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Sunday, May 29, 2011

[Matt's Messages] "The Heart of Gossip"

“The Heart of Gossip” [Audio Page]
Resisting Gossip - Summer 2011
May 29, 2011
Matthew 12:34


Listen to this true story sent to me by friend who wants to remain anonymous:

Gossip is an addiction. . . I was gainfully employed as a teacher in a school district. I liked my job and liked all the people I worked with… But as time went on, things got tougher with certain personalities at work. For several months I kept my mouth shut and simply listened to the talk about campus. When asked a direct question about another teacher, or our supervisor, whom my colleagues did not like, I would shrug and offer up that I had no opinion. Mind you, I did not stop any gossip. Instead I was quite intrigued to find out what the ‘scoop’ was around town. This was just the beginning for me…listening to the gossip without protesting. 
   
It wasn’t long before I had my own negative encounter with our supervisor. By this point, I had made several friends in the department and felt comfortable going to them with my issues. I wish I could say that I strictly presented the facts in a non-emotional way, but I never did. I always let my personal feelings get involved. As a result, gossip started. Once this little tiny bit of juice spilled from my lips, it kept flowing: day after day, month after month, until I couldn’t stop doing it. Even after the Holy Spirit convicted me that what I was doing was wrong, I still couldn’t stop. It became a very difficult addiction to break. My gossip finally caught up to me and got me in trouble with the person I was speaking out against all this time. Even after a confrontation it was difficult to stop. The confrontation itself became a juicy piece of gossip to share with others.
   
As I type this I remember how much I hated myself then and still hate myself now for doing and saying what I did. As a teacher, I should have known that one negative comment about someone takes over a hundred positive comments to rectify it.  I have since apologized to my supervisor, but unfortunately the only way the gossip stopped was when I had to quit my job because we were going to move across the country. With no one to gossip with I was able to finally break free.
   
I am happy to report that I have been able to stay ‘sober’ from gossip ever since. It’s been over two years since I last succumbed in any amount of severity. But I know that I need to be careful so I am not lured into it again. It’s like a drug dealer giving you the first taste for free…you get so hooked that you keep coming back for more. And it can ruin your own reputation and witness too. It’s very ugly.”
“The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts.”  Proverbs 26:22   

We’re going to jump all over the Bible today, but we’re going start in Matthew 12.

Our sermon series this Summer is on “Resisting Gossip.”

I’m sharing what I’ve been learning in my doctoral studies on the problem of gossip and the answers that are in the Bible.

Thank you for your feedback from last week’s message.  It was very encouraging and very helpful.  Keep it coming.

Rick Sipe told me after church last week that he liked what he heard, but if he thought of anything wrong with it–he’d be sure to spread it around town!

And I love your questions that are coming in after last week’s message.  Please keep them coming, too.  If what I say doesn’t make sense or raises a question for you, that’ll be really helpful for me as I continue to develop this material–and eventually, Lord-willing, put it into a book.

Last week was “Recognizing Gossip.”  Being able to tell what was sinful gossip and what wasn’t.

And we learned a simple, yet functional, definition of sinful gossip.

Can anybody remember it?

Sinful Gossip Is...

Bearing Bad News
Behind Someone’s Back
Out of a Bad Heart

That’s simple, but I think it’s helpful.

Bearing Bad News (and that news could be bad because it’s false or bad because it’s about someone shameful thing someone has truly done, or because it’s something bad that is projected for someone else)
Behind Someone’s Back...The person whom the story is about is not present.
Out of a Bad Heart.

That’s sinful gossip.

And I said last week that today we’re going to focus on that last phrase.

“Out of a Bad Heart.”

Gossip comes out of a heart that is bad.
       
Because all bad words do.  Jesus says so.

Look down at Matthew 12:33-37.

Jesus is denouncing the Pharisees.  They have just accused Him of being in league with Satan.  Those are bad words, if I’ve ever heard any!

And Jesus says this about their words.  V.33

“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.  You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned."

Jesus has some strong words about bad words, doesn’t He?

Where do bad words come from?

They come from the heart. Verse 34.

“For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”

Why do we gossip?  Because there is something bad going on in our hearts.

Jesus likens people to trees.  “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.”

If the heart of the tree is healthy–the root system and trunk of the tree is healthy–then the fruit of the tree will be good, too.

But if the heart of the tree is bad–the root system and the trunk is bad, then the fruit will be worthless.  And you can tell what’s in the heart by what comes out in the fruit.

I have a history at this church of pouring things out on the stage.

I’m going to do it again right now. [pouring water bottle onto stage]

Why is there now water on the floor?

We could say a lot of things that are true.

But why is there water on the floor and not Pepsi or Kool-Aid?

Because I would get in major trouble with Cindy Green if it were Pepsi or Kool-Aid!

Fundamentally, there is water on the floor because there was water in the bottle.

“Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

Jesus says the Pharisees, being snakelike, couldn’t say anything good. V.34 “You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good?”

V.35 “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”

So, the most important thing to understand about gossip is where it comes from.

It comes from the heart.

Good gossip (if we can call it that, that is good small talk, good talk about others) comes from good stored up in the heart.
                   
Evil gossip, sinful gossip, comes out of the evil stored up in the human heart.

Even for believers in Jesus who now have a new heart–the remaining stain of indwelling sin lingers within (we call it “the flesh.”) and continues to create evil motivations.

This isn’t the only time that Jesus talks like this.

In just 3 more chapters (chapter 15) Jesus says to the same kind of people:

“Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”  He could add, “sinful gossip.”

“Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”

And it’s really important to get a handle on that because we’re going to be held accountable.  Did you catch that in verse 36 and 37?

“But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Not that your words could save you, but your words are fruit (evidence) to show what is genuinely in your heart.

Just think about verse 36 for one second.

Giving an account on the day of judgment–not just for every malicious word that I’ve spoken–but for every careless word.  Every aimless word.  Every idle word.

This stuff is serious!

Words are serious.  They don’t just go into the air and then drift away.

They are all remembered.  God is listening.

And we will have to give an account.

So, today, I want us to think more deeply about the overflow from heart to gossip.

I want us to think together about the connection between our heart’s motives, our deepest driving desires and the words that come out of them.

Today’s message is titled, “The Heart of Gossip.”

Because of out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.

And here’s how I want to do it.

I want to introduce you to five different kinds of gossips.

That is, five kinds of people who fall into the sin of gossip.

They are gossipers.  Five types of gossipers.

There could be many more, but we’ll just do these five today.

The book of Proverbs, especially, likes to categorize people into caricatures so that disciples can recognize them when they run into them–or when they are acting like them.

Some of you will remember the old Sesame Street song about “the people that you meet when you’re walking down the street in your neighborhood?”

On Sesame Street that was policemen, firemen, meter readers, and traffic cops.

But in the Proverbs, it’s the sluggard, the wayward wife, the hot-tempered man, the fool, and at least two kinds of gossips.

In fact, most of the time, when the word “gossip” appears in the Bible it is a person (a gossip) more than it is what they say, (“the words of a gossip”).

So, I want to introduce you to 5 different types of gossips and talk about what kind of heart motivations might be driving them.

And then, we get to think about how the gospel of Jesus Christ intersects those heart motivations and helps us to resist gossip in all its forms.

Because the good news is that even at the heart level gossip can be withstood.

The Bible says, “[God’s] divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” in the heart (2 Peter 2:3-4).

Isn’t that good news?

In the precious promises of God and our knowledge of Jesus is everything we need for life and godliness and escaping the corruption of gossip.

Okay.  Gossiper Number One.

#1. THE SPY.

Turn with me to Proverbs 11:13.  Proverbs 11:13.  Pew Bible page #635.  Proverbs 11:13.

It says, “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.”

King James, “A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.”

The spy.

The Hebrew word for “gossip” or “talebearer” in Proverbs 11:13 is a different word than the one we saw last week in Proverbs 26:22 and 18:8.

This word is the Hebrew word “rakil.” 

And it basically means a spy.

The Hebrew dictionaries define rakil as a peddler (of secrets), a huckster, a hawker, a deceiver, a defamer, a spy.

A rakil is someone who goes about from place to place spying things out and exposing secrets–often to the highest bidder.

We might call him an informer.

Do you get the picture?

This is somebody who loves to get the dirt on someone, and then use it to their own advantage.

They might seem like it, but they are not trustworthy.

“A gossip [rakil] betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.”

Don’t talk to the spy or your secrets will be the next ones to be revealed.  Right?

And don’t be that spy, either.

Now, what could be the motivation of the spy?

What kind of a bad heart would bear that kind of bad news behind somebody’s back?

Well, it could be a lot of things. People are complex and have many different motivations, often mixed together, for what we do.

But it seems here like the main motivation is power.  A hunger for power.

There’s something that a spy wants. And they’ll use your secrets and mine to get it.

Now that power might be just mischievousness.  They might enjoy making trouble. 

They might just like the power of knowing something they shouldn’t.

Or they might know that they can get something even better by trading this secret for another one.

I think we see this a lot with teenage girls.  Am I right on that?

They trade gossip about each other to maintain power over each other in their cliques.

The spy has a heart that lusts for power.

Is that you?

Well, if it’s power you want, then what you really want is Jesus.

Because the power of gossip enslaves, but the power of Christ emancipates. It frees you.

Satan lies about His power.  It is derived and it is waning.  He is a defeated ruler on the way out.

But Jesus’ power is the power that brought Him back to life after He was crucified.

And it is eternal and available through the Holy Spirit of God.

If power is your temptation, then pray along with Paul the prayer of Ephesians 1:18-21.

“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.”

That’s gospel power. And it’s better than anything gossip promises.

And how did Jesus use His power?  He used it in love.

He was a trustworthy man.  Someone you could entrust your deepest, most shameful secrets to.

Proverbs 11:13, “A [spying] gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.”

#2. THE GRUMBLER.

Turn with me now to Proverbs 16:28. Proverbs 16:28.  That’s Pew Bible Page #641.

Proverbs 16:28 says “A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.”

Now, that’s a different Hebrew word for gossip.  The same one that we saw last week in 26:22 and 18:8.

It’s not rakil.  It’s nirgan.  Both mean “gossip” but this is the kind of gossip that comes from a grumbler.

The Hebrew dictionaries say that a nirgan “refers to murmuring about another person behind their back rather than openly complaining about their behavior.”

The King James uses the word “whisperer” here.

The root word is the same word used to describe the people of Israel when they grumbled in their tents.

Did they go out and directly talk to the Lord about their problems?

No, they hid in their tents and grumbled about Him in secret.

Of course, nothing is secret with God.

The grumbler complains.  The grumbler criticizes.

The grumbler is upset about something, and misery loves company–so they talk about somebody behind their back.

We often it call it “venting.”

“I just needed to ‘vent’ to someone.”  When all it really is is sinful gossip.

There is no constructive purpose, no love in the heart.  Just grumbling.

Do you see the grumbler in your minds’ eye?

Have you ever been the grumbler?  I know that I have!

The anonymous writer of that first story I read to you today?  It started with grumbling, didn’t it?  They didn’t like their supervisor, so they talked about him or her behind their back.

This is often where jealousy comes in.

I got an email from a pastor friend a couple of weeks ago asking about my project and wondering does all gossip come from jealousy?

Because it seemed to him that most, if not all, of the gossip that he encounters comes out of a jealous heart.

That makes sense, doesn’t it?

Of course, not all gossip is from jealousy, but if you are jealous, you’ll be tempted to grumble behind the back of someone who has something you want:

A job, a position, a girlfriend, a boyfriend, a car, happiness, whatever.

One of you wrote me a note saying, “About 12 years ago I was discouraged because I saw people in my organization who made more money [than I did] who I believed did not work as hard or have as hard of a job as I did.  Because I felt this way, I would voice my opinion to many people at work.”

And you know what happened?  Two of the people that this person talked about stopped interacting with them altogether.  They wouldn’t even say hello.

It took some humbling apologies and some amount of time before the relationship was restored at all.

Proverbs 16:28. “A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a [grumbling] gossip separates close friends.”

The gospel remedy to grumbling is contentment and thanksgiving.

It’s not bad to want something, but it’s terrible to want something too much.

And isn’t that what jealousy is?

Christians need to cultivate a heart of contentment with what we have and thanksgiving for what we’ve been given.

Grumbling gossip feels good (even justified and righteous), but it’s NOT good.

Contentment feels even better.

Contentment is counting your blessings and knowing that if you have Jesus Christ, you have everything.

Isn’t that what we saw in Philippians 4 on Mother’s Day?

Paul said, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. [What’s the secret?] I can do everything through [Christ] who gives me strength.”

#3. THE BACKSTABBER.

This one is like the grumbler, but it’s more active anger, more hateful.

And the water inside the bottle is the water of revenge.

Backstabbing gossip overflows from a heart bent on revenge, on retaliation.

The backstabber engages in malicious gossip.  Truly malicious.

There is a malice in the heart of the gossiper, a desire for the target of the gossip to be hurt, to experience pain.

Now, it might be by spreading lies.  We saw that last week.

We call that a smear campaign.  This is the stuff that political campaigns are made of.

I read a whole book on gossip and politics this Spring.  It made feel all dirty when I read it. I wanted to take a bath after every chapter.

And it’s not gotten better in our time.

It might be spreading lies.  It might also be spreading truth to harm others.

Love covers over the warts in someone’s reputation if at all possible.

Backstabbing is an age old problem.

Turn to Psalm 41.  Pew Bible page #556. Psalm 41.

I was telling you about this last week.

King David was very sick and it brought out the gossip of His enemies.  Look down again at verse 5.

“My enemies say of me in malice, ‘When will he die and his name perish?’  Whenever one comes to see me, he speaks falsely, while his heart gathers slander; then he goes out and spreads it abroad. All my enemies whisper together against me; they imagine the worst for me, saying, ‘A vile disease has beset him; he will never get up from the place where he lies’” (Psalm 41:5-8).

And now go down to verse 9.

“Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.”

That’s betrayal.  That’s treachery. That’s backbiting.  That’s backstabbing.

Now, we’re not sure exactly who David is referring to here, but we know how the Lord Jesus used this very Psalm about Himself, don’t we?

Jesus quoted Psalm 41:9 at the Last Supper with Judas.

Jesus knows what it’s like to be betrayed.

This kind of malicious gossip shows up all through the Bible.  If I had time, I’d take you to 2 Corinthians 12 to show you how it was ripping apart the church in Corinth, and I take you to 3 John, verse 10 to show you how a man named Diotrephes was maliciously gossiping about the apostle John.

Where does this malice come from?

Well, again, the heart is a complex thing. 

Proverbs 20, verse 5 says, “The purposes of a man's heart are deep waters...”

They are not always obvious!  But it also says, “...but a man of understanding draws them out.”

So it is possible to understand, to some degree, why we do what we do.

And it seems to me that the water inside of backstabber’s bottle is the water of revenge.

It’s anger to the point where you want that other person to pay for it.

And gossip is a delicious way to do it.  Because they don’t even know (until it’s too late) what’s going!

What does the gospel say to backstabbers?

Isn’t not just “Don’t do it!” “Cut it out!”  “Don’t be a hater!”

As true as that is, it doesn’t go very deep down into the heart.

The gospel says to backstabber, justice will be done.

Justice will be done.

But you need to leave it in the proper hands.

Loving confrontation, sure.
The proper authorities, yes.

But revenge.  No.

Here’s why.  Because God will take care of it.

On His time-table and His own way, but perfectly.  Justice will be done.

Romans 12 says, “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:19-21).

Only a Christian can truly do that.

Because we know something about justice: that every wrong will be paid for either at the Cross of Jesus or in the eternal judgment of Hell.

And that can change our hearts.

It can make it possible for us to overcome evil with good and not take revenge.

Do you see how the gospel intersects with the heart of the gossip?

Here’s number 4.

It’s one that I’ve heard from a number of you.

#4. THE CHAMELEON.

The chameleon is the person who goes along with gossip to try to fit in with the crowd.

Someone wrote on my blog last week, “I think that sometimes people gossip so that they can be a part of the conversation. If they know something 'interesting' about another person they might get people to listen to them.”

If you’re a chameleon and you’re talking with the spy, you’re under a lot of pressure to share some tittle tattle yourself, aren’t you?

What’s in the heart of the chameleon?

What’s driving that?

The Bible calls it, the fear of man.

Proverbs 29:25 says, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.”

A chameleon gossip is worried about what other people will say about them, do to them, or think of them.

They are afraid of being excluded.

But the gospel speaks to that, too!

It says fear God, not people!

If my mind becomes full of who God is (and God is holy and omnipotent and awesome and...my Father. He’s FOR me like no else is.  I am included where it counts the most), then I won’t worry about what other people might say, do, or think!

Here’s the last one for today.

Next week, we’re going to talk about the judge.  Because most sinful gossip includes sinful judgments about others.

But we’ll save that for next week.

Here’s our last type of gossip for today.

#5. THE BUSYBODY.


And this is the one that I think almost all of us can relate to personally.

I know I can.

This is the person who is idle (who isn’t engaged in purposeful business).
This is the person who likes to engage in other people’s business.

This is the person who wants to be entertained.
They gossip for titillation and living vicariously through the stories of others.

This is a meddler.
It’s a busybody.

Turn with me to 1 Timothy chapter 5.

Paul is explaining to Timothy what to do about the widows.

They had a list of widows that the church cared for.

But you had to be a certain kind of widow to make the list.

Basically a godly one.  But also an older widow.

Because, look down at v.13, the younger widows have some particular temptations if they are put on a list like this. V.13

“[T]hey get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to.”

Do you see how this works?

If you aren’t busy with productive, purposeful godly activity, you can easily get sucked into being a gossipy busybody.

Now, this is not just a woman thing!  If I had time, I’d take you to 1 and 2 Thessalonians to show you how men get into being busybodies themselves when they aren’t working.

This is not a guy or gal thing.  This is a sinner thing.

And we’re both that.

Here’s where boredom becomes a key factor.

Escape from boredom is a major heart motive for gossip in our culture.

That’s why there are gossip columns in the newspaper and gossip shows on television and gossip blogs with the latest information about Lindsey Lohan or Arnold Schwarzennager or whomever.

Escape from boredom is often the water in the bottle for busybody gossip.

And we rationalize.

“It’s not malicious gossip!” we say.

And it’s true!

But it isn’t love either, is it?

No it isn’t.

And we’re going to have to give an account for every idle word...

I’ve been thinking a lot about stupid people recently.

You know what I mean.  The stupid, shamelful things that people do.

We love to talk about stupid people.

It makes us feel good about ourselves to think how stupid other people are.

But here’s the truth. 

The stupid people of the world do not exist for my entertainment.

That’s not how God treats people, is it?

God loves people.  And treats them with much more mercy than they deserve.

God loved me. And I’m a very stupid person.

The Bible would call me a “fool.”

But, in love, God sent His own Son to die for this fool and gave me His word and His Spirit to make me wise.

The gospel escape from boredom is active love, active service, active mercy for other people–including those who do not deserve it one bit.

Paul tells the young widows to marry and have children. Not that marriage is an antidote to gossip.

But it is an antidote to being idle.

Paul tells idle busybody men in 2 Thessalonians to get a job.  And if they don’t they shouldn’t eat.  And the rest of the church should keep away from them.

To mind their own beeswax.

To get busy for their families and for the Kingdom.

Do you see what we’ve done here today?

For every kind of gossip (and we’ve really just scratched the surface), there are heart motivations that are driving the gossiping.

Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.

And for everyone of those that is bad, there is a remedy in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

And that’s true, not just for gossip but for every sin!

The truth of the gospel, the promises of God, knowing Christ in personal relationship, the power of the Holy Spirit–all of this is enough to change our hearts so that we can resist gossip in all of it’s forms.

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires...”

...overflowing from the heart.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Difficultor

I have a super power.

I have the ability to make something that is relatively easy and simple into something hopelessly complex and difficult.

My wife agrees with me.  "You sure do!" she said today at lunch.  "You are a super-hero! You're MY super-hero!"  Thanks, Honey.

Of course, it's more like an evil super-villain.  I think I'll call myself, "Difficultor!"  With my powers of complexitation and obscurantism, I leave mass destruction in my wake.

Yes, I'm talking about sermon-writing.

Pray for me today as I try to re-simplify what I already know to be simple to share with the people of God tomorrow--something helpful and edifying.

The promise from God's word that I'm clinging to today is even more super:

"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires."  2 Peter 1:3-4

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Eschatology of Gossip

Gossip seems overwhelming.

The more I study it, write about it, and talk about gossip, the more it seems inevitable and unstoppable.

Gossip is ubiquitous.  It's going to happen.

Image courtesy of freefoto.com

Trying to resist gossip on a grand scale, feels like standing on the beach and talking the surf into stopping.  It's not going to happen.

And yet...isn't that what Christians are?  Those who go against the tide?  People whose life flows in a different direction than the world's.

And we do that, knowing that there is coming a day when the glory of the Lord covers the earth like the waters cover the sea (Hab 2:14) and when there is no sea (Rev 21:1)--meaning that there will be no chaotic, over-powering evil. 

No more being overwhelmed.

No more gossip. 

Because there will no longer be any bad news!

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

[Matt's Messages] "Recognizing Gossip"

“Recognizing Gossip”  [Audio Page]
Resisting Gossip - Summer 2011
May 22, 2011
Proverbs 26:22


Today, we begin our new sermon series on “Resisting Gossip.”

This is the T-shirt that my wife and kids got me for my birthday this month.

It says, “Ask Me About My Book (No, Really!).”

Many of you have graciously asked me about my doctoral project which includes a ministry book on the subject of resisting gossip.

Well, for the next several weeks, I’m going to tell you about the book and share with you what I’ve been learning.

You might wonder why I’ve picked this topic.

I told somebody once that I was writing a book on resisting gossip, and he said back to me, “Oh, do you have that problem in your church?”

And I was able to say, “No. We don’t have a gossipy church. I would have picked a different topic if we did. I wouldn’t want anybody to feel like I was picking on them!”

And I promise not to gossip about any of you during this series.

However, gossip is a problem that we all experience.

No one is immune from the temptation to gossip.

And no one is immune from the effects of gossip.

And yet, there hasn’t been very much teaching on the subject for Christians.

Gossip is an everyday problem yet there isn’t much in the way of everyday help from Christians resources to help followers of Christ to resist it.

So, that’s why I picked gossip, and what I’ve been learning, I think, is very helpful.

So I’m going to test-drive it with you.  You’re the guinea pigs.

You give me feedback about it, and then we’ll put into a book to help others.  Okay?

What do you think of when you think of gossip?

Perhaps you think of Abby Houston hilariously playing Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn in the West Branch production of the Music Man.  And the young ladies clucking along with her, “Pick a little, talk a little, pick a talk a little, Cheep Cheep Cheep!”

My mom loves Norman Rockwell paintings.  So I grew up with having them always around the house. This is my favorite one. It’s called “The Gossips.”



It says a lot in just one picture. 

A woman tells her friend a story, about someone.

She tells her friend.  Who tells her friend.  Who tells her friend.  And they all laugh about it.

Until it gets back to the subject of the gossip.  He’s not so happy about it.

And he confronts the original lady.

Haven’t we all been in one of those positions at one time or another?

The speaker, the listener, the subject of the gossip.

Some of those positions are more fun to be in than others.

Norman Rockwell’s painting seems pretty harmless.

But gossip, at least sinful gossip, is not harmless.

It’s harmful.  It’s dangerous. It’s evil. 

Listen to the Apostle Paul put it into a list of sins. This is Romans chapter 1.

He’s talking about the universal sinfulness of humanity, especially the depravity of the Gentiles.  Listen to this (Romans 1:28-29):

“They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”

Whoa. Being a gossip makes it into the list with “every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity?”  It makes the list in between murder and God-hating, and Paul says that those who do such things as gossip deserve death!

Wow.

That’s bad stuff!

Sinful gossip is not just a little neutral thing.

The apostle James says, “the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”

Sinful gossip is not just a little neutral thing.

It’s playing with fire.

So, that’s why we’re going to talk about it for the next few weeks and develop some biblical strategies for resisting it.

The first step is to recognize gossip.

What is it?

What exactly is gossip?

If we’re going to resist gossip, we need to have a pretty good definition in our minds.

The first rule of war is to know your enemy.

What is gossip?

How do you recognize gossip?

That’s not an easy question.

One of the reasons why I tackled gossip as my doctoral problem was because I wasn’t exactly sure what was gossip and what wasn’t.

How do you know?

When is it just “small talk,” and when is it sinful gossip?

We are regularly confronted with the question, “Should I be saying this?”  “Should I be sharing this?”  “Should I be listening to this?”

What makes it wrong?

Is it...When it’s said?
Or Is it...Who says it?
Or is it...to whom its told?

Well, isn’t it okay if you’re just telling your Mom?  Your wife?  Your sister?  Your pastor?

The hardest part about recognizing gossip is that it doesn’t come with a warning label.

Wouldn’t it be great if this would flash across above the heads of people you’re talking with?


I’m not sure I’d like because it might show up over my head.

But that’s not what happens, is it?

No, normally, there you are just minding your own business and this juicy piece of news about someone else just comes right across and asks you to swallow it.

Look down at Proverbs 26:22.

“The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man's inmost parts.”

Choice morsels are things that you want to swallow up greedily.

They’re the best, most addictive, things to eat.

They’re like Doritos put on the kitchen counter.

What happens if mom puts some Doritos (or substitute your favorite snack here) in a bowl on the counter in the afternoon?

They’re gone, aren’t they? Like that!

My wife has got wise to this and puts out a bowl of apples on the counter or carrots.

And they are gone long before supper.

But let’s say they’re Doritos. 

What happens if you eat the whole bag before supper?

“The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man's inmost parts.”

You feel it right here.

My grandmother used say, “Once across the lips, always on the hips,” right?

Gossip tastes great, but it will poison your heart.

Now, again, what is gossip?

I’m glad you asked.

After a thorough study of the whole Bible, and every time the Bible talks about gossip, and uses a word that is translated “gossip,” and every time the Bible talks about gossip without using the word, I’ve come up with this definition that I hope will help us to identify sinful gossip when we hear it ... and/or when we are tempted to pass it on ourselves.

Ready?

SINFUL GOSSIP IS BEARING BAD NEWS BEHIND SOMEONE’S BACK OUT OF A BAD HEART.

You can see that this working definition has three parts to it.

#1.  Bearing Bad News
#2.  Behind Someone’s Back
#3.  Out of a Bad Heart

Let’s go through those one at a time.

#1.  SINFUL GOSSIP IS BEARING BAD NEWS.

Gossip is a talking thing.

Right?  Verse 22.

“The WORDS of a gossip.”

Gossip is sharing.  Gossip is communicating.  It’s a talking thing.

Now, that goes both ways.  Sinful gossip is both talking and listening to this kind of bad news.

Proverbs 20:19 says, “A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much.”

So gossip is often sharing someone else’s secret. 

Have you ever done that?  Told someone else’s secret?

Have you ever had that done to you?  Someone told your secret?

How did that feel?

It’s talking. “Avoid a man who talks too much.”

But it’s not just talking. It’s also listening.

Proverbs 17:4 says, “A wicked man listens to evil lips; a liar pays attention to a malicious tongue.”

The New Living Translation says it this way, “Wrongdoers eagerly listen to gossip; liars pay close attention to slander.”

So, sometimes, even just receiving that juicy piece of gossip without saying something or stopping the conversation is sinful, too. Almost as sinful as speaking it.  Listening is also bearing the bad news.

And of course, this bearing of bad news isn’t just talking out loud.

You can gossip online, right?

There is this thing called “Gossip Book,” right?

I’m just kidding. I mean Facebook.

Like most things, it can be used for great good (and I use it), but anything that can be used for great good can be used for great evil.  Especially if it involves lots of words!

So sinful gossip might be pressing the “enter” key on your computer. 
Or the publish button your blog.
Or the share button your Facebook page.

Sinful Gossip is #1. Bearing Bad News.

Now that news (that story, because it’s almost always a story) can be bad news in three different ways.

First, it might be “bad information” meaning that it’s false.

If you know that it’s false, then it’s not just gossip, it’s also slander.

But sharing lies about someone behind their back is gossip.

If I told you that Davey Williamson killed and then ate their own cat last week, that would be gossip, because it’s not true. [Is it? I hope not!]

But you and I can think of a lot of worse lies to pass around about someone–and what would that do their reputation?

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can really hurt me!

Have you ever had your reputation hurt by the bad information that someone spread about you?

At one time, I heard through the grapevine of our little community a rumor was circulating that I had left my wife. This was laughable to anyone that knows us (I couldn’t live without her!), but I have no idea who started the rumor or who might have heard it and believed the lie.

Proverbs 16:28 says, “A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.” If you want to stay close to your friends, don’t gossip about them.

Don’t tell lies.

But the bad information might be something that you think is true but isn’t.

That’s just as bad.  That’s also sinful gossip.

Or it might be unverifiable.  Or rumor.  Or hearsay.

A second way that this news could be bad would be “bad news about someone” meaning a story about something bad that they have done.

It might be true!

But that doesn’t mean that you and I need to be talking about it.

Let’s say that one of your friends recently did something bad, and you heard about it.

Maybe they even were the one that told you.

They committed adultery.
They cheated on their income tax.
They lied to their boss.
They hit their mother.
Whatever.

They did something shameful.

They actually did it.

You and I don’t have to talk about it with our friends.

I know that’s hard to do.

“The words of a gossip are like choice morsels...”

Ooh.  They are hard to resist.

Now, some of you have the King James Version in front of you, and you’re scratching your heads at what I’m saying is in verse 22.

Because your translation says, “The words of a talebearer [that sounds right, bearing bad news] are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.”

It’s the exact same thing as Proverbs 18:8. God thinks this is so important, He repeats Himself in the Proverbs.

The reason for the difference is a trickiness in figuring out what the Hebrew word is here.

The translators of the King James Version thought that the root word was a Hebrew word that mean to hammer or strike something (halam).  And that’s true, too, isn’t it?

The words of a gossip are harmful.  They wound you.  They are a kick in the gut.

But most scholars today think that a different Hebrew word was the root word for this one, laham (not halam) a word that means savory or delicious morsels that you can’t hardly resist and want to swallow right down.

My wife makes a candy called “Buckeyes.”  They are like a homemade Reeces’s Cup but better.  Chocolate on the outside and sweet peanut butter on the inside.

I just asked her to make some for me this week.  Oooh!

She almost has to lock the cabinet after making them.

Because I can’t say, “No.”

If she offers me a Buckeye, I don’t care how many platefuls I just ate and how full I am. I’ll find the room!

“The words of a gossip are like choice morsels...”

Of course, they didn’t have confections back in Solomon’s day.

So, this was probably more like a choice piece of meat.

My son, Andrew, when the roast beef is going by, says, “Can I have piece with some fat on it?”  That’s the choicest morsel.  And it’s hard to resist.

Yum!

Bad news, shameful news, is like that, too, for you and me.

It’s addictive. But it’s not good for us.

“The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man's inmost parts.”

Some foods make us sick to the stomach, but gossip makes us sick to the heart.

There is something wrong with us that makes us want to know and talk about the shameful things other people do.

And a third way that this news might be bad is “bad news FOR someone else.”

Meaning, not that they did something shameful themselves, but that something bad is projected to happen to them.

In Psalm 41, King David got really sick, and his enemies rejoiced and started to gossip about him.

David writes, “My enemies say of me in malice, ‘When will he die and his name perish?’  Whenever one comes to see me, he speaks falsely, while his heart gathers slander; then he goes out and spreads it abroad. All my enemies whisper together against me; they imagine the worst for me, saying, ‘A vile disease has beset him; he will never get up from the place where he lies’” (Psalm 41:5-8).

That’s gossip, too.

David has not done anything shameful here, but his enemies are two-faced and come in and say, “Oh poor you.” And then they spread the bad news that he’s going to die.

Have you ever had this one happen to you?

People are saying, “He’s going to lose his job.  He’s not going to make team.  She’s going to get kicked out of school. Her husband is going to leave her.  They’re going to lose their house.”  And so on.

Gossip can be bad news that is projected for someone else.

Sinful gossip is bearing bad news...

#2. BEHIND SOMEONE’S BACK.

By definition, gossip happens when the person you are talking about isn’t there.

That’s one of the things that makes it gossip.

If you have the New American Standard or the Revised Standard or the English Standard Version, then your translation says here in verse 22, “The words of a whisperer are like choice morsels.”

A whisperer.

A whisperer, a gossip, is someone who talks about you behind your back.

And that’s intentional.  It’s much easier and more interesting to talk about someone who isn’t there.

So we have to ask ourselves the question, “Would I say this if he were here?”  Would I receive this bad news about her in the same way if she were here?

That might show you whether or not it’s gossip.

Now, that doesn’t mean that we can’t ever talk about people who aren’t present.

We certainly can say GOOD things about people who aren’t here.

Let’s turn gossip around and spread good news about people!

But sometimes we have to talk about people who aren’t present.  And even to share bad things about them.

Parents have to do that.
Teachers have to do that.
Elders and Pastors have to do that.
Even friends and teammates and co-workers and neighbors have to do that sometimes.

There is a whole biblical category of warning others that we have to do.

I heard about a Christian couple who tried really hard to resist gossip. They wouldn’t talk about someone who wasn’t in the room.  Nothing.  Not even a positive word!

But that doesn’t work.

Sometimes we have to get some counsel from someone about our problems, and that involves sharing about the shameful things someone else has done without them there.

It’s not gossip to truly seek out help.

But the key is to keep loving them even when you have to talk about them.

Even if they are your enemies.

We’ll talk more about this in a few weeks when we start to get really practical.

But it’s just applying Jesus’ “golden rule of thumb” to a difficult situation.

If you have to talk about someone when they are not there, make sure that you are treating them like you would want to be treated if you were the person that wasn’t there.

Because sinful gossip is clandestine.

It is bearing bad news behind someone’s back.

Number three. 

#3. OUT OF A BAD HEART.

Because that’s where ALL bad words come from.

The Lord Jesus said in Matthew 12, “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”

Whatever our hearts are full of is what will come out of our mouths.

The heart is the control center of the person.

It’s the inner you.  The real you.

The heart is the worshiping core of a human being.

And it’s out of the heart that we live.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

We live out of our hearts.

Our hearts are where our motivations form.

And, I believe that our sinful motivations for speaking or listening is what makes sinful gossip sinful.

Because “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”

So, the most important thing about gossip is where it comes from.

WHY?
The WHY question.
WHY am I saying this?
WHY am I attracted to this bad news?

Because of something going on in here.

“The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man's inmost parts.”

And we are attracted to those choice morsels because of something already wrong in our inmost parts.

Can you think of some bad motivations, some icky things going on in your heart that might lead you to gossip?

Come back next week, and we’ll talk about it.

Because it’s more than just jealousy and revenge.

Those are the ones that come quickly to our minds.

And we’ll talk about them.

Malicious gossip is almost always about jealousy or revenge.  Anger.

But sinful gossip is bigger than malicious gossip.

There are other motivations, others things that can drive us towards gossip than just those.

Take boredom, for example.

A desire to be entertained.

Idle gossip is also sinful gossip.

And, my personal temptation is pride.  I am tempted to gossip to show that I am “in the know,” that I’m in the inner circle.  A real someone!

Next week, we’ll look at several different heart motivations that need to be confronted by the gospel of Jesus Christ so that we can truly change and resist the temptations to gossip.

Because it’s not so easy.

I know that sometimes, when I’m talking about this problem of gossip, it’s easy to just say, “Well, don’t do it!”

“Cut it out!”

“Stop it!”

But it’s not always that easy.

Often the battle is down at a core level, at a heart level.

But it is possible to win.

Jesus Christ has made it possible by dying on the cross to save us.

By coming back to life to give us power to live a holy life.

And by sending His Spirit to apply His promises to our hearts.

What is the state of your heart today?

Is it centered on Jesus Christ who lived and died and lived again for you?

Or is your heart swallowing the icky candy of sinful gossip?

The only sure way for us to resist gossip’s lure is to have a heart that is full of worshiping Christ.

That is full of Jesus, that is feasting on His delicious words.

A heart, an innermost being, that is full of Jesus.

Now, Proverbs 26:22 is just a warning. It doesn’t tell us how to resist those choice morsels.  Just that we need to.

And now that we’ve got a biblically informed definition to recognize gossip, we can begin to think better about gospel strategies for saying no.

    For bearing good news.
    For being up front and loving those we talk about and talk to.
    And for having a changed heart that loves God and loves people.

It’s important to know that it is possible to resist gossip.

Hear this promises from 1 Corinthians 10:13.

“No temptation has seized you except that which is common to man. [The words of a gossip are choice morsels. You’re going to get seized, and that’s normal.] And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear [In Christ, you can say, “No!”].  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

And resist gossip.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Gossip Game #3 - The Big Mo

Okay, gang, ready for another gossip game?

This one is really important because it involves the heart of the matter:

"The Big Mo - Motivation."

WHY do we gossip?

Can you give a sentence or even a word for a possible motivation for sinful gossip?

Here are a few words to get you going:

Revenge
Jealousy
Boredom
Titillation

I'm hoping to compile about 25 of these.

The best of them (or categories that summarize them) will find their way into a sermon next Sunday!

Thanks, friends, for participating.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Turabian Nights

I've grown to hate footnotes.

One of the most frustrating parts of working on this doctoral project is the "detail" work of getting everything that I write into the proper format.

I value getting things like that right--and Westminster has a great ministry on campus that helps students with their theological writing--from the organization of thought, to word choice to...footnotes.

I've finished chapter 2 of my project on resisting gossip: "Biblical and Theological Foundations," but I've been hampered in turning it in to my adviser because I haven't gotten all of the footnotes into the proper format (all 104 of them).

The frustrating part is that I can't figure out what the proper format is.  The seminary offers a style sheet which says to use Kate Turabian's handbook on the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS).  Simple enough.  However, in the field of biblical studies (of which my field of biblical counseling overlaps), we're supposed to use some formatting guidelines from the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL).  Okay.  But, it seems to me that Turabian and SBL don't always agree.  

Which one is trumps?

The helpful folks at WTS have my questions and are going to help me get answers in due course, but in the meantime, I've been pulling out what little remains of my hair in trying to solve these footnotal conundrums. 

On one hand, it's not that important.  It's just footnotes.  If that's the worst thing that ever happens to me, then I've got it pretty easy.  On the other hand, I want to do it right, and I want to get it done, and these footnotes are in my way!

Where is God in all of this?

I'm glad you asked.  He is using this for my good.  Like a piece of sand in the shoe that causes you to slow down at just the right moment, or like a fiery trial that burns off the dross and leaves the precious gold (1 Peter 1), or like a footnote that causes you to call out to God for "HELP!!!!!" God is in the details.

Down to the footnotes.

******

After a couple of weeks off for vacation and catching up from vacation, I go back into my writing lair tomorrow to try to beard the gossip dragon.

I'm going to ignore the footnotes and format questions and get to work on chapter 3 "Historical Precedents and Current Cultural Conditions" and map out the sermon series on resisting gossip that I will be starting this Sunday.  I'll also be prepping to teach on resisting gossip to a bunch of high schoolers at the Christian School in Clearfield on Wednesday.

I covet your prayers.  

Thank you!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Certain of Jesus - The Gospel of Luke

Certain of Jesus
The Back-Story of Jesus
The Birth of Jesus
Jesus - A Very Special Child
Preparing the Way for Jesus
Jesus Is the Son of God
Jesus in Galilee
Jesus and the Sinners
Jesus Brings Real Joy and Rest
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part One
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Two
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Three
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Four
Amazing Jesus
Disappointed with Jesus
Loving Jesus Much
Jesus' Real Family
Jesus Is Lord
Who Is Jesus?
Following Jesus
Sent By Jesus
Q&A With Jesus
Sitting at Jesus' Feet
Jesus Teaches Us to Pray 
Jesus Is Stronger Than Satan
More Blessed Than Jesus' Mom
Jesus and the Judgment to Come
Being Real with Jesus
Jesus and Our Stuff
Be Ready for Jesus' Return
Jesus and Tragedies
Set Free By Jesus
Jesus and the Surprising Kingdom
Jesus and Jerusalem
Jesus at the Party
The Cost of Following Jesus
Jesus and the Lost: Part One
Jesus and the Lost: Part Two
Jesus and the Lost: Part Three
Jesus on Money
Sneering at Jesus
Jesus and the Great Chasm
Jesus Said to His Disciples...
Thanking Jesus
Jesus and the Coming Kingdom
Jesus Says, "Keep Praying"
The Proud, the Humble, and Jesus
Jesus Does the Impossible
Why Did Jesus Come?
Investing for Jesus in 2011
King Jesus
Jesus and the Temple

[Matt's Messages] "Certain of Jesus"

“Certain of Jesus”
Certain of Jesus: The Gospel of Luke
May 15, 2011
Luke 24:36-53

Today, we’re going to finish our study of the gospel of Luke which we’ve called “Certain of Jesus.” 

This is the 66th message in this series, started way back in September of 2009. 

Sixty six messages!  Now, you might be wondering, after all of that, what’s next? Well, pray about that.  Starting next Sunday, Lord-willing, I’m going to start a short series on Resisting Gossip.  So the next several weeks–I promise not to go 66 weeks on gossip!  More like 8 weeks–I’ll be teaching what I’ve been learning in my study for my doctoral project. So, if you’re interested in gossip [especially resisting it!], then come next week for the first sermon in that series.

But today, the last sermon in this series.  “Certain of Jesus.”

That’s been the title of the whole series.  It’s the title of today’s message.

And it was the title of the first message in the gospel of Luke.

That’s because Luke told us in chapter 1, verses 3&4 WHY he wrote the book.  He said, “Since I myself have carefully investigated everything [about Jesus] from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you ... so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”

And that’s exactly what we have been receiving as we’ve studied Luke’s gospel account together–the certainty of what we’ve been taught about Jesus.

How He lived.
What He did.
What His message was.
What He taught.
What miracles He did.
What kind of people He loved.
What He wants for His followers.
What He wants from His followers.

What happened to Him that crucial last week.
How He died.
And How He came back to life.

Certain of Jesus.

Now, in one last message, we want to solidify our certainty even more.

Our story for today happens right on the heels of the last story.  I think it takes place on that first Resurrection Sunday.  The same day as the first 35 verses of chapter 24.

The first day of the week.  The Sunday that Jesus came back from the dead.

Remember what learned in the first 12 verses of chapter 24?

The women returned to the tomb and it was empty!
Two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning told them, “he is not here; he has risen!”

And so they ran to the disciples with the story, but the apostles didn’t believe them.

Peter and John ran to the tomb but was empty, and Peter, especially, didn’t know what to make of that.

But then two disciples encountered Jesus on the road to Emmaus (verses 13-35).

Jesus wasn’t recognizable at first.

But He explained to these two (Mr. and Mrs. Cleopas?) from the Old Testament how the Christ had to suffer and then enter His glory.

And they recognized Him in the breaking of the bread.

Then Jesus disappeared and those two headed back to the disciples again.

And look at verse 33.

“They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, ‘It is true!  The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’  Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.”

Now, our story for today starts right there at that moment!  V.36

“While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?  Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, ‘Do you have anything here to eat?’  They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.”

Certain of Jesus.

#1.  CERTAIN THAT JESUS IS ALIVE AGAIN.

This is a great passage!

“While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. [Well, yeah!  I would too!]  He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?  Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! [Be certain.] Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.’ [He’s real.  Be certain.] When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it [now] because of joy and amazement [I love that!], he asked them, ‘Do you have anything here to eat?’ [Ghosts don’t eat, either, I guess.] They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.”

Certain that Jesus is Alive Again.

Notice how Jesus is concerned to prove that He is alive to convince His disciples, to  assure them, to reassure that He is actually and in fact alive again.

Jesus wants us to be certain of His resurrection.

Are you certain of Jesus’ resurrection?

It makes all of the difference.

I remember two different times in my life when I became convinced of the resurrection and it totally changed my life.

One time was in High School. And the other was in college.

That second time was part of a crisis of faith for me.  Did I really believe all of this Jesus stuff that I’m learning at Bible College?

And I came back again and again to the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ as a historical factual genuine objective actual reality.

Jesus is alive.  Luke 24 really happened.  These disciples could hear Him, see Him and even touch Him.  And He ate with them in their presence.

It’s real.

It’s not a metaphor.  It’s real.

Are you certain of Jesus’ resurrection?

A few weeks ago on Resurrection Sunday, Kelly Beck talked about two books that she and Tim read as they grew in their certainty about Jesus.

One was the Reason for God by Tim Keller.  A very good book.

The other was this one, The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel.

If you have questions about the resurrection of Jesus, this is a good place to get answers.

Chapters 11-14 are “Researching the Resurrection.”

The Medical Evidence, “Was Jesus’ Death a Sham and His Resurrection a Hoax?”
The Evidence of the Missing Body, “Was Jesus’ Body Really Absent from His Tomb?”
The Evidence of the Appearances, “Was Jesus Seen Alive After His Death on the Cross?”
The Circumstantial Evidence, “Are There Any Supporting Facts that Point to the Resurrection?”

Conclusion, “The Verdict of History”

Jesus wants you to be certain that He is alive again.

And He didn’t just give physical proofs.  He gave scriptural proofs.  Verse 44.

“He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’  Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”

Jesus is saying that His resurrection isn’t just a physical fact, it was a prophesied event.

God promised it and kept His promise.  V.44 again.

“This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

That’s shorthand for the whole Old Testament.

Last time, we were in Luke together, we turned to the table of contents and thought out loud about how all of the Old Testament pointed to Jesus and His death and resurrection.

That’s what Jesus is saying again.  V.45

“Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

It’s all in there.

Jesus wants His disciples (you and me) to be certain that He is alive again.

Because it makes all of the difference.

Last week, we sang the Gaither song, “Because He Lives.”

Because He Lives I Can Face Tomorrow.
Because He Lives All Fear Is Gone.
Because I Know He Holds the Future.
And Life Is Worth the Living
Just Because He Lives.

But if you aren’t certain, then it’s hard to sing that song.

Maybe the song of your life says,

Because I’m Not Certain, I Can’t Face Tomorrow.
Because I’m Not Certain, I’m Consumed with Fear.
Because I Don’t Know Who Holds the Future,
Life Isn’t Worth the Living, Just Because I’m Not Sure.

Is that you?

It’s okay if that’s you right now.  But I don’t want to see you stay there.

And more importantly, God doesn’t want you to stay there.

God wants you to be certain that Jesus is alive again.

So you can face tomorrow without fear.

And so that you can testify about Him to others!

#2.  CERTAIN THAT JESUS HAS SENT US ON A MISSION.

Look at verse 46 again.

“He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. [And extending even to Pennsylvania!]”

That Pennsylvania part isn’t in there. I added that. 

But it is part of “all nations.”

Jesus’ death and resurrection and the repentance (the turning away from sin) and forgiveness of sins that come from that death and resurrection must be preached in Jesus’ name to all nations–and that includes right here.

And we’re supposed to do it.  V.48

“You are witnesses of these things.”

You disciples are supposed to serve as witnesses, telling others what you have seen and experienced with Jesus.  It’s your job.

It’s your mission.

“You are witnesses of these things.”

Luke wants us to be certain that Jesus has sent us on a mission.

“You are witnesses of these things.”

But we don’t have to do it alone. V.49

“I am going to send you what my Father has promised [What’s that?]; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

What’s that?

That the coming of the Holy Spirit, the promise of the Father, being clothed with power from on high.

And you know what?  That’s exactly what happened.

They waited and then the Spirit came and they got bold as witnesses and the church was born and the gospel got preached beginning in Jerusalem and going to all the nations including this nation!

He’s talking about the book of Acts and beyond.

The book of Acts was also written by Dr. Luke.

You might call it, “Volume 2" in Luke’s account.

Volume 1 was the Acts of Jesus.
Volume 2 is the Acts of Jesus’ Apostles, or more accurately, the Acts of the Holy Spirit in and through Jesus’ Apostles.

I think that we’re going to study the book of Acts starting in the Fall of this year.  I’m not sure on that yet, but that’s my tentative plan right now.

So think of Luke 24 as a trailer of coming attractions.  Coming soon to a pulpit near you!  The Book of Acts when the disciples got clothed with power and began to live out their great mission.

“You are witnesses of these things.”

Here’s why I see us doing Acts starting in the Fall.

Because of this reason.

I’m certain that Jesus has sent us on a mission.

We are missionaries.

Not all of us are cross-cultural missionaries like the ones we support back there on the wall, but all of us are sent-ones–missionaries, people on a mission for Jesus.

Are you certain of that?

Well, if you are, here’s a great thing to know.

We don’t have to wait.

In verse 49 Jesus tells the disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit before they get busy with their witnessing.

But you and I don’t have to wait.

The Spirit is already here!

We can’t do it without Him.
But we have Him!

We don’t have to wait.

We just need to get busy.

How many here, raise your hands, spend most of your time with unbelievers or people whom you are not sure whether or not they are followers of Christ?

I don’t.

I spend most of my time with you–followers of Jesus.

Sometimes, I’m sure, you think of me as a missionary, your missionary to the West Branch Area.

And I’m supposed to be one as all Christians are.  And I try to be faithful to that calling.

But I think of YOU as being the missionaries here in this church.

I’m your shepherd.  You are the missionaries!

“You are witnesses of these things.”

You need to tell others about what Jesus has done for you.
You need to tell others that Jesus is alive again.

You need to be His witness here in our community for Christ.

Certain that Jesus has sent you and me on a mission!

Let’s get busy sharing Jesus with others.

What opportunities do you have this coming week to share Jesus with someone?

I’m certain that Jesus is sending us out there this week be His witnesses.

And here’s why.

#3.  CERTAIN THAT JESUS IS WORTHY OF OUR WORSHIP.

In verse 50, Luke fast-forwards us about 40 days.

He takes us to the end of the period of Jesus’ resurrection appearances and tells us about what happened next.  V.50

“When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.”
You know, when I think about the ascension of Jesus, I tend to think that I would be depressed that Jesus was leaving.

“There He goes leaving us behind.

What a colossal bummer!”

But that’s not what happened.

Jesus was blessing them and as He blessed them.

And He was speaking words of blessing on them, He left them and was taken up into heaven.

It’s not just a departure.  It’s an arrival.

And it’s a fulfillment of what He said at His trial.  Luke 22:69.  “But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.”

And it didn’t depress His disciples.

It energized them.  V.52

“Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.”

The book ends where it started.

In Luke chapter 1, it starts in the temple with Zechariah finding out that his son, John, would be the forerunner of the Messiah.

And now, the Messiah has come, died, come back to live, and gone to heaven to be worshipped forever with great joy.

Certain that Jesus is worthy of all of our worship.

Are you certain of that?

Then let’s do it.

With our lives and now with our voices.

Let’s sing together!

Our God Reigns.

Let’s do all of the verses.

And let’s pretend that we just saw Jesus ascend to heaven.

And we are filled with joy and worship Him and praise God.

Certain that Jesus is Alive Again.
Certain that Jesus has sent us on a mission to be His witnesses right here.
And Certain that Jesus Is Worthy of All of Our Worship.


Messages So Far In this Series:

Certain of Jesus
The Back-Story of Jesus
The Birth of Jesus
Jesus - A Very Special Child
Preparing the Way for Jesus
Jesus Is the Son of God
Jesus in Galilee
Jesus and the Sinners
Jesus Brings Real Joy and Rest
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part One
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Two
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Three
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Four
Amazing Jesus
Disappointed with Jesus
Loving Jesus Much
Jesus' Real Family
Jesus Is Lord
Who Is Jesus?
Following Jesus
Sent By Jesus
Q&A With Jesus
Sitting at Jesus' Feet
Jesus Teaches Us to Pray 
Jesus Is Stronger Than Satan
More Blessed Than Jesus' Mom
Jesus and the Judgment to Come
Being Real with Jesus
Jesus and Our Stuff
Be Ready for Jesus' Return
Jesus and Tragedies
Set Free By Jesus
Jesus and the Surprising Kingdom
Jesus and Jerusalem
Jesus at the Party
The Cost of Following Jesus
Jesus and the Lost: Part One
Jesus and the Lost: Part Two
Jesus and the Lost: Part Three
Jesus on Money
Sneering at Jesus
Jesus and the Great Chasm
Jesus Said to His Disciples...
Thanking Jesus
Jesus and the Coming Kingdom
Jesus Says, "Keep Praying"
The Proud, the Humble, and Jesus
Jesus Does the Impossible
Why Did Jesus Come?
Investing for Jesus in 2011
King Jesus
Jesus and the Temple
The Authority of Jesus
Jesus and Caesar
Jesus and the Sadducees
Jesus' Turn
Jesus and the End of the World
The Plan for Jesus to Die
Jesus' Last Lessons
Arresting Jesus
Judging Jesus
Crucifying Jesus
Burying Jesus
Jesus Is Risen
Recognizing Jesus