Word Perfect by Dr. Abidan Shah

WORD PERFECT

WORD PERFECT by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  Words are important, especially in an election year. Pop quiz. Who said these words? “Fourscore and seven years ago” – Lincoln. “We have nothing to fear but fear itself” – FDR. “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country” – Kennedy. “Read my lips – no new taxes” – Bush Sr. “I didn’t inhale” – Clinton. Last week, we learned from Solomon in the Old Testament that words are incredibly powerful. They can be used to give life or cause death. In today’s message, we will go to James in the New Testament to learn how to have perfect words. Here’s the main point: How we use our words is a direct reflection of what is in our hearts. Hateful words come from a hate-filled heart. Christful words come from a Christ-filled heart. It’s only when we are jostled in life through trials that we reveal what is truly inside our hearts. Today’s message is called “WORD PERFECT” from James 3:1-12.

As you know, James is probably the most practical and down to earth book in the New Testament, if not the whole Bible. In this section, he deals with the incredible power in our words and how to keep them in check.

James 3:1 “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers…”

Apparently, as the infant church was growing, many were seeking to be teachers of the growing Christian tradition. Maybe, it was on such basis as – “I lived next door to someone who knew Peter” or “Jesus came to me in a special dream” or “I have the gift of teaching.” Such self-proclaimed teachers were probably the source of division, infighting, and hateful speech in the early church. Hence, James was warning them not to be so eager to become a rabbi. Why? “…knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.” Did you know that pastors, Sunday school teachers, and Bible study leaders will give a special account on the day of judgment? People ask me “Is it easier for you to preach, now that you have been preaching for all these years?” My answer: “It is actually harder because I know now what is at stake—people’s lives, marriages, and future destinies!”

Now, James addresses everyone, not just teachers, regarding their words. 3 things:

I. Our Words Control Our Actions.

2 “For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.” There are 2 ways to see this statement:

  1. If you can control your mouth, which is so unruly and uncontrollable, you can definitely control the less unruly members of your body. Think about it – Which is easier to do? Lie or murder. Lie, of course. But, if I can keep myself from lying, then there is a good chance that I can also keep myself from murdering somebody. If you are a liar, you are one step closer to being a murderer.
  2. Your mouth controls your body. That sounds strange, but think about it—Things don’t just happen. There’s always a progression. We might conceive an action in our minds but the thought is first expressed in our words. Words are the first building blocks to action. Things move from our mind to our words to our actions. I think this may very well be what James had in mind because of the 2 illustrations he gives:
  • A horse and its bridle: 3 “Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body.” A Horse can weigh on an average a 1000 pounds or more, but a 100-pound girl can control the horse because she has the reins which control the bit in the horse’s mouth.
  • A ship and its rudder: 4 “Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires.”

Here’s the point: If you don’t like where you are headed, change the way you talk. Some people have a self-denigrating and self-deprecating talk. If you say, “I am just a loser. I am so stupid. I am an idiot,” you are living up to your words. We shape our words and then our words shape us. Many of us are speaking our world into existence!

Sometimes, it’s not our own words, we are living up to the words of someone else in our life. Sometime back I was listening to a message by someone who ministers to prisoners. He said: it does not fail when he asks them to raise their hands if they ever heard their father say: “Boy, someday you will end up in prison.” Almost all the hands go up. The direction of their life was set by the words of their father. As a pastor, I have to be careful who I let speak into my life, especially before preaching.

As a pastor, I can predict with a high level of accuracy which way you are headed by the words you use:

  • Pitiful words – headed towards depression;
  • Angry words – headed towards violence;
  • Boastful/prideful words – headed towards a fall;
  • Adulterous/flirtatious words – headed towards an affair. Listen to David in Psalms 34  12 “Who is the man who desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good? 13 Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit.”

This is not pop psychology. This is God’s Word. Pop psychology stole this concept from God’s Word!

Application: Which way are you headed? Are you dissatisfied with where your life is going? Better Question: What are you saying? What words are ringing in your ears?

II. Our Words Can Cause a Chain Reaction.

5 “Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.” A better translation: A tongue is small but it boasts of big destructions.

Again, James gives us 2 illustrations to prove his point:

  • Forest Fire: 5 “…See how great a forest a little fire kindles!” Thousands of acres are destroyed due to one tiny spark. 6 “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.” The tongue can start a forest fire from hell.
  • Deadly Poison: 7 “For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. 8 But no man can tame the tongue…” James takes us to the circus with elephants, horses, lions and tigers. He takes us to Sea World with Dolphins and Killer Whales. All of these can be tamed but not the tongue. “…It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” The King Cobra in India can with one tiny bite send a person into convulsions within minutes and die. Listen to David in Psalm 140 1“Deliver me, O LORD, from evil men; Preserve me from violent men, 2 Who plan evil things in their hearts; They continually gather together for 3 They sharpen their tongues like a serpent; The poison of asps is under their lips.”

What’s the point? Just like a tiny spark can cause a forest fire unexpectedly and one tiny bite can kill a full-grown person, the tongue is small but it can cause big damage.

For e.g. Imagine a Mr. Kindle (Remember – “See how great a forest a little fire kindles!”). One Monday morning, Mr. Kindle was running a little behind for his 9 am meeting. So, he checked his rearview mirror and gently stepped on the gas. “5 miles over is alright.” He looked at his watch again and decided to make it 10 and then 15 miles over the speed limit. Unbeknownst to him, a policeman at the intersection clocked him at 20 miles over the speed limit, pulled him over, and gave him a tongue lashing and a ticket to go with it. Mr. Kindle was furious – “Look at this cop giving me a ticket instead of catching some real criminal out there!” Now Mr. Kindle was really late. He marched into the office, yelling for his secretary Mrs. Henderson – “Where are the files that I told you to have ready for the meeting?” Mrs. Henderson – “You told me not to worry about them and that you would print them yourself.” Mr. Kindle – “Stop making excuses and get me those files. Don’t think that I cannot replace you!” Mrs. Henderson is now furious. She stomps back to her office mumbling, “How dare he talk to me that way!” As she is turning on her computer, she notices the new temp Karen looking at her phone. “Karen!” she yells, “We did not hire you to play on your phone. Get busy or go home.” Karen is now furious – “How dare Mrs. Henderson talk to me like that. I was simply trying to access Google docs to help her out! Fine! She can find it herself!” Karen takes an early lunch, still fuming over the morning’s happenings. Just then, young Nick comes by her window to take her order. This is his first week on the job. He is nervous. He is still learning. He forgets to greet her. Karen says to herself – “Look at the kind of kids they hire these days. When I was working, we had standards.” She gets her order and as she is driving off, she notices that her fries are missing. She’s had enough. She stomps back to the window – “I need to see your manager and I need to seem him now!” The manager comes over – “This young man was extremely rude to me and he purposely messed up my order! If you don’t do something about it, I will call corporate!” Reluctantly, the manager sends Nick home for the day. Nick is now mad – “That is so unfair! I didn’t do anything wrong!” He screeches to a halt in his driveway. Just then his dog Spot comes to greet him, as always, but this time, Nick is in no mood for that – “Leave me alone, you dumb dog!” – and he kicks at him. What he doesn’t see is that as Spot jumps back to avoid the kick, he turns over the charcoal grill from last night. Even though Nick’s dad had checked to make sure that there was no live coal, one smoldering ember rolls into the patch of dry grass behind the house. That evening, hundreds of acres of woods were on fire. Question: Who started the fire? Spot, Nick, or Mr. Kindle? Mr. Kindle!

Do you see how our words can cause a chain reaction? Are you a verbal arsonist? If you think that all this is just pop psychology (the human potential movement), this is where that stops but the Word of God keeps going.

III. Our Words Convey What is Inside.

9 “With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.” Something interesting here: James has shifted the terminology from word to tongue to mouth. Why mouth? Maybe because Jesus used that word. Matthew 12:34 Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Matthew 15:11 “Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” The point is that this is no secondary injunction. Jesus commanded this!

What is the problem? 11 “Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.” The problem lies in the heart. Our words are a good indicator of what is in our hearts. Both Jesus and James explained the Freudian slip centuries before Freud.

The Content of the Old Well: Sin Nature, Upbringing, Bad Examples, Bad Experiences, Daily Barrage from the World, Flesh, and the Devil.

The Content of the New Well: New Creation through Christ, Feeding on the Word, Godly Fellowship, Rejection of Worldly Values, New Habits.

For e.g.  Someone said this:

  • Show me a harsh tongue and I will show you an angry heart.
  • Show me a negative tongue and I will show you a fearful heart.
  • Show me an overactive tongue and I will show you an unsettled heart.
  • Show me a boastful tongue and I will show you an insecure heart.
  • Show me a filthy tongue and I will show you an impure heart.
  • Show me a critical tongue and I will show you a bitter heart.
  • Show me someone who says “hell” all the time and I will show you what’s inside.

Invitation: Has your heart been transformed by salvation through Jesus? Are you saved? How much do you care about the words that come from your lips? The work has to begin here (heart) and then here (mouth). It begins with humility, acknowledgment and repentance. Just like Isaiah we need God’s touch on our lips.

Rotten Blessings by Pastor Abidan Shah

ROTTEN BLESSINGS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Rotten BlessingsIntroduction:  Sometime back someone gave us some Georgia peaches. I love peaches! I had a couple and I put the last two in the fruit bowl in the kitchen. The next day Nicole went grocery shopping and bought a bag of oranges. One of the inhabitants of our home put the bag of oranges right on top of the peaches. I forgot all about them. Couple of weeks went by until we got to the last of the oranges and I felt something pulpy and slimy underneath. Buried under there were those two peaches. They had rotten. What caused them to rot? To start with, they began dying the moment they were plucked from the tree, the source of life. Then, under the weight of the oranges, their thin skin was easily broken which made it easier for the elements to take over. When the inside of the peaches became exposed to air, then microorganisms began to use them for their own purposes. I can go on and on but losing their source of life was the first step towards rottenness. So also with us, God blesses us with many blessings. But, when we detach ourselves from him, the source of our blessings, those same blessings become rotten. That’s the title of our message “ROTTEN BLESSINGS.”

Malachi 2   1 “And now, O priests, this commandment is for you. 2 If you will not hear, And if you will not take it to heart, To give glory to My name,” Says the Lord of hosts, “I will send a curse upon you, And I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have cursed them already, Because you do not take it to heart… 9 “Therefore I also have made you contemptible and base Before all the people, Because you have not kept My ways But have shown partiality in the law.”

Question: Are you detached from the source of your blessings? Have you lost sight of God in your life? Have your blessings turned rotten for you? Are you saved?

Context: In our first message in this series on Malachi we learned that the Jewish people had become ungrateful, bitter, and cynical towards God. God sent Malachi to shock them back into reality. That’s why our series is called “Counter-shock.” As much as God was disappointed with his people, he was really angry with the spiritual leadership, the priests and the Levites. Listen to Malachi 2:1 “And now, O priests, this commandment is for you.” God was holding the priests accountable for the behavior of the people. Never forget – We will all have to give an account at the judgment seat of Christ but those who are in leadership will face a far stricter judgment as James 3:1 warns us. Now listen to verse 2 “If you will not hear, And if you will not take it to heart, To give glory to My name,” Says the Lord of hosts, (How do you give glory to God’s name? Praise him, Fear him, Represent him with truth and integrity) “I will send a curse upon you, And I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have cursed them already, Because you do not take it to heart. What does that mean that God would curse their blessings? It has 2 meanings:

  • First, it refers to the blessing that the priests would pronounce twice daily in the temple, one in the morning and the other in the evening. It’s found in Numbers 6 23 “…This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: 24 “The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; 26 The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.”’ 27“So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.” God was telling them – “When you say those words, you’re actually cursing the people.” By the way, Malachi 3:11 tells us that their crops were failing terribly at this time.
  • Second, it refers to what the priests and the Levites considered to be their personal blessings (their financial compensation, food, and their children). They too had become a source of shame and suffering.

Donald Grey Barnhouse, one of my favorite preachers from yesteryears, gave an excellent illustration of this in modern day America. Our nation was founded upon biblical values. Let me say here: There are elements in our country right now who are working very hard to tear down our foundations. Make no mistake, the attacks against our flag and our national anthem are symbolic of a much sinister attack against us as a nation. At least on September 11, 2001 we saw the planes flying into the World Trade Towers. This to me is worse because we cannot see that we are under attack but our foundational values are being torn from under us. Anyways, one of our foundational values as a nation was that Sunday was a day of rest, a day set aside to worship God. Six days we could do as we pleased but then the 7th day was to be the Lord’s Day. In the old days, everything slacked off by Saturday evenings to get ready for church the next morning. As our country departed from God, Saturday and Sunday became the weekend, the time to unwind. Saturday became the party night and still is and Sunday became the day to sleep in, especially if you had a hangover. Statistics tell us that 1 out of every 5 Americans are involved in an alcohol-related car crash and the day on which those injuries occur the most is Saturday and the second is Sunday.

Back to our illustration: After our Navy was destroyed in Pearl Harbor, our Congress held several hearings of the Joint Commission investigating the attack. There were as many as 9 investigations. Several books are there on it: At Dawn We Slept; Dec 7, 1941; Pearl Harbor Papers; etc. Our people went into the war department in Tokyo and found out that the Japanese espionage had been spying on America for years and that Admiral Yamamoto, the mastermind of the attack, had deliberately chosen Sunday morning as the day to attack. Why? Several reasons – the ships would be in the docks, most sailors would be out on leave because of pay day but more than anything, it was the one day that most people would be down with a hangover. Bottom Line: The Japanese had determined that if America was attacked early Sunday morning, it will find it most vulnerable! As you know, Sunday morning (Dec. 7th 1941) Japanese fighter planes came in. The man at the radar reported but the officer in charge didn’t do anything because of his hangover and the bombs were dropping and destroying our navy. Did God cause it to happen? Absolutely not! We took God’s blessing of the day of rest and turned into a day of hangover and our blessing became a curse. In other words, our Day of Rest became a Date which will live in Infamy, as FDR called it.

This is exactly what God is saying to us today. Every blessing comes from him but when you take him out of the blessing, it becomes a curse – Money (take God out and it becomes our Master); Education (take God out and you have school shootings); Technology (take God out and it becomes a distraction); Freedom (take God out and it becomes a liability); Marriage (take God out and it becomes a misery); and even Children (take God out and they become a nuisance) 3 “Behold, I will rebuke your descendants…” I would even add Church to that list (take God out and it becomes a meaningless ritualistic burden, a relic of the past). Have your blessings become your curses?

But God is not through – “and spread refuse on your faces, The refuse of your solemn feasts; And one will take you away with it. What’s going on here? To understand that you have to understand how sacrifices were done by the priests in the temple. It’s all laid out in the Book of Leviticus. When a person sinned, they would bring a lamb for the sacrifice. The priest would first examine the Lamb to make sure that it didn’t have any blemish. Keep in mind that all this was pointing to Christ. I Peter 1   18 “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things…19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” Then the person bringing the lamb would place their hands on the head of the lamb. It symbolized the imputation/transfer of the sins of the individual to the animal. Again, it was a picture of Christ, the Lamb of God taking our sins upon himself. Then the priest would take the lamb by the wool and lift it on top of the altar. The altar was sitting North to South with the northern end towards the Holy of Holies. By the way, the cross was located on the north side of Jerusalem. Now, with one stroke of the knife the priest would cut the jugular vein of the lamb and the blood squirting out was caught in a bowl which was then placed on the North side of the altar towards the Holy of Holies. The Blood was to becoming the propitiation for our sins. So also Jesus poured out his blood as an atonement for our sins. Someone might say, “Isn’t that barbaric?” Leviticus 17:11 “…for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” Hebrews 9:22 “. . . without shedding of blood there is no remission.” Remission means “Cancellation of debt.” God will punish sin. Either he will punish it in the individual or he will punish it in the substitute. Jesus became our substitute. All you have to do is ask him to be your Savior.

What’s next? The priest would then take the blood from the North side of the altar and sprinkle it 7 times before the veil. It would signify God’s acceptance. Now he would come out and apply the blood to the altars. It was a symbol of the way being opened from God to us. Next, the priest would take the knife and quickly flay the lamb. The wool was used for clothing. We are clothed in the righteousness of Christ. The skin was cured and the Bible would be written on it. Christ is the Word of God for us. The meat of the lamb was eaten by the priests. We feed upon Christ daily. Nothing of the lamb was wasted just as everything of Christ is essential for us. Then something else would happen. The priest would remove the intestines which was filled with unexpressed dung and put in a bowl on the south side of the altar. Later, that bowl along with the “offal,” which were the waste parts of the animal, were taken out the dung gate on the south side of the city and dumped on the ash heap outside the city walls. This place was called Gehenna, a place of constant burning. It became a symbol of Hell.

Listen again to verse 3 “and spread refuse on your faces, The refuse of your solemn feasts; And one will take you away with it.” Do you get the imagery! God is saying, “If you reject the blood of the Lamb on the north side of the altar, I will smear your face with the dung of the Lamb on the south side of the altar and you will be sent to hell. By the way, this was not just any feast but the solemn feast, the Feast of the Passover. In other words, if you refuse Jesus as your Savior, you will have him as your Judge.

Invitation: Have your blessings become a curse? Have you removed God from your blessings? Have you received the Lamb of God? Is he your Savior or your Judge?

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