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Written by: C. W. Booth

August 2, 2006

The Four Guidelines of Christian Communication

In previous posts, I referred to the "Four Guidelines of Christian Communication."  The guidelines shown below were borrowed from what was known as the "Four Rules of Communication."

Each "guideline" is a summary principle that ties back to specific Scripture passages, especially Ephesians 4.  The summary principles (one through four) are meant to be shorthand labels encompassing a number of godly behaviors. 

To make the guidelines practical in your own life, read through the guidelines and the Bible passages to which they are tied.  Then, memorize the label or the principle:

    1. speak only truth
    2. keep current
    3. edify others
    4. think before talking

Every time you engage in conversation with another Christian, ask yourself, "Am I violating any of these rules?"  If you are, then change your words.

It is amazing what happens when you (and especially you and your spouse) agree to abide by each rule, and agree to have your words lovingly judged against these principles by the friends with which you talk.  This is especially true with "speak only truth," as it requires a person to abandon using 100% words such as "you always.", "you never.".  No person is ever "always" something, so it becomes a lie to tell someone something like, "You always exaggerate," or, "You always lie to me." 

Instead, when you speak only the truth you are obligated to become more precise in your speech, and therefore less unintentionally antagonistic or offensive.   For example, instead of saying, "You never fill the car with gas," you may find yourself saying, "Yesterday, you did not fill the car with gas; didn't we agree you would?" 

To the above accusation, "You never fill the car with gas," the only reply that should be expected is, "Well of course I fill up the car most of the time, you liar."  However, when you become more specific and precise, much of the volatile element in the situation is discharged, and an actual explanation (and probably an apology) is anticipated.

Please consider taking the time to memorize each of the names of the four principles, and then attempt to apply them in your daily life.  With God's grace, you may be genuinely surprised at the transformation in your speech and how people react when they converse with you.

In my own life, I find when I consciously apply these principles, my speech is noticeably more gracious.  When I fail to think about these things before I speak, I often fail miserably.  I do wonder about myself, am I more often gracious or more often failing?

1) speak only truth (Ephs.4:25)

no one is always something, making any such statement into a lie

2) keep current (Ephs.4:26,27)

3) edify the other party--do not attack them (Ephs.4:29,30)

4) think before saying anything (Proverbs 25:8)

August 5, 2006

Conversion Is a Change of Motives---When I sin, I am doing what I do not want to do

In recent days, I have been thinking about the essence of conversion.  Not the aspects of conversion focused on election or Christ's sacrifice, but what happens to the mind and heart of a converted man.

For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.  Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer.  Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.  Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.  (2 Corinthians 5:14-18)

Conversion is to become a new creature.  We have a new purpose, to "no longer live for [our]selves."  We no longer recognize what is the natural man according to the flesh.  In fact, Scripture tells us to put to death what used to be our natural selves, and indeed, our old selves are the old things and "the old things passed away."

In our natural state, the love of pleasure controlled us.  In our converted state, the love of Christ controls us.  Our natural man, with his natural wants and natural desires has passed away.  All things, including our motives, have become new.

In one dictionary, the word conversion is defined as: "a change in the nature, form, or function of something."  I love that definition.  Is it not true that a converted man's nature (from old to new) has changed, his spiritual form has changed (from dead to living), and his function has changed in so much that he was once controlled by his lusts but is now controlled by his love for Christ so as to become ambassadors of reconciliation?

In the Hebrew language, converted means "to return, to turn back."  "Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners will be converted to You."  (Psalms 51:13)

In the New Testament Greek, converted means "to turn around, to change direction." Our direction as unconverted natural men was toward sin, selfishness, death, and Hell.  As aliens in this world, as ones whose nature has been changed from natural to spiritual, our new direction is toward holiness, love for God, love for others, eternal life, and Heaven.

Our natural man wants us to pursue pleasure, to be controlled by pleasure.  What could be more natural?  But our new spirits no longer want what our natural man wants, and sometimes we end up doing those things we do not want to do. 

Paul wrote that the pursuit of pleasure in the flesh is what we do because of sin, but as Christians, because our nature has been changed, we do not want to pursue the pleasure of the flesh.  And that is the essence of the war between the new spiritual man and the old dying man.  The new man seeks to please God, the old man seeks to please himself.  Every time we sin, we are doing what we do not want to do, what our new mind does not want to do.

For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.  For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.  But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good.  So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.  For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.  For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.  But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.  I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man,  but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.  Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.  (Romans 7:14-25)

For me, the essence of conversion is that I no longer want to sin, I no longer want to pursue selfish pleasure, I no longer want to please myself, I no longer want to be controlled by lust--rather, I now want to be holy, I now want to please God, I now want to be controlled by my love for Christ and His love for me.  It is not that sin no longer has any pleasure or allure for my flesh, but that my mind, heart, and spirit no longer want to do those things which  displease God.  My desire to please God has become a greater spiritual desire (motive) than pleasing my flesh with sin.

Conversion is the replacement of my old wants and motives with entirely new ones, because I am a new creature who has a new nature, a new form, and a new function.  My spirit has been made alive, and this spirit brings with it new motives and wants that are not the same as the motives and desires which my flesh had when my spirit was dead. 

If one believes that conversion is nothing more than making minor adjustments to the old motives and desires of the flesh so as to sanctify them, then they miss the reality of conversion.  Conversion is not "Behold, the old things have been polished and live on," but rather, that "Behold, all things have become new."  Entirely new motives, new spirit, new purpose.  All things, all motives, have become new, the old motives have passed away.

August 10, 2006

Uncovered: Conspiracy to Blow Up Trans-Atlantic Planes (Jihadists Living by the Sword)

Today the United Kingdom announced it had infiltrated and prevented a conspiracy by Muslim extremists to blow-up multiple civilian-only trans-Atlantic flights.  Applause and appreciation to the diligence, competence, and vigilance of the UK peace-keeping agencies.

Those who use the murder of randomly selected civilians (civilians who live thousands of miles away from the terrorists) merely to advance the cause of their chosen religion can be said to be "living by the sword."  Taking-up-the-sword (Matthew 26:52) is a phrase given by Jesus which means that someone uses illicit violence and illegal blood-spilling to gain their income or to advance their religion.  Jesus sternly warned His disciples not to use violence against God-ordained authority (the temple guards and the Roman soldiers) for the sake of furthering the gospel.

Why would any religious zealot target only vulnerable civilians and children from a far off nation for murder?  Where is the gain in that?  Where is the sense in that?

For these Muslim extremists, the reasons are twofold:  1--to punish American civilians for allowing their government to support the ongoing survival of Israel (a nation and a race of people they are determined to bring to extinction), and, 2--to attempt to incite a worldwide war which would envelope all Muslim peoples and all non-Islamic peoples (the thought being that eventually all non-Muslim peoples would be converted to Islam by force thus ushering in an Islamic paradise on Earth similar in nature to what Iran has already established).  For these two reasons the Al Quaeda-style extremists have called their acts of terror and murder a "holy war" against all non-Muslims.

Secular governments were given to the Earth by God to keep global order and to punish (even the punishment of death if necessary) those who commit violence and murder.  For this reason we should support the US government's efforts to find and remove terroristic murderers.

"Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.  Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.  For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake."  (Romans 13:1-5)

What should the Christian personally do in the face of such terrorist acts and threats by those who wage a holy war (jihad) against anyone who does not hate the nation of Israel? 

    • Pray, we must always pray in times of suffering (James 5:13).  Pray for safety for the civilians of all lands.  Pray for the terrorists that they may be saved.  Pray for the government that they may be able to prevent acts of terror, as did the UK government today.  Pray for the nation of Israel that they would continue to thrive and would eventually come to accept their Messiah.
    • Preach the Word, in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4).  Shout or whisper to all who will listen, seeking out the elect that they might repent.
    • Comfort and encourage one another (Hebrews 10:25, 1 Thessalonians 4:18).
    • Love each other and love our enemies (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27,28).  It is doubtful that a government can prevent all evil men from carrying out the intents of their heart, but Christ can change the very heart itself and carry away the evil intent.
    • Remember Psalm 37, "do not fret because of evilders," instead, be faithful, do good, delight in the Lord, commit yourself to Him, trust God, be patient, and He will give you your desires to not be afraid of evil men and to judge righteously.

Why should we continue to support the existence of Israel when so much of the world wishes to kill her and her peoples?  Aside from the mere fact that genocide is a wickedly horrific sin, consider the following passage:

"And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing;  and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed."  (Genesis 12:2-3)

And so it has been that the whole Earth has been blessed through Jesus, born of Israel, descended from Abraham.

August 12, 2006

God Can Even Make Use of a Dead Fish -- Real Life Event Evokes a Metaphor

Last evening I went to a tiny and quiet public pond to fish.  On one little game fish I was slow to set the hook, not realizing such a small fish was even attacking my lure until it had swallowed the entire hook.  This allowed the fish to become mortally injured from the large hook.

Feeling sorry for the fish, but wishing to obey the law of the land, I removed the hook from the undersized fish and returned it alive to the pond.  A few minutes later, it returned to where I was fishing, splashing about in the throes of a death struggle due to its injuries.  It died a short distance from my place by the shore.

I stood there thinking, "what a waste of a fish."

As I thought about my own years in various churches past it dawned on me: so it is with people in churches as it is with this fish. We hook them, not knowing what we have hooked. We bring them into our church fellowship, and are satisfied we have done what we should. But then we realize they are undersized for our immediate use (they lack the amount of faith we would have preferred them to have, they have a sharp edge to them, they talk too much, they are too old, they lack sufficient humor for our tastes, or they simply lack the level of charisma and confidence we like in our church workers). So we toss them back into the anonymity of the congregational pool, and wait for them to disappear below the ripples; we stop encouraging them, we stop replying to their emails, we do not ask them to serve.

What a waste of a Christian.

While I feel Henry T. Blackaby has serious theological shortcomings in his book, Experiencing God, he did write something that has always tugged at my heart. He pleaded that any person who is willing to serve, who feels led to serve, in the church ought to be put into immediate use doing that service. Such a personís shortcomings surely will become obvious, but those can often be overcome with work, encouragement, Bible study, coaching, and the influence of the Holy Spirit. Does any church ever have too many workers?

Shrugging off the letter of the law, I retrieved the dead fish, took it home and filleted it.  This poor dead fish will not go to waste. 

If even a short dead fish has a use, I wonder, surely it must be true that God still has a use for me?

For whoever is joined with all the living, there is hope; surely a live dog is better than a dead lion.  (Ecclesiastes 9:4)

But now there are many members, but one body.  And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; or again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you."  On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable,  whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.  And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.  Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it.  (1 Corinthians 12:20-27)

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;  seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.  For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.  Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,  and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (2 Peter 1:2-8)

August 16, 2006

Which Animal was Truly Committed?

In a corporate leadership training course some years ago, the instructor gave the following illustration of commitment.

One day, a pig and a chicken were both asked to assist with providing a breakfast for the poor.  The chicken worked all night to the point of exhaustion, and in the morning gave a dozen eggs before stumbling home, leaving a promise to help again next week.  The pig gave ham and bacon.  You could say that it was the pig who was really committed to the project. (author unknown)

As humorous as the story is, and as earnest as the instructor was to emphasize the need for commitment to the company with his story of the pig who gave his life for the project, I was really struck by what the chicken did.

You see, the chicken willingly gave up twelve of her children for the sake of the project, promising to do so again and again.  Which animal was truly committed?  They both were. 

He said, "Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you."  (Genesis 22:2)

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.  For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.  (John 3:16-17)

August 20, 2006

All Things Work Together for Good, but What Does "Good" Mean?

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.  (Romans 8:28-29)

Is God here telling us that He intentionally controls events in this world so that the outcome of every event is designed to make us smile, to make us happy, and to amuse us?  Is that what God means by all things work together for "good"?

No, for the very nature of the world itself, our own history, and the biographies of the martyrs tell us otherwise.  Outcomes of life events, like life itself, is often an extended period of pain and suffering before coming to its corporeal conclusion.

But such endings do not mean that the end is not good.  We must know what good means.  In the Greek, this word (agathos) simply means "anything good and righteous."  Therefore, it is necessary to understand what is good for men as God perceives this question.

For example:

It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.  The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.  Your hands made me and fashioned me; give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments.  (Psalms 119:71-73)

So "good" from God's perspective is not how we "feel" in the end, but what we have done or have become as a result of the things He has caused to happen.  In other words, that we become conformed to the image of His Son, that One who is perfect, humble, obedient, and righteous.

It means God works trials in our life so that the outcome is: we begin to obey Him and act like Him, and this is "good" for us. Such an interpretation is consistent with James 1 where we are told that trials produce faith, obedience, and righteousness through the mechanism of endurance. In fact, James tells us we have to "imagine" (reckon) the trial to be joy because no trial is joyful while you are going through it (see also Hebrews 12:7-11).

What is more "good" for us than becoming conformed to the image of God's Son?

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