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Let the Words of My Mouth- Part 1

David Shin


David Shin

Dr. David Shin is the President of Ouachita Hills College.



  • March 7, 2015
    11:30 AM
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If you have not already turn there for your Scripture, I have the words there on the screen and James is giving us practical advice for living the Christian life. The Christian life is not just about theology it's about practical godliness in our human interactions and this is from the New American Standard Bible. It says, “This you know my beloved brethren, but everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” I want to go through this with you, just make a few observations before we get into the heart of today's message in our thesis. “This you know my beloved brother, but…” In other words, this is something that is easy to understand. This is something that we all know, it's common knowledge, but it's difficult to practice.


I heard one preacher say the challenge he has with the Bible is not the things that he doesn't understand it's the things that he does understand and has a difficulty practicing. Love your enemies: easy to understand, difficult to practice. Isn’t that right?


Now, this is one of those passages. Today’s sermon is not going to be difficult to understand. Okay. This is not going to be deep theology. This is not going to be epistemologically profound. Whatever that means. This is going to be very simple, but very challenging.


“This you know my beloved brethren…” He's talking to Christians. He's talking to people that love JESUS. These are people that have accepted JESUS as their personal savior, but the next part of this is very difficult for people and this applies to everyone. How many? Everyone. This is not a select few. This is talking to every person and it is in the imperative everyone must. This is a requirement. This is not a recommendation. This is not just counsel. This is what all of us should do and should be.


And I want to focus on this part before we get to the second part.

It says, “Let everyone must be slow to speak…” Easy to understand, difficult to practice. There should be a delay in our talking. There should be a delay when something comes into our minds before it goes out of our mouths. And sometimes we just blurt things out without processing. This passage is telling us that we should be slow in our response. And we live in a society today where the comeback and the quick witted response is something that is highlighted. Isn't that right? But this is telling us quite the contrary. This is a counter cultural statement. Slow to speak. There should be a process. You should think, as your mom said, before you say something.


I am a water enthusiast. I just can't drink tap water. I don't like the taste of it. I'm very particular. And when I go on trips, I bring water. I buy water and it has to be either distilled or my favorite is reverse osmosis. So, I have these big 5 gallon jugs - 3 of them. And I take off to Meyers and the price has been going up 40$ a gallon, fill it up and people with their wide eyes look at me pushing that cart out of there, but I believe in good water. And this is what happens in the reverse osmosis process, very elementary. The raw water goes in one end and goes through a filter and comes out purified on the other side. And this is the way that our words need to be. They need to be filtered. Amen. - By the HOLY SPIRIT. Before it comes out, there needs to be a process. There needs to be a delay so that it's filtered by the Word of GOD and the HOLY SPIRIT so that whatever comes out on the other side is sanctified. That is what this text is telling us. We need to be slow to speak. And the reason why it's slow is that before it comes out of our mouths it needs to be processed and you need to ask yourself, “Would JESUS say this?” And if HE wouldn't say it in a particular way and have certain contents we need to refrain from having it come out of our mouths.


And I was fascinated what the Bible says about the multiplicity of words. Did you know that the Bible actually tells us how many words we should say? - Not to the count, but it actually tells us that we should be people of few words. Here it is. If you don't believe me. The wisest man that ever lived - Ecclesiastes 5:2 – “Do not be quick with your mouth; do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before GOD. GOD is in heaven and you are on earth (and here's the conclusion) so let your words be (what does it say? What does it say? that your words) be few.” Now, it is almost a stigma to be ‘a man of few words’ are ‘a woman of few words.” We say, “Oh, that person just doesn't talk; doesn't Speak up.” This person is a ‘man of few words.’ But the Bible is telling us that that person is actually living more biblically than a person of many words. All right. Silence. Now, this is kind of rebuking for me as I was reading this. I was like “oh c'mon, there's got to be some other evidence in Scripture.” Here it is. Ecclesiastes 5:3 – “A fool's voice is known by a multitude of words.” Wow! And I was studying this week and I'm just like “Oh, this is telling us that the Bible actually values people of few words.” Here it is. Proverbs 10:19. Now why is this? Why does the Bible tell us that we should be people of few words? Because it says – “Too much talk leads to sin.” I was fascinated by this verse - “Too much talk leads to sin” which means the more that you say that's unfiltered, that's on sanctified, it's going to lead you down the primrose path to what the Bible calls sin.


 I took up an English class, English 101 - English Composition. My professor's name was William Shakespeare; that's was the truth that's his name William Shakespeare. And he was one of the toughest teachers I had. English composition, I owe a lot to that man. Our assignment was to develop a portfolio of essays. And we would turn in our first draft to William Shakespeare and every single time, it would come back looking like this: marked up, redacted. He says, “What is the purpose of this statement? This is redundant. This doesn't apply.” And then my 10-page paper, because you need a certain amount of words, would be redacted down to 5. And friends, our words need to be like these papers. They need to be edited before they go public. Amen. They need to be edited by the HOLY SPIRIT. And before you speak, you need to have them go through the editorial board of heaven before it comes out of your mouth. This is what the Bible is telling us.


The Bible is telling us that we are accountable for what we say. The Bible actually says, “Every idle word that men shall speak, they should give an account in the judgment.” This is difficult to practice, easy to understand. And I know what you're thinking at this point, “Pastor David, if I can't say a lot, what am I supposed to do? If I can't talk, how am I supposed to exist? I mean what are we supposed to do in our human interactions?” The Bible gives us counsel on this as well.


James 1:19 same passage or Scripture reading this is from the New International Version. It says “everyone should be quick to listen and slow to speak.” Bible admonishes us to be few with our words and to spend that time instead of talking to be listening. I want you to notice something about this verse. The implication of this verse is that GOD values listening more than HE does talking. Christian should be known not as the best talkers, but as the best listeners. We should be world-renown listeners. This is something that I believe our university church can be in this community. It is a universal need that every person wants to be understood, not agreed with necessarily, but understood. And wouldn't it be wonderful if in this community, when we have a problem, they say, “You know what? That University Church in East Lansing, I wanna go there because I know that there's a bunch of listeners there. There are people that are going to listen and try to understand what I'm going through, right now.”


And the thesis of today's presentation is very simple: talk less, listen more. Wouldn't our church be a wonderful place if we just follow this counsel from James 1:19. Amen.


Talk less, listen more. This is a modernization of what its saying. As one person said, “Speak little, listen much.” We are to be in the business of not the multiplicity of words but rather using our ears to listen to individuals. This is practical counsel from the Book of James and when we listen there is something that happens that I believe that JESUS did. Some people may ask, “How am I supposed to proclaim the gospel if I'm not talking and sharing the gospel?” Well, there’s a time for that but look at the way the JESUS minister to individuals.


Gospel Workers 363 - CHRIST method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The SAVIOR mingled with men as one who desired their good. HE showed HIS sympathy for them and (look at that part I have it in italics there on the screen) ministered to their needs, won their confidence, then HE bade them, ‘follow ME.’ And we can have a whole sermon just on this quote from the Gospel Workers 363. But I want you to notice that part. JESUS knew the human heart. HE ministered to people's needs, then HE bade them ‘follow me.’ I believe that JESUS was the best listener. HE met that universal human need to be understood. And when HE met that need, HE said, “You know what? I have something to share with you.” And in our gospel ministry, we need to meet that universal human desire to be understood before we endeavor to be understood ourselves; to understand others before we endeavor to be understood.


Ministry of Healing 82 – “Sympathize with them in their trials, their heartaches, and disappointments. This will open the way for you to help.” Notice the Italic size part there on the screen. “This will open the way for you to help them.” I have been in countless situations where someone comes to me with a problem. It's a large problem and they share and they share and they share and you know what they say at the end, I haven't solved the problem, they say, “Pastor, thank you.” And I think to myself I've done nothing. They say, “Pastor, thank you for listening.” And there is something that happens. One author put it this way - It's like psychological air that you give to the other individual, when you listen, you stop the judgment, you stop the criticism, you just sincerely desire to understand things from that person's perspective, it creates a certain bond, a certain trust, in which they are now willing to listen to you. This is what happens. This is interpersonal relations. JESUS knew the human hearts. JESUS knew that if HE listen to people, understood them that would create an avenue for HIM to be able to minister to them.


One of my mentors sat me down one day and said, “David, people are like a bank account. Yours kind of perked up.” I said, “A bank account?” He said, “Yes. You're either making deposits or you're making withdrawals. That's how people work.” And have ever bounced a check before? I hope not. But what happens when you bounce a check? You write something, it could be for $1, but if your balance is 0 that check bounces and you get penalize. And some people in a relationship, they're constantly making withdrawals and withdrawals and withdrawals and finally, you know, they don't put their socks away. And the wife's like, “I had it.” And he's like, “Oh, I just didn't pull my socks away.” What has been happening? That spouse has been constantly making withdrawals and withdrawals and withdrawals and when they make that final withdrawal, they're being corrupt. And he said, “David, we as Christians should be the individuals that are making constant deposits in other people's lives.” And I thought to myself, you know, “What are deposits?” These are deposits that we can make. People are like bank accounts. You're either making deposits or withdrawals.


And here are deposits. There are numerous others but I just listed some here on the screen for you: courtesy, investing time, kindness, honesty, in the last one but not least, listening. Listening is an investment in that other person's life. You are doing something for that person. You are meeting their need.


Here are some withdrawals. There are other ones you can make: criticism, ignoring, gossiping, not listening. Have you ever been in a conversation where you're talking to that person about something that is very important to you, I know this is happened to all of us, and then suddenly, we see from the body language of that individual that person tunes us out. Right? I was in that type of conversation once. I was talking to this person passionately about something and then they just looked down and just looked away. And I was like, “Ooh!” You know how that makes you feel? Not valued. In other words, your opinion doesn't matter, unappreciated, and it is actually hurtful because what is being communicated. And we probably done it to other people as well is “Your words, your feelings, your emotions are not important to me” and so it shuts down the other individual. And I was halfway through my sentence and I say, “You know what? I'm just going to stop because this person clearly is just tuning me out.” This is a significant withdrawal that you can make and how many times have we heard or you said to your spouse, “I just want you to listen to me.”


Listening is a form of acceptance. When I talk about acceptance, I'm talking about biblical acceptance. And this is what Biblical acceptance is. True acceptance is the ability to accept people as what they are which is a child of GOD. That is what acceptance is and you communicate that when you are listening to the other individual. It is identifying with their interests and concerns. You are going outside of yourself and putting yourself in that other person's situation and circumstances. Accepting doesn't mean that you approve fundamental difference. It means that you love. It doesn't mean that you approve of their behavior or their lifestyle; but it does mean that you love them as what they are - a child of GOD. This is Biblical acceptance. And this is what we communicate when we listen to other people. It is the recognition that JESUS doesn't accept us because we are worthy and that same type of acceptance that we receive from JESUS, GOD is calling us to communicate with other people.


Moving very quickly - Listening and Agreement. This is from Evangelism 141 – “Agree with people on every point where you can consistently do so. This is not calling us to dishonesty, friends. Let them see that you love their souls and want them to be in harmony with them so far as possible. I believe what this is communicating is when you listen to people, “Don't pick at every little detail that is off and that you don't agree with. Look for the intention of the person or the intentions of the person behind the words and agree with the person. You should be an agreeable person. It's very difficult to communicate to someone or to talk to someone that is calling you out on every single detail that you've gotten wrong. It's frankly frustrating. And we as listeners should be agreeable people. We should, as Christians, should be agreeable people.

Agree with people as much as is possible.


So here's some things that we do when we're not listening: pretending that we're listening. You know, I'm guilty of this. I like to multitask and I just listening to an audio book yesterday and telling us, that telling me that multitasking actually doesn't work. And I've been on the phone some times, on the family member, and I'm working on something like a sermon and I'm listening, you know, on the phone with them and at some point, they're like “Hello?” Right? Are you there.” Because they can tell that there's a long gap and because I've become focused on something, you know, I'm a typical man, I can only think about one thing at a time, but I'm trying to do 2. Or they say, “Hey David, are you listening?” “I can tell you're not listening.” Right? Or you do something that is not appropriate for what the other person is saying. They may say, “Oh, my dad just died,” and you say, “A-ha,” you know. They can tell that you're not listening. And this is what people do. We pretend. We’re talking with the person but actually were our mind is a 1000 miles away or thinking about potluck downstairs, you may not be listening to me, right now, for all I know. Pretending - just sitting there, “Oh, yeah.” Right? Our minds go all different directions - things that we do when we're not listening.


Selective listening - only listening to certain parts of the conversation because you already know the conclusion. You know what the person is going to say before they say it. So you just pick at what that you're going to listen to.


The other part is thinking about our response. This is what many people do. While the other person is talking, we’re thinking about what we're going to say to counteract or to supplement or to enhance or to enlighten the other person. That's what we do. We’re thinking about our response. And one person said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to reply.”


Now, I want you to think about this. We spend years learning how to speak, years learning how to read, and years learning how to write. How many years are we taught to listen? None. Because we assume that we know how, but believe it or not - listening is a discipline. It takes energy; it takes focus, effort, and practice. And so take out your study guide, which is in your bowls, and I felt that this was so important that I made a study guide just for you. It’s there in your bulletin, if you don't have one, raise your hand. Pastor Daniel will pass it out to you.


How to be a good listener? And this is following the divine mandate from James 1:19 - quick to listen, slow to speak. We should master this thing called Listening. And it's not easy to do; easy to understand, but difficult to practice. And so this is just simple elementary listening 1011.


The first thing is pray because we need GOD's help. Amen. Pray that GOD will give you a sincere desire to understand others and be interested in their needs. Listening, fundamentally, at its core is a selfless act because you are placing the other person's need to be understood over your own need to be understood. You're placing the other person first - that's a form of love. You're placing your own communication on hold to put the other person's communication first. So pray that GOD would give us all converted hearts because we're naturally selfish at the core. Ask HIM to give you a sincere desire, you know. This is not just mechanics and How to Win Friends and Influence People. This is the sincere desire to understand others and be interested in their needs. Listen for the person's intentions, thoughts, and emotions, not only the way they think but the way they feel. To process all of those things, put yourself in the other person's place.


Moving on…


Don't get into an argument, jump to conclusions, or pass judgment on the person. This is not the time to be pointing out their errors especially when they just want to be heard. And here are some indications that you have. (You have it there in your study guide; I didn't put them on the screen for the sake of space.) Here are indications that you are listening: encouraging brief expressions. All right.  I forgot to put a quote there but “Aha” are good thing to say. “I see,” “Right,” “Oh” and these are like non, you know, encouraging brief expressions. And non-verbal acknowledgements: head nodding, facial expression. You know, if someone is talking to you and you look like this, I mean it just really challenging for someone that's making a face that... So your facial expression should be of concern and interest and eye contact. Good listeners listen with their eyes, making eye contact. They say 60 percent of the time; you should be making eye contact with the other individual.


Door openers: “Tell me about it,” “I would like to hear what you are thinking,” “Would you like to talk about it,” “Let's discuss it,” “I'd be interested in what you have to say.”


Moving on. Point no. 5. Here's some rules: Don't interrogate. You don't want them to feel like they're in Guantanamo Bay or being interviewed by the Gestapo. So you want to limit the types of questions that you ask. You don't want to be like “Where were you? What were you doing last night?,” you know. These are types of things just kill listening. So your role is not the role of an interrogator. Don't ask too many questions. And then the other one don't interrupt. When they're saying something, don't jump over to what they're saying. This is Fundamental 101 listening - some practical things that we can do. We need to respect the other individual enough not to interrupt what they're saying.


And here's the other one. It's difficult for me, all right, don't preach. All right. Its not the time to preach your sermon. That will come later. But during the listening process, don't be like “Oh, I know exactly what you're going through. I went through it myself. As a matter of fact, it's not that big.” You just shut the other person down. You've minimized what they're experiencing and you projected your own autobiography on to them. You're not listening, you're preaching.


Here's the other one, no. 8 - See the world as they see the world. Understand their paradigm. Understand how they feel.


Wouldn't it be wonderful if this church as a unit would take James 1:19 to heart? I believe that 90 percent of our inner personal challenges would be greatly minimized if we would just, by the grace of GOD, follow this counsel. Amen. But we need help. We need the grace of GOD because this is not easy for us to practice. And as we close this morning, let's say this together, these words on the screen. Let this be our prayer. Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak. Amen.


Stand together as we prepare to close this morning. Every head bowed and eyes closed, I make this appeal every single Sabbath, I wanna open doors of the church and as your heads are bowed, eyes are closed, if you want to say today, “I wanna invite JESUS into my heart.” I wanna invite you raise your hands this morning saying “LORD, come into my heart. Help me because I can't help myself.” GOD hears your prayers this morning. Amen. HE's taking that invitation. He takes an invitation seriously. My second appeal/ my final appeal is this: If this has been a challenge for you, as much as it is for me, and you want to say, “LORD, help me because I can't help myself. Help me. First, to be a person that processes what I say. Let every word be edited by the Word of GOD, by the HOLY SPIRIT; to be filtered by GOD.” And you wanna say, “LORD, help me with that. And help me to be a person that is quick to listen and slow to speak. Help me FATHER to listen much and speak little.” If that's your prayer and you want GOD to help you, I want to invite you to come up today for special prayer.” We all need grace. Amen. We all need the HOLY SPIRIT and this area of our lives is a challenge. It's a challenge for Christians who love the LORD JESUS. How many times have we hurt people with our words? How many times have we shut people down by the things that we have said? And we want to say, “LORD, first of all forgive me; second, help me.”


Let’s bow our heads together as we pray.


FATHER in heaven, we thank YOU. We praise YOU that you're a GOD that works in us both to will and to do of YOUR good pleasure. LORD, we need help. We need help taming the tongue. Help us to be a person of few words, a person that sanctifies our words through the filter of the HOLY SPIRIT, that we will only speak those things that build people up, and edify and uplift the LORD JESUS. Help us to be in a mode where our first response is to listen- to truly understand the person, to accept them as you accept them as a child of GOD. LORD, if there's anyone that we need to go to and apologize for what we have said this week, last month or last year, we pray that YOU give us the grace of GOD to do so. Give us the gift of repentance to go to that brother/sister and say, “I'm sorry, I'm sorry that my words hurt you. I'm sorry for what I said. Please forgive me, pray for me.” We pray that YOU will lay that conviction on every heart today. LORD, we believe that YOU’RE coming soon; but how can you come if there's challenges between brother and sister, between brother and brother, between sister and sister in YOUR church. Help us to be united, in one, in reconciliation. We pray that YOU'd bring us together with YOU and to each other through the ministry of reconciliation. This is our prayer, in JESUS’ name. Amen.  



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