I wonder how often we listen to ourselves. I think it would be enlightening and revealing to record what comes out of our mouth for a full day. It would then be interesting to review our words to determine if our words were encouraging or discouraging. We live in a world that is built on the foundation of what is wrong, rather than what can be right through a relationship with Jesus.
Now some might blame this perspective on the pandemic but is that really true? I think the problem goes much deeper. Jesus reminds us that our propensity to major on the negative is part of our flawed nature. “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.” (Matthew 15:18) He is talking here about our words, our conversations. The ones that we have each day and every day. It definitely involves the conversations that we have with others and I could contend that we have with ourselves. Jesus is reminding us that our words are a real indicator of what is really inside us. I would suggest that what comes out of our mouth encompasses not just the words that we use, but our tone, gestures and even at times what we choose not to say. It would also be true of our conversations in type, through text message and even our posts on social media. What we need to grasp is that our presentation is really shaping our image in the eyes of others, or our brand as many would define it today.
One of our greatest ways that we are a witness to others is through our attitude. Our attitude is revealed through our communication. Paul reminded the Galatians of the difference between those that know Jesus and those that don’t. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22–23) The operative words in this verse are “the fruit of the spirit.” The nine character qualities are the fruit of our investment in living out our Christian faith. We should also be mindful that the absence of these characteristic reveal the opposite.
So what does this have to do with joy? Well it reminds us that we cannot give to others what we ourselves do not possess. The Angel’s announcement to the shepherds promised “And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10) A relationship with Jesus changes us from the inside out. Joy does not mean that our lives are free from difficulties, hardships and disappointment. It does mean that we can walk through deep times focused on our relationship with Christ. It is here that the character of a changed life is revealed in our conversations with others and our conversations with ourselves.
Let me leave you with a holiday challenge from Jesus’ words to his followers. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”( Matthew 5:16 ) What greater gift could we give to those around us than that transformation world of the gospel in our lives! Yes, joy is contagious!
-Pastor Joe Parkinson