by John Lowe
Let your speech always be with grace
Text: Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. (Colossians 4:5-6, NKJV)
I want to begin with a joke. A mother had been working with her young son teaching him to tell time with a non-digital clock. For several days they had been talking about the “small hand” and the “big hand.” When she heard him walk into the kitchen where they have a clock with hands, she called out from the other room, “Cameron, what is the little hand on?” He yelled back, “A chocolate chip cookie.” Children’s comments are priceless, and they’re a joy to be around.
Today, I want to talk about a job that Jesus has given to every one of His children. On His last day on earth, and just before He ascended back to the Father, He gave us what we call the Great Commission. The commission was to take the Gospel to the world. That is the title of the message, A WITNESS TO THE WORLD.
Professing Christians should live a life of faith in God and of obedient response to the Holy Spirit. They live in a world that is often hostile to Christ, or worse still, indifferent to Christ. Their response to the world around them is crucial to their Christian walk and their witness for Christ. Too often Christians make the response of identification with the world. They so closely identify themselves with the world that their life can hardly be distinguished from that of a non-Christian.
Another response that Christians sometimes make is withdrawal from the world. They try to shut out entirely the world around them and live in their own little, private, well-protected world. Neither of these is the proper response. The proper response is for Christians to be responsible witnesses in the world. We associate with the people of the world. Therefore, we should give a responsible witness of our faith to the world. Our faith should be the guiding principle for our lives. Everything we say and do should come from a heart that loves Jesus and wants to be obedient to God. I like to think of life as if we are working for God and Jesus is the One who signs our paycheck. Our work should reflect our faith, by doing everything the best we can. That way no one can use us or our work habits for bad examples of what a Christian is.
Our encounter with God in worship gives us strength and power for daily living. Our character, growing out of our relationship of faith in God, gives a silent but powerful witness of the meaning of faith and salvation. Through our very lives, we are “salespeople” for salvation. Elton Trueblood once said that faith lives and dies not by what goes on in churches, but by what, as a result of the churches, goes on outside of them. That is what the apostle Paul meant by these two verses in the last chapter of his letter to the Colossians. Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. (Colossians 4:5-6, NKJV) He urged them to be wise in the way they act toward outsiders, meaning those who are outside the Christian fellowship—the lost, those without Christ. He had both an offensive and defensive purpose in mind. The defensive purpose was to protect the good name of the Christian community. The offensive purpose was to go after outsiders and bring them into the Christian fellowship and to faith in Christ.
This is still our witness to the world. Our witness to the world involves three issues; our time in the world, our walk in the world, and our talk in the world. Let’s face it; we may not have much time left to live in this world. What’s the old saying; “Nothing’s certain but death and taxes.” Someone said, “The statistics on death are very impressive, one out of every one, dies.” Because of our age, none of us will be around for very long, so we need to use our time well by witnessing for Christ. We are told to redeem the time which means literally, “to buy up the time.” Think for a moment how you use your time. Do you watch television, talk to friends, read books, walk through the halls, sit outside and enjoy nature, or maybe you are involved with some activities given by the staff here at _____________. These are all good things; nothing wrong with any of them. But there is something that God has for you to do, and it is a very important task.
God wants you to use your time to witness. Believers are to interact with those in the world with wisdom, and they should temper their speech and season it with salt. Salty language could mean that believers are not to be dull and predictable in their speech but gracious and interesting in order to draw others to life in Christ. Therefore, believers redeem or use their time wisely by taking every opportunity to influence others for Christ.
The child of God has a responsibility before the world today, that is, we are not to be foolish. We hear so much pious talk in our day. There are those who said the Lord would return before 1980. I don’t know where they got such information. There were probably a lot of embarrassed folk with red faces in 1980. Christians have no right to make such statements before an unsaved world. Nor should we say we are trusting in the Lord when our actions show that we really do not trust Him. We should not do foolish things before the world, because that gives the enemies of God ammunition that can be used against all Christians. Instead, we are told in this verse to “Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside.”
I ran across this interesting story about wisdom. Two cowboys and an Indian had been riding hard all day. There had been no time for lunch and dinner was still about an hour away. The two cowboys began talking about the big meals they were going to eat once they got to town. The Indian didn’t enter the conversation so they asked him, “Aren’t you hungry?” The Indian shrugged his shoulders and said, “No.” When the threesome arrived at their destination, they ordered large meals and started filling their empty stomachs. The Indian ate faster than the other two and reached for any food that wasn’t nailed to the table. The cowboys laughed and reminded him that less than an hour ago he said he wasn’t hungry. The Indian poetically said, “Not wise to be hungry then. No food.” It takes wise walking as well as wise talking to win the lost to Christ. The unsaved are outside the family of God, and it is our task to bring them in.
Having an effective witness involves walking wisely, being alert to every opportunity, and being careful in what we say and how we say it. Peter wrote in his first letter, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you… (1 Pet. 3:15). Nothing is any more effective in drawing someone to Jesus Christ than sharing your personal testimony (John 4:39; 11:32). Believers should always be ready to share Jesus with someone. A personal testimony catches the attention of those listening and holds their interest. (John 4:28–30). By its very nature, a personal testimony is unique, because no one else has experienced what you have with God.
Your testimony should describe your life before you received Christ. You can tell how you realized your need for Christ, what steps you took to become a Christian, how Christ helps you and makes a difference in your daily life, and any unique ways Christ has dealt with you in drawing you to Himself. A personal testimony is difficult to refute because an individual is sharing truth that has come to her firsthand through her own personal experience with God (John 4:29). A personal testimony is an opportunity for you to identify with the unbeliever and to show how Christ makes the difference in a person’s life (John 4:42). It is important for your testimony to reflect your daily walk with God. A person’s walk refers to one’s behavior in the world. Christians are to conduct themselves wisely; which means that they are to be careful in their behavior, and discreet in their conduct. In order to advance the cause of Christ, we must live consistently and avoid everything that would turn the unsaved off, and do everything that would turn the unsaved on.
When you see an opportunity, pray that the Lord will lead you. Don’t force yourself on people. Just pray and ask the Lord to open the door, and He will open it. I wish I had time to tell you how many times this has happened in my life and the life of others. Let Him open the door, before you make the mistake of putting your foot in your mouth. I knocked on many doors while visiting for my church, and I often stepped in and put my foot in my mouth the very first thing. Since then I have learned to do a lot more praying before I step in. I can’t begin to tell you how important your walk in the world is. (Elaborate on saying, “You may be the only Bible some people ever read.”)
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