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Watch Your Language

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Beginning Remarks

 

Foreign Culture and the Difficulty of Communication

Have you ever been to a foreign country where you were unfamiliar with the culture and unable to speak the language of the people?

I have had the privilege to be a part of several Work and Witness teams, mostly in Spanish speaking countries.  One thing you quickly realize when you are a part of one of these teams is that you are being sheltered from a raw exposure to the culture by the missionaries and the church organization.  Nevertheless I have had many encounters with language and cultural differences while on Work and Witness teams.  Some of these encounters have been very enjoyable and others have felt very awkward. 

Once, during a trip to Venezuela, Bill Porter, one of the pioneer missionaries to this area, taught me a valuable lesson.  Bill had asked me to build a wardrobe cabinet for one of the local pastors.  I needed some hinges to attach the doors and I wanted a particular type of hinge.  I tried to explain to Bill what I wanted and he decided to eliminate the middle man so to speak by dropping me off at the hardware store while he went on another errand.  He told me the words to use and left me there. I managed to purchase the hinges and returned with Bill to the place where we were staying.

It is interesting how something that seems so easy here becomes so difficult elsewhere because the language is different.           

True Worship Crosses the Boundaries

Probably the greatest thing that I have experienced while on these trips happens in the worship services.  As you enter into the spirit of worship together, the Holy Spirit is able to melt away the cultural barriers. 

When you experience God’s love being poured like that, you are really drawn together in a very wonderful way.

Although everyone here is able to speak the same language we still erect barriers that separate us from one another.  It happens when we try to take the place of God, either for ourselves or someone else.  Jesus wants us to be so in love with Him that we knock down the barriers that separate us from real openness with Him and if we love Him we will also love His children.

This Problem Started in Genesis

In order to get an understanding of the problem and find the solution let’s start with the book of Genesis. 

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Introduction

After the great flood that destroyed all the inhabitants of the earth except Noah and his family as well as the animals they had with them on the ark.  God made a covenant with Noah and it starts out like this.

Read from screen

 

Genesis 9:1

God’s Desire for Mankind after the Flood

God really wanted the descendants of Noah to spread out over the whole earth but that is not what happened at first.

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Genesis 11:1

 

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Genesis 11:3-4

Do you see what the people were trying to do here?  They were attempting to build a world without God.  They picked out a place that they liked and they decided to build a city with a tower that would reach up to heaven.  You see what they are saying?  There is no effort being made to seek God’s direction.  It’s all about us, “let us build for our selves a city; so that we may make a name for ourselves.”  They were going to build a tower that would reach to heaven.  Doesn’t that look like an in your face confrontation to God.  The only thing they had God’s blessing to do they were trying to prevent. They didn’t want to be spread over the face of the earth they wanted to settle down and get comfortable.  Let’s read on and see what God has to say about their activities and attitudes.

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Genesis 11:5-6

This is a scary thought.  God is saying here, that if they understand each other and cooperate with one another they will be unstoppable.  If He allowed man to continue on the path he was on there is no telling what he might get into.  God had to bring about a radical reversal of the order of living on the earth.  You know what happens, but let’s read it anyway.

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Genesis 11:7-9

Men stopped understanding each other.  They could no longer cooperate with one another.  They stopped building their city.  They went back to doing what God had intended for them all along and that was to spread over the earth.  We still encounter this difficulty today.  There are still many languages and many dialects all over the world today.  Even when we use the same language we often do not communicate.  Even when we communicate we often don’t cooperate. 

Although this is true I’m convinced that God has a better plan for His Church.  If the tower of Babel incident had been God’s final word we would have no need for the rest of the Bible.  So there has to be more.  Why don’t we fast forward a bit to the time of Zephaniah the prophet and see if we can get a glimpse of what he saw.

Zephaniah wrote at a critical time in the history of Israel.  As a result of poor leadership from their kings and religious leaders the people were mixing their worship of the true God with the worship of the pagan nations around them which was idolatry.  He spoke of God’s judgment that was coming to Israel and to the whole world.  He also spoke of the restoration that God would bring after His judgment.  Tonight we are going to focus on the restoration part of his message because as Christians, when we come to the cross of Jesus individually we are at the judgment.

Let’s look into Zephaniah’s message to understand what this restoration is to look like.

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Zephaniah 3:9-10

 

Dr. Cunningham taught a way to understand the vision of the prophets that has helped me through the years to understand what they saw.  Picture yourself on a high mountain among other high mountains.  As you look out across the landscape you see other mountain peaks and you really can’t see what is in the valleys.  This is similar to the view of history and of the future that the prophets were able to see.   As Zephaniah was receiving his message he probably looked back over history and saw what happened at the tower of Babel.  As well he probably saw Isaiah standing in the temple describing his vision of the Lord when he was called to be a prophet.

Let’s see what Isaiah had to say.

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Isaiah 6:5-7

Zephaniah, with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, came to an understanding of what God’s desire for the use of our language is.

He saw that the confusion of language counteracted the effect of the arrogance of a people bent on creating their own world without God.

He saw that Isaiah needed to have his language purified by the power of God in order to speak to the people the message that God wanted to give them.

Then God showed Zephaniah what he wanted to do.  He was pointing to a day when He would purify the language of the people.  Remember that the language used for worship by the people Zephaniah was writing to really needed to be purified.  They were worshiping God and idols at the same time therefore their worship language was really mixed up.

Then as Zephaniah looked out to the future he saw the beginning of the New Testament Church.

What happened on the day of Pentecost?

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Acts 2:6-8

Two things were happening here.  The New Testament Church which began at Pentecost and of which we are a part, was to be a type of fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy like that of Zephaniah.

Also Zephaniah predicted a reversal of the curse of Babel.  The miracle of the languages at Pentecost also points to this reversal.  I believe it also points to a possibility within the context of the church. I believe that it tells us that we can live in such a spirit of humility and worship at Davis Creek so that we can work together to affect our world for Jesus.

Let’s go back to Zephaniah to get a better understanding of his message.

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The Principle of a Pure Language

Zephaniah writes that God “will purify the lips (language) of the peoples.”  What is included in this term lips or language? 

Where does the content of who we are come out?  Lips 

What are our thoughts expressed in?  Language:

If the Holy Spirit is going to purify our language how deep does He need to go?   

How many of you believe that the devil comes to church?  When he comes, what part of us do you think he is going to try to affect the most? He affects our thoughts and therefore in some way our language; right?

C. S. Lewis wrote a series of magazine articles that were latter published in the form of a book called The Screwtape Letters.  This book is written as a series of letters from a demon named Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood.  Wormwood has the assignment of tempting someone referred to as his patient.  I would like to read a short excerpt from this book just to illustrate one way the enemy works and see how to combat it.

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The Principle of a Pure Language

Has anything like this ever happened to you?

Is there someone who just kind of gets on your nerves?

There is a one word answer when we encounter thoughts like these.  The answer is grace.  It takes enormous amounts of grace for me to continue to call myself a Christian.  Therefore I must be gracious with others.

The real thrust of Zephaniah’s message is that our worship be pure.

Is our whole life the outcome of our worship or is worshiping just a part of our lives?

God doesn’t want a mixture.

I must confess my need here.

At work at this time there is a lot of complaining, mainly because things are changing.  I should keep a positive outlook, mind my own business and do my job.

I don’t always do that.  There are times when I have to look back over my behavior at the end of the day and call on the Lord for mercy.

There are times at home that I get so caught up in trying to do the right thing and make the proper decisions that I get so impatient with Karen.  It seems worse when I feel as though she doubts my sincerity or questions my motives.

She is always willing to forgive me when I ask.

At church I have a tendency not to want to know about the bad things that are going on because it might require me to take some leadership and help with the solution.

I am sure that there are things that those of you that know me could add to this list.

Can you think of anything that you are struggling with and need God’s help? 

 

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Call on the Name of the LORD

Zephaniah goes on to say that once our worship is purified we will be able to call on the name of the LORD together.  

One of the ways that we can call on the name of the LORD is to come to him in repentance knowing how much we need his grace and forgiveness.

Another way to call on His name is to brag on Him.  We can never praise Him enough because we can’t fathom in our finite minds how great He really is.

When we call on the LORD in openness and purity He exposes Himself to us in all of His holiness. 

When we call on Him He also meets our need.  He answers even before we call.

Serve Him Shoulder to Shoulder

 

When we have been to the LORD for cleansing and when we realize that we can call on His name at any time then serving Him is not a burden but a joyous and liberating experience.  

Zephaniah’s words here literally mean serve Him with one shoulder (as one person).  I am afraid that too often we let one or two stay in the yoke while we stand by and watch and sometimes watch for them to mess up.

Sometimes we waste our time oiling the machinery of church and doing busy work instead of sharing His love with others.

But when we get in the yoke together and all pull in the same direction there is fellowship peace and harmony.

How are you doing at watching your language?  We can’t do an adequate job of it ourselves.  We all have intellects; we all have opinions; we all have things we feel very strongly about.  We all need the help of the Holy Spirit.

Mom

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Psalm 141:3

What I would like for us to do to close out the service this evening is to gather around the front of the sanctuary and use the scripture on the screen for our closing prayer.

As we pray this scripture we are joining with the Psalmist and everyone else down through the centuries who have also prayed this prayer.

Let’s gather in for prayer.

    

 

     

 

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