Ale & Teviot United Church


Confessions of a short-distance runner

13 March 2011 : Matthew 12 : 30-37

Over the past 2 weeks, as we’ve studied this passage, we’ve dealt with major issues such as the unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, and the vital connection between what you are and what you do. If you want to follow what was said, I’ve posted the messages on the church website.

And so, at the third attempt, we try to put these 8 verses to bed, but there is a sting in the tail. Or perhaps I should say a bite in the fangs, as Jesus delivers a colourful rebuke to his opponents – a brood of vipers. Not an accidental description, either, as you most certainly don’t want a close encounter with a viper’s mouth, and it is precisely what comes out of the mouths of these characters that causes all the problems.

The heart-and-mouth connection is important, and I promise you’ll be very glad you heard this. Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. That’s what Jesus said, v.34. We’ve heard Jesus use this word overflow elsewhere, in John 10.10, when Jesus declared that He came to earth that we might enjoy life, in abundance, till it overflows.

If we’re living that abundant life in Jesus, the words that come out of our mouth ought to reflect that. Positive, affirming, encouraging, faith-filled words. But if, like the Pharisees to whom the statement was addressed, you’re still tied in knots by fear and insecurity, jealousy and resentment, guess what words are going to come out of your mouth? Negative words, destructive words, critical words, complaining words, words that no-one else will want to listen to. And here’s an interesting thing.

Your words are dynamic, one way or another. If your words encourage, uplift and build up the people you are speaking to, they will want to be around you. Those words will nurture and strengthen your relationships. They will also, I might add, bring out the best in other people. But if your words are harsh, judgemental and discouraging, no-one’s going to enjoy being around you. People will stay away from you, you will trash your relationships, and you will make life difficult for yourself in many ways.

Think about it – who would you rather spend time with? Someone who is always ill-natured and critical, who never has a good word to say to you, who never praises, compliments or affirms you in any way, who always finds fault and whinges at you? Or someone who always has a smile, is always pleasant, who goes out of their way to speak to you in a courteous manner and takes every opportunity to commend you on anything you do well, and to be gracious on anything you don’t do so well?

It’s not a hard choice to make, is it? Well, remember that other people will also come to conclusions about us, based on the way we speak to them. And remember also that, because we are associated with Jesus, people will come to conclusions about Jesus, based on the words we speak. It’s that old ambassador thing again. The gift of speech is tremendously powerful, a huge privilege – and a huge responsibility. And if anyone knows the power of words it’s God Himself. Let me illustrate that from Scripture.
John 1 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. How did God create the universe? By the Word of His power. Now don’t try to feed me all the garbage about evolution. The universe, in all its fantastic beauty and complexity, did not just happen by chance.

Any honest scientist or mathematician will tell you that the odds against this planet being just the right distance from the sun, with just the right climate, to support human life, purely by chance, are way out beyond the realms of realistic possibility. Look at a new-born baby, and dare to suggest to the proud family that the wee one is just the umpteen-times great-grandchild of a pair of baboons. You’ll deserve all you get!!

There is infinitely more chance of Albion Rovers winning the Champions League than the universe, and indeed of human life here on this earth, being a random event, a throw of a dice somewhere. It was by the Word of God that everything came into being, and it was by the Word made flesh, in Jesus His Son, that God saved the world from the consequences of its own stupid, disobedient, rebellious behaviour. And how did Jesus come into the life of this world? Check Luke 1 : 26-38 : God sent His angel to Mary to tell her she had been chosen to bring God’s Son into the world. Words. Mary replied : I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said. Words.

On the cross, when all the sin and guilt and punishment and condemnation for all the messes mankind has made got dumped on to Jesus, the words of prophecy of Isaiah 53 were precisely fulfilled : he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities – the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed, and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

When all that took place, Jesus said : It is finished. Words. But what breathtakingly powerful words. At that moment, those three words catapulted human history on to its head, as Jesus consented to carry the weight of every sin, every sickness, every wrong thing done to or by every human being, past, present or future, and by doing that to break forever the curse of sin and guilt, disease and death. His words signal a total transformation of your eternal fortunes and mine. On that dark Jerusalem day He took our sin and guilt for a time and He gave us His righteousness for eternity. Using words

And your words and my words, Jesus tells us, are vitally important too. Romans 10.10. with the heart a person believes (adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Christ) and so is justified (declared righteous, acceptable to God), and with the mouth he confesses (declares openly and speaks out freely his faith) and confirms [his] salvation. Also. Mark 11.23 : Jesus says : if you have no doubts in your mind and believe that what you say will happen, God will do it for you. Words – of faith, hope and promise from Jesus

God’s words have creative power, and if you are a child of God through faith in Jesus, so have your words. You and I have been given tremendous authority to speak your own destiny, so let’s not mess it up by what Jesus calls in v.36 careless words.
You wake up in the morning a bit stiff : Oh, my back’s killing me. Excuse me? The Bible says that by the wounds of Jesus you have been healed. So why speak those careless words over your life? All you’re doing is confusing and discouraging yourself
I’m always broke. I’ll never have any money. Hang on, the Bible says that God’s will is for us to prosper and enjoy health, spirit, soul and body, and that He will supply all our needs through His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. But speaking careless words will shift your focus from God’s promises to your problems. That’s not clever.

I’m too old and too far gone for Jesus to bother about me. I’ll never change at my age. Pardon me, but the Bible tells me of a gangster about to face the death penalty who changed his mind at the last minute and Jesus said : Good call, buddy, today, you’ll be with me in Paradise. What makes you think you’re the world’s only hopeless case?

I believe what’s for you won’t go past you. It’s just fate, just your luck. I don’t see how your words can affect your life. Really? Trust me, sunshine, they already are affecting your life. How do I know that? Because you keep telling me you’re ill, broke, busted and disgusted, and you’re going about with a face like a wet night in Workington. Trust me, if you don’t like how your life’s shaping up, change your words, and since your words come from what you think – remember Jesus said : out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks – you’ll need first of all to get your brain into gear.

Last week I said to you that if we’re saying one thing, and Jesus is saying something different, one of us is wrong, and it’s not Jesus, Why is it that we Christians so often open our mouth and pour our careless words that go against what the Word teaches? What are we doing to ourselves, talking that rubbish? The Bible tells us, basically, that we shall have what we say. Too many of us get stuck saying what we have.

Understand the difference? Most of us chunter on and on about our problems, instead of talking of Jesus, the One in whom there is an answer to our problems. We could bore for Scotland about what’s wrong with us, when we’d do far better to zip the lip about that stuff, get into the Word, remind ourselves what God’s promises are to deal with our situation, and speak it out in faith. A wee funny story against myself here.

After the long winter break, when I got back to linesman duties on Saturdays, I found myself puffing and panting and turning blue in the face at the exertion, and that was just the pre-match warm-up routine! The penny dropped that, at my age – for the next week and a half I’m older than Herself, oh dear – if I wanted to stay involved in semi-professional football, I’d better exercise more. So I started doing a couple of laps each day round the rugby field down at Jedburgh, but I did it with a bad attitude.

I hate this running stuff. I despise running. What a bore. Grump, moan, complain – and I ended up ready for the scrapheap after a lap and a half. Anyway I took today’s message to heart and went out the other day : I love running. Thank you, Lord, for the privilege of running. By the second lap, my praising God for running was so extravagant I could hardly move for laughing – but I managed 4 laps nae bother.
I had to swallow the medicine I’m serving up to you. Today in your hymnsheet I’ve laid out a whole bunch of positive confessions for you to use. Don’t just leave them at the door as you go, don’t shove in the recycling pile, take them away and use them. Put them up on the fridge door, on your desk at work, wherever you will see them and reminded of them when you need them, and speak them out loud.

No-one else needs to hear it, because you’re actually giving yourself a good talking-to. By speaking out these words of faith, you are helping to re-programme your brain with positive, godly thoughts that will bear good fruit – remember we talked about that last week? – in your life. Remember all that Jesus went through so that you could enjoy life to the max. Don’t talk yourself out of it. Don’t fall into the trap of being hung by your tongue! Let’s make a new good habit of encouraging ourselves from the Word of God, and watch our life begin to turn round. And do let me know how you get on!

10 CONFESSIONS OF FAITH : God’s promises to overcome your problems!

God loves me so much that he gave his one and only Son so that I, by believing in Jesus, may not be lost, but have eternal life [John 3.16]

Jesus came that I may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance to the full, till it overflows. [John 10.10]

Jesus used his servant body to carry my sins to the Cross so I could be rid of sin, free to live the right way. His wounds became my healing.
[1 Peter 2.24]

Jesus intends me to have good fortune in everything I do, and to have good health—that my everyday affairs prosper, as well as my soul.
[3 John 2]

Christ took away the curse the law put on me. He changed places with me and put himself under that curse … so that God’s blessing promised to Abraham might come through Jesus Christ to me. Jesus died so that by my believing I could receive the Spirit that God promised.
[Galatians 3.13-14]

I will not worry about anything; instead, I will pray about everything. I will tell God what I need, and thank him for all he has done. Then I will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything I can understand. His peace will guard my heart and mind as I live in Christ Jesus.
[Philippians 4.6-7]

I can do everything through Jesus who gives me strength.
[Philippians 4.13]

God will meet all my needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. [Philippians 4.19]

I give all my worries and cares to God, for he cares about me.
[1 Peter 5.7]

The LORD’s love for me, as I respect and honour him, continues forever and ever, and his goodness continues to my grandchildren.
[Psalm 103.17]

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