************ Sermon on Ephesians 4:29 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 28, 2004
"Build Others Up"
Title: You Can Make a Difference!
A teacher in New York decided to honor each of her seniors in high school by telling them the difference they each made. She called each student to the front of the class, one at a time. First she told each of them how they had made a difference to her and the class. Then she presented each of them with a blue ribbon imprinted with gold letters, which read, "Who I Am Makes a Difference."
Then the teacher gave each of the students three more ribbons and instructed them to go out and spread this acknowledgment ceremony by telling others how they made a difference in their lives.
One of the boys in the class went to a junior executive in a nearby company and honored him for helping him with his career planning. He gave him a blue ribbon and put it on his shirt. Then he gave him two extra ribbons and said, "We're doing a class project on recognition. We'd like you to go out and find somebody to honor, give them a blue ribbon, then give them the extra blue ribbon so they can acknowledge a third person to keep this acknowledgment ceremony going.
Later that day the junior executive went in to see his boss, who had been noted, by the way, as being kind of a grouchy fellow. He sat his boss down and he told him that he deeply admired him for being a creative genius. The boss seemed very surprised. The junior executive asked him if he would accept the gift of the blue ribbon and would he give him permission to put it on him. His surprised boss said, "Well, sure." The junior executive took the blue ribbon and placed it right on his boss's jacket above his heart.
As he gave him the last extra ribbon, he said, "Would you do me a favor? Would you take this extra ribbon and pass it on by honoring somebody else?
That night the boss came home to his 14-year-old son and sat him down. He said, "The most incredible thing happened to me today. I was in my office and one of the junior executives came in and told me he admired me and gave me a blue ribbon for being a creative genius. Imagine. He thinks I'm a creative genius. Then he put this blue ribbon that says "Who I am Makes a Difference," on my jacket above my heart. He gave me an extra ribbon and asked me to find somebody else to honor. As I was driving home tonight, I started thinking about whom I would honor with this ribbon and I thought about you. I want to honor you. My days are really hectic and when I come home I don't pay a lot of attention to you. Sometimes I scream at you for not getting good enough grades in school and for your bedroom being a mess, but somehow tonight, I just wanted to sit here and, well, just let you know that you do make a difference to me. Besides your mother, you are the most important person in my life. You're a great kid and I love you!"
The startled boy started to sob and sob, and he couldn't stop crying. His whole body shook. He looked up at his father and said through his tears, "Dad, earlier tonight I sat in my room and wrote a letter to you and Mom explaining why I had killed myself and asking you to forgive me. I was going to commit suicide tonight after you were asleep. I just didn't think that you cared at all. The letter is upstairs. I don't think I need it after all." His father walked upstairs and found a heartfelt letter full of anguish and pain. The envelope was addressed, "Mom and Dad." Needless to say, the boss went back to work a changed man.
GEMS, there is power of life and death in the tongue. An encouraging word to someone who is down can lift them up and help them make it through the day. On the other hand, a destructive word to someone who is down can be what it takes to kill them. Be careful of what you say. Speak words of encouragement to those who cross your path. Build Others Up!
I Who/What You Are in Christ
A Before we look at what we are to do and what we are not to do, let us remind ourselves of why Paul says this to us. He says,
(Eph 2:1,4-5) As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins ... (4) But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, (5) made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions ...Paul reminds us that we have been saved by grace and through faith (Eph 2:8) and therefore know the extent of God's love for us in Christ (Eph 3:18-19).
You are saved. By the blood of Jesus you are saved. That's what it comes down to.
B You are saved. And this, says Paul, should make a difference in the way you life and act and talk.
(Eph 4:17) So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.
(Eph 4:22,24) You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires ... (24) and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Do you see the progression? Do you see the connection? You have been saved from you sin. You are a new person in Christ. You should live like you are saved rather than living like you are not saved. It is within this context that Paul says,
(Eph 4:29) 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.As saved, new people in Christ Paul tells us something negative and he tells us something positive. He tells us something we should not have and something we should have.
II Unwholesome Talk
A On the negative side, Paul says "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths ..."
What is this "unwholesome talk" that Paul is talking about?
I spent some time reading through Paul's letter to Ephesus. Scattered throughout this book are lots of indications of exactly what Paul has in mind.
The first thing we read about is "falsehood." "Therefore," says Paul, "each of you must put off falsehood" (Eph 4:25). He is talking about lies and deceit and deception. Let me ask you girls: what is the one thing that is guaranteed to make your parents madder than any other thing you can do? When you do something wrong, parents can get upset. But when you lie about it, most parents go ballistic. Lies are "unwholesome talk."
Paul also talks about anger (Eph 4:26). When you talk out of anger, when you blow your top and have a temper tantrum, you almost always say things you wish you could take back. Angry talk is "unwholesome talk."
Another thing Paul mentions is slander (Eph 4:31). Dragging someone's name through the mud, saying false things about them, is "unwholesome talk."
Paul also mentions "obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking" (Eph 5:4). One thing I have noticed today is that a lot of children and youth talk so easily and flippantly about sex – of course, you see and hear it on TV all the time – but that is something pagans do and that Christians should not do. Using curse words, the "F" word, taking God's name in vain, being vulgar, and telling dirty jokes are all "unwholesome talk" too.
Paul mentions thanksgiving (Eph 5:4). When our mouths are not filled with thanksgiving, when our tendency is to complain and criticize, then we are letting unwholesome talk come out of our mouths.
Finally, Paul also mention "empty words" (Eph 5:6). He has in mind false teaching and heresy that leads people away from the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. This, too, is "unwholesome talk."
We know from the Gospels that Jesus faced "unwholesome talk" all the time. The Pharisees complained against Him because He ate with tax collectors and sinners (Lk 5:30). We know that on the way to the cross Jesus was ridiculed and mocked: in the house of the high priest (Lk 22:63-65), by Herod and his soldiers (23:11), by the soldiers at the cross (23:36), by one of the criminals who hung beside Him (23:39). "Unwholesome talk" – all of this!
GEMS, as Christians you should not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths. As people who have been saved and born-again and renewed to be like Christ, you are to guard what comes out of your mouth.
I remember the time I said something bad. I don't know what I said. But my teacher washed my mouth out with soap. Soap does not taste good.We are to wash unwholesome talk out of our mouths. None of this has any place in the life of a Christian.
III Biblical Examples
A As saved, new people in Christ Paul not only tells us what we should not have – unwholesome talk – but also what we should have. He says,
(Eph 4:29) 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.According to Paul, we need to build one another up.
There is no doubt that the Apostle Paul set the believers a personal example here. After starting several new churches on his first missionary journey, Paul retraced his steps and returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch "strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith" (Acts 14:21-22). These new believers, left alone like orphans for several weeks or months, needed this encouragement lest they falter in the faith.
Paul was the same way when he said good-bye to the churches. As he left Philippi, he comforted the new Christians there. Don't forget, Philippi is where Paul was whipped and imprisoned. You would think the believers there should have been consoling him. But the Bible records that it was Paul who did the comforting before he left (Acts 16:40).
The same thing happened in Ephesus. A riot broke out when the servants of Artemis or Diana felt their business threatened by the Christian faith. Paul's life was in danger. Yet, when the uproar ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, "after encouraging them," said good-bye and set out for Macedonia (Acts 20:1).
We would have to say that Paul made every effort to say what was helpful for building others up.
B Other examples I can hold before you are Peter (cf Lk 22:32), Judas and Silas (Acts 15:31-32), and Philip (Acts 8:35). Many of the believers in the New Testament Church made every effort to say what was helpful for building others up. There is, however, one character that stands out. That person is Joseph. Every time he appears in the Bible he is encouraging someone and building them up. He helped and encouraged people so much he was given a new name by the apostles. He was given the name Barnabas which means "Son of Encouragement."
A survey of his life and ministry illustrates this.
First, Barnabas helped needy saints. The early Jerusalem church had many poor people. Some were widows. Some were working men who could not secure or hold employment after confessing Christ. Others were pilgrims from other nations who were converted on Pentecost and stayed there for fellowship and teaching. Local believers had to help these poor. Barnabas responded by selling property, probably on his native island of Cyprus, and bringing the proceeds to the apostles to be used for the poor (Acts 4:37). He built others up by this act of charity.
Second, Barnabas endorsed an unwelcome convert. Picture, if you will, the reaction to Paul's conversion. Paul's former friends in the Sanhedrin thought of him as a renegade and rejected him. The Christians were suspicious of his motives because Paul had recently persecuted them. Even the disciples were leery.
The situation was touchy. Paul was rejected by all and accepted by none. What could he do? How could he gain the confidence of the church and carry out the Lord's mission to the Gentiles?
It was Barnabas who cleared the way. Barnabas took Paul and brought him to the apostles and explained how Paul had seen the Lord, that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus (Acts 9:27). Barnabas was so successful in promoting Paul that Paul "stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem" (Acts 9:28).
Third, Barnabas accepted Gentile believers. Some believers, scattered by persecution, witnessed to Gentiles in Antioch. The Lord blessed this witness, and a large number of Gentiles believed. The Jerusalem Church sent Barnabas to investigate.
(Acts 11:23-24) When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. (24) He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. Barnabas threw all his energies into the work, staying over a year. It was here that believers were first called Christians. It was also the Antioch Church which first sent missionaries to Europe.
Fourth, Barnabas enlisted Paul in his work. The growing work at Antioch needed teachers and preachers. Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch (Acts 11:25). It was because of Barnabas that Paul finally began the great missionary work the Lord had called him to do.
Fifth, Barnabas restored a youthful deserter. When Barnabas and Paul set out on their first missionary journey they took John Mark with them as their helper (Acts 12:25; 13:5). For whatever reason, Mark defected before the journey was half over (Acts 13:13). Perhaps he was homesick, afraid, or ill.
When the time came to start the next missionary tour, strong disagreement arose between Paul and Barnabas over taking John Mark with them. Paul didn't want to take John Mark because he had deserted them once before; Barnabas wanted to give John Mark another chance because he wanted to encourage the young man. The disagreement became so sharp that Paul and Barnabas parted ways.
Paul later recognized the error of his ways when he wrote to Timothy:
(2 Tim 4:11) Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.
Think, for a moment, of how much the church owes to Barnabas, the Son of Encouragement. Because Barnabas built others up Paul was able to go out and preach to the Gentiles and write 13 letters. Also, through Barnabas' encouragement of Mark we gained the second Gospel. Here is something remarkable. Barnabas never wrote a book that found its way into the Bible, but he encouraged two men who wrote over half of the New Testament.
(Eph 4:29) 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.GEMS, that is God's will for you. As Christians you should not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths. As people who have been saved and born-again and renewed to be like Christ, you are to say what builds others up.
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