Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. (Ephesians 4:29, NKJV)
Acceptable profanity has reached an appalling level in America. Profane language is common place in the home and on the job. It is used in classrooms (from teachers as well as students), on social media, in popular music, movies, television and the internet. Just about everywhere someone is talking, profanity is given a place. Profanity adds nothing constructive to a conversation. Indeed, it distracts from it. Profane speech does not enhance clearer, more concise communication. It is spoken casually and mindlessly, as filler without context and without character. It is profoundly meaningless, useless and rotten (“corrupt”). Profanity does it “impart grace” to those who hear it, nor does it bring honor to the person who uses it. It disrespects God and shows contempt for others. Its companions are often anger and wrath (Eph. 4:31). Let us remember that our words show what is in our hearts. Jesus said that. And, He said our words will either justify or condemn us in the last day of judgment (Matt. 12:33-37). We must take great care to control our hearts, to control our tongues and avoid corrupt words.
“Oil and perfume make the heart glad, so a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend.” (Proverbs 27:9, NASB95)
One of the blessings of true friend is their counsel and advice. When your soul is heavy, a friend offers guidance that will lift it heavenward. A good friend does not always tell you what you want to hear, but what you need to hear. Cherish such a friend. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Prov. 27:6). Better to be wounded by a friend’s godly advice, than to be coddled and flattered by deceptive encouragement. When someone is more interested in supporting you in sinful attitudes or conduct, that is not a true friend. Friends do not have a hidden agenda; your soul is their agenda. They speak the truth to you, not because it is always easy, but because it is right and is the best for you (Eph. 4:25). If you want a friend who gladdens your heart, then be that kind of friend to others. “A man who has friends must himself be friendly” (Prov. 18:24).
For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ. (2 Corinthians 2:17, NKJV)
As it was then, so it continues to be. Those who speak the pure gospel of Christ stand in contrast to the hucksters who make merchandise of the word of God, peddling their adulterated message of the gospel for personal advancement and material gain. Why would a church charge people a fee to hear the word of God? Some do. Why would a church charge a fee for the activities they offer? Church-sponsored activities that request fees to participate are not from the word of God, for if they were, they would be offered to the public “without money and without price” (Isa. 55:1). Truly, “by covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words” (2 Peter 2:3). We stand before God and answer to Him. Therefore, let us speak the word of God with sincerity of heart and clarity of words, not with diluted speech and polluted motives. May we never charge for what God offers freely: “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17).
12 “Stand now with your enchantments and the multitude of your sorceries, in which you have labored from your youth— Perhaps you will be able to profit, perhaps you will prevail. 13 You are wearied in the multitude of your counsels; Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, and the monthly prognosticators stand up and save you from what shall come upon you. 14 Behold, they shall be as stubble, the fire shall burn them; They shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame; It shall not be a coal to be warmed by, nor a fire to sit before!” (Isaiah 47:12–14, NKJV)
The approaching solar eclipse reminds us there are many people in the world who earnestly believe the stars hold life-affecting messages. They consult astrologers to make daily decisions that depend on interpreting the stars. Ancient Babylon did the same. Isaiah is in the middle of proclaiming Babylon’s demise at the hands of the living God. Her citizens had trusted in sorcery and astrology to order their lives and to predict the future. But, none of these could save them from God’s judgment. We must be guided by the word of God, not the stars. God speaks to us by His Son, not by the sun, moon and the stars He made (Gen. 1:14-18; Heb. 1:1-2). Arrange your life by listening to God’s Son, Jesus Christ (Matt. 17:5).
18 And when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave a command to depart to the other side. 19 Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” 20 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Matthew 8:18–20, NKJV)
Jesus was a poor man. He was often sustained by the goodwill sharing of others as He preached the gospel of the kingdom throughout the regions of Judea, Galilee, and beyond (Lk. 8:1-3). As Jesus was about to cross over to the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee, a scribe said he would follow Jesus wherever He went. Jesus challenged his willingness to sacrifice to follow Him. How very different from the Prosperity Theology preached by the positive attitude preachers of today! They preach physical health and material blessings if only you will claim it for yourself in the name of Jesus. (We wonder why Paul didn’t make such a claim when Jesus denied him healing in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10?) No, we are not entitled to health and wealth. Whatever blessings we have, let us use them to honor God and help others (1 Tim. 6:17-19). And above all, may we sacrifice everything it takes to follow Jesus where He goes (Jno. 10:27-28; 14:6).
4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Ephesians 4:4–6, NKJV)
This is God’s platform of unity for the church of Christ. There is one body, or church, not many churches (denominations) that establish division among believers. There is one Spirit, who leads us and unites us by the gospel truth He revealed, inspired and confirmed. There is one hope reserved in heaven for Christians; not the hope of an idyllic earth for all of humanity (1 Peter 1:3-5). Unity is arranged under the authority of one Lord; Jesus Christ (Acts 2:34-36). Unity is preserved when we do all things by His authority (Colossians 3:17). We do not write or accept creeds to elucidate unity – the faith that was once for all delivered is our sufficient guide (Jude 3). The Great Commission baptism of repentant believers for the remission of sins is the only baptism God recognizes (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:37-38; 8:35-38). All other baptisms introduce error and cause division. We have one Father who is in heaven; not many clerical “fathers” on earth (Matthew 23:9). God, our heavenly Father, is sovereign over all things. He pervades and sustains all things. He dwells among His people (Ephesians 2:22). Let us unite on truth. This is the unity for which Jesus prayed (John 17:20-21).
1 Gather yourselves together, yes, gather together, O undesirable nation, 2 Before the decree is issued, or the day passes like chaff, before the Lord’s fierce anger comes upon you, before the day of the Lord’s anger comes upon you! 3 Seek the Lord, all you meek of the earth, who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger. (Zephaniah 2:1–3, NKJV)
The great day of the Lord’s judgment was about to descend upon “undesirable” (shameless) Judah. Before it did, God’s prophet Zephaniah called on people to repent and return to humble righteousness. God’s fierce anger would be unleashed against the nation that had turned its back on Him. Babylon executed God’s punishment, but those who would “seek the Lord” found shelter from the storm of divine wrath. God decides when He will bring down a nation for its stubborn sins (Jeremiah 18:7-11). Now is the time for men and women to seek the Lord and find shelter for their souls. Judgment is coming, not merely upon nations, but upon the whole world (2 Peter 3:10-12). The mercy and salvation of God in Christ Jesus protects those who live by faith, doing His will (2 Peter 3:13-15).
He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates friends. (Proverbs 17:9, NKJV)
The tongue is powerful. It can comfort the grieving with kindness and concern, and it can destroy a person’s credibility and good reputation through malicious gossip. It can build up brethren and it can destroy churches. “Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell” (James 3:5). Let us learn to restrain the tongue by controlling the heart. Jesus said what comes out of the mouth defiles the person, because it comes from the heart (Matthew 15:11, 18). Gossip is one such defilement. It tears down others to justify self. It is ugly and void of kindness. Gossip is prevented by keeping the meditations and issues of the heart pure (Philippians 4:8). Today’s proverb reminds us that love promotes forgiveness, not the separation caused by talebearing and gossip.
10 Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, 11 lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices. (2 Corinthians 2:10–11, NKJV)
The sinning Christian we read of in 1 Corinthians 5:1 was disciplined by the Corinthian church, and he repented of his sin (2 Corinthians 2:6-8). Now was the time for forgiving and rejoicing, not recrimination. Satan will seek an advantage against us, even when a Christian repents of sin. Therefore, we must always be alert for his subtle deceptions. We cannot afford to be uninformed and unaware of his strategies to entice us to sin. While we pray to our Father to not “lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one,” we must also equip ourselves with the whole armor of God and “be strong in the Lord,” to “be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10-11). When someone sins against us and hurts us, but then asks us for our forgiveness, we must fully and completely forgive (Matthew 6:14-15; 18:21-35). Otherwise, we are overtaken by sin, at the very moment we ought to be instruments of God’s mercy and compassion.
They do not consider in their hearts that I remember all their wickedness; Now their own deeds have surrounded them; They are before My face. (Hosea 7:2, NKJV)
We can become comfortable in our sin – even defensive, when rebuked for our transgressions. Israel had become at ease and complacent in her sins. When God’s prophet Amos cried out against her idolatry and injustices, Amaziah, the ungodly priest of Bethel, lied about Amos to Jeroboam, the king of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel. The land is not able to bear all his words” (Amos 7:10). Truth was viewed as a threat, and God’s prophet was shunned. When we become comfortable in sin, tender consciences turn into calloused hearts toward the word of God. Are you becoming comfortable in your sin? If so, now is not the time to make excuses, or blame others. It is not time to convince yourself that God does not care – that He does not remember your sins. Though you may forget them, they are ever before the face of God Almighty. Now is the time to fear God, repent with a contrite heart, and tremble at His word (Isaiah 66:2).