Let me tell you - these were all powerful lessons!
Lesson 22 is titled How to Control Your Tongue and is based on Titus 2:3 and focused on "not to be malicious gossips" (NASB)or "slanderers" (NIV, NKJ). Nancy points out that he is likely referring to all sins of the tongue including gossip, idle words, lying, talebearing (whispering behind someone's back), backbiting, boasting, cursing and evil speaking. Wow. Hands up if you've never done any of those things. She adds that these are sins we've seen as respectable - you know, not like those adulterers, thieves, and murderers. But Jesus lumps them all in together with sins of the tongue.
Matthew 15:18-19 But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.' For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. (NIV)Nancy says:
It makes me ask: Are we as concerned and shocked and grieved over our sins of the tongue as we are over the evil behavior of others? Jesus put them all together, but He said slander, evil speaking, reveal what is in our hearts.I don't think we are as concerned or shocked or grieved. Often we slander someone because of pride, envy or jealousy. It reveals a lack of self-control, a lack of love, a critical & judgemental and contentious spirit. When put that way it doesn't sound very harmless or respectable after all, does it?
So, how do we do it? How do we not sin with our tongues. Nancy gives us 7 suggestions.
1) Humble ourselves and admit our sins of the tongue, admit the sin of the heart that caused it and confess to God the root issues or motive behind the sin. Then humble ourselves to the person we spoke to and the person we spoke about, if necessary. Wow - if we did that every time - I think we'd stop in a hurry don't you?
2) Have a zero tolerance policy for slander and evil speaking, and the bitterness that is often the root of it. This doesn't mean we cover up sin. But when we want to tell someone about someone else's sin, we need to make sure our motives our pure - do we have redemption and reconciliation in mind? “If the person is not a part of the problem or part of the solution, don’t say it.”
3) Replace the slander with a heart (and words) of love, grace, forgiveness and kindness. "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you" (Ephesians 4:32).
4) We need to take our thought life captive to the Holy Spirit. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Phil 4:8)
5) Talk less. Pretty simply but pretty obvious. The less we talk the less likely we are to speak things that don't need to be said. Don't ask unnecessary questions that can only lead to a bad end result. James 1, "Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to get angry" (verse 19, emphasis added).
6) Think before you speak.
Is it true? Is it kind? Will it build up, will it edify the person of whom I'm speaking? Is it necessary? Does the person I'm talking to need to know this? If this were about me, would I want it shared with someone else? Would I mind if the person I'm talking about were standing right here? Would I be willing to say it to their face?"Set a guard, Oh Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! (Psalm 141:3)
7) Refuse to listen to slander or gossip. Don't just refuse to spread it. Refuse to listen to it. Change the topic, or better yet - build the person up instead of slandering them.
So as you speak about other believers, are you accusing them as the devil does? Or are you advocating for them as Jesus does for you?I think if we would focus especially on #3 & 4 - thinking pure thoughts, and striving to have a heart of love, grace and forgiveness - the rest will fall into place.
Lesson 23 is titled The Anatomy of Addiction but in the introduction to this lesson it referenced a previous lesson about whether it's wise to drink in moderation or better not to start at all, so I was very curious and checked out that lesson as well. I wanted to share from that lesson. I thought this lesson was just excellent and thought provoking and she really tried to separate her opinion from what the Bible clearly states. Honestly, I could quote almost this entire lesson - I highly encourage you to read it!
She starts off by acknowledging that there's such a huge and varied group of people out there listening or reading these studies. There's those that practice complete alcohol abstinence - they simply don't drink at all. There's those who, whether they know it or not, are controlled by alcohol. And there are those who honestly do drink in moderation.
The Bible absolutely prohibits drunkenness, but it does not prohibit drinking alcohol in moderation. So we need to be careful not to make rules that the Bible does not set.
Nancy has 4 questions we should ask ourselves as we determine whether we are free to drink under the Lordship of Christ Jesus.
And yet I would say this: In an effort to avoid a spirit of legalism (that is adding to the grace of God and making your relationship with God a matter of what we do for God rather than what God has done for us) in this and many other areas today, many Christians have fallen into the other equally dangerous pitfall of license.
What they say is, “We’re living under grace.” Now what they’re not saying but what the implication sometimes seems to be is, “Therefore, because we’re living under grace, we’re free to do whatever our flesh wants to do.”That is not a biblical concept of living under grace.......Grace doesn’t want to make you live as much like you did before you were a Christian as possible. It makes you want to be as much like Christ as possible.
The grace of God should make saved people distinctive in:
- the way we think
- the way we act
- the way we talk
- the way we dress
- the way we eat
- the way we drink
Everything about us should be informed and shaped by the grace of God so that it’s all for His glory and all for the furthering of His kingdom and His rule and reign on this earth.
1) Is it harmful to your physical body? Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
There are definitely some potential health risks of drinking alcohol. Nancy ticks some off...
- Alcohol is a toxin that damages the liver.
- Even small amounts of alcohol can destroy brain cells.
- It’s been known for years as it relates to women and alcohol that drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause physical and mental birth defects. No level of alcohol use during pregnancy is considered safe for the baby and even moderate drinking increases the risk of spontaneous abortion.
Just within the last several weeks a new study came out that had studied 70,000 women over two decades here in the United States. And the headline was:
- “Alcohol Increases the Risk of Breast Cancer Whatever the Type of Drink.”1
- The use of alcohol also increases the risk of developing colon, esophagus, mouth, and throat cancers.2
Now you’ll always have somebody say, “Well what about those doctors that are saying that red wine is good for your heart?”
Dr. Ira Goldberg is a member of the American Heart Association. He’s a professor of medicine at Colombia University in New York City. And he said—and I quote:
The same antioxidants found in red wine can also be obtained from unfermented grape juice and without the hazards related to alcohol.
So the suggestion about alcohol being helpful to your health is in my view much overshadowed by the many studies indicating the potential health risks through alcohol consumption.2) Does or could the use of alcohol enslave you?
It’s interesting to me that many people admit to using alcohol as a means of escape, and yet they end up enslaved in many cases. They were trying to get free, but in many cases they find that they are imprisoned.
This concept of being enslaved by alcohol I think is what is referred to in Ephesians 5 where the apostle Paul says, “Don’t get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery.” That word just means excessive indulgence. “But instead be filled with the Holy Spirit" (verse18).
Being drunk with wine is contrasted with being filled with the Spirit. You can’t be both at the same time. You can’t be under God’s control and under the control of another substance. You can’t serve two masters.
The interesting thing to me is as I’ve talked with those who have struggled with alcohol addiction or with the sin of drunkenness they’ve said, “The problem is you don’t know how much you can handle until you’re past that point. That’s the danger. That’s the challenge.”
I will say this for sure. Every case of alcohol addiction or abuse began with a first drink. A person will never be an alcoholic, will never be a drunk, will never be inebriated, will never be intoxicated, will never be addicted—use whatever word you want—if they don’t take the first drink.3) Is it an idol in your life?
Are you using alcohol instead of going to God? Are you escaping your pain and problems by turning to alcohol instead of letting God meet our needs, counsel, encourage, comfort and give us grace?
Are you trying to fill a place that was made for God? Are you looking to alcohol or anything else for that matter on this planet to provide relief, to provide answers to life’s problems such as anxiety, guilt, boredom, rejection or loneliness?
4) Could the use of alcohol cause spiritual damage to someone else or lead them into sin?
The law of love for Christ and for others should trump any liberty we may have. If to exercise our liberty is to prove to be unloving to others, then we need to be willing to set aside our liberty in order to practice the law of love.
In 1 Corinthians chapters 8 and 10, Paul discusses this very principle. This isn't being afraid of what others might think. It's being considerate of others. Christ died for them - but we're not willing to limit our liberty to drink (or eat meat, or....)?
In Romans 14 Paul discusses a similar principle, but this time the issues are more grey. There is no specific "wrong" or "right". So, what then? How do we maintain unity?
The first principle (Romans 14:1-12) - the law of love - means not to pass judgement on others for things the Bible is not specific about. The Bible condemns drunkenness, not alcohol consumption. If some believers feels a liberty in this (or any other!) area that we have been convicted in, we are not to judge. I admit that this can be hard, and I have failed at this in the past.
The second principle (Romans 14:13-23) - do not cause others to stumble. Could exercising your liberty (your ability to handle alcohol in moderation, for example) lead another believer into sin? This is not letting our fellow sisters off the hook - they are responsible for their own actions absolutely. This is about encouraging each other. Supporting each other. Not making it more difficult for each other.
And it doesn't matter if we have a large audience looking at our lives, or a small one.
You have a ministry. People look to your life as an example. And I’ll tell you one key area you have to ask if you have children, “How does alcohol consumption, how could it influence the lives of my children?”
It’s been correctly observed that what parents tolerate in moderation their children many times will excuse in excess. I just think as you think about the statistics of teenage drinking and teenage drunkenness, that the adult generation has got to take some huge responsibility for our lives, for our examples.Another thought, simply my own personal opinion. I have heard it said that in general, alcohol is an acquired taste. In other words, many people don't like it when they first taste it. But after more exposure they grow to like it. So, my question is - why? Why drink it if it doesn't taste good, what's the motive? Is it to fit in? (for likely 99% of teens that's the reason they do it!). I can understand those who were not Christians growing up, and grew up with alocohol, and were able to drink in moderation, who became Christians later on. I can understand then that they already have the taste for it - but even then, all these other questions Nancy addressed still need to be considered. But for those growing up in Christian homes - really, what is the reason to start drinking in the first place? Especially if you try it and don't like it - why would you try it again?
I want to close this part of the lesson with the following quote. It is Nancy's quote, but I believe and agree with it 100%.
The Bible does not require total abstinence. But I am persuaded personally—this is between me and the Lord—that the best and the wisest choice is not to drink at all particularly in our culture and in our era where alcohol is bringing with it such widespread destruction and damage.
Now if you think about it, you pray it through, you go to the Lord, you seek Him and you believe that God gives you the freedom to drink within biblical bounds, then I’m not going to pass judgment on you because Scripture says I must not. I must live within the law of love towards you and I will.
I want to challenge you not just to follow the culture, not just to do what’s comfortable for you, not just to do what is done in your society or your friends or your group or your family, but to consider why you would whichever choice you make and to ask, “Is it best? Is it wise? Or would the high road be, in light of the law of love, would the high road be to make the choice not to drink at all?”Now, in the actual lesson we were supposed to be studying, about addiction..
The word addiction is a modern term. It’s really not my favorite term because, the way it’s used today, it tends to imply that we have no responsibility or culpability, that this is something we can’t help.We’re not saying that. We’re saying we make choices that lead to bondage and strongholds in our lives. The biblical concept is that of enslavement.
There are so many addictions out there these days - alcohol, prescription drugs, food & overeating, gambling, computer games, pornography, romance novels, television and soap operas, spending and shopping. The options are almost endless.
Addictions don't start out as something you're enslaved to - nobody would start doing something they know they'd become enslaved by.
It started out by tasting, by giving in, by yielding, by excess that gradually became a compulsion.
Why do addictions start? People are trying to dull pain, escape problems, dealing with anger inappropriately, trying to satisfy unfulfilled longings.
James chapter 1 tells us, “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire” (verse 14). Some of your translations use the word “lust.” We’re lured into temptation by desires that are resident within our own hearts. It can be a desire for pleasure, for recognition, for approval, for significance, for companionship, for control, or for relief.Listen carefully: The desire itself may not be inherently wrong. It may be a legitimate desire. The problem is when that desire becomes a demand
What we thought would help us, fulfill us, satisfy us - ends up enslaving us.
But we can find freedom from addiction in Christ! The power of the cross is greater than any addiction.
Lesson 24 is titled Intentional Training. I'm not going to spend much time on this one because this is already so long you've probably stopped reading by this point :)
Older women are supposed to intentional find a woman to mentor - train those younger than them, let them experience the benefit of wisdom learned sometimes the hard way.
And younger women should seek out an older woman to mentor her - to learn from her the wisdom that comes from experience. Even if it's only someone to encourage and pray for us - we can all use that!!
That's one thing that has really stood out to me in all of these studies - as the body of Christ we need to be working in unity, we need to be encouraging each other, cheering each other on, helping each other however we can. We need to love each other!
Well, that's finally it for today! Head on over to Tammi's site at Valleygirl to see what everyone else thought of these past three lessons.