“With the right words, you can change the world” …
E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web
While I agree, I also think that just having the right words are not enough. The right words coupled with the right actions certainly will change things …
I need to be more conscious of my own words. I could benefit from spending more time listening rather than speaking, as I might just learn something in the process ….
We all have power attached to our words. And we need to be conscious of the power that they weild. The right words have the power to change the world, even if it’s the world of only an individual. We all should make an effort to be mindful of the effects of both our words and our actions on others.
When asked who Peter thought Jesus was, he replied: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16)
Jesus didn’t praise Peter for giving a smart answer. Yes, the Lord did bless Peter for sharing these words, but He also made clear that Peter didn’t come up with his answer on his own. Peter’s answer didn’t come through human insight. Jesus said it was revealed to him by the Father: “And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” (v. 17).
Let’s pause and think about these words of Jesus for a moment …. whether it’s an episode of “Family Feud” or a teacher in class, or even the whispered voice inside our head, what do we expect to hear? “Great answer, great answer!” right? Especially since our tendency is to give praise to the person who gives the correct answer ….
In this situation with Jesus and His apostles; the whole interaction shows that Peter didn’t have a clue what his answer meant. He had the right words, but not much else than those right words. He received these words through heaven’s window, and with no idea what they really meant on earth, much less what they might mean for his own life, or the lives of others…
So much of our approach to biblical truth today is about acquiring information and having the right words. It’s like we’re trying to become thumb drives full of biblical truth. The issue for Jesus, however, is not about having information. It’s not about having the right words or the correct religious formula or saying things in the exact and proper way. It isn’t about education, or knowledge, or even how smart you are, or think you are. It’s about wisdom and understanding the truth of the gospel message …
It’s about being so desperate for Jesus that to know His truth is paramount to even breathing …
We can know words and yet miss what they mean for our heart’s allegiances.
We can recite truth, and the truth never challenges the conceptions we have of life in our minds. We can proclaim the truth of heaven, but never live it with grace, so that truth is totally lost to us and to those around us. We can have knowledge and still lack wisdom. So, what is the truth ??
Jesus reminds us in His most definitive teaching on being disciples; the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7); that knowing truth only makes us a fool if all we do is recite the words of truth, and then expect them magically to do something for us ….
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:21-27).
In a day where so many religious salvation peddlers offer quick and easy word formulas for people to be saved, and throw out the sinners prayer by rote, lacking any emotion or understanding to the true underlying value of that commitment; Jesus’ words appropriately sound harsh. When we command people to recite prayers or say words not even found in scripture, then give them assurances that they are saved, these words of Jesus are jarring … shocking … even confusing.
With this movement of the grace doctrine telling new converts that grace is covering them and all is forgiven, nothing more is required because it was finished at the cross once and for all; I tell you many are going to hear those saddening words “depart from me — I never knew you” …..
That doctrine, and the “once saved — always saved” doctrine are unsound and false!!! Do not be deceived!
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
(2 Timothy 2:15).
In our day, there is little or no call for life and heart change (repentance), for the truth of scripture which defines the role of the Holy Ghost and the necessity of the baptism, subsequent to being born again (Acts 19:2), or even for following Jesus as Lord and placing our total trust in Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. But all of these things were taught, instructed, and associated with believing and practiced consistently in the book of Acts when people came to Christ ….
So have we made faith mean something the Bible doesn’t? Have we reduced faith to saying a magic formula and getting the words just right so that we can feel good about our future? So that we can feel good about ourselves in how many souls we led to Christ?
Now before you are ready to criticize me for trespassing into salvation by works, take a second to ponder a few things ….
Re-read Jesus’ words at the end of the Sermon on the Mount and compare His words to our practices, formulas, and definitions of faith that so many preach and teach today ….
Think a minute about what happens to Peter in this story of his confession of Jesus’ identity. He was divinely inspired to speak true words about Jesus’ identity. He even believed those words based on his flawed definition of the terms. Yet, what does Jesus say to Peter when this inspired disciple revealed his wrong-headed notions of what these words meant for Jesus?
“But He (Jesus) turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.”
So, what good is having the right words when Peter rebuked Jesus’ description of what those words would actually involve?
Again, faith isn’t about saying the right words. It never was. Yes, we have to believe the truth about Jesus. No one is denying that. But, faith is about trusting in what Jesus has done to save us and investing our lives in following Jesus as Lord because of what we believe, no matter what opposition we should face. For us to have this faith, we’ve got to be willing to walk with Jesus as Peter did ….
Like Peter, we’re going to say and do some dumb, uninformed, though often well-intentioned, things. We are going to have flashes of insight given to us through heaven’s window, and then be dumber than a hammer about what to do with those insights in our lives. However, the issue is not saying the formula, but following the Savior. We follow Jesus. We keep following Jesus even when we don’t fully understand. That is what believing in Jesus means. We follow Jesus until our life is caught up into His life and His life becomes seen in our life. Being a follower of Jesus has never been about formulas or magical words, but about actions.
“So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment. What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” (James 2:12-17)
It’s about Jesus and His way of life being formed in us …
“Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God;
Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints: to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: Whereunto I also labour, striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily.”
To paraphrase James; our words mean very little until faith puts our lives where our words are ….
“Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” (James 2:18).
In closing; let’s refuse to trust the formulas, the magical words, or the “easy believism” often pedaled today by those who want to notch their belts with the number of decisions they’ve led people to make. Instead, let’s seek Jesus; first and foremost, and the pure, unadulterated truth that He taught ….
Let’s have Jesus’ words shape our lives …. Let’s trust Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection as the basis of our hope, and the cornerstone upon which we build and then teach …. Let’s have our faith in Jesus call us to live a life like His ….
Then, our words will match our lives; lives that flow from hearts of profound devotion, love, and trust. Which is, after all, a whole lot of what it means for us to truly believe that Jesus is the Messiah, Israel’s anointed one, the very Son of God!