Nov 252011
 

Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.

Ephesians 5:4 (ESV)

There are some things that absolutely do not go together: You have heard it said that oil and water do not mix. That’s true. This is rivalry week in college football. One cannot be an Ohio State fan and a Michigan fan at the same time. One cannot be an Auburn fan and an Alabama fan at the same time. One cannot be a Georgia fan and a Georgia Tech fan at the same time. These things just don’t mix. As much as I love bratwurst and sauerkraut, that just does not fit with Thanksgiving! We were meant to eat turkey, ham, stuffing, potatoes, yams, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and pecan pie on Thanksgiving! Anything thing else just does not seem right to me.

There is something that the apostle Paul cannot imagine fitting together: one who proclaims the name of Christ while their mouth is filled with filthiness, foolish talk and crude joking. The Apostle Paul was instrumental in teaching and leading the church in Ephesus (See Acts 18:24-20:36). He taught the word earnestly for three years, admonishing them with tears. He poured his heart into these believers. Now, while Paul is in a Roman prison, he addresses an issue that must be evident among the believers in Ephesus. He had to admonish them again to be imitators of God and to walk in love as Christ loved them. He warned them against the dangers of sexual immorality and he says that immorality should not even be named among them. Perhaps from Timothy, Paul hears about their language. The words that he hears that are coming out of their mouths is unbecoming as a Christian. Their minds are filled with filth and they were telling crude jokes and laughing about those said by others. Apparently, they would not take a stand against those that spoke this way, and hence they communicated that it was no big deal. It was just innocent fun.

But Paul makes very clear that these things are out of place. Filthiness and foolish talk and crude joking are never appropriate for God’s people. Filthy talk reveals what is inside the heart. Paul wants them to think before they speak. He wants to put a check in their spirit when they are tempted to tell a crude joke to get a laugh from their friends. The jokes really are not funny and they do not edify. In Ephesians 4:29, Paul says, “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.”

Do you know what is fitting for a Christian to say? Paul says that our mouths should be filled with thanksgiving! Now those go together! Christians should be the most thankful people on the earth. Praise and thanksgiving should abound in our hearts and subsequently on our lips. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of His own will he brought us forth by the Word of Truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” God has been so good to us. Anything less than thanksgiving comes from a heart filled with pride and self-sufficiency. All that we have and all that we enjoy comes from His gracious hand.

On this Thanksgiving Day of 2011 and the days that follow, let thanksgiving be spoken among you. Let your children hear the words of life. Let them hear you speak of God’s greatness and grace. Let us be known as thankful people.

Let us reflect on God’s goodness to us. As the hymn tells us, and I believe rightly so, “Count your blessings, name them one by one; count your many blessings, see what God has done. Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your many blessings, see what God has done.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Nov 172011
 

Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men.

2 Thessalonians 3:1-2 (ESV)

We had a very special service at our church last week. Our minister of music, Michael Roderick, was ordained for Gospel ministry. It is a special time for the man called to ministry and for the local church that affirms that call. Godly ministers are a gift from Christ, the Lord and Head of His body (Eph.4:7-12). He purchased His bride with His own blood. He will build His church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).

The Sovereign Head of the church said that, “As the Father has sent Me, so I am sending you” (John 20:21). And to what kind of world is Christ sending us? In Matthew 10:16, Jesus told his disciples, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.” While we at Redeemer were enjoying our special time together, there were churches in parts of the world whose pastors were arrested, beaten, taken from their wives and children, imprisoned and killed. There also were Christians that were tortured, churches that were burned to the ground, a Christian teenager beheaded, and others suffering incredibly. You can read about these instances on persecution.com, the home of the Voice of the Martyrs. November 13 was the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Of course, the persecuted church should be in our prayers daily.

An excellent spiritual exercise for a believer is to read and study the prayers of the apostle Paul. I sometimes read Paul’s prayers and then ask myself, “Bill, what are you praying for?” In 2 Thessalonians 3, Paul asks the believers to pray for him (and Silas and Timothy, see 1:1), and Paul’s great concern is that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and that it might be honored. You see, as always, Christ sends out his children as sheep among wolves. The wolves lie in wait to devour the sheep. The message of the cross is foolishness to them. They do not honor the word of the Lord, but rather they mock it, and scorn it, and ridicule and abuse those that treasure it. So Paul also asks that the Thessalonians pray that he might be delivered from wicked and evil men.

Nothing has changed in 2000 years in regard to persecution. Evil and wicked men still try to stop the Church from expanding. It is estimated that 171,000 of our brothers and sisters will die at the hands of the enemies of Christ in 2011. The difference in present-day America is that since we suffer so little, those who suffer a lot are often forgotten. Do we pray that the word of the Lord would speed ahead and be honored when we really face little to no opposition? Probably not like we should. We are not constantly being pursued by evil and wicked men. In God’s providence, I have not suffered like many others. Would I be willing to? How about you?

At the very least, we can be a voice. A voice that speaks up for those who are being persecuted. We can pray fervently that God’s word would speed ahead mightily in these very difficult areas and that His Word would be honored and loved and cherished. We can pray that God would deliver believers from evil and wicked men, though we know that according to His sovereign plan, He doesn’t always bring deliverance. We can pray for America and the indifference among the churches here. Let us not forget to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters, and against the callousness in our own hearts. Let’s pray that God’s Word will speed ahead and be honored by all.

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