“If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God ….” (KJV)
“If anyone speaks, let it be as it were the very words of God….” (HNV)
– 1 Peter 4:11
(This series of posts is a continuation of the series Speaking as the Oracles of God, so for clarity, I would recommend reading there first and then continuing on here.)
Most of us are familiar with Proverbs 18:21 – “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…,” yet few of us take it as seriously as we should on a day-to-day basis. Hasty, careless words proceed from our lips, wounding people without our awareness of how deep those words have gone.
Well-meaning parents have taught many of us the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never harm me.” Such wishful thinking! Yet, although it takes effort, we can resist receiving the negative words of others into our being.
“You shall not be afraid … of the arrow that flies by day” (Psalm 91:5). In the Psalmist’s day, “the arrow that flies by day” was very much a physical danger, and that is still true, but we could also apply this verse to the verbal attacks that come against us. God is promising that there is a place of safety and security in Him where these arrows cannot damage us.
Negative words are a formidable weapon in the devil’s arsenal. They are intended to neutralize us, to keep us from advancing the Kingdom of God on the earth. And Christians are often the bow from which these arrows are shot. Personally, I think it is much harder to resist word-arrows when they are coming from another believer; they tend to blindside us more, because we expect Christians to be more loving than those who don’t know the Lord.
Those of us who are introspective are the hardest-hit. If there is a kernel of truth anywhere to be found in the criticism spoken against us, we internalize the hurt, thinking that perhaps we deserve it. And we let the arrow grind deeper and deeper into our inner man. But, if we recognize what is going on, we can more effectively deal with it. It is an attack of condemnation. We know that Romans 8:1 tells us, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
Condemnation, in Christianese, means that instead of fully receiving the forgiveness Jesus freely offers to us when we repent, we continue to carry guilt over past sin. We do not live in the truth that He has forever washed us of those sins we have repented of, and that He no longer remembers them. For a fuller explanation of how this works, please see my post, Forever Forgiven: Covered or Washed? Condemnation is an attack of the devil, and it usually involves our self-inflicted cooperation with lies he suggests to our thoughts, but it can also come from outside of ourselves. It is still up to us to identify it and not receive it – but it may not always be as easy to recognize when it is originating with someone else.
Next time, I would like to list some things we can do to resist the negative word-arrows that others let fly at us.
Speaking as the Oracles of God & Resisting Negative Words audio teaching (CD or mp3 download)