James 1:19-21, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” Today’s average person is confronted with a changing world. We live in a world where we are inundated by social media updates, blogs, 24/7 news and much more. Added to the complexity of new media is the fact that in generations past people have had to physically speak to one another. Now, we can speak to one another over social media, podcasts, television, radio, on our phones or even on video conference on our laptops. If there is an issue of quintessential importance to the Christian and the Church it is this, prayerfully, powerfully, and gracefully speaking to the issues to the glory of God.
As quoted above, James 1:19 makes clear, “let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger,” These words from James became real to me when I graduated high school. I had just received a letter from my father in which he told me I needed to learn the truth of these verses. At the time, I thought that I was quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger. Yet, as I’ve grown up and matured by the grace of God, I’ve come to see that I was deceived. Instead of being slow to speak I was quick to speak. Instead of being quick to hear I was quick to anger. Instead of caring for people, I cared about winning arguments and scoring points. Friends, this is not how we ought to be as Christians. As Christians we are to demonstrate we care about one another because of the Gospel—that is Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. His finished and sufficient work provides the basis for our confidence in Him and the reason we can put sin to death and enjoy Him in all of life. Yet, how often are you perhaps like me when I was younger, quick to speak, quick to anger and slow to listen?
I’ve been online writing articles and blog posts since 2000. In that time I’ve seen plenty of people come and go. People who had real talent writing but eventually fell off the map. I’ve seen trends come and go online and in the evangelical world. Yet one major issue never seems to go away and that is that people want to speak about what they think is important. Speaking is an important function of humans. Through speaking we communicate what we value, how we feel and much more. Yet, at its core communication has not only to do with what we communicate but also how we communicate. James 1:19-20 confronts us with the reality of the situation in that God’s Word is given to us for our correction and reproof Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16. As God illuminates His Word to us we are confronted with the reality of where we are at in our walk with Him. The choice is then presented to us—will we by the grace of God heed the Word of God or will we rebel against the authority and truthfulness of the Word of God?
James 3:1 is a scary verse that should cause one to consider its seriousness, because it teaches that not many of us should be teachers. Yet, what do you think you are doing on facebook, twitter, google plus, on your blog, podcast or any other outlet that you have to communicate? Everyone to some degree whether they are engaging in teaching in the Church or sharing the gospel with a lost neighbor or friend is teaching. The content of what we preach ought to be the gospel. Yet, how we present the gospel ought to be true to the Bible. The harshest language in the Bible is directed at those who lead people away from God. Thus, what we speak and how we speak is of central importance.
At the core of speaking prayerfully, powerfully and gracefully to the issues of our day is knowing when to speak and when to be silent. James 1:19 is thus helpful to us. How do you know when to speak on the issues? For me, this usually happens as I’m thinking through a topic and the thoughts on a particular topic are coming at me faster than I can write them down.
As I conclude this article, I want to give you several steps I use that have guided my thinking on this area. First, I daily open my Bible, read it, reflect on it and seek by the grace of God to apply its truths to my life. As I do this, I’m often either encouraged or rebuked by the particular passage I’m reading, reflecting and meditating on. Second, find a group of godly Christians you can discuss doctrinal and theological issues with. Doing so, will help you to know whether you should speak to these issues and whether you have the right voice, tone and motivation for speaking to this particular issue. Often times when I sit down to write on a particular issue when I finish, I delete the whole document. I do this because either the tone is all wrong or my motivation is also wrong. In either case, I want to heed James 1:19 which is to be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.
Thirdly, to speak is to want to be heard and thus in turn to want others to respond to you. On the flipside of this, by speaking on blogs, podcasts, social media and whatever other media we may use—we must in turn listen to those who read or listen to our content. We must hear what they say and not just flippantly but rather take seriously their pushback, or encouragement.
Finally, whenever we write or speak to issues we may get pushback or even encouragement. When we get encouragement to our work, we should thank the person but deflect the glory to God. We can do this by saying thank you to the person and then saying something to the effect of, “Thank you for your encouragement, I’m thankful to God for your encouragement and give Him all the praise you were helped by my work.” By doing this we are not being vain but rather thanking the person that they offered encouragement. When pushback is offered don’t respond personally but rather prayerfully and thank the person that they offered pushback. Respond to the person by engaging the content of their post by quoting from portions you may agree with and engaging the parts you don’t agree with. By doing this, you will demonstrate you care about the person enough to engage them in a respectful and God glorifying manner.
Lastly, I don’t know about you, but speaking prayerfully, powerfully and gracefully is exhausting. It requires great care that comes from a desire to glorify God and exalt His name among the nations. At the end of the day though, as Christians, we write, speak and minister for an audience of One in God whose call in His Word is crystal clear—be faithful to Him and make much of Him and He will use you in powerful ways to speak to issues in a way that honors and glorifies Him. I pray today that you resolve by the grace of God to speak prayerfully, powerfully, and gracefully to the issues to the glory of God.
This is our weekly roundup of posts for 4/7/2014-4/12/2014. If you have any feedback on how we can serve you our readers better, I would appreciate it. Thank you for reading and allowing us to minister to you throughout this past week through these posts.
Gospel Series: Quickened by Grace by Chris Poblete http://servantsofgrace.org/gospel-series-quickened-by-grace-in-christ/
Gospel Series: Christ Our Substitute: The Meaning Of The Cross by Dr. Thaddeus Williams http://servantsofgrace.org/gospel-series-christ-our-substitute-the-meaning-of-the-cross/
Gospel Series: Christ, Forgiveness, and the Cross by Chris Poblete http://servantsofgrace.org/gospel-series-christ-forgiveness-and-the-cross/
Gospel Series: Christ, Our Substitute by Dr. Thaddeus Williams http://servantsofgrace.org/gospel-series-christ-our-substitute/
Gospel Series: The Beauty of Holiness by C. Walter http://servantsofgrace.org/gospel-series-beauty-holiness/
When Angels Long to Look by Dr. Brian Cosby http://servantsofgrace.org/when-angels-long-to-looksermon/
There are lots of voices out there that suggest that evangelicalism today is struggling, perhaps even dying. This week I was at Together for the Gospel, a conference that draws in pastors, ministry leaders and serious minded lay people from around the country. From my vantage point I cannot more strongly disagree with the statement that evangelicalism is struggling or perhaps even dying. What is dying is a nominal evangelical Christianity that is apathetic to the Gospel because it has assumed the gospel for so long that it has forgotten the gospel. The gospel must always be central in our thoughts, affections and ministries. From my perspective what I see and what I hope to argue for in this article as I reflect on Together for the Gospel is that God is raising up a generation who is gathering around the core of biblical Christianity. My generation is a generation that loves Jesus, the preaching of His Word, His people, and loves to bring the gospel to the lost and all of life to the glory of God.
Perhaps that last paragraph was a bit strong and you disagree. As I was at Together for the Gospel, I met with some of the brightest young confessional evangelicals in the United States. We gathered to hear some of the brightest voices in evangelicalism such as Dr. Albert Mohler, Matt Chandler Thabiti Anayabile, John Piper, and David Platt among others. As we listened we were instructed, rebuked, and encouraged to have confidence in the gospel, so as to take it to our neighbors, friends and cities to the glory of God. As I listened to the sermons and engaged in multiple conversations with people from around the United States I was deeply encouraged by what I saw. What I see is a generation of pastors and ministry leaders who loves to exalt in Jesus and make Him known.
Many voices in evangelicalism today are saying that we are struggling and therefore that in some way we will die off. What makes conferences like Together for the Gospel so appealing is what they are offering to their audiences. Young people today are leaving the Church because they are tired of rehearsed answers. Young people are tired of a shallow nominal evangelicalism that places an emphasis on feelings above the Word of God. Young people want a robust evangelical theology grounded in the Word of God and in the teaching of the history of the Church. Thankfully there is such an evangelicalism, but it is not the evangelicalism that is often associated with evangelical thinking and practice today. What I see occurring in conferences such as Together for the Gospel and organizations like Desiring God, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 9Marks and the Gospel Coalition is a recovery of the evangelicalism of our forefathers headed by men like John Owen, Charles Spurgeon among many others.
The Reformers wanted to reform the Church around the Word of God. To do this they sought to take the teaching of Scripture literally and apply it to the people of God through the preaching of sermons that took the text as the point of their sermon and apply it to the people of God. As they did this God awakened people’s desires to the beauty and sufficiency of the Bible itself. What we are seeing are those who are nominal abandon biblical Christianity for theological liberalism, which is a completely different religion than Christianity entirely.
Biblical Christianity is rooted in the truth of God’s Word which contains the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Evangelical Christianity has always taken its cue from the text of Scripture itself. As the evangelical Church has heralded the evangel to the world in faithfulness to His Word the Lord has been pleased to bless His Church because of the gospel.
We need reformation today. We need conferences like Together For the Gospel to be encouraged, instructed and corrected. Make no mistake though, like Dr. Albert Mohler said at the end of Together for the Gospel the most important work we can do happens on the Lord’s Day. It happens in our small groups, in gathered worship, in one-on-one discipleship meetings, in church newsletters, and in a thousand different ways as you seek to be faithful to the Word of God and the gospel of the Risen Christ.
As Together for the Gospel came to a close and I leave Louisville, I do so deeply encouraged, and emboldened because of the gospel. I leave Louisville grateful for my time here but most of all glad I got to spend time here at this conference with my wife. This was my wife’s first time at a conference. We learned a lot while here not only about the Lord but about each other. We enjoyed extended theological discussion with a wide variety of people and were instructed by what they said to us. We leave Louisville and Together for the Gospel encouraged by what we see- a generation gathered around the throne of God, lifting head, heart and hands to the Lord Jesus pleading with Him to use their ordinary efforts in extraordinary ways to impact people’s lives for His glory. I don’t know about you but that encourages me and leaves me speechless that God brought almost 8,000 people to Louisville to lift up His name and be instructed by His Word and then to go home to make much of Him in all of life.
I pray as we go back to our respective vocations and to our churches that we would take with us what we have learned. I sincerely pray that we would not just be hearers of the Word but doers of the Word. I pray that God would continue to raise up an army of confessional evangelicals who are unashamed because of the evangel and herald it to and for His glory with greater confidence and boldness because of being at Together for the Gospel. I greatly enjoyed my time here in Louisville but am excited now for what He will do in this next season in and through those I’ve met here at Together for the Gospel for His glory. May God truly be glorified in and through our efforts for His name as we seek to faithfully proclaim His Word. Then, we will truly be known as the generation who is gathered around His throne, pleading with Him to use us powerfully in the lives of those around us, for His name and glory.
This is our weekly roundup of posts for 3/17/2014-3/22/2014. If you have any feedback on how we can serve you our readers better, I would appreciate it. Thank you for reading and allowing us to minister to you throughout this past week through these posts.
Church Series: To Whom Does the Church Owe Its Existence by Craig Hurst http://servantsofgrace.org/church-series-church-owe-existence/
Gospel Series: The Triune Work of Salvation by Chris Poblete http://servantsofgrace.org/gospel-series-the-triune-work-of-salvation/
Gospel Series: Truths In the Midst of Brokenness by Mike Leake http://servantsofgrace.org/gospel-series-truths-midst-brokeness/
Gospel Series: God Uses Ordinary People In Extraordinary Ways by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/gospel-series-god-uses-ordinary-people-extraordinary-ways/
Gospel Series: Jesus, His Critics and How to Handle Criticism by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/gospel-series-jesus-critics-handle-criticism/
Give God Everything by C. Walter http://servantsofgrace.org/give-god-everything/
An Introduction to John Flavel by Dr. Brian Cosby http://servantsofgrace.org/introduction-john-flavelsermon/
Editors note: This is a brand new series on the Gospel designed to help our readers think through what the Gospel is and what it demands.
Criticism can either be helpful or unhelpful. Criticism is unhelpful when it aims to attack the person and belittle them. Criticism is helpful when it aims to help the person grow to be like Jesus. In today’s post from Luke 23:6-12, we will learn how Jesus interacted with His critics on His way to the Cross. At the end of the post we will learn how to give godly criticism motivated by loving God and people, as well why unhelpful criticism is harmful.
The Silent Of Witness of Christ That Fulfilled Prophecy
Luke 23:6-12, “When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate. And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other.”
The account in Luke 23:6-16 is found only in Luke. Luke recounts this incident to reveal that both Pilate and Herod found Jesus innocent. Herod was glad in Luke 23:8 not because he wanted to kill Jesus, but because he longed to see Jesus perform some sign. Jesus makes no answer in this passage, and His silence fulfills Isaiah 53:7.
Jesus didn’t respond to the injustice in this passage. Whenever someone asked Him to confess His true identity, He testified that He was the Son of God or the King of Jews or whatever proper title they wanted to give Him. Why did Jesus refuse to say anything to defend Himself? It may have been because there was nothing else to say. Herod had already had his chance to hear the Gospel but now he had hardened his heart. By the time that the man closed his conscience and refused to repent there was nothing left for Jesus or anyone else to say to him. This is a warning to anyone who rejects the free gift of God’s grace eventually the day will come when He will have no more Gospel to give you. Jesus knew there was no need to defend Himself because His Father would vindicate Him at the right time by raising Him from the dead.
His very refusal to argue His own case was in fact another proof of His perfect innocence. Psalm 37:5-7, “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!”
These were all good reasons for Jesus not to speak in His own defense. His example reminds us not to be so quick to defend ourselves when we are attacking unjustly, but instead to wait patiently for the Lord to defend us. Remember the example Jesus set for us and what Peter taught us in 1 Peter 2:22-23, “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”
This is one further reason why Jesus refused to speak in His own defense—a reason that goes beyond anything we could ever do. Suffering in silence was part of the work that Jesus was called to do for our salvation. It was the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy. Isaiah 53:7, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.”
Jesus fulfilled the prophecy in Isaiah 53:7 by refusing to protest His own innocence or to strike back at His accusers. The image Isaiah used to convey the spotless innocence of the afflicted Savior was the pure image of a sacrificial lamb. In His quiet submission to the torments of His oppressors Jesus fulfilled this prophecy and thereby proved that He was the Savior whom God had promised to send.
Jesus suffered in silent majesty without protest so He could do the perfect work of our salvation. Never lose hope that Jesus did this so He would have something to say when we ourselves are put on trial. One day we will all appear before God for judgment. If we have nothing to say then it will not be because of our perfect innocence but because there is nothing we can really say in defense of our sinful selves. The good news is that Jesus will have something to say! Though silent in His own defense, He will not be silent in the defense of anyone who trusts in Him.
Jesus has promised that one day He will openly acknowledge everyone who openly acknowledges Him in Luke 12:8. Through faith in Christ when you at last appear before God justly accused of all your sin, Jesus will plead the merits of His own royal and innocent righteousness. Having suffered for your sins all the way to the Cross, He will speak up and tell His Father not to give you the verdict that you deserve but the verdict that He deserves.
How To Handle Criticism
The best way to handle criticism is not to respond immediately but rather to get on your knees and seek the face of God in His Word and prayer. Any criticism that Christians offer should be grounded in love. Ephesians 4:15 “speaking the truth in love” should be our primary guide in criticism. Godly criticism is true and loving, and ought to come from a humble, caring heart that wishes the best for the other person. Godly criticism should never be bitter, condescending, insulting, or cold-hearted. 2 Timothy 2:24-25a, “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.” 1st Corinthians 13:4-7, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Criticism, if it is loving will express those attributes.
Criticism must be grounded in the truth of God’s Word. Often criticism is based on hearsay which is not helpful, but gossip. Uninformed criticism will in most situations end up embarrassing the critic when the truth is revealed (Proverbs 18:13). The self-righteous Pharisees criticized Jesus based on their own faulty stances when Truth was not on their side. Godly criticism is concerned to be critical only of what the Bible is critical of. 2 Timothy 3:16 teaches that the Word of God is “profitable for reproof and correction.” In other words, God’s inspired Word leads us to critically analyze everyday situations.
While discussing how to handle godly criticism is critical, Christians also need to beware of a critical spirit. There is a significant difference between helping someone improve and having a critical spirit. A critical spirit is never pleased and expects to and finds disappointment wherever it looks. Rather than looking for evidences of God’s grace and loving people, a critical spirit arrogantly judges, is easily provoked and accounts for every wrong. A critical spirit damages the critiqued and the critic.
Biblical criticism is helpful, loving and based on the Truth of God’s Word. Correction is to be gentle since it comes from love. Galatians 5:22-23 teaches that the Spirit wants to produce in us love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If criticism cannot be expressed in keeping with the fruit of the Spirit it is better left unsaid.