Jude 3 – “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” NKJV
“Contending” means we must be faithful to the faith, to the Word of God, and we must pass the faith on to others, especially our children. If there ever was a generation that needed to contend for the faith, it is this generation, because we are just one generation away from paganism. The greatest spiritual danger of this century is going to be all sorts of false doctrines that are going to condemn people to hell – forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, religion without the Holy Spirit, and heaven without hell. If we don’t pass the true faith on to the next generation, they won’t have it. Why do I say that? Because now more than ever, people are taking this book and are shredding it, dissecting it, adding to it, taking away from it.
God said in Deuteronomy 12:32 – “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.” NKJV
We need to pass the faith on and be faithful to the faith. We must be good stewards of the faith of God – but what are we passing on? It has been said that we lose half of our young people by 18. Why? What are we teaching them? I believe our biggest failing isn’t in the teaching of doctrine, but in the practice of our Christianity. We tell them what God says, but we don’t always act the way God wants us to act. We don’t always create an environment where they want to be.
Today, I want to remind you of four sinful actions that do nothing but damage and destroy relationships in the church. These sins have made a huge, negative impact on the faith of our young people, and on many others, and they must be taught against and rooted out of the church.
At the end, I want to encourage you to be a people builder. Hebrews 3:13 – “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” NIV
1) Our relationships
Once there were two shopkeepers who were bitter rivals. Their stores were directly across the street from each other, so they spent each day keeping track of each other’s business. If one got a customer, he would smile and wave in triumph at his rival. One night an angel appeared to one shopkeeper in a dream and said, “I will give you anything you ask, but whatever you receive, your competitor will receive twice as much. Do you want to be rich? You can be very rich, but he will be twice as wealthy. Do you want to live a long and healthy life? You can, but his life will be longer and healthier. What is your desire?”
The man frowned, thought for a while, and then said, “Here is my request – strike me blind in one eye!”
The Bible is crystal clear on this – God wants His people to be united, to get along, to have and experience good, loving relationships with each other. Psalm 133:1 – “How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!” NLT
But, as you know, some people, even in the church, would rather strike somebody blind than love them and encourage them. There is always somebody with a contentious spirit, a person who is likely to cause controversy, to argue, to fight, to quarrel, to be involved in a heated argument, to be divisive, to sow discord. There is always somebody who has the personality of a piece of sandpaper. There is always a troublemaker!
Proverbs 26:21 – “A quarrelsome person starts fights as easily as hot embers light charcoal or fire lights wood.” NLT
2 Corinthians 12:20 – “For I am afraid that when I come I won’t like what I find, and you won’t like my response. I am afraid that I will find quarreling (contentions), jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorderly behavior.” NLT
There is always somebody who wants to speak evil of someone else, who wants to gossip about their brothers and sisters, who wants to backbite and slander them, who wants to sit in judgment over them, who won’t forgive others!
God says we are not to speak evil against one another which includes using harsh, bitter, hateful, slanderous name-calling, backbiting, and/or gossiping! He also commands us to stop the godless judging we are so often guilty of, and to always be ready to forgive those who have hurt us!
2) Evil speaking
James 4:11 – “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren…” NKJV
“The most dangerous weapon in the world is not a nuclear bomb, it is a wagging tongue!”
In Psalm 64:3-4, David said that wicked people – “…sharpen their tongues like swords and aim their bitter words like arrows. They shoot from ambush at the innocent, attacking suddenly and fearlessly.” NLT
James 3:5-10: “In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!” NLT
The words we use can bless or burn, hurt or heal. But instead of using words that help, sometimes we call people names, we treat them harshly, we gossip, we abuse them with our words, we divide families and sometimes churches because we are too proud to humble ourselves and submit to one another.
How harmful can words be? Extremely harmful – words can kill as surely as bullets. Words can do emotional damage that will impact an entire life; words can split families and divide churches! The effects can be devastating. Proverbs 16:27 – “Scoundrels create trouble; their words are a destructive blaze.” NLT
Ephesians 4:29-32: “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” NLT
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 that “revilers” – people who use contemptuous abusive language, will not inherit the kingdom of God!
It was once said that “If you can’t say something good about a person, don’t say anything at all.” Who said it? Everybody’s grandma!
1 Peter 3:10 – “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies.” NLT
There are four words that can prevent so much of the tension and bitterness in our relationships: “I might be wrong!”
Proverbs 12:18 – “Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing.” NLT
3) Godless judging
James 4:11 – “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.” NKJV
Matthew 7:1-2: “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” NLT
If we want to get along with others, Jesus said that we must stop being “judgmental” (hypocritical judging, forming an ungodly opinion or a conclusion about others, condemning others when we are guilty of the same sin).
We all need to be constantly reminded of this, because there probably isn’t a 24 hour period that goes by without each of us violating Jesus’ command in Matthew 7:1.
Nothing destroys a relationship more quickly than a failure to obey this one command. Romans 14:10 – “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” NKJV
When we judge with an “ungodly judgment” – we show contempt, not love for our brother. To “show contempt” means that we despise, have no respect for, and/or think the person is worthless, that we are better than them – it is very closely related to hating:
1 John 3:15 – “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” NKJV
One reason we should not speak evil of and judge one another is because of the regard we should have for one another. We are supposed to be “brothers and sisters.” We are supposed to fight “for” our Christian brothers and sisters, not “with” them!”
Philippians 1:27 – “Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.” NLT
Romans 12:10 – “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” NLT
James 4:12 – “There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?” NKJV
Wham! Right between the eyes! With all my weaknesses, struggles, problems, and sins, who am I to talk about my brother!
Matthew 7:3-5: “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” NLT
Someday we will all stand before the Lord and give an account for our lives. Romans 14:11-12: “For it is written: “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.” NKJV
In the end, this is the judgment that matters. Imagine yourself before Jesus, and He is going to judge you the way you have judged others. He is going to measure you by the standard by which you have measured others. If you were judged this way, how would you fair?
James 2:13 – “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” NKJV
“Unless you can walk on water, you don’t have the right to pass judgment on another person.”
In our relationships with others, we must remember that ultimately both we and they will stand before God, and it is God who will make the final judgments. Let us therefore be merciful, kind and patient in our dealings with others.
Matthew 18:15-17: “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.” NLT
Jesus said that if another believer sins against us, we are to go and tell him what he did wrong, in private, out of the public eye, between us and them alone! This is not the most comfortable or the easiest thing to do, but it is to be our very first communication – “us and them alone!”
But that’s not what happens most of the time, instead we talk to everyone else about what happened instead of the person we have the problem with – when we do we become guilty of the sin of “backbiting!”
“Backbiting” is to slander somebody behind their back for the purpose of damaging their reputation. It means to bite them in the back in an insulting way!
“Backbiting” is malicious talk about someone who is not present – spiteful talk, slander, libel, defamation, abuse, character assassination, mudslinging, badmouthing, etc.
If we have a problem and disagree and we do not go to the person first, if we slander another person’s reputation, we have sinned a great sin in the sight of God, and may have damaged the relationship beyond repair. And we’ll answer to God for it!
Proverbs 10:18 – “Hiding hatred makes you a liar; slandering others makes you a fool.” NLT
Psalm 101:5 – “I will not tolerate people who slander their neighbors. I will not endure conceit and pride.” NLT
“Gossip” (casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people who aren’t present, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true), is a form of “evil-speak” or backbiting: Leviticus 19:16 – “Do not spread slanderous gossip among your people…” NLT
Proverbs 16:28 – “A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.” NLT
The world has elevated gossip to an art form – with “gossip columns” and even TV “gossip shows.” One TV program was called “Gossip Girl.”
Even in the church, when something bad happens, the news of what happened travels like wildfire. Not only do people want to know the story; they also want to know all the sordid details.
We know that the devil delights in the fall of a man who is “supposed” to be a man of God, and the world does too.
But why is it that Christians also delight in knowing and telling something bad on each other when the Bible is crystal clear that Christian love “…does not rejoice in iniquity…” (1 Corinthians 13:6). NKJV
Christians who gossip probably regard “gossip” as a little sin that is insignificant when compared with some others. But is that the way God sees it?
Psalm 15:1-3: “Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord? Who may enter your presence on your holy hill? Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts. Those who refuse to gossip or harm their neighbors or speak evil of their friends.” NLT
The motto of the gossiper – “Never say anything unless it is good, and boy is this good.” A gossip loves to tell things, but they don’t care if their facts are correct or not. “I don’t start rumors, the people I tell them to start the rumors.”
People who gossip can’t stop saying “You’ll never believe what I just heard.” One lady said she never told her secrets except to two kinds of people – those who asked her and those who didn’t!
“Gossiping is dreadfully catching; one dog will set a whole kennel howling.”
A gossip will say “I don’t know why people come to me and tell me these things.” I do, it’s because they know you want to hear it.
We have a responsibility to make sure we don’t allow our ears to become someone’s personal trash cans! “Rumors are carried by haters, spread by fools, and accepted by idiots!”
The Bible warns us to not associate with those who habitually gossip: Proverbs 20:19 – “Gossips can’t keep secrets, so avoid people who talk too much.” NCV
Remember, if someone will say something behind another’s back, they could do the same to you. Old Spanish proverb – “Anyone who will gossip TO you, will also gossip ABOUT you!”
Will Rogers said, “The only time people dislike gossip is when you gossip about them.” It may be that we feel better about ourselves when we know something bad about somebody else.
Gossip is a deadly sin – one of the worst things you could ever do. The deadly sin of gossip destroys the lives of people who are gossiped about. It can hurt those involved for life. If you are guilty of being a gossip, you need to repent and ask the person you are talking about for their forgiveness. Proverbs 26:20 – “Fire goes out without wood, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops.” NLT
6) People Builders
In all of our relationships, we should always strive to be a “people builder.” What does that mean? When you talk to other people or about other people, don’t say harmful things. Say what people need, words that will help them become stronger.
Don’t be bitter and angry or mad. Never shout angrily or say things to hurt others. Be kind and loving to each other. Forgive each other as God forgave you in Christ. There are times when we all need someone to come along and give us an encouraging word. In the same way we should always be looking around us to see who we may inspire with our words. You never know how someone’s entire life can change through a simple – “You can do it. I believe in you.”
For many of us, we would not be where we are today if someone had not cheered us on and believed in us. Their simple encouragement impacted our lives forever. Remember, you may be the only person someone else hears an encouraging word from, so never fail to give one. Work to “build people up!”
7) Let’s make the church
A new student was brought into a Vacation Bible School class an hour before dismissal. The little boy was missing an arm, and the teacher was afraid that one of the children would comment on his handicap and embarrass him. There was no opportunity to caution them, so she proceeded as carefully as possible.
As class came to a close, she began to relax. She asked the class to join her in their usual closing ceremony. “Let’s make our churches,” she said.
“Here’s the church and here’s the steeple, open the doors and there’s…” That’s when the awful truth of her own actions struck her. The very thing she had feared the children would do, she had done. As she stood there speechless, the little girl sitting next to the boy reached over with her left hand and placed it up to his right hand and said, “Here Davey, let’s make the church together.”
That’s what we all need to do – we need to put our inadequate, handicapped lives alongside the lives of others and pray, “Let’s make the church together.”
Philippians 2:3-5: “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” NLT
When all is said and done and we stand before God on Judgment Day, there may be some in this room who will be turned away – some of you are contentious and divisive and quarrelsome, some of you are filled with arrogant pride and not enough humility, some of you are eaten up with worldliness, greed, covetousness, and idolatry.
Some of you have hearts that are not right with God, hearts that are filled with lust, anger, hatred, jealousy, bitterness, and unforgiveness!
Some of you are not really committed to Christ; some of you are living in sin! Some of you are guilty of godless judging, backbiting, evil speaking, and gossiping. Stop it, and stop looking around wondering who I am talking about…
1 Peter 4:7-8: “The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.” NLT
Time and opportunity are running out! If the ungodly do not change, it will at some point become too late. The unprepared will remain unprepared for all of eternity – the prepared will live forever!
The only time we can be sure of is the present moment – today is the day of salvation, tomorrow may be too late. “We need to obey the Lord, and we need to do it now!”
Revelation 22:20 – “He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”