Mankind is now, after the Fall, inclined toward evil, and away from him. This corruption of our nature, this inclination toward evil, has left all mankind spiritually blind and dead and, because of it, we are enemies of God. The sinful mind is, therefore, hostile to God, and is utterly incapable of submitting to God’s law (Romans 8:7). Consequently, since we all are inclined toward evil, this inclination in us causes us to commit all kinds of actual sins – thoughts, words, and deeds contrary to God’s commandments (Matthew 15:19; James 1:15; 4:17).
This is the pure, unadulterated truth from God's Word.
With that as our backdrop today, is anyone else getting tired of hearing that a Christian does not have to give a single thought let alone worry about the words that come out of his or her mouth?
I mean, if it's "honest" and "truthful," then what's the problem?
The problem, my dear friends, is that this prevailing wisdom, which is no doubt being fueled by the political discourse in this country, is not a Biblical and Christian way of thinking whatsoever!
More and more I've heard music lyrics, movie scripts, political speeches and everyday conversation that are laced with language that is foul, filthy and offensive. Words that would once have brought a blush to a boot-camp sergeant now are frequently heard proceeding out of the mouths of little ones.
And that's not right.
It's not right because as Jesus said in the text for today's devotion, our language reflects the condition of our hearts.
Our hearts. That is the very thing Jesus came into this world to clean up and change. Through His sacrificial life, death and blessed resurrection Jesus brought about the means by which we are washed of our sins ... including those of the heart.
"Create in me a clean heart O God"; that is what Psalm 51:10 says. And then the second part of that verse adds "and renew a right spirit within me." When the Holy Spirit does both those things, then many things change.
And these include the cleaning up of an individual's language.
This is most certainly true.
Within the past couple of weeks, I've been keying in on some very specific Bible passages and verses.
A majority of them have to do with Me, Myself, And I and the bastard of a sinner I can be (James 1:19), and they've kept me up all hours of the night.
The rest have to do with the countless others that God has put into my life and the tension that exists between me and those I love with all of my heart.
Right now, despite our recent studies on the important subject, I'm fixated on this...
What Defiles A Person
Matthew 15:10-20 (ESV) And he called the people to him and said to them, "Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person." Then the disciples came and said to him, "Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?" He answered, "Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit." But Peter said to him, "Explain the parable to us." And he said, "Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone."
Are we really so arrogant that we're actually willing to argue with and even perhaps call into question what Jesus Christ Himself said here?
Surely, it doesn't take a Seminary Professor or a Theologian to understand the pure, simple words of our Lord and Savior in this passage, does it?
Plus, just in case we missed it this time, the very same truths are reiterated again and again for us...
Exodus 20:16 (ESV) You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Proverbs 10:8-10 (ESV) The wise of heart will receive commandments, but a babbling fool will come to ruin. Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out. Whoever winks the eye causes trouble, but a babbling fool will come to ruin.
Proverbs 15:4 (ESV) A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
Proverbs 15:28 (ESV) The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.
Proverbs 16:28 (ESV) A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.
Proverbs 18:21 (ESV) Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
Proverbs 20:19 (ESV) Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler.
Matthew 12:34 (ESV) You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
Matthew 12:36 (ESV) I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak
Mark 17:14-23 (ESV) And he called the people to him again and said to them, "Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him." And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, "Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?" (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, "What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person."
Luke 6:45 (ESV) The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
Romans 1:28-32 (ESV) And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
Ephesians 4:29 (ESV) Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Ephesians 5:4 (ESV) Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.
1 Timothy 5:13 (ESV) Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not.
2 Timothy 2:14-16 (ESV) Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness,
Titus 1:15 (ESV) To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.
We'll just let God's Word speak for itself without someone like me adding his own two cents.
After all, it's pretty straightforward stuff anyway, and while it's certainly true that ALL OF US are guilty of sin and of falling short of the perfect standard that the Lord has determined, it's also true that such a reality should never mean THAT WE BECOME COMFORTABLE AND COMPLACENT with the presence of sin in our lives.
You would not believe the number of times I've heard the old standby this week, "What's the big deal? We're all sinners? I'm sorry I don't agree with you and your interpretation of the Bible!"
It was enough to cause me to think that I was the problem and that I was wrong to be feeling and reacting to blatant sin the way that I was!
Seriously, for the past couple of weeks now, I've truly felt like I've been the Odd Man Out and all because this Odd Man Out refuses to be best friends with the Old Adam like everyone is telling me I need to be.
Sure, I'm willing to be his "friend" in the sense that I'll give him the Gospel and remind him of being drowned in Baptism, but I'm not gonna be the one to put a needle of heroine in his or drive him to the local whore house after I take him to get drunk at the local liquor store.
Thankfully, my sanity was restored when I discovered and listened to a recent conversation between Rev. Todd Wilken and Rev. Hans Fiene about this very same subject.
This is most certainly true.
Friends, the good news is that even when we've sinned by letting our so-called "Moral Compass" run askew lately as Christians, we can rest on the promises of God that we have His forgiveness.
1 John 2:1-6 (ESV) My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says "I know him" but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
1 John 2:15-17 (ESV) Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life -- is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
1 John 2:28-29 (ESV) And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.
We must abide in Christ by abiding in His Word, which is clear, plain, and simple!
The minute we start departing from the Word of God by adding to or removing things from it, the moment we start to shift its intended meaning within the context ever so slightly, that's the precise moment that Satan, the Old Adam, and the world collectively begin to rejoice over our obvious pride and dwindling lack of faith.
So, how's your so-called Moral Compass working today? Is it time for a check-up perhaps? There can be peace and unity, but it has to be centered around doctrine, the Word of God, "the Word became flesh" (John 1:14), our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, which is why I will continue to pray that the Lord will help me, the poor, miserable sinner that I am, to continue to "have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh" (Jude 1:22-23).
Why does it even matter if a Christian's Moral Compass is out of whack with the very Word of God that is supposed to be making it work properly?
You see, God’s mercy is big enough for all. For we are all sinners, Jews and Gentiles alike. Israelites, Canaanites; insiders, outsiders; good people, bad people; church people, and people who haven’t set foot in church in years. We are all sinners in need of God’s mercy and forgiveness. Which is why Jesus came in the first place. To be the Savior of all people. And that’s what he accomplished when he, the very Son of God, shed his blood on the cross, suspended between heaven and earth. Jesus was making peace, peace with God, dying in the place of all sinners, you and me included. Respectable ones and people on the fringe, we all have been disobedient toward God, but God has had mercy on us all. Forgiveness, peace, life, eternal salvation–this is the free gift of God in Christ Jesus for all who call upon his name. If that is so–and it is–then Christ’s church, our church, likewise is to be a home and a welcoming center for all, including those people on the fringe. There are people in our community who might fit that billing of “people on the fringe.” They have gotten off track in their life. They have made bad choices in life. They may not have darkened the door of a church in a long time. But . . . but they know you. And you know them. Or at least you come into contact with them and have the opportunity to reach out to them and get to know them. Who are they, these people you meet and come into contact with? They are people with needs. They are people who are hurting–although they may not always show it. They are divorced or separated. They are depressed. They are parents with children who are autistic or suffering from various diseases. These are people on the fringe. And we, we who ourselves have found help and hope and healing in Christ–we are set among our neighbors to bring them light, to bring them God’s love and mercy, to bring them Jesus. So let’s be on the lookout for those hurting people and how we can be a channel of God’s blessing to them. Those people on the fringe. Who knows? God may just use us to give them the same mercy and comfort that we ourselves have received. God grant it for Jesus’ sake.
Now, I'm not advocating or implying that there's merit to the whole "Sacramental Entrepreneur" nonsense at all, but if we don't acknowledge that we ourselves are sinner's in daily need of repenting of our sins to receive God's mercy and forgiveness, preferring to wallow in our own sins as opposed to warring against them (2 Peter 2:17-22), then how in the world can we ever speak to non-believers about "the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15) if we, like them, go through life embracing, ignoring, and minimizing sin, when the truth is that "if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8)?
At the end of the day, it's not about us pointing the finger at others, but about us recognizing that we are the sinners in need of God's forgiveness.
In a Lutheran layman's terms, every Christian's Moral Compass gets out of whack sometimes, but when it does and it's brought to our attention, then our only response should always be the same at the end of each day: "Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love … blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin … wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow" (Psalm 51:1,2,7).
NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 3 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse footnotes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!