Words Matter

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Words Matter
Matthew 12:33-37
I was born and raised in Southeast Georgia. When I was twenty-two, I moved to Florida to go to college. I took with me a Dodge pickup, $200 and an accent I could not hide. My wife is from Jacksonville beach. When we first met, she thought I was faking my accent. I guess she thought I was impersonating a Southern person. She had no idea a person could have an accent as thick as I did.
When we were together it was easy to determine that we were not from the same place. All you had to do was listen to us talk. In our passage today Jesus lets us know that we can determine where a person is from by listening to them talk. Not by listening to their accents, but by listening to the words that come out of their mouth.
We belong to the kingdom of God or we belong to the kingdom of darkness.
Either heaven or hell is our home.
The easiest way to determine if we are saved or lost is to listen to us talk. Our words matter. As we look at this text this morning, we’re going to see that:
1. Jesus is the ultimate example of Godly speech (33).
2. The Pharisees were an example of ungodly speech (34-35).
3. The world will be held accountable for their speech (36-37).
1. Jesus is the Ultimate Example of Godly Speech (33).
A. A decision must be made concerning Jesus.
Look at verse 33. Jesus says they must determine if the tree is good or corrupt. Jesus is talking about Himself. Remember what has just happened.
Jesus cast the devil out of a man.
The Pharisees said Jesus performed this miracle by the power of Satan.
Jesus told them that they were dangerously close to or had already committed the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
He told them in verse 30 that there was no middle ground concerning him. They were either with Him or against Him.
It’s decision time. They had to determine if Jesus was good or evil. There was plenty of fruit in Jesus life for them to inspect. The problem was they were looking at what was clearly good fruit inspired by the Holy Spirit and saying it was corrupt. That is, by definition, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
To the world today I would say now is the time to consider Christ. It’s time to make your decision. Who is Christ? Look at His life. Look at the fruit. Is Christ a good tree or a corrupt one? This is not a difficult decision. Any rational person would have to determine that Christ is who He claims to be.
B. Let’s consider the words of Jesus.
After all, it was the Words of Jesus that upset the Pharisees. They were ok with the healings, except the ones on the Sabbath. They were fine with the miracles, they asked to see them themselves. What upset them more than anything was the teaching of Jesus. They believed He was a corrupt tree because of what He taught.
Did you know that we would much rather see the miracles than hear the teaching of Jesus? In fact, we would rather see Jesus crucified than hear Him teach. I remember when the movie The Passion of the Christ came out. People flocked to see it. It showed the brutality and pain of the cross. People were obsessed with the movie. I’ve never seen the movie. When people ask if I have seen it I always reply “No, but I’ve read the book.” I’m not condemning the movie. I’m simply saying it says a lot about a people when we will pay to see something like this. If you read the gospels, you’ll see that God shut the lights off halfway through the crucifixion.
What if we tried an experiment? What if we had the Passion of the Christ showing in one theater and at the same time across the street, we had the Sermon on the Mount playing? On one side we had Jesus getting brutally murdered and on the other side we had Jesus simply teaching. Which do you think more people would line up to see? I think it would prove my point: We would rather see Jesus crucified than hear Him teach.
And that is exactly what the Pharisees would rather have. They couldn’t deal with the teaching of Jesus, but they showed up to watch Him get crucified.
What teaching upset the Pharisees so much?
The teaching that exposed them.
Jesus told the people that the Pharisees expected the people to live up to a standard that they did not even live up to (23:3). Jesus said, “They say and do not.”
Jesus said all of their religion was for show (23:5).
Jesus said they took advantage of widows financially (23:14).
Jesus said they were like whitewashed braves, beautiful on the outside but filled with dead men’s bones.
The teaching that exalted Jesus
Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58) and they took up stones to stone Him.
He said He was Lord of the Sabbath (12:8) and then they wanted to kill Him.
He said that God He was equal with God the Father and they tried to kill Him (John 5:17-18).
C. The results of Jesus words.
The words of Jesus have stood the test of time. No one is quoting Scribes and Pharisees two thousand years later. Clearly the words of Jesus have power.
Jesus said, “the words I speak to you are spirit and life” (John 6:63).
The words of Jesus save souls. We are saved because we believe and obey His words.
He said come unto me and find rest. People have been coming to Him and finding rest for 2000 years.
He said love your enemies and forgive one another. Relationships have been restored.
He said give and people have given to the poor and to the work of the gospel.
I could go on. But the point is the world has been transformed because of the words of Jesus.
Hospitals have been built.
Orphanages have been built.
The hungry have been fed.
Marriages have been saved.
The poor have been clothed, housed and employed.
Jesus is the ultimate example of godly speech. The fruit is obvious, the tree is good.
2. The Pharisees were the ultimate example of ungodly speech (34).
A. They were a generation of vipers.
In John 8:44 Jesus told the Pharisees they were of their father, the devil. One of the names of Satan is “that old serpent, the devil” (Rev. 20:2).
In the Garden of Eden Satan appeared as a serpent. He told lies about God. These teachers were just like the devil. They were leading people away from God with their false teaching.
Jesus has changed analogies. In verse 33 they were like poisonous trees. In verse 34 they are like poisonous snakes. Snakes are more dangerous than trees. Trees are stationary. Snakes can slither around. They can hunt. They can inject their poison into people.
Let’s consider a couple of things about snakes:
1) They can easily blend into their surroundings. They are often camouflaged. These religious leaders had blended into the spiritual life of Israel. They posed as godly people. This made it hard to see them for who they were.
2) Vipers are deadly. Jesus didn’t compare these guys to grass snakes. Their words were deadly. If people believed what they said it would lead to spiritual death.
B. They were inherently evil.
Jesus asked the question “How can you being evil speak good things?”
The point was, they couldn’t. They were evil to the core. They were like a corrupt tree, any fruit they put off would be corrupt as well.
They were like a poisonous snake. They were filled with poison.
In verse 35 we see the contrast between Jesus and the Pharisees.
The good man in verse 35 is Jesus.
The evil man in verse 35 is the religious leaders.
Jesus Father is God.
The Pharisees father is the devil.
These two are acting according to their nature.
Jesus nature is divine.
The Pharisees nature is devilish.
This brings us to an important point. We are all born sinners. Our sin nature is set against God.
We will all act according to our nature.
We will rebel against God.
We will go our own way.
We cannot do good apart from God. This is why we need Jesus. We need to be born again. We need a new nature. We need to be transformed. We need to be regenerated by the Holy Spirit. If we are not, we will continue to follow our fallen sinful nature.
We are born sinners. We must be born again to become saints. The truth is before we are saved, we are more like these Pharisees than we are Jesus.
C. They said evil things.
They called Jesus the devil.
They said Jesus didn’t know who His daddy was (John 8:19).
They called Jesus a drunk and a glutton (11:19).
They called Jesus a liar.
They said Jesus was dumb (John 7:15).
They said Jesus was a sinner (John 9:16).
They said Jesus was a false prophet.
They said Jesus was insane (John 10:20).
These men were the ultimate example of ungodly speech.
3. The world will be held accountable for their speech (36-37)
After contrasting Himself with the Pharisees Jesus now makes an application of the truth He has stated. The application is for all of us. His application contains some of the most sobering words in all of Scripture.
It’s not just the Pharisees who are judged for their words. It’s all of us. I want to extract some principles from Jesus’ application.
A. Our speech reveals what we treasure (35).
In verse 35 Jesus says a good man out of the good treasure of his heart speaks good things and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart speaks evil things.
The word “treasure” refers to a storehouse. Our heart is a storehouse. It’s filled with things we love and value. If we want to know if we value sin, the things of the world or Jesus all we have to do is listen to the way we talk.
When your mouth opens your treasury opens.
For some people it’s football, football, football.
For some it’s politics, politics, politics.
For some it’s money, money, money.
There are people who constantly talk about themselves.
There are people who are vulgar.
There are people who are angry.
It doesn’t take long to determine what a person treasures. If you speak to them for a while you’ll walk away saying:
Boy they really hate this.
Boy they really love that.
The believer’s speech should reveal that he treasures Christ.
The person of Christ. Praising Him for all He does.
The plan of Christ. Reaching the lost world.
The principles of Christ. Shunning sin and embracing holiness.
How often do you speak of Jesus, friend? You may not speak with vulgarity. You may not take the name of the Lord in vain. But how often do you speak of Christ? If you treasure Him, you will speak of Him.
When you take the lid off a pot of chili the smell naturally rises from the pot. The lid has been containing the smell. As soon as it’s removed the aroma is released because the pot is filled with chili.
If our heart is filled with Christ, if we treasure Him, when our lips part we will naturally speak of Him. The aroma of His praise will be made known. Our speech reveals what we treasure.
B. We must be disciplined in our speech.
Jesus mentions “idle” words in verse 36. The word “idle” means inactive. The idea is a person who is lazy with their speech. Not much thought goes into what they say. There’s no discipline.
I’m about to mess y’all up now. Don’t get mad at me. Have you ever heard someone brag about just saying what’s on their mind? They brag that they don’t have a filter. Somehow, they think this makes them more genuine. That’s what idle speech is. Idle speech is lazy speech. There is no effort on our part to think through what we’re saying. We just say it.
More than anything, idle speech shows that a person does not fear God. If we believe that we will give account to God for everything we say we will be careful about what we say.
We don’t want to make promises we don’t intend to keep.
We don’t want to spread information we don’t know to be true.
We don’t want to hurt someone who is made in the image of God.
The Psalmist said in 39:1
“I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth with a muzzle, so long as the wicked are in my presence.”
Psalm 141:3 says, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!”
The Christian who does not discipline the tongue is not much of a Christian. It takes no effort to live the life of a sinner. It takes great effort to live for the glory of the Lord.
I have been around people who speak so thoughtlessly they can’t even stop cussing. It’s so natural to them they do it without thinking. And that is the problem. They are not thinking. Primarily they are not thinking of God.
I recently read where General Gorge Washington was heartbroken to find that profanity had become common among American Troops. He wrote a letter in reply that said:
The General is sorry to be informed that the foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing, a vice heretofore little known in an American army, is growing into a fashion; he hopes the officers will, by example as well as influence, endeavor to check it, and that both they and the men will reflect that we can have little hope of the blessing of Heaven on our arms, if we insult it by impiety and folly; added to this, it is a vice so mean and low, without any temptation, that every man of sense and character detests and despises it.
George Washington, one of the greatest military leaders the world has known, recognized that a people who are not disciplined in their speech are an ungodly people.
C. Our words do not disappear.
Jesus said that every idle word we speak we will give account for. The context suggests that Jesus is describing lost people in this passage. Everything a lost person says is idle speech. They’re not helping the cause of Christ. If we are saved, we are forgiven. Our sins are removed. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take these verses to heart. Scripture teaches we will all stand before Christ and give account for the way we have lived. But that is a sermon for a different time.
If you are not saved none of your words are forgiven therefore none of them are forgotten. Imagine someone going to your home and getting the hard drive of your computer. They could look up all sorts of things about your life. They could find your search history. They could see images you have downloaded. They could access personal data. No one wants that.
Now imagine that every word you have ever said is uploaded to a hard drive. It’s all in a cloud. The only problem is you can’t access it. You can’t delete it. You can’t protect it with a password. There is one person who has access to it. That person is God. One day you will stand before God and He will access all of your data and show it to you.
That’s an analogy of course. But essentially that is what will happen when a lost person dies. They will have to give account for every sinful thing they have ever said.
People are often bold in their speech because they don’t realize on the day of judgment their words will be their own enemy. The words they enjoyed saying will be the evidence that condemns them.
D. Our words reveal our spiritual state (37).
In verse 37 Jesus says by our words we are justified or condemned. This means that our words reveal if we are saved or lost. We are saved by grace through faith. Our salvation is evidenced by the life we live. Primarily, Jesus says, by the words we speak.
When a person is born again, they are radically changed. The first evidence of that change is the confession of Christ as Lord with the lips (Romans 10:10). The redeemed heart cries out through the lips “Jesus is Lord!”
Our heart and our tongue are attached. That may be unsettling for some. There are those who say evil things but contend they have a good heart. If that is what you believe your problem is not with me, it’s with Jesus. Jesus is the One who said out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
There are some who speak in ungodly ways and insist they are Christians. I don’t know what they do with these passages. The text is clear. You don’t have to go to Bible college to understand what Jesus is saying. This is elementary. The way we speak reveals if we have been born again or not.
I was recently reading about the conversion of Harland Sanders. That’s Colonel Sanders. He is the chicken guy.
Colonel Sanders was an ungodly man. He was known to speak with great vulgarity. He had a foul mouth, and it wasn’t just because of the chicken. He cussed up a storm and didn’t care who heard him.
As an old man Colonel Sanders found himself in church under great conviction of sin. He went down to the old and the pastor knelt with him. The pastor asked him if he would like to be saved. He said he would. He then asked the pastor if he thought Jesus would take the cussing away from him. The pastor told him He would. Colonel Sanders repented of his sin and submitted his life to Christ. He was born again when he was almost 80 years old.
He died in 1980 at the age of 90. He spent the last part of his life sharing the story of God’s grace in his life. One of the things he often talked about was how God delivered him, an old man who had cussed all his life, from cussing. He said that when he was saved, he lost half of his vocabulary.
The words of a Christian will be different than the words of a lost person.
We will speak highly of Christ.
We will speak truthfully.
We will speak with discipline.
We will not speak profanely.
We speak this way because we have been given a new heart and Christ is treasured there. Our words matter because they reveal if our heart is anchored in Christ or in this world.
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