[Oct 28]—Speaking the (blank) in (blank)

            Jesus promised us that when he left us to return to the Father, he wouldn’t leave us as orphans. He promised to send the Holy Spirit to pour out strength, blessing, and what we need as individual Christians and as the collective Church to carry out his agenda. And a big part of the Spirit’s job is to send gifted people to “to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”
            What do we mean by the body being “built up”? The Body of Christ, the universal Church, the number of true believers world-wide, must be built up in numbers and in maturity. People with the gift of evangelism reach out to the lost and share the Good News of Christ with them, but they also equip the other members to share Christ as well. In this game, there aren’t “professional” Christians and spectator Christians--who are big fans and who support the players and cheer them on from the stands. No, we're all meant to be out on the field, and we’re playing for the pleasure of an audience of One.
            The Church must grow in maturity as well. As we mentioned yesterday, it entails getting to know our Savior better, both in head-knowledge (knowing better the truth about him) and in personal knowledge, like me knowing my dad better on a personal level.
            Why am I rehashing all this? Because this is leading to something very important. Paul says that once we become (more) mature, something will change within us. To be more specific, we'll stop doing something, and we'll start doing something.
            First, “we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.” That’s a mark of a less mature Christian. Today there’s a lot of bad teaching out there; in fact, it’s a lot harder to find good teachers than to find bad ones. There are a lot of Pseudo-Christian teachers and teaching out there, and it’s hard to keep grounded in God’s truth, especially if you aren’t familiar with any of the names. It’s the easiest thing in the world to get carried away with a weird teaching from some slick teacher who sounds good.
            One of the reasons why less mature Christians are more vulnerable to this is A) They aren’t familiar with God’s word enough to sort the wheat from the chaff, and B) They haven’t trained themselves to be discerning, not “[having] trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” Not to be insulting or anything, but my experience with physical infants is that they don’t have the most discriminating of tastes. If they’re crawling on the floor and see something and need to investigate it, what do they do? Naturally they put it in their mouth. I’m sure all the parents out there could share plenty of horror stories about how their little one found and stuck something in their mouth without a care in the world. That’s why we lock the poison cabinet.
            That, by the way, is a huge reason for a new believer—really any believer—to get plugged into a local church, a local body of believers who love God, love his word, and love people the way they’re supposed to. They desperately need a church to appoint more mature Christians to take the newcomer under their wing and help them learn discernment skills and how to handle the word of God effectively.
            Second, as we mature, we’ll speak the truth in love. I love that perfect tension, don’t you? Unfortunately, it’s mighty rare for a believer to actually have that balance. Most of us fall off on one side or the other. There are plenty of “love talkers” who are really good at encouragement, compliments, comforting, etc. We sorely need them. And there are also “truth talkers” who are great at “telling it like it is,” and who don’t normally gets huge points for tact. We desperately need them in the Church as well. We need Barnabases and John the Baptists.                              
            But ideally each of us should strive towards the balance cited here, and maybe working towards getting better in our weak areas. If you catch yourself condoning bad behavior and refusing to confront someone when they’re obviously wrong or acting badly, then that’s something to pray over. Or if you find yourself coming off as being uncaring or lacking compassion, then that’s something to work on as well; remember, Paul tells us that a mark of maturity is to speak the truth in love. Even in his harshest criticisms of the Galatian and Corinthian believers, the reason he was so harsh was because he loved them so much, and it showed. You can almost imagine the tear drops on the parchment as he wrote to them.
            To all the “love” speakers out there, who find it hard to say anything that might be construed as being “judgmental,” you need to hear this very carefully: If someone is screwing up and you avoid saying anything to them for fear of offending them, then you’re not being a friend to them. If you know a lost person, and you see an opportunity to share the Good News with them, and don’t, that’s a very bad thing.
            To all the “truth speakers” out there, who need to be reminded about the “in love” part of the equation, let me try to answer an objection I can already hear coming: “If you tell them anything they don’t want to hear, then they accuse you of not being loving. Try to mention anything about sin or judgment or God’s standards or their need for Christ to save them from hell, and you’re sure to be labeled a bigot, a homophobe, or a hater.” I hear you. I share your frustration. I know that no matter how much you couch your presentation with expressions of love, compassion, etc., they’re going to take it that way, particularly in this society/culture. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I don’t shy away from telling it like it is, as best as I can read it from Scripture. But. . . there is a way to make it clear that you’re not their judge, that you’re a sinner in dire need of grace just like they are, and that you’re only one beggar telling another beggar where to get bread. As long as you make the sincere effort, asking the Lord to speak through you, coming towards them without a judgmental attitude, then that’s all anyone can ask. You’re in good company: Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, etc., were all accused of not loving those they castigated, and the exact opposite was the case. Just try to be aware of how you’re coming across, and choose your words carefully. Do your best, by his grace, to speak the truth in a loving way.
            So which do you need to work on?

Lord Jesus, I know that my main problem most of the time is that I’m silent when I should speak. When someone needs to hear the truth spoken in love, that’s a time when silence is NOT golden. By your grace, help me to speak your words of hope, of life, of the need for Christ. Please. 

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