Thursday, November 30, 2006

Rebuilding Your World of Talk

Lately I've been dipping into Paul Tripp's book, War of Words: Getting to the Heart of Your Communication Struggles, which is "not a discussion of the techniques and skills for effective communication," but rather is "the story of the great battle for our hearts that is the reason for our struggle with words."

Here are some notes from one of the sections on how to rebuild your talk so that it runs along the dual rails that God has designed--one rail called God's glory, the other rail called your neighbor's good.

1. Don't give in to regret.
We should not become paralyzed by "if onlys." Remember that God is the Wonderful Counselor, the universe's best teacher; therefore, instead of regret we need to rest in his sovereign wisdom. Also remember that the God who forgives also restores, rebuilds, and reconciles.

2. Embrace gospel hope.
While our sin confounds us, it never confounds the Savior. Trouble does not mean that God has forsaken us. And God not only forgives, but he also empowers.

3. Examine your fruit.
"What is the fruit produced by your communication? Do you leave others encouraged, hopeful, and loved? Do your words lead to forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace? Does your communication impart wisdom and encourage faith? Or do your words lead to discouragement, division, condemnation, bitterness, and foolishness?"

4. Uncover your roots.
Word problems always point to heart problems (Luke 6:45). People and situations do not cause us to speak the way we do. They are simply the occasion for the heart to express itself. Our heart controls our words.

5. Seek forgiveness.
"Seeking forgiveness is like weeding a garden. It leaves the soil of the soul free to grow the new life of obedience. The weeds of unconfessed sin choke out the life of the soul. A major part of rebuilding your world of talk is to ask yourself the question, What specific sins of communication (both heart and mouth--see Luke 6:46) is the Lord calling me to confess to him or to others?"

6. Freely grant forgiveness. There are two aspects: (1) judicial, vertical forgiveness (willingness to let go of another's offense before God; Rom. 12:19); (2) relational, horizontal forgiveness (willingness to forgive anyone who comes seeking it; Eph. 4:32). There is no greater impediment to change than the unwillingness to seek and grant forgiveness.

7. Change the rules.
What is God calling you to change in your communication? What new ways of speaking must replace the old ways? After the obedience of forgiveness, you must make a specific commitment to a new way of speaking. "The 'put off' of confession and repentance must be followed by the 'put on' of a specific, practical commitment to a new way of talking."

8. Look for opportunities. "This is not so much a change of direction as it is a change of perspective. Those situations that were the source of difficulty, those moments where unkind, selfish, and ungodly words were spoken, those situations you once dreaded, now become opportunities to experience the enabling grace of the Lord and exercise newfound character and obedience."

9. Choose your words.
We must think before we speak, weighing our answers (Prov. 15:28), not speaking in haste like a fool.

10. Confess your weakness. The awareness of weakness is a sign of maturity. We will never outgrow our need for God's moment-by-moment supply of grace.

11. Don't give the Devil an opportunity
. Two things shut the door to Satan and his cruel work: (1) commitment to the courage of honesty and loving truthfulness; and (2) commitment to the humility of approachability.