Well, the elections are Tuesday, and then Thanksgiving will soon be upon us, and after this comes Christmas, and then New Year's, and all the resolutions that we're going to make for 2019. Imagine New Year's, only 58 days from now. Oh, sorry I reminded you.
Have you ever noticed that most New Year's resolutions have to do with our mouths? You ever think about that? Has to do with our mouths. I mean, I've never heard someone say: This year, I'm going to take better care of my toes or this year I plan to clean out my ears more often. Could be a good thing, but I don't hear people say that very often. Now for most people, resolutions have to do with what goes into their mouths, or promises to regulate what comes out of their mouths.
Since the time for resolutions is only a few weeks away, I want to talk about the traffic that comes in and out of our mouths, and how we might be able to keep some of those promises that we make to ourselves each year about what goes in our mouth and what comes out of our mouths.
Let's talk about the in-traffic first, shall we? In-traffic first, because between Thanksgiving and Superbowl Sunday, there sure is a lot of traffic going in to our mouths. Of course, I'm talking about the food and drink type of traffic into our mouths.
When it comes to food intake, we could say that in America, we're in a constant traffic jam. Surveys show that Americans are the most overweight people in the world. I don't know if we should be striving for that goal, but we are there. Our national obsession is weight loss, with a multi-billion dollar diet and exercise industry operating in this country. The irony of it, however, is that there is also a multi-billion dollar junk food and fast food industry in this country as well. I don't know if each corporation buys shares in each other but they keep each other alive. In addition to this, we live in a society where food is cheap and accessible 24 hours a day. It's available on every street corner and it's relentlessly advertised. We're constantly stimulated and provoked to eat at all times.
Even in the church, I hate to say this, 90% of our activities involve food. If I were to say, "hey, this weekend we're going out to the park and we're going to have a fast." I think I'd be by myself. "What, no food?" It's interesting that a main problem with children in our country is we have to force them to eat all of their food and a main problem with adults is that a large number of diseases and ill health can be traced to either overeating or eating the wrong kinds of food.
Food in the Bible
The Bible treats the subject of food as a basic need of man as a blessing like all other needs and blessings that come from God. He expects us to be good stewards of the food that we receive from Him. The mention of food is seen throughout the Bible. God designed man to eat food. He could have designed us where by simply breathing, we were taking in all the necessary nutrients that we needed. We could just breathe. But He didn't do that. He designed us as individuals that need to eat food. We need that intake to survive physically.
And of course, God has always provided for all the creatures including mankind, the food that he needs and that all creatures need everyday. Doesn't the psalmist say in 136:25, "God, who gives food to all flesh,"? He does so in natural and supernatural ways, as we see, while the Jews for example, were in the desert, He fed them miraculously with manna from Heaven.
This not only shows God's power, but also His concern for man's basic need. We have to eat, He's made it this way. God is the one who provides the food, regardless of how it is grown or processed or cooked.
In the end, He is the one who supplies all the elements to make this possible. And, God provides for us on a daily basis the food that we need. Each day God will guarantee we have enough to eat. We see this principle as He feeds His people one day at a time when they were in the desert.
Remember the story? They weren't allowed to collect two days' worth of manna. Only one day at a time and those who tried to collect more than one day, that food rotted and then when they were told not to collect food on the sabbath, the day before they collected enough for that day.
God provides exactly what we need. And we see Jesus confirming this idea when He says, what, in His prayer? "Give us this day our daily bread." Repeats it twice, give us today the bread that we need today.
And then of course, at times God prohibited the eating of certain kinds of food to identify and separate His chosen people from the pagan nations around them (Leviticus 11:1).
Of course the point was not that eating or not eating certain foods made them special or holy because of what they ate or didn't eat. It was the fact that they obeyed God in this matter that made them special. Jesus declared that all food was permitted with His coming, since the determining factor that made a person holy would now be faith in Him, as the Messiah, and no longer obedience to food laws (I Timothy 4:3).
And Paul taught the first century Christians to be patient with those who had trouble letting go of food restrictions and not force them to give these things up if they couldn't do it in good conscience (I Corinthians 8).
And so I've gone over all of this because the subject of food and its use is the subject that is found from the beginning of the Old Testament right through the New Testament as well. It's not as if God invented food and then just left us alone to figure it all out. No, there's a lot of teaching about food and its various uses in the bible.
God also provides the guidelines to enable us to use the food that He gives us without sinning and these break down into three rather simple principles.
1. Eat a reasonable amount
8Keep deception and lies far from me,
Give me neither poverty nor riches;
Feed me with the food that is my portion
9That I not be full and deny You and say, "Who is the Lord?"
Or that I not be in want and steal,
And profane the name of my God.
- Proverbs 30:8-9
The writer asks God to provide him with what he needs, in both wealth and food. Not too much that he forget God, become worldly, and not too little that he curse God. Just the right amount. Now the word glutton in the bible refers to a person who is, and here's the interesting part, who is a careless eater, a careless eater, a devourer, one who eats everything in sight.
The nickname in the bible was slow belly for the glutton. When you dismantle most diet plans, the basic idea is usually to eat in moderation and be selective, avoiding those things that are known to be harmful.
Food is a need and it's a blessing, but God instructs us to be reasonable in our consumption. Even if our conscience won't warn us, our bodies will always let us know when we're being unreasonable about the food that we eat. So a pretty simple idea; eat a reasonable amount.
2. Don't let your appetites be your God
whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.
- Philippians 3:29
In Philippians, Paul talks of those whose only desire in life is to satisfy their appetites, whether it be for food, sex, power or pleasure; this is all that counts, just satisfying what they want. What we taste, how often we're satisfied, how we look or not look as a result is for some people the center of their universe, the goal of their existence: to have muscle, to be thin, to have a flat stomach. There are people that put in a whole lot of work to have a flat stomach, but their nose is never in the Bible. I'd rather have a clear conscience than a flat stomach.
Food is for the belly only, but God's people need to pay attention to spiritual food as much as natural food if they wish to please God and avoid idolatry. Don't make food and its affect on you your god.
3. Don't eat and let others starve
4Those who recline on beds of ivory
And sprawl on their couches,
And eat lambs from the flock
And calves from the midst of the stall,
5Who improvise to the sound of the harp,
And like David have composed songs for themselves,
6Who drink wine from sacrificial bowls
While they anoint themselves with the finest of oils,
Yet they have not grieved over the ruin of Joseph.
7Therefore, they will now go into exile at the head of the exiles,
And the sprawlers' banqueting will pass away.
- Amos 6:4-7
Amos, Old Testament prophet, presents an indictment against the Jews who were enjoying many luxuries while others around them were suffering and starving. If God condemns the USA for anything, it'll probably be because we feasted while so many in the world starve to death. God provides the food but He leaves to man the matter of distribution and sharing. Many times the West has manipulated supplies to keep the price high, but in doing so, millions starve. And we ask our farmers many times to store their crops because they have too much.
Each of us who eats has a responsibility in some way to provide for those who don't eat. In II Corinthians Paul says,
14at this present time your abundance being a supply for their need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for your need, that there may be equality; 15as it is written, "He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little had no lack."
- II Corinthians 8:14-15
God provides for us, so we can provide for others. Now, of course, we personally can't feed the world, but as Christians, the proper use of our food is to share what we have in some way.
So this year as we examine our intake of food and make all sorts of promises about losing weight or getting our blood pressure down, let's remember God's teaching about food intake.
- Be reasonable – A steady, moderate approach is always the best and longest lasting way to consume food.
- Vary your diet – Don't just focus on physical food. Try to cultivate a taste for spiritual food as well.
- Share what you have – You can show God your gratitude for a full belly by trying to get some food into somebody else's belly.
Basic guidelines which will help us be thankful and sober-minded about what goes into our own mouths.
Out-Traffic - The Tongue
So much for incoming, now let's look outgoing traffic - the things we say with our mouths. We can sin with incoming traffic in three basic ways: too much intake, too focused on intake, too selfish with intake. The ways we can sin with outgoing traffic however, are more numerous and more damaging. With intake we only hurt ourselves. With outgoing sins, we can hurt everybody.
This is not an exhaustive list I have here but some of the sins of the tongue are: blasphemy, vulgarity, dishonesty, boasting, unkindness, criticism, unwarranted criticism, jealousy, slander, gossip, provocation, swearing, etc.
Usually our resolutions about outgoing mouth traffic says: I'm not going to blaspheme, I'm not going to gossip, I'm not going to tell any bad jokes, I'm not going to be vulgar, I'm going to stop saying the F-word when I'm mad. Those are our resolutions. And these are the hardest resolutions to keep because it seems that no sooner do we make this commitment, we watch and hear our own mouths doing exactly what we said we wouldn't do.
Young moms are saying I'm not going to scream today. I am not going to scream and take out my frustration on these children. Today is a new day, Lord you're going to help me. But before the breakfast cereal has not even been spilled on the floor yet and she's already screaming at the kids. How did I get there? It's like our mouths have a mind of their own, and our spirit is listening to our mouths saying words while our hearts are secretly saying okay, well, next time I'm going to do better, and we leave our mouth to keep going. That the outgoing traffic is hard to control and nearly impossible to stop is recognized by God.
But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.
- James 3:8
The task seems hopeless because James said, "No one can tame the tongue" but with God all things are possible. So if this is your resolution, outgoing traffic, here are some instructions that God provides in the quest for controlling the outgoing traffic of our mouths.
1. Ask God to be the traffic cop of your mouth.
Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth;
Keep watch over the door of my lips.
- Psalms 141:3
Seems that the outgoing traffic was a problem a long time ago. Many times we accept Jesus as our Lord and we make Him Lord of our time and Lord of our priorities, but not of what we say. Our mouths are the last bastion of our freedom and independence. We can think what we want, we can say what we think whenever and to whoever we want.
It's the last thing to die, the last thing to be submitted to the Lord. Asking the Lord to watch our hearts, where our thoughts originate and our mouths, where they find expression and freedom, is to submit this important part of our lives into the hands of God.
If we consciously and persistently do this, the Lord will take over and begin working His Lordship over our lips. He will; this is a prayer that He does answer.
2. Recognize that God will judge us for what we say
But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.
- Matthew 12:36
Again, Jesus says that the tongue is a restless evil and sets a person's life on fire. Think of all the heartache and trouble and suffering caused in families as well as in nations on account of words. This realization should make us afraid for what's already passed from our own lips, and make us more careful for the future. God's judgment is sure and if no word will escape His notice, we should think seriously about the things that we say and how we say them.
3. Use our mouths according to God's purpose and for His glory
O Lord, open my lips,
That my mouth may declare Your praise.
- Psalms 51:15
I believe the reason we're given to lies and boasting and foolish talk and blasphemy is because we don't use our lips more often for the purpose for which they were designed. Satan has taken over the control of our lips. Growing up in the Catholic church, I would see monks who took vows of silence and lived in monasteries. This vow was made in order to try to solve the mouth problem, by not speaking at all. But I believe even though they had a good intention, they missed the point. The mouth isn't bad, it's how it's used that makes it good or bad.
If we go through God's Word, we see the various uses that God intended for the mouth in speech:
- Speak with God in prayer – Matthew 6:9
- Praise God in song – Ephesians 5:19
- Teach and correct others – Ephesians 5:19
- Communicate with one another – Acts 1:15
- Praise and honor others – Romans 13:7
- Express beauty, truth and joy as well as sorrow in song, poetry and stories – Philippians 4:8
- Lift each other up in times of trouble or challenge – Joshua 24:15
These are just a few of the main reasons the ability to speak was given to us by God. But that ability to speak, in our day and time, has been hijacked and used to destroy one another, to shame one another, to hurt one another. When struggling with sins of the lips, it's not enough just to try to not say anything, or the wrong thing, we have to replace these things with the right things to say, the words and the attitudes and the encouragement to others that God has given us lips to do.
So if your resolution involves controlling what comes out of your mouth in 2019, try to remember some of the guidelines that the Designer of the mouth gave us to help us succeed.
- Let God patrol your lips – He will prompt your conscience and He'll encourage your heart as to the right thing and the right time to speak. 'Cause it's not always the right thing, it's also the right time, and God will guide you to the right thing and the right time.
- Humble yourselves to God's judgment – Realize that you're digging your own grave with your own words. This should motivate you to work on this. And I say you, but I include myself, believe me. And then also, replace unholy with holy.
- Replace the unholy with holy things – Remember that the goal is not silence, the goal is to honor God and others and ourselves with our lips.
Of course, the words that stop traffic, in heaven and on Earth, are spoken when someone comes forward and says the most important words that are ever said:
"I believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and I want to repent of my sins and be baptized in His name."
Do you realize that when you become a Christian, all those words that you spoke will stay in the grave of baptism? The only words you're judged on when you come before God are the words of your confession of faith. Those are the only words that God looks at when you come before Him in judgment.
"I've been unfaithful as a Christian and I would like to be restored today - would you please pray for me?"
When these type of words are spoken, angels in heaven, saints on Earth praise God when they hear these things. And so, if these words are on the tip of your tongue this morning, then we invite you to come forward now and say them to God and the church as we rejoice and sing our song of encouragement.