Restrained by Grace

Left to my own devices, I think my mouth would get me into a lot of trouble.  There is an edge to me, an acerbic wit that cuts and stings, a biting sarcasm that belittles and mocks.  Even the subtitle on this blog says, “Random Thoughts from a Snarky Presbyterian Pastor.”   Used to be, these rejoinders would just flow, leaving a wake of destruction.  I’d find myself prattling on with nothing really to say, but just talking because I love the sound of my own voice.

Nowadays, I cannot seem to come up with anything until a couple of hours later.  While running through a conversation in my mind, it will come to me, “I should have said…”  Snippy little comebacks don’t come to me quickly.  Usually all I can muster up now is a half-hearted “So’s your old man!”, and I never say it, knowing how ridiculous that sounds.

Maybe I’m just getting old, and the tongue has lost some of its fire – but I doubt that.

God is working in me, pouring out His grace in ways that will help me to crucify the old nature, the old man within me, and to live the new life in the power of His Spirit.

Jesus told his disciples, “When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what  you are to say will be given to you in that hour” (Matthew 10:19).  Now, clearly, Jesus is encouraging His disciples that when they face persecution for their faith, the Spirit will give them the witness and the words they are to speak.  But can we not say that the opposite may be true, that sometimes the Spirit does not give us words, so that we will remain quiet?

Consider some of the passages from the Proverbs about how we speak:

Proverbs 10:19 “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.

Proverbs 17:27–28 “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.”

Proverbs 21:23 “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”

Then there is the American Proverb:

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.”

I firmly believe it is the Spirit of God who is working in me to restrain my tongue.  It is the grace of God that keeps me from being the me I used to be.  It is the Spirit who is waging war against the nature of the flesh, the  “… enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy…” so that God’s Spirit may produce in me “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.”


Our Fruit Will Be What We Are

“Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”
(Matthew 7:20)

Being more than a bit behind this week, I thought I’d turn once again to one of my favorite authors for a “guest writer” today.  Here is an excerpt from A.W. Tozer’s The Root of the Righteous.

Our Fruit Will Be What We Are

Water cannot rise above its own level. Neither can a Christian by any sudden spasmodic effort rise above the level of his own spiritual life.

I have seen under the sun how a man of God will let his tongue go all day in light and frivolous conversation, let his interest roam abroad among the idle pleasures of this world, and then, under the necessity of preaching at night, seek a last minute reprieve just before service and by cramming desperately in prayer to try to put himself in a position where the spirit of the prophet will descend upon him as he enters the pulpit.  By working himself up to an emotional white heat he may afterward have reason to congratulate himself that he had much liberty in preaching the Word.  But he deceives himself and there is no wisdom in him.  What he has been all day and all week is what he is when he opens his Bible to expound unto the people.  Water cannot rise above its level.

Men do not gather grapes of thorns, nor figs of thistles.  The fruit of a tree is determined by the tree, and the fruit of life by the kind of life it is.  What a man is interested in to the point of absorption both decides and reveals what kind of man he is; and the kind of man he is by a secret law of the soul decides the kind of fruit he will bear.  The catch is that we are often unable to discover the true quality of our fruit until it is too late.

If we would be realistic in our Christian lives we must not overlook the tremendous power of affinity.  By affinity I mean the sympathetic attraction which certain things and persons have for us.  The human heart is extremely sensitive and altogether capable of setting up an inward relationship with objects far removed and forbidden.  As the needle of the compass has an affinity for the north magnetic pole, so the heart can keep true to its secret love though separated from it by miles and years.  What that loved object is may be discovered by observing which direction our thoughts turn when they are released from the hard restraints of work or study.  Of what do we think when we are free to think of what we will?  What object gives us inward pleasure as we brood over it?  Over what do we muse in our free moments?  Over what does our imagination return again and again?

When we have answered these questions honestly we will know what kind of persons we are; and when we have discovered what kind of persons we are we may deduce what kind of fruit we will bear.

It is one of the clichés of the evangelist that the true worth of a church member is revealed by his life on Monday rather than on Sunday.  There is a world of sober truth in that statement, and it is devoutly to be hoped that we who thus admonish others may ourselves remember to live the week through in the same atmosphere of sanctity that we desire so earnestly to inhabit on the Lord’s Day.

It is written of Moses that he “went in before the Lord to speak with him… and he came out, and spake unto the children of Israel.”  This is the Biblical norm from which we depart to our own undoing and to the everlasting injury of the souls of men.  No man has any moral right to go before the people who has not first been long before the Lord.  No man has any right to speak to men about God who has not first spoken to God about men.  And the prophet of God should spend more time in the secret place praying than he spends in the public place preaching.

As we dare not overlook the power of the human heart to establish affinities, so we dare not ignore the importance of the spiritual mood.  Mood is mental weather.  It is internal climate and it must be favorable to the growth of spiritual graces or they will not appear in the soul.  The Christian who allows day after day a chilly climate to prevail in his heart need expect no grapes of Eschol to hang over the wall when he goes before his Sunday school class, his choir, or his Sunday morning congregation.

One swallow does not make a spring nor one hot day a summer; nor will a few minutes of frantic praying before service bring out the tender buds or make the flowers to appear on the earth.  The field must be soaked in sunshine over a long period before it will give forth its treasures.  The Christian’s heart must be soaked in prayer before the true spiritual fruits begin to grow.  As the field has learned to live intimately and sympathetically with the rain and the sunshine, so must the Christian learn to live with God.  We cannot in a brief time make up for the long neglect of God and things spiritual.

God’s children live by laws as kind and as severe as those that govern nature.  Grace operates within those laws but never contrary to them.  Our fruit will follow its native tree, and not all our frightened prayers can prevent it.  If we would do holy deeds we must be holy men, every day and all the days that God grants us here below.