Words are Powerful
A Mother’s words hold power. Her words have the ability to show love, encouragement, and care. They also have the ability to wound, discourage, and demean.
Matthew 12:34–35 “You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.”
Our words reveal what is in our hearts at the deepest level – in our thoughts, beliefs, and desires. When sin rules in our hearts, it will show outwardly in our behavior and words. Mothering is a rewarding life role, but it can also be exhausting, draining, and difficult at times. In her exhaustion, personal pain, and suffering, a mother might say things to her child that are sinful and damaging.
Matthew 12:36-37 “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak,for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
An exhausted mom is more likely to lash out with her words. Some women also have unresolved heart issues or difficult life circumstances that tempt them to sinfully express anger and frustration directed towards their family. For example, these are phrases spoken by mothers that I have heard from teens who are navigating difficult relationships with their moms:
“You are so stupid.”
“You need to obey or you can’t live here anymore.”
“You are such a slut!”
“You will never succeed.”
“You have been nothing but a problem to me.”
“You either get straight A’s, or we will not take you on the family vacation.”
“I hate you.”
The Tongue is a Fire
James 3:6 “And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.”
When a mother uses her words harshly, she is setting her home on fire, in a sense. She uses words that discourage, wound, kill and destroy.
A teen on the receiving end of such blazing hot words is crushed and demoralized. She feels unsafe and unloved, to say the least. She might either turn inward and become depressed and possibly resort to self-injury, suicidal thoughts, and other destructive but quiet behaviors, or she might act out outwardly in rebellion and open disobedience. These often become the presenting problems that bring a teen to counseling. When that teen tells her story, the destructive dynamic between her and her mother is revealed.
Not only do these flaming words wound the teen, they also hinder the mom’s relationship with The Lord. She is in sin, and must repent in order to restore her relationships with God and her family. The gospel makes this possible.
Hope and Help
Some things to put in place in order to restore your relationship with your child, and ultimately with The Lord:
*Ask God to help you to search your heart and be honest before Him about your sinful words. God will change your heart as you seek Him.
*Confess. Repent. Receive God’s forgiveness. Preach the gospel to yourself.
*Share all of this with your husband, too. Have him sit with you while you reconcile with your child.
*Seek forgiveness from your husband and your child.
*Find a friend or counselor to hold you accountable and to talk through your heart issues. Make sure it is someone who holds to the sufficiency of scripture and who can help you to think biblically and apply the gospel to your struggles with sin and suffering.
*Be involved in church in order to grow in sanctification. Be honest and transparent there.
*Be in God’s Word, have a meaty prayer life, and do not forsake fellowship.
*If you slip up and say harsh words, quickly go through the process of reconciliation again.
*Be sure that your teen is getting biblical help, too. The fire may have been put out, but the burns hurt for awhile. Your teen needs to know there is hope in the gospel and in God’s Word. She needs godly, wise counsel and discipleship.
*Put off/put on. In Ephesians 4:22-24, there is a principle we will call the “put off/put on principle”. You do need to “put off” harsh words, but you also need to replace them by “putting on” words that will uplift, encourage, and show love to your child.
The apostle Paul, in Ephesians 4:29 wrote, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Moms, you can choose to speak only edifying words to your child, even when you are exhausted, frustrated, and even if your child is being disobedient and rebellious. It is possible, with God’s help and the help of your church community, to avoid setting your household on fire with your words.
Colossians 4:6 “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
Have you spoken words that have set your household on fire? If so, what will you do today to put out the fire to heal and restore your family? Please do not wait another day.
Relationships Take Effort
What do these phrases have in common: “I am too busy”, “I am not good at it”, “I don’t need others”, “it is too much trouble”? These are all common excuses for living our lives with no room for others.
There are many one-another verses in the Bible. This should help us to realize how significant our relationships are as Christians. We can’t practice the one-anothers unless we are engaged in relationships! But some people may find this realization discouraging rather than encouraging. Some may find relationship-building difficult due to the fear of man that can manifest in our lives in a variety of ways. Others are struggling with broken relationships. We may find ourselves disappointed due to unmet expectations. Perhaps we fear rejection and avoid relationships by keeping ourselves too busy to engage. Sometimes, we simply do not make room for others in our lives.
God’s Word is clear that we are not meant to walk through life on our own. If we do not make room for other people in our lives, we will miss one of the means of grace that God has given us for our good and His glory. Relationships must be cultivated and considered to be part of our sanctification process. Hospitality and relationship building take time and effort, but they are essential.
We Need Relationships
We live in a culture that promotes independence, individualism, and autonomy. The Bible, however, promotes community, dependence on God, and relationship. People can attend and be a part of a local church, and not experience true community because the culture has crept into the church. Many people in our churches experience more loneliness than belonging and acceptance. Many Christians do not have significant relationships even within their own church contexts.
We can glean some important lessons from the apostle Paul’s ability to establish relationships wherever he went, whether it was during his younger years or during his missionary campaigns as he traveled city to city. In every place, he established and maintained a supportive and encouraging community.
In Paul’s very personal letter to the church in 1 Thessalonians, we see some keys to developing and maintaining relationships.
1 Thessalonians 2:7-8 “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.”
Cultivating and Maintaining Relationships
A child needing their mother is a picture of a very strong need and intimate bond. God revealed our deep need for others when He said “It is not good for the man to be alone” in Genesis 2:18. Our relationships are not to be taken lightly because they do require effort. Beyond simply reaching out to others, we need to be transparent and share our lives honestly.
Honesty and transparency develop trust in a relationship, drawing people closer to each other. Whenever Paul wrote to a church, he called by name two, three or four people that he was close to. Through his caring interaction with people, these became important gospel-friendships that stood the test of time.
In order for us to develop the kind of relationships we see in Paul’s letters, we need to first admit the need and then reach out to others. We need to model transparency, show genuine care, and engage in the one-another’s of scripture so that our brothers and sisters in Christ are edified and so that God is glorified. When Paul says, in vs. 8, that they were ready to share “our own selves” along with the gospel, we see that he did not hold back. He opened his life to others, and so must we.
In other words, he made room for others. He did not use the excuses that are common today. We make room for others when we purposefully pursue others in our churches through hospitality and friendship. When we make room for others, people will feel loved and cared for as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Are you making room for others? How are you actively maintaining those relationships? If you are not close to others, how can you begin to cultivate authenticity and transparency?
In Part 1, we looked at the need to share the gospel as we engage in one-another relationships. In Part 2 we will take a look at the need to “apply the gospel” to life’s struggles.
Apply the Gospel
Any kind of mentoring, discipling, friendship, and all One-Another ministry should continue to be rooted in the Gospel. One of the best tools for One-Another relationships is this phrase: APPLY THE GOSPEL.
What do you think is meant by “apply the Gospel”?
As you engage in one-another relationships, you see how much people struggle with sin and suffering. You are likely to bump into some of these struggles if you have any kind of ministry, family life, or social life. Once you are fairly certain that someone has grasped the Gospel for salvation, you have an opportunity to help her to APPLY the Gospel to her life. You want to always be sure that you are not giving her the idea that she needs to change her behavior or mindset in order to earn approval, acceptance, or even worse, salvation. Always emphasize her eternal security; struggling people often wrestle with this Truth. Remind her of her identity in Christ and how He views her. It is not because she earned it, but because of the Gospel — His finished work on her behalf.
Let’s look at a few phrases you might catch on to as you speak with people that could indicate that they either do not have a clear understanding of the Gospel or that they are not applying it to their lives:
*“I don’t understand why God would do this to me.”
*“I can’t see any purpose in this.”
*“I just don’t know who I am anymore.”
*“I am so anxious and worried all the time and it consumes me.”
*“I feel so guilty.”
*“I do not deserve another chance.”
*“I don’t feel forgiven.”
*“He hurt me too badly; I can’t forgive him.”
Let’s look at those again, and see how the Gospel might apply. Realize that although we don’t have the full story in each of these scenarios, this is meant to show you what we mean by “apply the Gospel.”
*“I don’t understand why God would do this to me.” — The gospel tells us He suffered everything we do as He bore our sins (1 Peter 2:24).
*“I can’t see any purpose in this.” — The cross is why He can promise to work all things together, because it was the ultimate working together for good on our behalf (John 19:28-30).
*“I just don’t know who I am anymore.” — At the cross, we find our identity, upon conversion, we are a new creation (2 Cor 5:17).
*“I am so anxious and worried all the time.” — God made provision for you at the cross in every area, proving Himself completely trustworthy as your Heavenly Father (Philippians 4:6).
*“I still feel so guilty.” — You are forgiven at the cross, whether you feel like it or not (1 John 1:9).
*“I do not deserve another chance.” — Grace, because of the cross, flows freely (Romans 3:24).
*“I don’t feel forgiven.” — God’s Word says that you are forgiven when you place your faith in Him (Ephesians 1:7).
*“He hurt me too badly, I can’t forgive him.” — We don’t deserve God’s forgiveness, either, but we are forgiven (Romans 4:7).
These are just a sampling. There are many more Truths from scripture that help us to apply the gospel as the gospel binds us forever to the loving Father. The Gospel provides daily security as we wrestle with sin. Jesus promises to complete the work of redemption in our lives. We can have intimate communication with God because of the gospel. We are also compelled to live mercifully with others. As we apply the gospel, we are reminded of the rich, eternal, incomprehensible, overwhelming love of Jesus.
When we are struggling, we tend to forget the gospel. Elyse Fitzpatrick, in her excellent book “Because He Loves Me” explains a dynamic that we see in 2 Peter 1:9 – “whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.” Elyse explains:
“Peter writes that one reason we don’t grow in ordinary, grateful obedience as we should is that we’ve got amnesia; we’ve forgotten that we were cleansed from our sins. In other words, he is saying that ongoing failure in sanctification (the slow process of change into Christlikeness) is the direct result of failing to remember God’s love for us in the gospel. If we lack the comfort and assurance that his love and cleansing are meant to supply, our failures will handcuff us to yesterday’s sins, and we won’t have faith or courage to fight against them, or the love for God that’s meant to empower this war. Please don’t miss the import of Peter’s statement. If we fail to remember our justification, redemption, and reconciliation, we’ll struggle in our sanctification.”
When your counselee, mentee, friend, or loved one is struggling in her sanctification, revisit the gospel and discuss how it applies. In every type of struggle, God’s Word will give the answers as you dig deep and look for gospel applications.
As you engage in a One-Another relationship, after you have helped someone to apply the Gospel and she grasps these Truths, you can continue to disciple her as you apply Scriptural principles, commands, and promises to her struggles as well. This is ongoing “one-another ministry”! Simply put, this is DISCIPLESHIP.
Look again at the woman at the well (John 4:28-42). After the woman received the Truth, she immediately went and told others. As a result, many believed. She exemplified One-Another ministry immediately upon belief. She did not wait to learn a formula or a program to start a ministry. She simply went out and shared her story, which included the gospel for salvation and the gospel for sanctification. Let’s do the same, as we minister Life On Life according to the One-Anothers of Scripture.
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