Sunday, July 03, 2011

[Matt's Messages] "Regretting Gossip"

“Regretting Gossip” [Audio Page]
Resisting Gossip
July 3, 2011
Romans 1:18-32, 2 Corinthians 12:20-21, 1 John 1:9 & 2:1-2

The great old time comedian W.C. Fields was once found in a room pouring through the pages of a Bible.

When asked what he was doing, W.C. Fields said, “Looking for loopholes.”

Do you feel at all like that at this point in our resisting gossip series? Looking for loopholes?

For the last 6 weeks, I’ve been sharing what I’ve been learning about resisting gossip.

It starts with recognizing gossip. What is gossip?

Can anybody remember our biblically based definition?

Sinful gossip is bearing bad news behind someone’s back out of a bad heart.

And that last piece, out of a bad heart, is very important, because it’s out of the overflow of the heart that our mouths speak.

After recognizing gossip, comes actually resisting it.

We resist it on the heart level–especially the temptation to judge people.

And we resist it by believing the promises of God that no temptation has seized us that God won’t provide a way out of and that because we are now “in Christ,” we can put off evil speech and put on edifying speech.

A big part of resisting gossip is knowing what to do instead.  And we took two weeks to talk about that.  Both instead of speaking gossip and instead of listening to gossip.

King David prayed in Psalm 141, “Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips. Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil, to take part in wicked deeds with men who are evildoers; let me not eat of their delicacies.”

Lord, keep us from gossiping.

But...what if we already have?

What if we’ve not resisted and already given in?

What if we’ve already gossiped and we now regret it?

“Regretting Gossip.”

Turn with me to Romans chapter 1, starting in verse 18.

We’re not going to stay here, but we’re going start here.  Found it?

Romans 1:18-32. It’s a very depressing section of holy Scripture.

“The wrath of God [the hot anger of God] is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

For although they knew God [humankind knows God], they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.  They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones.  In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.

[Listen now.  He’s talking about all mankind outside of Christ.]

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 [as gossip] deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”

Do you remember a few weeks ago when I read you that anonymous note about a teacher who was addicted to gossip in the teachers’ lounge?

One of the things they said in their testimony really jumped out at me.

They said, “As I type this I remember how much I hated myself then and still hate myself now for doing and saying what I did.”

There is some real shame and even self-loathing in that confession.

“I hated myself then and still hate myself now for doing and saying what I did.”

If you have born bad news behind someone’s back out of a bad heart, you might be feeling the same way today.

Condemned.  Shameful. Disgraced.

You might be full of regret and even self-loathing.


Why the bad feelings?

Why the intense regret?

Well, a few reasons.

For one, it is sin!  God hates it.  V.18. “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.”

And the apostle Paul explicitly includes being a gossip in the list of that wickedness.

V.29. “They are gossips.”

And v.32 says that “those who do such things deserve death.”

You’re going to feel that.

If you’ve given in to the temptation to gossip, found gossip to be ir-resistible, and if you have half a conscience left, you’re going to feel some regret!

Because you have offended a holy God.

Another reason why we feel regret is that it hurts people.  Deep down inside, we know that it hurts people to gossip.

It’s often been said that it hurts at least three people.  The one being spoken about, the one hearing the gossip, and the one speaking it.

The worst of those is the subject of the gossip, especially if it’s not true.

Because it robs them of their reputation.

Next week, Lord-willing, we’re going to start talking about what to do if you’re in that seat.  If you’re the one being gossiped about.  We haven’t talked about that yet.  Come back next week to find out what to do if you have been the target of gossip.

But right now, we’re thinking about if you are the guilty party.  The offender. The gossip.

You have spoken the bad news behind someone’s back out of a bad heart.

And you can’t just take it back.

Can you?

It’s out there.

“Gossip is like a fired bullet. Once you hear the sound, you can’t take it back.”  ("Gossip: Ten Pathways to Eliminate It From Your Life and Transform Your Soul," pg 3).

Joseph Telushkin tells this story (I’ve heard several versions of it, this is his), “In a  small Eastern European town, a man when through the community slandering the rabbi. One day, feeling suddenly remorseful, he begged the rabbi for forgiveness and offered to undergo any penance to make amends. The rabbi told him to take a feather pillow from his home, cut it open, scatter the feathers to the wind, then return to see him. The man did as he was told, then came to the rabbi and asked, ‘Am I now forgiven?’
‘Almost,’ came the response. ‘You just have to do one more thing. Go and gather all the feathers.’

‘But that’s impossible,’ the man protested. ‘The wind has already scattered them.’

‘Precisely,’ the rabbi answered. ‘And although you truly wish to correct the evil you have done, it is as impossible to repair the damage done by your words as it is to recover the feathers.”  (Words that Hurt, Words that Heal, pg. 3).

Sometimes you can’t just take it back.

Remember a few weeks ago when I poured all that water out of this bottle?

I was going to buy a tube of toothpaste and squirt it out on the stage today and try to get one of you to try to get it back into the tube.

But I thought I’d get into more trouble than it would be worth!

The more serious the gossip, the more regret we might feel.

What do you do about that?

Turn from Romans over to 2 Corinthians chapter 12.  

This is also by the Apostle Paul and it has another one of those lists where gossip shows up as a really bad thing.

Paul is just about ready to make his third ministry trip to Corinth, but he’s concerned about what he’s going to find there in the church.

The church has been going steadily down hill.

Look down at verse 20 of 2 Corinthians 12.

“For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not [what?] repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged.”

There is our key word–“repented.”

Repentance is the only way forward after falling prey to sinful gossip.

Paul is concerned that the Corinthians will not have repented yet of their various impurities, which includes v.20 “gossip.”


Repentance is the only way forward after falling prey to sinful gossip.

What is repentance?

It’s not just feeling bad about your sin.

It’s turn away from it.

Repentance is a turning away from sin and a turning to the Lord.

A turning away in the heart that changes the direction of the life.

Repentance is a turning away from sin and a turning to the Lord.

Let’s think about it in these three steps.

Repent of Sinful Gossip
Retract the Sinful Gossip
Receive Jesus’ Cleansing.

The first part of that is to confess it.

Turn with me to 1 John chapter 1.  1 John chapter 1. 

I love 1 John, and I love the promise in 1 John 1:9!

Do you have it memorized?  You should.  I remember memorizing 1 John 1:9 and the freedom and joy it brought me at that moment.

1 John 1:9

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Oh man, is that good!

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

That’s not all that there is to repentance, but it sure is a big part!

Confession of sin.  Literally, it means to completely agree with God about that sin.

Confession means to completely agree with God about our sins.

It means to tell God that we have sinned, to name it, to own it, and to agree that it was wrong and an offense against Him.

Confession means to completely agree with God about our sins.

I say “completely” to stress that it isn’t, “Well God, the devil made me do it!”

Or, “She made me gossip!”

Or, “Lord, I kind of feel bad about gossiping, but if you knew the circumstances you’d have done it, too!”

That’s not “completely agree.”

Completely agreeing is, “Lord, what I have done here was wrong. I shouldn’t have said that.  I shouldn’t have listened to that. It was against your law. It hurt someone. It deserves death. And I wasn’t glorifying you when I did it. It wasn’t sourced in love for you.  And I’m sorry.”

Completely agreeing includes your emotions. Isn’t just feeling bad about being bad, but it is not less than feeling bad about being bad.

True confession includes agreeing with your whole heart that your gossiping was sin.

And while you’re at it, you should confess to the others you have sinned against.

And retract the gossip.
A few years ago, one of you met me at the door going out after church and said to me, “Pastor, I need to ask your forgiveness. I’ve been gossiping about you.”

Wow.  That took me back a few steps!

I didn’t know what to say.

But I really appreciated it.  And this person said that not only were they apologizing to me, but they were going back to the people they had talked to about me and apologizing to them for poisoning their minds against me.

That took guts!  And it was true sign of repentance!

Now, this takes some wisdom and discernment, as well. It’s something to pray about and ask the Holy Spirit to lead you in.  Sometimes, we need to seek out some wise and godly counsel before running around and apologizing to people.

Sometimes, it doesn’t matter much.  If you’ve been gossiping about Kim Kardashian whoever that is, I don’t think you need to send her a letter of apology!

And in some cases, it might make the relationship worse for you to run to someone and apologize for gossiping about them.

They didn’t know you felt something bad about them in the first place!

It depends on how serious the matter is whether or not you go to every single person involved. 

- How serious was the content of the gossip
- How seriously it affects your relationship or their reputation
- Or how far you know that the bad news traveled.

If you aren’t sure whether or not to confess to those people, after prayer and gathering godly counsel, I would advise you to err on the side of Jesus’ Golden Rule of Thumb.

If you were them, would you want that person to come to you and retract the gossip directly to you?

But the most important confession is to God.

And if we yawn and say, “Of that’s not hard! What’s really hard is going to the person I was talking about,” then it’s possible we don’t realize how sinful our sin really is.

When King David finally repented of his with Bathsheba, he said in his prayer in Psalm 51, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight...”

He doesn’t mean that he didn’t sin against Bathsheba, Uriah, and all of Israel.

He means that all sin is first and foremost an offense against a holy God.

Romans 1:32, “And those who do such things deserve death.”  “The wrath of God is being revealed against them!”

That’s who we need to confess to!

And that includes confessing, not just the action of gossip, but the heart behind it.

“Lord, I’m sorry I said those things about her. I was being ruled by a lust for power.  I was being ruled by hate. My heart was full of grumbling. Please forgive me.”

And the most amazing thing is that HE DOES!

“If we confess our sins [turning away from them in repentance], he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Receive His Cleansing.

You and I don’t have to live in regret.

We don’t have to live in self-loathing and condemnation.

We can actually live forgiven and cleansed and pure!

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

How can He do that?

He must do that.  It says right here that He is faithful to do it.

That means that He has promised forgiveness, and God always keeps His promises.

Are you worried that He doesn’t really forgive you for your sinful gossip (or for any of your sins for that matter)?  That maybe he’ll bring up your sin again and thrust it in your face?

He won’t.  He’s faithful to forgive.

And more than that, He would be unjust to not forgive.

What does that mean?

Why does it say, “faithful and just” to forgive?

Why is it just, right, holy for God to forgive?

It seems like it should be just for God to punish!  And it would! 

Romans 1:32!  “Those who do such things [as gossip] deserve death [by God’s righteous decree.]”

The just punishment for our sins is God’s wrath!

He should bring wrath and punishment and condemnation for our sinful gossip, not forgiveness!

But, it says, that He is just.  How is that just?

You know the answer.  I hope you know the answer.

We say it every week.  It’s the point of our songs, it’s the point of this table right here.

It’s because of what Jesus did on the Cross.

It’s because of the gospel!

Look down at a couple of verses at chapter 2, verse 1.

“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin [Resist gossip!] But if anybody does sin [if anybody has found gossip at some point irresistible], we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One [our advocate!]. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

Jesus Christ died for our sins!

He bore the punishment that we deserved for sinfully gossiping!

He became (v.2) the “atoning sacrifice.” The big word for that is “propitiation” for ours sins.

We just sang about it, “The Father’s wrath completely satisfied!”

Jesus died for our sins!

And so now, Jesus is our advocate.  V.1 “We have one who speaks to the Father in our defense!”

That’s what makes it “just” for Him to forgive!

Because that sin has already been paid for! ....

It would be unjust to not forgive.

That sin of gossiping (or whatever) has already been paid for.

That’s why we don’t do “penance.”

As I understand it “penance,” is taking on a penalty or a punishment to help atone for a sin (at least, that’s how it seems to be practiced).

But our sin has already been paid for!

That’s what makes it “just” for Him to forgive!

Because of what Jesus did for us on the Cross, God is “faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Not because we were real sincere and then got it right.

This week, I was reading about Jewish moral teaching against gossip.

And a lot of what the Jews have said about gossip is very good.  I appreciate it.

But they don’t believe in grace. And they don’t believe in the Cross.

So they have to make up other things to substitute for it.

One teacher said that after stopping the gossip, regretting it and confessing it to God, there is still one thing left.  “Once you’ve completed these stpes, God accepts your return, but it’s still on the books, so to speak. [Catch that?] Yes, it is noted that it was taken care of, but it’s still there.

How do you completely edit it out?  By going to the next stpe, called teshuvah gamurah, or “complete return. . .”  This occurs after you have gone through these steps, time has passed, and God, sometimes with a very good sense of humor; puts you in the same position as when you originally made the mistake, and you do not repeat the mistake.  When this occurs, not only are you forgiven, but it’s as if you never made the original mistake. It is edited out of the story of your life, as if it had never happened?”  (Gossip: Ten Pathways to Eliminate It From Your Life and Transform Your Soul, 116).


No, that’s not how it works.

We are forgiven and cleansed, not because we eventually get it right.

No, we are forgiven and cleansed because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

We are found guilty in Romans chapter 1.  But we are declared not-guilty in Romans chapter 3 because of the righteousness of Christ imputed to our account!

We are not forgiven and cleansed because we ran around and found and picked up every one of those feathers!

That story is good for reminding us that our words have consequences we cannot control.

But our forgiveness is not tied to finding all of the feathers and returning them to the pillowcase.

Our forgiveness is tied to precious blood of Jesus Christ, the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Receive that cleansing.

For the first time, or for the 5 millionth time.

If you have never trusted Jesus Christ, then you are headed towards Hell.

You deserve death, but Jesus died for you so that you wouldn’t have to die eternally.

Repent right and trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord and God will forgive you and purify you from all unrighteousness.

And if you’ve messed up this week and given in to sinful gossip or some other sin worthy of death, don’t wallow in self-hate.

Turn to the Lord again for cleansing now.

His blood is so powerful!

The gospel is so much more powerful than gossip.

Repentance is so much more powerful than regret.

Hear this, Christian, God knows where every single feather is and has the power in His sovereignty to find each one and get them home again.

The Bible says that God will work everything to His glory and to His people’s good.

That’s no excuse to gossip.  V.1 “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin.”

But it’s not the end of the world, either.

“But if anybody does [gossip], we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.”

Receive His cleansing and walk in it.

We don’t need a loophole.  We have the precious blood of Jesus Christ.