We help one another change and overcome pastoral problems:
- by ‘speaking the truth in love’ (15)
- by speaking ‘the truth that is in Jesus’ (21)
- as we ‘put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbour’ (25)
- as we ‘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.’ (29)
We pastor one another through speaking the truth because our underlying issue is the ‘deceitful desires’ of our hearts (22; see also Mark 7:20-23 and Romans 1:18-25). Sin promises satisfaction, meaning, identity, but it deceives. In reality it enslaves and destroys. So we need to speak the truth to one another, calling on one another to repent of our idolatrous desires and turn in faith to the truth that is in Jesus.
According to the Bible, the source of all human behaviour and emotions is the heart. The ‘heart’ in the Bible is shorthand for our thinking and desires. All our actions flow from the heart. Jesus says: ‘No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognised by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.’ (Luke 6:43-45)
There is a twofold problem in the heart: what we think and what we desire or worship:
- we choose to worship other gods instead of God
- we choose to trust other interpretations instead of God’s word
1. We choose to worship other gods instead of God = idolatry. The New Testament term for idolatry is ‘the lusts of the flesh’ or ‘the sinful desires of the hearts’. We want, desire, treasure, worship something more than God. It may be a desire for a good thing that has grown so it matters more to us than God. To desire to be married, for example, is to desire a good thing. But if that desire becomes bigger than my desire for God then my singleness may make me bitter. Anger, frustration, bitterness, sulking, jealousy and malice are all signs that are idolatrous desires are being threatened or thwarted.
- The answer to worshipping other gods instead of God is to turn back to God in repentance.
2. We choose to trust other interpretations instead of God’s word. Problems for Christians do not often arise because of disbelief in a confessional or theoretical sense (though this may be case). More often they arise from functional or practical disbelief. Asked if I belief in justification by faith, I may reply that I do (confessional faith), but still feel the need to prove myself (functional disbelief). I may affirm that God is sovereign (confessional faith), but still get anxious when I cannot control my life (functional disbelief). Indeed, sanctification can be viewed as the progressive narrowing of the gap between confessional faith and functional faith.
- The answer to not trusting God is to turn back to God in faith.
And so we constantly call one another to faith and repentance. We extol Christ to one another so he is the one who worship and he is the one we trust.
The key thing is to speak good news to people, not just ‘tell them off’. We don’t simply say, ‘You should not do that.’ That’s legalism. It kills. We say, ‘You need not do that because Jesus is bigger and better.’ That’s gospel. Good news. It brings life.