Transcription details: Audio 03 11 2018
Input sound file: Audio 03 11 2018
as you know, we are going command by command through the words of Jesus, and then the [inaudible] on the map we come up to one that has to do with this statement from the Proverbs. It’s been on my mind this week. Proverbs 10:19, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is prudent.” That may seem a little of an odd thing to say at the beginning of a sermon. Here’s the way the amplified version puts it, “When there are many words, transgression – sin – and offense is unavoidable.” In other words, if you talk long enough about anything, you’re going to offend everybody. “But he who controls his lips and keeps thoughtful silence is wise.” New Living Translation puts in even more [playable?], “Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible. Keep your mouth shut.” By paying attention to that I guess the sermon would stop right now, but I don’t have good sense. But sometimes, [inaudible], it’s wiser to be quiet, [therefore?] helpful to be quiet. And I want to tell you, brothers and sisters, that’s hard for me as a person.
Mark Twain once told the story about how he had gone to church on the Sunday night in Hartford, Connecticut, where he lived. It was the annual report of the city missionary, a man who spent all of his time working with the poor in the city. People who struggled through no fault of their own and lived very difficult lives. This touched Mark Twain, and he was thinking about the [inaudible] and he determined that he would give every dollar in his wallet when they pass the plate. He had $400 with him. In fact, he determined he’d try to find some way to raise more because this work was good work. However, it was a hot summer night and the city missionary just went on, and on, and on. And as he went on and on, Mark Twain said, “My enthusiasm went down and down at a $100 a level.” Until he said, “Finally, when they did pass the plate, I stole 10 cents out of the offering [laughter].” And he didn’t say it exactly like this, but his next sentence, he said, “Sermons that are too long obviously lead to crime.” Because sometimes too much information is not helpful. In fact, as the information piles up you can be pretty sure that’s something going on other than just trying to tell the truth. A lot of times, when people are in denial about a problem, they will talk, and talk, and talk to hide what’s going on. They will hide what’s actually happening with a mountain of excuses, with a pile of arguments. They will hide the truth by trying to persuade you with something else. Too much information often hides something and especially what Jesus was talking about, which is too many promises. You see, the simple truth does not need to advertise. If you know something is true, you don’t have to sell it. And if you’ve ever been out buying something, and it had someone push you and sell to you and sell, sell, sell, and he knows you begin to get suspicious because whatever it is, there must be something wrong if they have to work so hard to get you to buy it. The simple truth does not need to be sold. In fact, it’s not for sale. But people would want to lead you astray with false promises to something that’s not true. Ralph Waldo Emerson used this phrase, he said, “The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we faster we counted our silver spoons.” Because overnight, someone who wants to reassure you as to how honest they are, as they go on and on and on about it, you begin to question: if he has to convince me he’s honest, do I need to worry about that? Too many promises. Too much information, sometimes it hides something. Here’s what Jesus said– by the way, you’re all aware of this custom, if you cross your fingers when you make a promise, you don’t have to keep it. That’s what’s going on here. Matthew 5:33, “Again you have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you swore.'” That’s what the law says. If you give an oath to God that you’re going to do this, and this, and this, and if you don’t do it, this punishment, you will incur. You have to perform to the Lord with this form. But here’s what Jesus said, “But I say to you, verse 34, do not swear at all. Do not swear either by heaven, for it’s the throne of God. Do not swear by the earth, for it’s His footstool. Do not swear by Jerusalem, for it’s a city of the great King.” Whatever you’re tempted to swear by so that people will believe you, don’t do it. Verse 36, “Do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair black or white.” You are not in control, and if you admit it and understand it, you probably understand it’s wise not to make promises you can’t keep. And so what Jesus says, verse 37, “Let what you say be simply “Yes” or “No; anything more than this comes from evil.” That’s where everything I’ve said before this comes from, right there because as we human beings pile up words, and certainly, we preachers do this, it doesn’t always tend to good. I don’t like that, but Jesus said it. And whatever Jesus says, I need to take seriously. And at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus will– verse 28. We’ll read this about Jesus. And when Jesus finished, [He’d say?] the crowds were astonished at His teaching. But He taught them as one who had authority, one who was able to tell them the truth – “This is what it is” – and not as their scribes. Scribes were the religious lawyers. Scribes were the experts in the Bible. Scribes were the ones who, when they opened their mouth, they’d go on for two hours before they took a breath. Kind of like some preachers I know [laughter].
And here’s what Jesus said. “Let what you say be simply yes or no.” I went to Kim this morning, and I said, “I wonder what it would be like if I went through a whole day with you and said nothing but yes or no.” And she didn’t say anything, but I could tell she kind of liked the possibility of that [laughter]. Because there’s a whole lot more that I want to say, and I’m always quoting books. And not just 1 book but 12 books. And before you know it, two hours have gone by, and I haven’t taken a breath. Jesus encourages us to stick with yes, stick with no.
This is one of my favorite cartoons. It’s called Duty Calls. It’s by xkcd. It’s online. You can look at a bunch of them. The wife calls from the other room, “Are you coming to bed?” The husband says, “I can’t. This is important.” The wife says, “What’s so important?” The man says, “Someone is wrong on the Internet, but I can’t go to sleep until I’ve fixed it.”
It’s like the bugle calling the troops to battle. I have to go on the Internet. I have to go on Facebook. I have to type 10,000 words to convince someone that they’re wrong before I can even stop, to convince someone who’s not even listening. That’s too much like me sometimes. The title of the cartoon is Duty Calls, but it really doesn’t. That’s not my duty, to correct everyone or fix everyone. And in fact, because of Facebook and 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week television, 5,000 channels, you can even watch the news in foreign languages.
So much information is coming into your life that it is causing us a great deal of confusion. Sometimes we need to declutter ourselves from all the information that’s coming in toward us. Okay? Why? Because a lot of what’s coming toward us is denial, [inaudible], arguments, persuasion. They did a study that was just released yesterday in the Atlantic magazine. People have this perverse nature where they are more likely to share information on the Internet that’s not true than sharing information that’s true. So what that means is most of the information that’s coming toward you is not true and here’s what I think this verse yes or no, says to us, the simple truth doesn’t need 10,000 words. That false promise is what we’ll find down the road of too much information and too many promises. This troubles me because if anyone of you comes to me with a problem, deep down in my heart of hearts I want to give you the gift of 10,000 words. And what maybe God is trying to say to me is, “You know Dave, maybe those 10,000 words are not needed.” Typical sermon between 2,500 and 3,000 words. So 10,000 words is about an hour of talk. Well, if 10,000 words isn’t good, then what is? Well, here’s what it is. Sometimes we have to step away from too many words. And when we feel overwhelmed if you just stepped away and sit in silence. When everyone else is quiet, sometimes you can hear the voice of God. When all the distractions are done away with, sometimes the truth can be clearly seen. Sometimes people don’t need words, they need to be quiet and be still and know that God is God and they are not. As you go through your day to day, if yore someone who when you walk into your house, you turn the television on. I used to be like that. If you’re someone who when you get in the car, you turn the radio on, sure, I used to be someone like that. If you ever found when you go into the store, there’s this constant background noise. If you ever found in a restaurant that you’re sitting there trying to talk with the person you’re with and the music over the speakers is so loud you can’t even hear them. Sometimes you need to step away from all of the noise of this world that distracts us. And if we sit in silence with God, you’ll become aware of the truth. And if you have a problem, if you feel overwhelmed with something, especially if the emotions are overwhelming you. I’ll be honest with you, sometimes what we need most is just to sit with God for a while and listen and we’ll become aware of the truth that God wants us to know. So Jesus gives us this advice, only it’s not advice, it’s a command. Let what you say be simply, “Yes.” No, no. Henry Ford Jr once said that the secret to success was to never complain and never explain because this is how the words pile up. I get that this one never overstate. You know what it means to overstate. It means use many words to confuse and bewilder the people. Don’t do that. Never overstate, but try to let what you say become simpler and more true so that people know what your yes is, and so that people know what it means when you say no, and so the people can hear simple truths becomes sometimes too many words hide [inaudible] and leads to something that’s not good. Please, pray. Lord Jesus, for some of us it’s been a very long time since we spent an hour just sitting quietly. For some of us Lord an hour sitting quietly causes all kinds of things to come up that are uncomfortable for us because sometimes Lord we choose the noise because it helps us to avoid the truth. But please remind us, lord of the value, that if we step away from the noise of this world if we step away from the distractions that everyone brings to us, if we step away to be quiet with you, maybe Lord you’ll sit quietly with us and keep us company. But it could be just lord that if we take that time to listen to you, we would become aware of the simple truth that you want us to know, and that we would know the truth and that truth from you would set us free. We ask for that great lesson in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. Our closing hymn reflects