highlights of the monastery was the chapel, which was ornately decorated with Greek Orthodox art that depicted everything from Biblical stories to their core beliefs. Without a guide or previous knowledge of these stories, these pictures would easily be overlooked as ordinary paintings, but fortunately for us, a priest named Paconius was willing to take us on a private tour. He explained everything to us, letting us know which stories were being represented in which paintings, but one interesting painting that he showed us depicted a scale, which I was extremely confused about, because I knew no story in the Bible talking about scales. He then told us that the scale depicted the Greek Orthodox belief that in order to get to heaven, all the good you do must outweigh the bad, or you would fall into hell. It was then that I realized that the Greek Orthodox Church taught a works-based salvation. It was true that they believed that Jesus Christ died for our sins, but you still needed to do more good than bad in order to get to heaven, according to them. To them, Christ’s death on the cross was not enough; they had to be righteous by their works as well. We went back onto the ship later that afternoon, a little disappointed, knowing that this religious man was missing the truth – that Jesus Christ is the only Person that can make us righteous before God.
Job understood this truth in our passage today. Although Job was a blameless and righteous man, he recognized that before God, we are all sinners. We could try all we want to convince ourselves that we are right and good. We could do everything in our power to show that we are righteous through our actions. We can do more good than bad. But none of that would change a thing. We would still be considered sinners in need of judgment. Romans 3:10 states it clearest, “…None is righteous, no, not one…” We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), so much so that even if we spent our whole lives doing good and helping others and being “righteous,” it would not make up for our missing the mark that God set for us, which is perfection. However, we are not hopeless, for God sent His Son, Jesus Christ to be our Righteousness. Job in vs. 32-33 was looking for an arbiter to argue his case before God. At the time, Christ had not yet come to earth, but for us today, we have an arbiter in Jesus Christ. He stands as our Mediator between God and man, arguing our case before Him. He does not do so by claiming us as righteous. He does not do so by stating all the good we have done. He does not even do so by begging for mercy. He does so simply by letting the Father know that He Himself already paid for the penalty of our sins on the cross and that if we accept His free gift, we are considered righteous in the sight of God for we are covered by the blood of Christ. He proclaims His righteousness for us.
If you still think that you what will make you right before God is doing more right than wrong, then think again. Only accepting Jesus Christ’s free gift of salvation can make you righteous before God. Give your heart and life to Him, fully entrusting Him and His finished work on the cross (for He said, “It is finished.”). If you have already given your life to Christ, then please pray for those who are still lost, who are seeking to do things their own way. Pray that they may recognize the finished work of Christ and give their lives over to Him. And specifically, please pray for Paconius that God will open His eyes to the truth of the Gospel. If He did that with Martin Luther and sparked the Protestant Reformation, then He can definitely do it with Paconius and possibly spark a second Protestant Reformation. Thank Christ for His finished work and know that before Him you are now considered righteous.