Learning To Talk

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Series: Stuff You've Got To Know

Learning To Talk

September 02, 2018 | Randy Smith
Ephesians 4:29-32

Learning To Talk

Ephesians 4:29–32
Sunday, September 2, 2018
Pastor Randy Smith


 

Last week I gave you a great verse from 1 Timothy 3:4: “He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity.” In its proper context the verse applies to those selected in the church as elders and deacons (cf. 1 Tim. 3:1, 12). The following verse clarifies the logical intent. “If a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God? (1 Tim. 3:5).

Yet as I have mentioned in the past, this does not mean that men not in the position of church leadership are exempt. This is a biblical requirement for all men. All men (and women as we will see in a moment) are to manage their households well. Paul is only saying that the church should be careful to make sure the men they select as elders and deacons are fulfilling this expectation.

Last week we learned it is our responsibility to provide loving leadership by example and service to ensure that our family is well-managed, honoring God in everything we do. We learned about the need to demonstrate love that is affectionate, love with cheerful giving and love consistent to discipline our children.

One prominent Christian said, “Some of us need to repent both privately and publicly over this sin.” He goes on to say, “My kids have a pretty good tempermants, but am I managing – protectively and caringly leading – my family practically and spiritually? Am I modeling and cultivating tenderness, respect, and obedience? Or am I just coasting on good kid temperament? Do I take time to instruct my children with patience and love? Do I pray with them and teach them about Jesus? Do I spend time with my wife away from the kids discussing family life and just delighting in her?” (Jonathan Dodson).

Men, are we taking the responsibility to have our homes and our personal lives in order, ultimately so our Savior is not maligned when we tell unbelievers we are Christians? Are we acting as ambassadors of Christ?

Though men have the ultimate accountability before God for this responsibility, wives definitely have their part to play as well. As we read further in 1 Timothy, Paul in chapter 5 instructs the younger women to “marry, bear children, manage the house, (and the same reason is provided, so we) give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully” (1 Tim. 5:14 - NKJV).

In the past we used the term “homemakers.” It is a shame that word is becoming outdated because it perfectly describes the high calling and sacred privilege of every wife to transform the house into a home. Women are to be home managers (oikodespoteo) as well. They have a responsibility to create a loving and nurturing environment where peace, order and godly living prevail.

I know I have been pressing this concept of a well-managed home hard the past two weeks, but if we carefully read our Bibles, we cannot escape this essential topic. God is not glorified, nor does anyone benefit from chaos and pandemonium.

Now allow me to be clear. I understand that every home has growing pains. I understand that every home encounters various problems. A well-managed home does not imply perfection. But possibly the best indication of a well-managed home is how families deal with problems when they do occur. There will be sin, but do they know how to detect unbiblical behavior? Do they know how to repent and forgive and reconcile? There will be conflict and let-downs, but do they know how to resolve that conflict? Do they know how to persevere after a setback, or do they fold and throw in their cards?

With these thoughts in mind I wish to continue discussing a well-managed home and I have decided to devote this sermon to the topic of communication. For I am convinced that proper communication is foundational and necessary to establish and maintain sound relationships that characterize a well-managed home.

Due to the celebration of the Lord’s Table, my time is very limited. However, this morning I would like to share with you some very basic and practical principles of communication that I believe will greatly help in providing order within your family.

If your Bibles are closed, please reopen them to Ephesians 4. In Ephesians 4, Paul is talking about unity within the church. Verse 3, “Being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (cf. Eph. 4:4-6; 13, 16). Later in the chapter he speaks about distinctive Christian living. Verses 22-24, “That, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” The call is for unity and Christian living.

It goes without saying that communication is essential to both unity and Christian living. Therefore, we should not be surprised that the Apostle makes some remarks about this important topic right here within this chapter. From Ephesians 4, let’s look at three aspects of communication.

1. Loving Communication (Eph. 4:15)

Let’s begin by examining “Loving Communication,” our first point. Chapter 4, verse 15, “But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.” Just concentrating on the first half and eliminating the truth part, the verse reads, “Speaking…in love.”

What does it mean to speak with love? Well, I believe the context helps us to get a better understanding. In chapter 4, verse 1 we are called to “walk in manner worthy of the calling with which [we] have been called.” Our calling as a Christian is simple – we are to follow Christ in all that we do. And it obviously goes without saying that Jesus Christ spoke with love. So what did the loving speech of Jesus Christ look like that we are to imitate?

We could say that it was holy, truthful and righteous (Eph. 4:24). It was purposeful to accomplish the greatest good. It was wise in the choice of words and in the best time to speak those words. It was as verse 2 of Ephesians 4 says, “With all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love.”

Yet when I consider this topic of loving communication, I believe we often overlook the most important aspect. I believe it is one of the most telling signs of a godly person. We must remember that communication is more than just talking. It also involves listening. The ability to listen, more than the ability to speak words, definitely displays love in our communication.

For example, how many times have you tried to speak with someone and the other person shows absolutely no interest in what you have to say? How does it make you feel? How do you feel loved when your comments are met with blank stares, yawns or eyes off in another direction? How often have you engaged someone in conversation and had the feeling that all they cared about was topping your story, cracking a joke, displaying their wisdom or correcting your opinion? Do you feel loved when people finish your stories, add emphasis to your comments or interrupt you in mid sentence? Proverbs 18:13, “He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him.”

The Bible calls us to “be quick to hear, slow to speak” (Jas. 1:19) and even though nature teaches us that because we have two ears and one mouth we should hear twice as much as we speak, we have become a society of terrible listeners. And I am guilty. I just love to hear myself talk. Often I can’t wait for you to finish your sentence so I can interject the wise thing that everyone is dying to hear! So I think! To some degree we are all guilty and in doing so we display an unloving heart that basically declares, “I am more important than you.”

It’s been said, our ears listen for what our heart craves. Do what listen for communicate zeal for my kingdom or zeal for God’s kingdom?

When we listen we are communicating to the person that we value what they have to say – that is love! We are communicating that we do not have all the answers and are open to new perspectives – that is humility! Remember, it is the fool that “does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind” (Pr. 18:2). When we listen we communicate that we respect the individual as a person.

You might wonder, beyond simply biting my lip, what can I do to become a more loving listener? For starters, look the speaker in the eyes. Other helpful suggestions are stopping what you are doing to show the person that you care enough to give your undivided attention. Dads, this may mean turning off the ballgame for a few moments! Again, the goal is to give the impression that the person speaking to you is more important than anything else. Concentrate carefully on what the other person is saying. Ask clarifying questions, provide statements of agreement, and insert reflective thoughts. Through your words and body language, let the other person believe his or her words are getting through – that you are feeling what they are feeling at the moment. Listening rescues my sinful heart from myself!

Any fool can talk. Yet a good listener reveals all the fruit of the Spirit – self-control, patience and especially love (Gal. 5:22-23).

2. Open Communication (Eph. 4:25)

So our communication must be loving and as we move to the second point, it must also be open. Ephesians 4:25, “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.”

As you can see, the verse calls us to be truthful in our conversation with each other. It is only natural that if we claim to follow Jesus Christ who is “the truth” (Jn. 14:6), that we put off the old self – the old heart that seeks to deceive, the characteristic of Satan – “the father of lies” (Jn. 8:44) and be honest with one another in our communication.

Yet there is more to being honest than just telling the truth. Part of being honest with our family members is keeping open the lines of communication. I am not saying that we always need to share everything, but I am saying that authentic relationships only result from genuine communication – engaging in life’s matters on a daily basis. We are not relating to phantoms but real people. And it is impossible to relate in a meaningful way when we fail to “open-up” and share our hearts and talk about what really makes us “tick.”

Consider the following example: “Tom and Jill sat across the desk (from their counselor). She said in the most bitter terms, “I am absolutely certain that this husband of mine is cheating on me; he’s been stealing from his overtime pay…and I want to know what he’s been doing with [the money].” She had been holding this in for the last four or five months, ever since she had discovered that it had been going on. As a result she had been growing more and more bitter every day. Turning to her husband the counselor said,“Tom, where did the money go; did you really take it?” Slowly he reached into his pocket, pulled out his wallet, dug down into the secret compartment, and replied, “It’s all here,” as he pulled it out and threw it on the desk. “I’ve been saving it for our anniversary for a special treat for Jill” (from: Jay Adams, Christian Living in the Home, p. 29).

Now the example breaks down because the man obviously could not reveal a surprise he had planned for his wife, but I believe you understand the point I am attempting to make. Had many couples communicated clearly, there would be less jumping to faulty conclusions and more development of deeper unity and intimacy.

Are you as a family really getting to know one another? Can you identify the fears, disappointments, joys, goals, feelings, burdens and interests of each another? Are potential conflicts avoided and active conflicts resolved before that iron wedge begins to cut and divide? Through your open communication are you eliminating family boredom, discontentment, frustration, confusion and misunderstanding?

You know it is much easier to just talk about the weather than enter this depth of communication. It takes time and thought and energy. It makes one vulnerable. But in the long run, it is only those who engage in genuine, open and honest communication who have the homes where peace and order prevail.

3. Edifying Communication (Eph. 4:29)

Loving communication, honest communication and finally edifying communication. As I focused earlier on our ability to be a good listener, I will close with our ability to be a good speaker. And God cares about what we say because our words are an overflow of our hearts (Mt. 12:34; 15:18). And what kind of speaking does God expect?

Ephesians 4, verses 29-32 say, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

“Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” We have all been around long enough to know that this popular children’s ditty is totally untrue. I would wager that most of the pain imbedded in our hearts results from simple words that were either hateful or careless or cutting or vindictive or violent or hasty or bitter. Many souls have been left battered and beaten and weary and hopeless in the wake of common speech uttered by one they trusted. The Bible is replete with examples. The tongue is called “a restless evil and full of deadly poison” (Jas. 3:8). And our words at times are compared to “the thrusts of a sword” (Pr. 12:18) and a “scorching fire” (Pr. 16:27).

The overwhelming majority of the problems I as a pastor deal with in the church result from the destructive power of simple words.

Yet as Christians we are called to, the end of verse 29, “give grace to those who hear” us speak. The beginning of the verse commands us to avoid “unwholesome words,” and rather, speak words that are “good for edification.”

“Unwholesome” (sapros) was used in its day to refer to rotten fruit and spoiled vegetables. In speech it refers to the bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander and malice spoken of in verse 31. “Edification” on the other hand means employing words that are helpful and encouraging and uplifting. Or as verse 32 says, words that are kind, tender-hearted and forgiving. Edifying speech seeks to build-up the other person in his or her faith. It is seeking to shift the focus away from our self in a deliberate attempt to consider the other person’s needs greater than our own (Phil. 2:3).

Verse 29 also adds that we are to speak these words “according to the need of the moment.” Again if we are to breathe grace, we are to think about the best choice of our words (Pr. 12:25; 15:1, 23; 16:23) and the proper time to speak them (Pr. 15:23, 28; 25:11-12). We will have the wisdom in knowing how to speak according to the need of the moment.

So in order to have a well-managed home our communication must follow the principles outlined for us in Ephesians 4. Namely, it must be loving and open and edifying. Are we demonstrating this care for one another within our families?

We are called to love our families, but let’s always keep that love in its proper context. Let’s always remember that before we make our family our god, that Jesus said, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Mt. 10:37; cf. Lk. 14:26; Col 1:18). The key to a well-managed home from the past two sermons can be boiled down into one phrase: “Love one another.” Yet let’s remember that Jesus demands to be loved first in the family. And it is only when we love Him more than family that we will honor God and really love our families in the highest and purest sense possible. It is only when we “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, [that] all these things [even things like a well-managed home!] will be added to [us]” (Mt. 6:33).

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