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Invisible sin: Words that we speak Created 7 July 2014

 

1. Introduction

2. Words that are obviously sin

3. Words that hardly sound like sin, but are

4. Words that sound truly godly but represent sin instead

5. Words that are not spoken

6. Words that are sin covered up

7. Words that are sin made invisible

8. Our words accuse us or the acquit us

9. The responsibility is ours

10. Judgment begins in the house of the Lord

Introduction

Jesus' warning in John 15[1] does not represent an ill considered 'slip of the tongue'. It is in fact the true King speaking and He is serious. Though to some it may seem like pure exaggeration, or even a 'theological impossibility', when we come to understand just one very simple teaching from Scripture, the harsh reality of God's strict judgment - even of professing Christians - starts to sink in:

James warns that the type of 'faith' that is not accompanied by the appropriate purity, time and effort towards true Christian living represents a kind of 'faith' that in fact does not meet the biblical standard. Faith without appropriately accompanying 'works in faith' means that the person in question is yet to be made right with God irrespective of them playing in the band, taking up collections, singing in the choir, administering the sacraments, and even preaching. Such people are unjustified, unholy, never saved. Alternatively, such people may once have possessed faith unto salvation but they no longer do. Only active, ongoing, effective faith towards God - as demonstrated by deeds befitting it - is that which justifies a person.

Fruit tree  

If it is not active or ongoing or effective and if it is not a type of faith that converts into deeds that befit Christian living, then it is not a 'faith' that saves. That does not mean that Christians do not stumble. Only that they get to address issues that keep them from pure, Christ-like living.

That which is active, ongoing and effective has something to show for it. That which is not active, ongoing, effective has no or little evidence to show for it[2] [3].

Thank goodness God will prune us to produce fruit. But those who do not produce it in the end will be cut off and thrown into the fire. I may wish that this was not so, but it is.

In the context of this article, 'deeds befitting faith' is represented by the words we speak, or don't speak. Though we may be doing many 'good deeds', the fruit of our lips (or lack thereof) represents the most revealing evidence of what kind of 'faith' sits in our heart. Because, from the heart originates that which we say. From the heart originates words that are faithful or faithless, true or false, good or wicked. We cannot deny that from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

In all of this there is a principle that has been true forever: what is in your heart will determine what your mouth speaks. Thus, what is in your heart will determine what direction your life takes (the fruit you bear). There is Scripture for that: .... whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart[8]. And, Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life[9].

The words we speak tell us about the fruit we (will) bear in life. This fruit will either be acceptable to God, or it will not. The words we speak are this vitally important to our walk of faith. Note, I am not saying bearing fruit saves. No. But I am saying - with the book of James - that faith that saves always bears fruit. So, if there is no or little fruit it should tell you and me something about our faith. Then, if our faith needs fixing we better fix it.

Words that are obviously sin

The Bible says that foul and dirty language should not ever pass the lips of a believer. They seldom do. Like blatant lies, or exaggeration (another form of lying) most believers recognize that the language commonly spoken on a ship or in an army camp, or in a pre-match team meeting, or at a late night party are not for Christians. There are exceptions. Some professing Christians are yet to get that message. Cursing, swearing, angry outbursts towards another and blasphemy are all obvious sin - these represent sin that is easy to detect.

Blasphemy is probably the worst of these. Whilst blasphemy against Jesus may be forgiven, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit can never be forgiven - not in this life and not in the life hereafter. Such blasphemy may be committed when a person ascribes the work of the Holy Spirit to the work of Satan. We should be careful of what we say about stuff that happens in some churches; if it is not clearly distinguished from the character of the Holy Spirit then we may in fact blaspheme by calling it 'from the devil'.

Words that hardly sound like sin, but are

It seems as if we seldom consider the ill effects of our careless words to another. Or, our careless words about another. Gossip is sin. We may sugar-coat our gossip with self-deceiving excuses like 'I'm just stating a fact', or 'they need to hear the truth about so-and-so'. But in the end such conversations simply represent a form of character murder; diminishing the value or the worthiness or character of another person by what you say in their absence. This isn't actually even carelessness. It is carefulness. Not carefulness to protect another person's good name. But carefulness to diminish it without actually sounding as if this is what you're doing. It is a conscious thing done on purpose whilst find 'good' excuses to justify it. Consider how Paul confronted Peter about his hypocrisy. He did it to his face. Now if you ask any experienced pastor around they'll tell you about gossip amongst professing Christians. Even gossip about the pastor himself - the man who really needs support in prayer. It is easy to criticize a man. It is hard to pray for them. Gossip and sin are locked in together forever. Gossip kills the body. Sin kills the spirit. Both are deadly.

Another example is calling people names like "idiot!": I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. (Matthew 5:22)

Words that sound truly godly but represent sin instead

Flattery, insincere compliments or inauthentic congratulations. These are not "meant for good" No. They are meant to disguise the thoughts of one's heart in a quest for personal gain. No-one wants to be ostracized. No-one wants to be excluded. Everyone wants favor. So, when the opportunity arises to 'win some brownie points' most go right ahead and deliver what, in God's eyes, are sinful words of untruthfulness - hypocrisy at its worst. You'll find it everywhere. Churches are not excluded. Elders are not spared. What we see is pretense of enjoyment or appreciation because a person does not want to sound judgmental or even nasty. But God sees the heart. He is not fooled by our attempts to mask our true thoughts or feelings. So, instead of admitting to yourself (and to another) that you have a problem with what they say, or what they do, you entertain them with insincerity. If, instead, there had been truthfulness, either you would have been convicted of your prejudice against someone or something or they would have been convicted of their error. Alas, that does not happen through flattery, insincere compliments and inauthentic congratulations. If you have nothing good to say then, I guess, the best thing to do is to keep quiet.

Take this a level further and consider words spoken in prayer meetings or in worship services, or in worship songs. Or, in "saying grace" over a meal. What you might find are words spoken that bring praise to God and His promises but which are not sincerely believed or are not genuinely considered. Listen to what Jesus said about these, the Pharisees of this world: they worship me with their lips but their hearts are far from me. Because of the high premium that is commonly placed on inter-personal relationships or social acceptance, church services or congregational meetings can be the place where the most inauthentic words are spoken.

Words that are not spoken

Consider this verse from Matthew 12: Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me (v.30). Anyone - you, me, our priest or pastor, that great author or prophet whose books we like to read, the TV healer and the 'almost-walks-on-water-Bible-professor' - who does not work with Jesus (whose words do not align with His words) are actually working against Him. What that means in the context of this article is that we choose life every time we choose to align ourselves openly and expressly with God's word. When we do not do that we set ourselves up for judgment: ... whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven[11] .

The Bible says I believe and therefore I speak[12]. What you do believe you will speak. What you do not believe you will not speak. Then consider this verse from Romans 10: 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. This is an ongoing confession, not a once-off thing. So, sin may come in the form of unbelief as witnessed by the things we do not say when, as professing believers, we ought to be saying it.

What about someone saying to you "God will never do this or that" while you know in your heart that the Bible actually says differently? What will you say? Better still, what do you say when (not if) that happens? Do you keep quiet in fear of offending the other party? Do you nod your head in agreement? Or do you even say, "Yes, I agree"? Whilst we may be fooled to think that we've loved the other person too much to offend them we will no doubt have brought God's judgment upon ourselves for dealing carelessly with the truth. We will have denied the "belt of truth"[7] for which there is a consequence. For this we will need to give an account. Concerning the correction of existing believers, the Bible says: 24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:24-26)

What this passage clearly dispels is the idea that another Christian's error is none of your business; that you are loving them by leaving them in their error. Paul in effect says the exact opposite. It is very much your business to correct them if they are in error as much as it is their business to correct you when you are in error. That is how the Body of Christ operates.

Confessing Jesus at work or in a sports team is best done when done pro-actively and openly. Get that question answered as soon as you can.

Words that are 'sin covered up'

How easily are we tempted to quote as 'wisdom' the sayings of a popular musician from days gone by, or a current-day motivational speaker, or some or other current day 'guru'?

These men and women, if they are not in Christ, whilst perhaps having good intentions, cannot speak godly wisdom. In fact, they are most likely led by the prince of the power of the air. Whoever is not (born) of God cannot possibly speak godly things. Yet, Christians seem to easily and frequently subscribe to and even promote the words of guru's, witches (through stories involving witches and wizards) and rock stars. Consider the ungodliness of words spoken in view of inter-faith reconciliation, which really denies Jesus as the only way, truth and life.

 
Dalai Lama quote
The Mind Unleshed Facebook post
 

Consider sharing another's Facebook post or an email that quotes the Dalai Lama or some or other motivational speaker? These are words spoken that are not in faith towards God.

The Facebook quote to the left was 'Shared' by an ignorant Christian friend. Eight people 'Liked' his post - thus, lending their support to it - and one person commented on it, saying: "Your instincts are always right".

Now compare what the Bible says who you should listen to for wisdom: "If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you." (James 1:5-6)

Question: Where does this post send people for wisdom or advice? Answer: Not to God. Question: Are those who support this Facebook post working with Jesus or against Him? Answer: Against Him.

 

There will come a time, and it has already arrived, I think, that Christians will have to decide who they would least like to offend - God or man?: ... even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue;  for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. (John 12:42-43). These words that smooth over inter-faith reconcilliation in the interest of cheap, unsustainable, inauthentic 'peace' represent a choice that is not a choice for God. They are empty words spoken which serve to condemn the speaker.

Words that are 'sin made invisible'

How easily do we re-brand words of doubt as simply 'a realistic outlook'. Or words of unbelief as 'sound theology'. Jesus at times marveled at the lack of faith of some of the Jews whilst He was still walking the earth. How much more do we see faithlessness - even amongst professing Christians - today?: "Jesus can heal but He only does so in exceptional cases". In truth, the New Testament records only a handfull of cases (if that) where believers were not healed when prayed for. In one case Paul's handkerchief served to heal a person! In another case, Peter's shadow (or proximity).

The Bible says that unbelief is sin. In fact it calls it a wicked heart of unbelief. Indeed, in God's eyes unbelief is wickedness. I fear that, at times, we get ahead of ourselves; our theology gets in the way of simple faith. We argue and reason through philosophy why God cannot do something instead of learning to trust that He gave us the examples of faith in the Bible not to tease us but to set a standard. Words of doubt and words of unbelief are sin made invisible by the idea that it is 'okay with God because He is forgiving'. Unbelief is sin. It still needs to be confessed. And we still need to ask forgiveness for it every time it happens.

Our words accuse us or they acquit us

In Matthew 12, Jesus warns explicitly that your words and mine matter. In fact, they matter a lot. It reminds very much of what Proverbs teach, "life and death are in the power of the tongue"[6] , for if we read what Jesus says we may perhaps come to reconsider the validity of our fath and thus our own sense of salvation; we believe and therefore we speak.

You and I can know without any sense of uncertainty what is in a person's heart by what passes their lips. Yes, we may learn to speak by inhibition 98% of the time, uttering culturally flavored words that comfort and please - hiding the reality of what lurks below the surface. But wait for that moment when inhibition goes; when trauma enters, stress runs supreme, alcohol allows it and perversity is purged by the pressure of work. Then we get a clear sense of what the heart of a person holds.

Perhaps it is grace. Perhaps it is mercy, forgiveness, joy? Clearly this is the best possible outcome; the bedrock of humility, repentance and an ultimate acceptance in faith before the Lord. But perhaps it is not; anger, aggression, insecurity, bitter resentment? Dirty rags that show up uninvitedly when the heat is on. So, don't be fooled by your own acquired ability to speak Christianese - empty words of insincere self-interest and social acclaim. Words that uphold you socially but condemn you spiritually. Let's all be sober and recognize what, really, sits in our hearts. For if we judge ourselves we will not be judged.

Some confuse the idea of "the fruit of the Spirit" with 'spiritual fruit'. It is a mistake. The fruit of the Spirit and spiritual fruit are not necessarily the same thing. In one passage Jesus defines spiritual fruit by the words that we speak. In it He strikes a very simple contrast: spiritual fruit come by words that are active, operative and in accordance with God's will. By implication, these are words that are authentic, sincere and seasoned with salt. Another kind of spiritual fruit comes by words that are inactive, ineffective, idle. These are words that are insincere, void of integrity, simply paying 'lip service' to satisfy a guilty conscience. They show up in 'prayers', 'praise', 'penance', and, so it seems, repugnant programs of pious predictability. The former carries God's approval. The latter, His judgment:

Matthew 12:31-37 “... out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Bible and cross  

Did you get that? Did you get the fact that, despite all the 'goodness of our ways', all those man-pleasing words (or man-pleasing silences) that serve to affirm a man or a woman in the error of their ways and at the expense of that which is God's will for their lives may be the very thing that condemns you or me in the day of judgment?

Did you get the truth that what may sound innocent rhetoric in a social context may in fact condemn you because it is empty, reckless or false?

 

Dear believer, Jesus himself says to you and to me equally, "by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned". Seriously, given that we speak whatever is in our heart, can anyone afford to spend their time on things that do not ensure that which is godly (His Word) in our hearts?

The responsibility is ours

God has already done all that He has needed to do to give us what we need to live a life of godliness. It is captured in His word through Scripture, and it is captured in His word directly to our hearts. It is because of this vitally important fact that, for the true Church, the Word of God is a lamp unto their feet and a light unto their path[10] . If your heart is found with God's Word genuinely vested in it your lips will automatically speak it and your deeds will, without even thinking, reflect it. If not, neither will your lips speak it nor will your life display it. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,  22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness.  23 All these evil things come from within and defile a man (Mark 7:21-23). This should be our test to see what is in our hearts; to see whether or not our lives are really given over to Him in faith? What is in your heart and mine when inhibition - our learnt Christian culture - is stripped away; when we are under duress, when we are traumatized, when we are confronted; occasions when we act instinctively, when you or I have had little time to prepare the 'Christian-like pre-conditioned' response? Because, whatever comes out of our mouths at that point is what is really in it.

Judgment begins in the house of the Lord

Judgment begins in the house of the Lord[4] . Therefore, having come to faith, the Bible teaches that Christians will be judged for their deeds (and their lack of deeds). This will occur before even the first unbeliever will ever be judged: Judgment begins in the house of the Lord.

Jesus makes it very clear that a person's fruit will be evident by whatever their heart speaks (or does not speak). Thus, every believer will give an account for every unproductive word that is ever uttered irrespective of their conviction of Jesus as the living Christ[5] . That is sobering. It should be a clear message to the 'comfort-zone-stricken-all-will-be-just-fine-Jesus-is-on-my-side-pew-warmers'. Alas it is not. This is a kind of sin that is hidden in plain sight. And it is rampant.

Footnotes:

[1] “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. (John 15:1-8) [back]

[2] 26 If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. (James 1:26) [back]

[3] 18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.  19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!  20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? (James 2:18-20) [back]

[4] 17 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17) [back]

[5] 36 But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. (Matthew 12:36) [back]

[6] The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences. (Proverbs 18:21, NLT) [back]

[7] Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. (Ephesians 6:14) [back]

[8] Matthew 12:34-35 [back]

[9] Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105) [back]

[10] Psalm 119:105 [back]

[11] (Matthew 10:32-33) [back]

[12] 13 And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,”[a] we also believe and therefore speak (2 Corinthians 4:13) [back]

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Please consult the Bible and test what is written here. Ask the Lord to give you wisdom in this area. Keep that which is good and reject that which is not Scriptural. Should you come to a different understanding than I please let me know - perhaps I can learn from you.

 

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