I John 1:6
If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
Because we have never defined what John is referring to when he mentions darkness in this verse, we miss what he’s saying to us by the Spirit. Just a few verses later, he tells us that walking in spiritual darkness includes stepping out of the divine kind of love toward another member of the body of Christ.
I John 2:10-11
He that LOVETH his brother abideth in the LIGHT, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. But he that HATETH his brother is in DARKNESS, and walketh in DARKNESS, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because THAT DARKNESS (of not walking in love) hath blinded his eyes.
Not walking in love is called walking in darkness. Love is the great commandment of the New Testament (John 13:34), therefore every step outside of love is sin, and sin breaks fellowship with God.
We are told in the Word that the love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit in the new birth (Romans 5:5). However, it’s up to us to let this divine love dominate us. It’s our job to keep ourselves in the love of God (Jude 1:20-21), because the flesh still has the nature of hate, ill-will and unforgiveness in it and will rule us if we let it.
Restraining the Tongue
Taking this one step further, believers get outside of this divine kind of love quicker with their tongue—what they say about a brother or sister in Christ—than they ever will with any other member of their body, because the Bible says the tongue is the most unruly member (James 3:2, 8).
These verses in I John are telling us there is a price to pay for fellowship with God. I’m not talking about the price Jesus already paid when He shed His blood and opened the way for us to come boldly to the throne of grace. I’m talking about the price of restraining the fleshly nature to speak against others in the body of Christ.
Restraining the tongue is part of walking in this divine kind of love, and it’s a big key to maintaining our fellowship with God and all the blessings that spring out of that fellowship (I Peter 3:10).
The Bible says love works no ill toward his neighbor (Romans 13:10). We work ill toward our brother if we repeat his faults or put him in a bad light in the eyes of others.
God Never Asked for Our Opinion
No man can have good fellowship with God if he’s doing harm to one of God’s children, any more than he can harm a man’s natural children and have great fellowship with that child’s parents. No man can talk critically or judgmentally of others in the body of Christ, including spiritual leaders, and have good fellowship with God. And, always remember, when a man is giving his opinion of another man—he’s judging him.
We would do well to think deeply into the meaning of the question we have been asked in Romans 14:4, “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant?”
Opinions are the thoughts of someone who has no authority in the matter he is opining about. There are many things that aren’t any of our business—they’re between that person and God. We would be wise to leave all men with God, since they won’t answer to us.
Some of the most dangerous speaking is when a man speaks against spiritual leaders or speaks things that cause division in the body of Christ. Ministers are called and appointed by Jesus, the head of the church—not us. Also, Jesus is the Chief Shepherd of the church. Much like a pastor over a local flock, He must protect the body of Christ—and He will.
“It’s Personal Now!”
The New Testament gives the account of Saul of Tarsus going about to do great harm to the body of Christ. When he was struck down by that bright light on his way to persecute Christians in Damascus, he heard the Lord’s voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me…” (Acts 9:4).
Saul tried to defend himself to the Lord by saying he had never met Jesus and therefore wasn’t persecuting Him! I imagine in his mind he was afraid he himself was about to die right there on the spot, and he was trying to plead his case.
Saul’s defense strategy didn’t work with the Lord, because Jesus claimed every believer Saul was persecuting as one with Himself. That’s why He said, “Why persecutest thou ME?” Jesus took what Saul was doing to His people personally.
From this passage, we see that Matthew 25:40 is true. Whatever we have done to the least member of the body of Christ, we have done unto the Lord. He takes it personally, because He’s one with every member of His body.
So, the standard is clear—if you or I wouldn’t say it or even think it against Jesus, we cannot say it or think it against ANY member of Christ’s body, because they are Jesus too!
Fellowship between two people is only possible when the words and actions of both parties are mutually pleasing to the other. The same is true concerning our fellowship with the Lord. Good fellowship with the Lord is based on us treating our brother or speaking of our brother in a manner that is pleasing to the head of the body.
If our words about our brother are not pleasing to God, even if they were spoken in the context of a conversation with another person, it will hinder our fellowship with God, because it was His own child that we spoke against.
The Bible says the love of Christ within our spirit constrains us (II Corinthians 5:14). If any believer will look inside when he’s about to speak ill or talk critically of another in the body of Christ, whether it be a minister or a brother, he’ll recognize there is something in there, something down in his spirit pulling the reigns back on his tongue so to speak, to keep him from saying what he’s about to say.
Sometimes believers even recognize that the Spirit of God is trying to stop them from what they’re about to say, but they say it anyway. It’s time we all break that habit, because it’s hindering our fellowship with God as well as many of the blessings God wants to bring into our lives. Why? Not walking in love hinders our faith.
You see, the love of Christ will rise up within us to constrain our tongue, but that’s as far as the Spirit of God can go to help us avoid the trouble we’re about to cause ourselves. It’s our tongue, not His. WE’RE the ones who are in control of our tongue, not God. WE are to do the work of restraining what we say (James 3:2; James 1:19). As we said, we’re told it’s OUR job to KEEP OURSELVES in the love of God (Jude 1:20-21).
The Bible says love works no ill toward his neighbor (Romans 13:10). We have worked ill toward another member of the body of Christ if we have repeated his faults to another. Anything that is not edifying, anything that is critical or judgmental, anything hateful, unkind or harsh (not gentle), anything that is outside of the love walk (I Corinthians 13:4-8 AMPC) is grievous to the Holy Ghost (Ephesians 4:29-32) and will hinder our fellowship with God.
Anything we say that puts our brother in a bad light or anytime we spread gossip, it breaks our fellowship with God and opens the door to the devil. These are all sins of the tongue. Yet amazingly, some believers speak these things freely and think almost nothing of it, because they have seared their conscience in this area.
Repentance will be Rewarded
Friend, if you have missed it in this area (and we all have), it’s not weakness to acknowledge that fact and repent. God rewards repentance. We see that truth in the parable of the prodigal son, don’t we?
Repentance doesn’t show weakness; it shows meekness. And, meekness is not weakness; it’s strength. It’s repentance that restores our fellowship with God, not resisting the convictions of our own spirit in pride.
There are some things that you can’t confess or pray your way out of. Only repentance will enable you to escape what the devil is permitted to do as a result of opening the door to him.
Pride will talk in a man’s ear and tell him to protect his own good image and not repent when he’s wrong. But, you see, keeping the door open to the devil because of a failure to repent is never worth it--no matter how good the flesh thinks it looks. If we’ll humble ourselves, repent and restrain our tongue from giving our opinion concerning others in the body of Christ, we’ll be rewarded.
Who are You Hurting?
You see, we are to see every member of the body of Christ as part of God's big family, and we are to only use our tongue to BUILD UP the family—the body of Christ. We should also realize that we’re not only made one with the Lord when we’re born again--we’re now also one with the rest of the body of Christ as well. Therefore, we are only hurting ourselves when we hurt someone else in the body.
If a few members of your physical body gang up on the hand and smash it with a hammer, does your hand suffer alone out there all by itself? No, the whole body suffers with it. In like manner, when one member of the body hurts another member, he is hurting himself. The whole body suffers, including the one who hurt his brother.
We must also realize that the Father loves and protects His family, and anyone who is working ill against it has put themselves in a position where they’ll have to be dealt with.
We have been made the righteousness of God in the blood of Jesus, but let’s make sure the words of our mouth are also in right standing with God by speaking nothing outside of the law of love. And, let’s realize that not only does God hear us when we are directing our words to Him--He hears us when we are speaking to others.
Divine Help for the Task of Taming the Tongue
James made something clear that I’m sure we have all discovered by experience; we need help—divine help—in this task of taming our tongue. We have all discovered that willpower is not enough to do the job.
Thank God help stands ready for us to tap into, because the Holy Spirit within us is our Helper. But, we have to choose to respond to Him, because in our own strength we will not be able to tame the tongue (James 3:8). But, as we yield to the greater One within us and practice yielding to the love of Christ which rises up to constrain us, we can close the door to the devil and guard our fellowship with God.
That inward constraint that we are all so familiar with is our Helper rising up within us. And oh, what a great helper He is! Let’s practice the skill of responding to Him and put a guard over our mouth.
His leadings will take us into greater fellowship with Him as well as greater blessings in every area of our lives!
Written By: Jay Eberly // August 24, 2021
© 2021 Jay Eberly Ministries. All rights reserved.
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