SEASONED WITH SALT: How Shall We Speak?

Have you ever encountered someone so harsh in speech that you become genuinely concerned for what might be going on in their spirit? Recently, I had the “joyful privilege” of being called: infidel, false prophet, heretic, son of hell, ignorant, Pharisee, ungodly coward, papist, liar, and an effeminate coward. Additionally, I was told to: shut my mouth, suffer damnation, and go back to hell where I came from. Essentially, everything you see in the graphic above was lobbed at me in back-to-back posts. While I’m far from a sensitive soul (20 years of military service will give you thick skin), that doesn’t mean I wasn’t taken aback by it. What made matters worse is that it was all levied by someone claiming to be a Christian. Deep down, he feels he is a believer who knows the truth and all others are infidels who need to be e-flogged for daring to speak against the truth. Unfortunately, he was so engaged in destroying his enemies that he rarely bothered to share what he believes to be the truth. This was only indicative of another problem. If I were truly a lost soul who needed Christ, it means I desperately need to believe in Him. And how can I believe in Him if I do not hear the gospel? And how can I hear the gospel if one fails to preach it (Romans 10:14)? Instead of being on a mission to proclaim the gospel and saving power of Christ to all who have ears (Matthew 11:15), this individual felt insulting people and telling them to go back to hell was more Christ-like. It reminded me of the typical Calvinist “cage stage” raged out on steroids.

Let’s face it, if you are a Calvinist, you likely went through some form of a cage stage. I certainly know I did. Perhaps you are even in it right now. After years of missing what was right in front of me, I felt overzealous and had a desire to share it with everyone else who was also missing it. Unfortunately, it often came off as harsh, lacking in love, and rooted in a desire to win an argument. That said, it was never to the extent of the above graphic. Truth be told, that’s only a small fraction of the pointed barbs that were thrown my way but you get the point.

This got me thinking of two things. First, how should we speak to others as we seek to reflect the love of Christ within? Second, is there a proper time to use disparaging language in a form of combating false teaching? I think both of these are important questions that all Christians should ponder, as I’ve seen people on both sides of the fence. Some are so soft in speech, they fail to stand firm in the truth. Others are so firm in the truth, they fail to find anyone who actually wants to put up with them long enough to hear it.

Communication is an art form with many unskilled participants. There is verbal, non-verbal, written, etc. With the rise of social media, so many feel qualified to “speak” when it would probably be better if they sat on their hands. I belong to a multitude of Christian discussion groups on Facebook and I see a virtual battlefield laced with digital blood every time I enter. Rarely does one see grace in abundant measures. While I am guilty of being baited into a heated debate turned argument, I am fully convinced this is a slap in the face of the bride of Christ. While debate (yes, even heated ones) can be a healthy way to study and solidify our theological positions, arguing and name calling is destructive to the like faith in Christ that believers proclaim (2 Peter 1:1). We must always ask ourselves if we are proclaiming truth in the name of Christ or spewing hatred in the divisive nature of Satan.

As Christians, we are told to season our words with salt (Colossians 4:6). We’re also warned to not be haughty in mind or be wise in our own estimation (Romans 12:16). In Galatians, Paul writes that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Conversely to this, some of the descriptors as being deeds of the flesh include hostilities, strife, outbursts of anger, dissentions, and factions (Galatians 5:19-21). Taking another look at the graphic above, I think it becomes clear where such speech falls under.

Knowing how a Christian is to speak, what are we to make of the multitude of examples in Scripture where insulting language is used? After all, Elijah mocked the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:25-27). Even Jesus was known to use harsh language such as when he called the Pharisees the offspring of vipers (Matthew 12:34) and sons of hell (Matthew 23:15). You may recognize that last one as one of the names I was called in the graphic above. Certainly, there are examples where denigrating language was appropriate for certain circumstances. However, the keyboard warrior I encountered was failing to take the context into account and was using Jesus as nothing more than an excuse to justify his deeds of the flesh. In the case of Elijah, he was a prophet being used as the mouthpiece of God. What he spoke, God was speaking. Furthermore, the prophets of Baal were directly blaspheming God while lifting up their idol. In the example of Jesus, He was speaking out against those who claimed to be godly, all the while denying the Son of God who stood before them. He wasn’t on a warpath to belittle and destroy every last person who held to different theological positions. In fact, there are many examples where, while speaking softly but firmly, He simply left those types of people to figure it out. Being in spiritual warfare doesn’t mean shooting everything that moves. There are rules of engagement and a Code of Conduct outlined in Scripture. Spiritual warfare is very real but there is a proper way to be a spiritual warrior (Click HERE for my article on that topic).

Certainly, there are some out there who need to be addressed head on. Blatant false teachers such as Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, T.D. Jakes, Beth Moore, and Kenneth Copeland, are to be refuted without kid gloves. These men and women have been shown much grace and have repeatedly refused the truth in lieu of heresy and other errors. There are others such as Francis Chan who are rapidly moving in that direction. However, there are others who are amazing brothers and sisters who have differing opinions on certain doctrines. Some examples would be John MacArthur (Dispensationalism), James White (Post-millennialism), and Jeff Durbin (Theonomy/Post-millennialism). While some of these topics can become heated debates over why they are incorrect in their position, never would I dare discredit their faith and standing before the Lord. Just as R.C. Sproul and John MacArthur disagreed on the mode of baptism, Sproul also openly declared he’d rather have no one else in his fox hole with him when it comes to proclaiming truth in Christ.

17 One who declares truth tells what is right,
But a false witness, deceit.
18 There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword,
But the tongue of the wise brings healing. -- Proverbs 12:17-18, NASB

Unfortunately, there are some who focus on Proverbs 12:17 while forgetting verse 18. We should always be ready to declare what is right but our method should never be to the detriment of spiritual healing through wisdom. Remember, we are ambassadors of Christ, not merely an earthly Cerberus ready to attack anyone who dares disagree with us on matters of theology. If you encounter someone like the person I had the pleasure of speaking with, ensure you don’t get sucked into the trap. Feel free to attempt to engage in healthy dialogue but when all you’re met with is resistance and arrogance, remember that we are warned not to answer a fool according to his folly, let we be just like him (Proverbs 26:4). Let your speech edify so that it may give grace to those who hear (Ephesians 4:29). Be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger (James 1:19), bearing with one another in love (Ephesians 4:2), as we seek to be imitators of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). May this article edify and enrich your walk in sanctification. Grace and peace!

~ Travis W. Rogers

How Much Does Bad Theology Cost?

FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY! Imagine your favorite product is sitting before you on a shelf. How much would you be willing to pay for it? At what point does it become unobtainable? I was walking through Target and noticed there appeared to be red signs everywhere declaring sale after sale. Some items were drastically reduced whereas other items were marked down by a mere 9 cents. Seeing the latter, it was cause for a chuckle as I imagined consumers seeing a red sign and not even bothering to see how the store was “targeting” them as ignorant consumers. However, chuckling was replaced by awe as I walked through the toy aisle. There were red signs EVERYWHERE! For these products, they had removed the original yellow sticker and didn’t mention the original price (or the savings) on the red one. All it mentioned was the sale price and the relatively short date range in which you could expect to receive such a deal. That was when I noticed a lone yellow sticker that had been overlooked by an employee. Imagine my shock when I saw it had the exact same price as annotated on the red tag! There was literally no sale on these items. The store had just slapped a boatload of sale tags on the toys while never even lowering the price. Perhaps even more astounding was the fact that the shelves were empty! I wondered if I was the only one left in the world who compared prices and did research before just blindly throwing my money away.

It was at this point that my browsing led me to the book section. Though there were

no sales, I saw the books you see in this picture. It was a normal enough sight. Books marked a penny shy of the next whole dollar. Marketing tactics and product placement showed nothing out of the ordinary. However, lurking beneath the surface was something that would probably be missed by most. While there is no doubt the masses are willing to pay $12.99 for the latest Joel Osteen book (the best seller list proves this fact), I believe this to be only a secondary problem. The question is not how much you are willing to pay for a paperback book. The question isn’t even how much you are willing to pay for bad theology. No, the question is, “How much does bad theology really cost?” I dare say, if you were to find any of these books at a yard sale for 25 cents, you have overpaid. In fact, if you were to receive them as a free gift from a friend, you have still overpaid. The cost of bad theology isn’t a broken wallet but, rather, a broken walk with Christ. Are you prepared to pay such a price?

Maybe you’re a fan of Joel Osteen. I once knew a Christian who loved God with all his heart. He took every opportunity to evangelize to the lost. I was sharing my opinion of Osteen with him and he instantly became offended. I never would’ve guessed he was a fan of the smiling pastor. He went on to say that, though Osteen wasn’t the most theologically accurate, he had a desire to help people overcome their burdens and feel encouraged. Therein lies the problem. If one isn’t theologically accurate, it doesn’t mean they have a slight flaw. It means they are theologically inaccurate. The danger is great because everything else will flow forth from this. For instance, if one has an inadequate view of sin, it will naturally lead to an inadequate view of man’s status before God. If he has an inadequate view of man’s status before God, he will naturally have an inadequate view of Christ’s purpose and accomplishment. Once we cross into this realm, is it any wonder why so many believe it only takes seven steps to become a better you? Osteen teaches that one simply has to keep pressing forward, be positive toward yourself, develop better relationships, form better habits, embrace the place where you are, develop your inner life, and stay passionate about life. How inwardly self-centered can one be? This is excellent advice so far as worldly wisdom in concerned but God paints a very different picture. He tells us the wisdom of this world is foolishness (1 Corinthians 3:19). He has made it very clear that the wisdom of this world only leads to not knowing God (1 Corinthians 1:21). So why do I say this seemingly friendly advice is foolishness? Upon what ground do I stand? To this, I respond that I stand on the solid rock of Christ and stand firm within the pages of Scripture. Scripture alone will make a man adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17). If you truly want to become a better you, I implore you to stop relying on you. The more you choose to follow these pawns of Satan, the more you wind up being nothing more than a puppet on a string. Don’t be deceived. Don’t exchange the truth for a lie (Romans 1:25). As an individual, there is nothing you could ever do to become better. Sure, you might achieve worldly success. You might even fancy yourself to be a success story in the world of self-esteem. Osteen has said, “As long as you’re doing your best and desire to do what’s right according to God’s Word, you can be assured God is pleased with you.” Sadly, this is a bold faced lie. It sounds sweet but smells like sulfur. Doing your best will never please God. Following Christ will please God. Even then, it isn’t based on what you are doing but on what Christ has accomplished and what the Spirit prompts within you. No, if you rely on worldly wisdom to get yourself right, you’ll be waiting a long time.

Perhaps even worse is the following quote taken out his new book. “Too many people say negative things about themselves, about their families, and about their futures. They say things such as, ‘I’ll never be successful. This sickness will get the best of me. Business is so slow I don’t think I will make it. Flu season is coming. I’ll probably catch it.’ They don’t realize they are prophesying their futures. The Scripture says, ‘We will eat the fruit of our words.’ That means we will get exactly what we’ve been saying.” The premise of his latest work of fiction is that the Christian can simply declare what they want and God will show favor on them through the form of blessing. Reader, this is simply untrue. It is a mockery of the Word of God. In fact, it is a mockery of God Himself. It is understandable how one could be so intrigued by such promises of health, wealth, and prosperity. After all, in this economy, what could it hurt to try on a little Jesus and get some cash? How deplorable!

All of this is bad theology and, sadly, it’s just a very small amount of the filth that has perpetuated itself within the Church. It uses Christian verbiage. It wears a friendly smile. It comes dressed in a fancy suit. It tells you that you can have more. It throws around Bible verses taken out of context. Even worse, it slanders the truth and brings destruction (2 Peter 2:1-2). The Greek word translated as destruction in this passage literally means final damnation with eternal misery in hell. Instead of following Osteen, I recommend you be an imitator of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1) and remain is the Word (John 15:7).

Following any other “wisdom” costs way too much. How much are you prepared to pay?

~ Travis W. Rogers

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