Sermon series: Pressure Points
To be used with: Session Four, The Pressure of Words
Alternate title: How Did Jesus Use Words?
Scriptures: Selected verses
Connection to unit theme
While small groups are studying Pressure Points from the book of James, this sermon series is examining pressure points in the life of Jesus. As a human being, Jesus faced every pressure we face, and on a much deeper level. And since Jesus is the only perfect human being that has ever existed, we know that He never once caved in to pressure in any of the areas we are studying. How interesting that James was Jesus' half-brother, which means He had a front-row seat to how Jesus dealt with pressure.
Did you know that proportionately, the tongue is the strongest muscle in the human body? (livescience.com) It's been estimated that the average person spends one-fifth of his or her life talking. If all of our words were put into print, the result would be this: a single day's words would fill a 50-page book, while in a year's time the average person's words would fill 132 books of 200 pages each! (Moody Bible Institute, Today in the Word, June 15, 1992).
What if you had a court reporter following you around every day? What would yesterday's transcript look like? How many of your words were encouraging? Prayerful? Positive? Cutting? Critical? Were any of them wasted? Useless?
Jesus had a public ministry of around three years. Based on this statistic, if Jesus had had a court reporter walking around with Him, we would have almost 80,000 pages of transcript of Jesus' words. John even alludes to this at the end of his gospel. John 21:25 says, "And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which, if they were written one by one, I suppose not even the world itself could contain the books that would be written."
Obviously, we don't have all of Jesus' words. But we can learn an incredible amount from those words of His that have been preserved for us in the Gospels.
In our small groups this week, we have been talking about the power of the tongue. Jesus' brother James called the tongue "a restless evil, full of deadly poison." He describes it as powerful, like a spark that can set an entire forest ablaze. We know that Jesus' tongue did not match James' description of "a restless evil, full of deadly poison." Jesus never sinned with His words. He never misused them. His words were never careless. What can we learn from the things Jesus said? And just as importantly, what can we learn from the times Jesus didn't say anything at all? Today, let's bring out two truths about the way Jesus used words.
I. Jesus knew the power of His words
John 1:1: He was the Word made flesh.
With a word He calmed the storm (Mark 4:35-41).
He healed the sick, raised the dead, and cast out demons, simply by speaking.
He taught with authority (Matthew 7:29).
He didn't always give an answer. He asked questions almost as often as He made statements.
Whose image is on the coin? (Mt. 22:21)
What is in the Law; how do you read it? (Luke 10:25-27)
Which of these proved to be a good neighbor (Luke 10:37)
Who do people say that I am? (Matthew 16:13)
He also spoke in parables (Matthew 13:3). Jesus understood that people remember stories more than they remember theological discourses.
Application points: We can understand that our words have power, especially in relationships in which we are in authority over someone else. Think about the way you talk with your kids. Are you constantly "telling" them? Or do you work to help them discover the answers by asking them questions? If you are in a position of authority or high responsibility in your job, think about the power of your words. When you give orders or directions to the people who work under you, do you do it with respect? Do you ask for the impossible or the unreasonable? Do you demand of your employees things you are not willing to do yourself?
What about the words you say to your spouse? Your words to the people you love have the power to build up or tear down (Ephesians 4:29). Choose your words carefully!
II. Jesus never powered up with his words
Jesus could have spent His entire three year ministry on earth correcting and rebuking people.Because He was the truth, (John 14:6), He could have spent all day, every day, simply telling people they were wrong. And He would have been absolutely right to do so. But He did not come to build a wall between who was right and who was wrong. He came to build a bridge between what was spiritually dead and spiritually alive. He didn't come to make a point. He came to make a difference.
Think about all the tax gatherers and sinners who came to Matthew's house shortly after Matthew became a disciple (Matthew 9:9-13). Jesus was in a room full of wrong people. But He didn't rebuke any of them. The only people He rebuked were the people that wanted Him to rebuke them.
When Jesus spoke to the woman at the well in John 4, He didn't power up on her or bully her with who He was. He could have blasted her with the fact that He was the Messiah right out of the gate. Instead, He gradually revealed who He was in the context of a relationship with her. This has huge implications for how we give a verbal witness to those who don't know Christ.
He rebuked the disciples when they wanted to call down fire from Heaven to punish the Samaritans for not welcoming Him (Luke 9:52-55).
There were times He said nothing at all.
When a woman was caught in the act of adultery in John 8, her accusers demanded fromJesus what He thought they should do with her. Jesus said nothing. He just stooped and wrote in the dirt. When He finally did speak, what He said ("Let he who is without sin cast the first stone") convicted them so deeply that Jesus didn't need to say anything else.
In John 11:35, Jesus was confronted with Mary's grief over the death of her brotherLazarus. Mary was almost rebuking Jesus when she said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." Jesus didn't argue with her. He wept with her. Think about this the next time you are at a funeral home visitation. It is acceptable (and usually preferable) to weep with those who are grieving instead of trying to figure out the "right" thing to say.
Pastors, you might also think about how Jesus was silent before His accusers when He was on trial. However, since our last sermon in this series is on the pressure of retaliation, don't spend too much time here.
Application points: Lead your congregation to think through times they have used their words to dominate or demean someone else. Fathers should be especially aware of times they have torn down their children with their words. Help your hearers apply the truth that we are called asChrist followers to win souls, not win arguments.
We talked at the beginning of this message about what the 50 page transcript of yesterday's words might look like for you. And some of you probably cringed a little when you thought about ways you abused the power of your words. But guess what? Tomorrow is a new day. And you can begin right now to decide what tomorrow's transcript will look like. Imagine someone else will read that transcript. What would you want it to say? What key words would a search engine pick up? In your time with God today, ask Him to help you grasp the power of your words.