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Do your words have weight, or only a tickle?

I ran across a story awhile back about a blind man sitting on the steps of a building with a sign by his feet that read: "I am blind, please help." A creative publicist was walking by the blind man and stopped to observe that the man only had a few coins in his hat. He put a few of his own coins in the hat, and without stopping to ask for permission, took the sign, turned it around, and wrote a new message. He then placed the sign by the feet of the blind man, and left. Later that afternoon the creative publicist returned by the blind man and noticed that his hat was almost completely full of bills and coins. The blind man recognized his footsteps and asked if it was him who had changed his sign. He also wanted to know what the man wrote on it. The publicist replied: "I just changed your message so people could relate to it." He wished the man well, said goodbye, and went on his way. The blind man didn't know it, but his new sign now read:


"TODAY IS SPRING AND I CANNOT SEE IT."


It’s amazing how simple words arranged in coherency according to proper rules of syntax and grammar can move our hearts and draw us to action. Both messages on the blind man’s sign were true, but one created awareness, empathy, and action while the other was blurred by the overstimulation of messages thrust upon those passing by.


Jesus was like that. He was a Master at arranging words in such a way that eternity was thrust into moments of time. He saw what others couldn’t, and He opened the heavens to the eyes of the spiritually blind. He took an act of radical devotion (Mark 14:3-9) and used it as a foreshadowing of His burial. He spoke rigorous words of commitment (Mark 8:34-38) and comforting words of peace (Matthew 11:28-30). He connected historical events to the message of His life (Matthew 12:40), and He used activities common in an agrarian society as expressions of uncommon truth (Luke 8:4-15).


I was at the Indiana Prayer Breakfast a couple of weeks ago and had the opportunity to hear Ravi Zacharias speak. Dr. Zacharias is perhaps the premier Christian apologist of the late 20th-early 21st centuries. I was spellbound when he said, “Eternity's anvil was provided against which the hammers of time must find their meaning.” I mean, who talks that way? The richness, poetry, and imagery take us to newer heights of understanding.


For those of you, like me, who need to read a Ravi Zacharias quote four times before it starts to sink in, don’t despair. The issue is not making the simple complex but the complex simple. The issue is making the bland tasteful and the dark winter give way to the freshness of spring. When you combine the power of words and the power of the Spirit, hearts are opened, the blind see, and the oppressed are set free.


So the next time you’re engaging a friend in a conversation, think how your words, empowered by the Spirit, can bring life, hope, and healing. There’s nothing wrong with talking about sports or the weather, but try to paint a picture with your friend that brings life to a blank or broken canvas.


Remember, the key is not how much knowledge you have in your head but how much of Jesus you have in your heart. Aspire to grow in knowledge, especially wisdom, but not in contrast from a heart yielded to Christ. Jesus quoted from Psalm 8:2 when He said, “Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise” (Matthew 21:16). Solomon wrote, “The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom, but the perverse tongue will be cut off” (Proverbs 10:31).


As the old adage goes, “Watch your tongue!” But more importantly, “Watch your heart,” “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34).

We Are the Messengers, Not the Message

British journalist and author Malcolm Muggeridge (1903-1990) was an agnostic through most of his life and highly adored (and criticized) for his quick wit and satire. During W.W. II, Muggeridge served as a British spy under the employment of MI6 (James Bond anyone?). After becoming a Christian, Muggeridge converted his quick wit, satire, and operative intelligence to the cause of Jesus Christ. What does a quick-witted, satirical spy look like when he becomes a Christian? A quick–witted, satirical Christian who becomes an agent for the Lord. One of Muggeridge’s famous sayings is, “Never forget that only dead fish swim with the stream.” Against the stream was Malcolm’s modus operandi, whether it was against the Nazis in W.W. II or against the ideals of secular humanism.


After becoming a Christian, Muggeridge wrote a book titled, Jesus Rediscovered (1969). I just saw that title today, and I found it especially refreshing in light of our sermon series at E91 called [Re]Discovering Jesus. Ah, there is truly nothing new under the sun! As Muggeridge put it, “All new news is old news happening to new people.”


One of the great lessons we learn from Muggeridge, which is why I write about him today, is how to engage our culture with the Gospel of Jesus Christ while not taking ourselves too seriously. What I mean is that we should always take the Gospel of Jesus seriously. This is a matter of eternal life and death. But we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously. We are the messengers, not the message. The problem is when we reverse the priority and take ourselves too seriously and the Gospel too lightly.


Muggeridge, in a similar way to G. K. Chesteron, was a master of sarcasm, not the sarcasm of late night talk shows, but the sarcasm that helps us laugh at ourselves. Muggeridge understood how ridiculous we appear in our self-importance, grandiose ideas and self-confident illusions.


For us to “be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks [us] for a reason for the hope that [we] have” (1 Peter 3:15a), we have to know the Gospel, the culture, and how to communicate “with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15b). Translation: Let’s be strong in our defense and respectful in our communication. Be full of truth but not full of yourself. Take the Gospel seriously and yourself lightly.


I fear we are headed further behind enemy lines in the culture wars over truth (What is truth?), meaning (What is meaning?), and morality (What is morality, and who gets to decide?). We’re losing ground, not because we don’t have truth, but because people can’t get past the messengers in order to discover it.


We are educating and equipping the next generation with the latest in technology, science, and epistemology, but who are devoid of a moral compass. President Teddy Roosevelt once said that “to educate a man in the mind and not in morals, is to educate a menace to society.” We are reaping what we have sown—both in our culture and churches. Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Unfortunately, many are still in bondage. Some people won’t listen to truth, because we won’t get out of the way.


To put it in the words of Muggeridge:


So the final conclusion would surely be that whereas other civilizations have been brought down by attacks of barbarians from without, ours had the unique distinction of training its own destroyers at its own educational institutions, and then providing them with facilities for propagating their destructive ideology far and wide, all at the public expense. Thus did Western Man decide to abolish himself, creating his own boredom out of his own affluence, his own vulnerability out of his own strength, his own impotence out of his own erotomania, himself blowing the trumpet that brought the walls of his own city tumbling down, and having convinced himself that he was too numerous, labored with pill and scalpel and syringe to make himself fewer. Until at last, having educated himself into imbecility, and polluted and drugged himself into stupefaction, he keeled over--a weary, battered old brontosaurus--and became extinct.


May we fight against this extinction with truth, meaning and morality through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. May we take this charge—but not ourselves—seriously as we make a defense for our faith with gentleness and respect.

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