Friday, September 30, 2011

It's Only My Opinion

1 Timothy 6:3
I love it when the Lord brings something to my attention, and then says to me, “It’s time to deal with this.” Okay, so I am not totally being honest here- sometimes I want to say back, “Lord, do we have to? This one is gonna hurt.” But in His wisdom and in His grace He lovingly chastises us for our faults. Got to love that about our Lord- we really do. I have been reading through the book of 1 Timothy these past couple of weeks, and there is a word that keeps jumping off the page at me- that word is “word”.
Last week, I did a devotion on “What did Jesus do” basically encouraging us to act as Jesus acted, living the example He gave us on this earth for our own Christian walk. But today, He has given me something that I was not prepared for- at all. That is-“what am I saying?”
 This is a tough one for me, because I like to talk and I like to express myself- freely. Very rarely is there a time where I hold back from saying something, let alone bite my tongue. My justification- “It’s only my opinion.”  The Lord is saying to us today- if it starts with “Me, Myself or I” then it is probably my pride. Our pride always comes through in our words- not always in our deeds.
Paul tells Timothy in chapter 5 how the widows and elders are to be treated, and how he as a pastor is to uphold that. Paul then goes on to tell Timothy “If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness…” (5:3) Wholesome Words- there is that “word” again.
By now you know that I like to dig into the meaning of every word- especially the ones the Lord makes jump off the page at me. So, I looked up the words- “wholesome words”. Wholesome means healthy.  In context of our scripture, it means “of Christians whose opinions are free from any mixture of error.”(Vines Expository Dictionary) Basically, what Paul is telling Timothy is to watch out for those that have an “opinion” about everything. I have a lot of opinions, but what I need to realize is that it is just that, an opinion. I once had a very wise Christian lady who said to me, “you gave up the right to be right when you gave your life to Jesus Christ.” How true that statement is.
It is so easy for us to give our “opinions” about everything, because we live in a country that prides itself on “freedom of speech”. (Pride, that word keeps coming up) Unfortunately, sometimes our “opinions” are rooted in our pride, and they end up hurting someone in the body, or even worse- we stumble a new believer and they fall away or backslide. What we say has more impact on a person’s life than we think or even realize. It is easier to forgive someone’s actions then it is their words. Once words are spoken- they are out there, planting themselves in our minds. They never go away.
Let’s look at Jesus’ life- not only what He did but what He said. After Jesus was baptized, the scriptures tell us that “He was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness” (Matthew 4:1) He was tempted and tried there for 40 days. But what did He speak when He was tempted- He spoke the Word of God. At one point Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) Jesus was not only living an example in actions, but also in words. Jesus said and did many things- but He never expressed His opinion. (At least not as far as I can find in the scriptures)  He only expressed and spoke that which the Father desired Him to speak.
We are all sinners, and the words that fly out of our mouths sometimes can destroy another without us even realizing it. James tells us that “No man can tame the tongue; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.” (James 3:8-10) I am not saying that we will ever be able to tame our tongues, obviously, we cannot- otherwise James would have told us how to tame it. But what we can do is this- speak the things that the Lord has given us. It is not about us anyway, it is about Jesus Christ and His sacrifice. We are given a choice before we speak- every time. We can choose to build up or we can choose to tear down.
One of the scriptures that the Lord gave me years ago is, “Be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath.”(James 1:19) Generally, our opinions come from our emotions, which stem from our pride.  I find myself saying and expressing my opinions frequently. Why? Because I am by nature a sinner and pride is a sin that is buried deep, deep within me. But there is hope, God wants us to “take captive every thought unto the obedience of Christ” and to “be swift to hear and slow to speak,” so that before I speak, He is asking me to think- even pray. But how, how do we keep these unhealthy, pride-filled opinions from coming out? Paul tells us how-
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy- meditate on these things. “Philippians 4:6-8
We all know this scripture, we all recite it, memorize it- but now, God is asking us to walk it. Before we speak, we need to stop and ask one question- is this my opinion or is this God’s truth? If we do this, we will find ourselves speaking “wholesome words” giving life and grace to the hearers. We choose what comes out of our mouths- are we building up or are we tearing down? Remember, this life is all about Jesus and Him alone. You gave up your right to be right when you gave your life to Jesus Christ. Freedom of speech is a worldly concept- freedom in Christ is a God breathed truth. You choose.