Pretend your tongue is a paintbrush, and your heart is a bucket full of paint. You dip your brush into your bucket so you can paint a picture on a canvas for the world to see. The picture that you paint reveals your relationship with Christ. And it has an immediate and long-term impact on all those who experience it. What kind of Jesus are you painting? What effect do you have on others?
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Why Do Our Words Have Such Power?
My heart overflows with a pleasing theme. My tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe (Psalm 45:1).
The ascension was Christ stepping out of time and space and sitting at the right hand of His Father. The Father gave Him all authority and power so He could give us authority and power. He accomplished this through the enabling of the Holy Spirit, who is our gift at regeneration.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8).
All that Jesus was on earth can now be ours through the Holy Spirit. If Jesus stayed here, He would be in one place at one time as the rest of us humans. But if He ascended, which He did, what He was on earth is now given to us through the Spirit.
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you (John 16:13-15).
This news is stunning! The Spirit now explodes in the heart of any person who is born a second time (John 3:7-8). Jesus’ ascension allowed Him to go viral in a way that He could not accomplish while living like a singular human in one locale. Jesus, the man, was not omnipresent.
Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus crosses all lines of humanity by empowering all of His children to be like He was on earth. Even the weakest Christian in the world today is a more powerful voice than the great John the Baptist.
Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he (Matthew 11:11).
When you speak God’s Word and biblically-derived teachings, extrapolations, and meanings into the lives of others, they hear the words of Christ, as though He were talking to them. This perspective was Paul’s understanding when he was teaching the Christians in Ephesus.
Assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus (Ephesians 4:21).
The English translators of this sentence supplied the word “about,” which is not how Paul originally wrote the sentence. He said, “Assuming that you have heard him.” Jesus was not there in a physical body to teach them. But He was there and did teach them because His children were speaking His words.
You’re An Ambassador
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20).
As ambassadors for Christ, you speak for Christ as God makes His appeals to others through you. Not only is this a fantastic privilege, but it is also a sobering responsibility. Think about the sequence of benefits for those who are Christlike in their communication.
- You share the message of the gospel.
- The hearer hears Christ speaking.
- The Holy Spirit magnifies Christ.
- God’s light and life explode in the person’s heart.
- The Holy Spirit changes lives.
- Jesus Christ is glorified.
- The gospel mission advances.
The words of Christ that you speak are not revelation words, as though they are equal to Bible words. Bible words were inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16), while ours come from the Spirit’s illumination. We speak from a “position of illumination, not inspiration.”
This inability to speak by inspiration does not make what you say something to dismiss because it is the transforming Spirit that penetrates hearts to regenerate and sanctify the soul. The issue for us to consider here is our reliance and submission to the Spirit’s guidance.
Our job is to keep in step with the Spirit, seeking not to quench (1 Thessalonians 5:19) or grieve (Ephesians 4:30) Him, so there is an unleashing of Spirit of Christ on our world. Our cooperation with the Spirit is a high call to make sure that the words of our mouths are righteous.
Do you consider yourself a conduit for the Spirit of Christ to make the name of Christ great within your sphere of influence? If you are a Christian, you should have no choice in this matter. Christians do not own themselves. God bought you with the high price of the life of His Son (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). You are a slave to Christ (Romans 6:18). There is no opt-out clause in the Christian religion.
Christians are painters by trade. Your tongue is your brush, and your heart is supplying the paint that communicates what Christ means to you. The folks who are most affected by your canvas are those who are closest to you. What kind of painting of Christ is on display in your home? If your life was an art museum, what would others see?
When Paul thought how the imprint of his words would affect others, he was desperate to use selective, Spirit-illuminated words that were redemptive. Whether encouraging or confronting, he wanted the Spirit of Christ to illuminate him. He said it this way to the Corinthians.
For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified…my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God (2 Corinthians 2:2-5).
The words we choose will have one of two effects. They will either build up other people (Ephesians 4:29) or tear down other people. It is interesting that right before Paul said not to grieve the Spirit of God in Ephesians 4:30, he talked about corrupting speech.
Eight Parts of Speech
The way we use words and the effect of those words can breakdown at any point. The first infographic gives you a process to self-assess the development and use of your words. As you work through these eight parts of speech, see if you can discern the weaker aspects that need more of your attention.
Part 1: Gospel – Correct speaking and speech patterns must begin with the gospel. If a person has not been affected by the gospel, their words cannot be redemptive. How you end—what you say—will be determined by how you start—the gospel. If you want your language to be redemptive (restorative), you must be redeemed. Let me push the point further: there are degrees in which a person can be affected by the gospel.
Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little (Luke 7:47).
Your awareness of your wickedness (1 Timothy 1:15) before God transformed you will be proportional to the gratitude you have for your transformation. This truth means that the effect of the gospel on you determines your humility, gratitude, passion, and every other Christian virtue (Galatians 5:22-23).
Part 2: Theology – Everybody has a theology (Romans 2:14-15), including the devil (James 2:19). This is why your speech must not begin with theology, but with the gospel. If the gospel has not transformed you, your theology can be quite devilish. The gospel establishes the footing upon which sound theology will stand. The “gospel-transformed life” is ready to support gospel-centered theology.
The word theology comes from the Greek language, theos and logos or the study of God. We should always be pursuing sound theology like Jesus did when He lived on earth (Luke 2:49, 52). The hungrier your heart is for sound theology, the more God’s thoughts will shape your presuppositions.
Part 3: Presupposition – You can think of your presupposition as the interpretive grid from which all words proceed. It’s a window that comes before your thoughts and words and gives shape to those thoughts and words. Words are not neutral or detached from your presupposition. It’s your presupposition that supplies the words that communicate what you believe to others.
You can see this in my presuppositional infographic. The graphic shows two different people observing an apple. One person gives glory to God for the apple, and the other person does not but devolves into self-centered thinking. The point is that your words are not neutral; they flow out of your presuppositions and influence all you see and say.
If you do not saturate your presuppositions by the gospel and infuse them with sound theology, how you view, respond, and speak into lives will be ungodly.
Part 4: Heart – In the context of this article, the heart represents the animating center of your being–the place that can defeat idolatries or give life to them. Things like fear, regret, shame, guilt, bitterness, anger, unforgiveness, and unbelief find their home in our hearts.
The transformative effect of the gospel and the depth of our theology work together. They root out the encroachments of sin that linger in our hearts. This truth is hugely important because the condition of our hearts will determine how we think, speak, and affect others.
Part 5: Thoughts – Our minds are where our words are assembled. The parts that make up the construction material comes from everything that has been previously stated—Gospel, Theology, Presupposition, and Heart. The combination of these four things form our thoughts–the last stop before our words come out of our mouths.
If the gospel has not taken proper root, if our theology is not as sound as it should be, and if our hearts have accumulated controlling idolatries, then strongholds will captivate us. These “false arguments” will have persuasive power over our word choices.
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-4).
If you do not know how to defeat these captivating strongholds, you must find those who can help you. You need the Spirit’s power to help you overcome, and rarely will this happen alone. His power is divine and designed to destroy strongholds. Read this article: How to Take Every Thought Captive, which is one chapter from my book, Change Me.
Part 6: Words – Our thoughts, good or bad, form our words. These words are little soldiers who march off our tongues to wave the banner of Christ. Or not! They spread throughout our sphere of influence. They can wreak destruction or build people up redemptively. As you can see, our words are not neutral, but determined, developed, and deployed to be divine or destructive. It is from the abundance of the hearts that our mouths speak (Luke 6:45).
Part 7: Speech – And finally, we speak; we say something. All of the other component shaping influences have influenced us, and we finally and irretrievably deploy our words with purpose. They reveal to the world our belief system, good or bad. There is no hiding this truth about our communication. Of course, you can always repent but never retrieve them.
Part 8: Effect – You can explore whether your words are the words of the Spirit by the effect that your communication has on others. There is a simple way to examine the impact of your speech. Talk to those who hear you the most. How have you affected them? What did they say when you asked them? It would be a critical leadership opportunity to ask, though the external evidence should be apparent already.
If you are married, it is a simple straightforward test: examine your spouse and children (if you have children). How you use words or refrain from using words (silence and passivity) impacts those closest to you the most. You have a fantastic opportunity to find greater usefulness by the Spirit of God. You can speak the words of Christ to all of those around us. You can cooperate with the Spirit in the transformation of souls, just like Jesus did when He was here.
Call to Action
- How have your words impacted those who are closest to you?
- Ask those who are the most frequent recipient of your words how your words have affected them.
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