If you’re like me, you’ve tried to get control of your words, and then a knee-jerk reaction makes words pop out of your mouth to make you look like a big-jerk reactor. The following story gives an example of the power of verbal reflexes and how to tame them.
One day I was driving home from the beach in July Fourth holiday traffic. It was Southern muggy hot, and cars were a throng of metal on wheels. Everyone was going faster than the posted speed limit and I was trying to keep up. I was also young and distracted. Ok, here’s the truth: I had just broken up with my boyfriend and crying my eyes out.
At one point, I felt my front right tire slip off the asphalt and onto the gravel shoulder of the road. In a flood of panic, I heard the voice of my driver’s ed teacher from four years earlier, “If you run off the road, do not, and I repeat, do not jerk your car back on the road. Slow down to a stop and then gently guide the car back onto the road.”
My mind knew the rule. I was even repeating, “Do not jerk the car, do not jerk the car.” Then I promptly jerked the car. I pulled the steering wheel to the left, jerked the car onto the road, and lost control. As if in slow motion, the car began a descent down an embankment. The weight of the car became unbalanced and began to roll down the embankment. When the car landed upside down at the bottom of the ravine, I was sitting on the ceiling of the passenger side. Amazingly, I crawled out of the car unharmed.
That’s how powerful reflexes are. We can know what to do, but then suddenly do the opposite. When it comes to taming the tongue or changing any bad habitual behavior, we may have some very powerful reflexes to overcome.
The Bible tells us that when we come to Christ, we are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). However, no one pushes the delete button to erase the old habit patterns that have been formed over time. The Bible calls them old flesh patterns. They are like ruts in the brain that have been formed by years and years of thinking the same thoughts and repeating the same actions.
The only way to replace old ruts in the mind is to form new ruts with the truth. That comes with practice, training, and reprogramming our minds with the truth. Click & Tweet! The Bible tells us, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2). In the process, we will still make mistakes…old reflexes.
Shortly after Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding of Cana, He traveled to Capernaum with His mother, brothers, and disciples. It was almost time for the Jewish Passover celebration, so Jesus went up to Jerusalem to worship. As He approached the temple, Jesus heard the bleating of sheep, smelled the stench of the cattle, and saw the haggling and exchanging of coins. The temple had become a free-for-all rather than a house of prayer.
“So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves, he said, ‘Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!’” (John 2:15-16).
Yes, Jesus cleaned out the temple that day, but it wasn’t long before the moneychangers began to creep back in with their wares. Three years later, during his last week of life on earth, Jesus came upon the unholy mess again. (See Matthew 21:12-13)
How did the messy mayhem of the temple happen the second time? I don’t think it happened all at once. After Jesus cleared the temple initially, I suspect it stayed that way for a time. But one day, a moneychanger set up his table. Then another brought in a few birds, followed by a couple of sheep, and then here came a cow.
The next thing you know, the temple wasn’t any different than it was before Jesus cleared it out and cleaned it up three years earlier. In three years, it had reverted back to an unholy mess.
And God whispers in my ear: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own” (1 Corinthians 6:19 NIV).
Sometimes I am that messy temple. I bet you are too.
Swept-clean sinful behavior, ungodly thoughts, jump-off-the-cliff emotions, and caustic words are itching to creep back in at all times. It is up to me (and to you) to keep the temple clean.
Perhaps you’ve had a Holy Spirit moment at some point in your life—a moment that caused you to make a major change in the words you speak. But for the moment to maintain momentum, we need to be constantly aware of our tendency to revert…to go back to the way we were. And remember, you are never on your own. God has given you the power of the Holy Spirit to help you every step of the way.
Jesus, thank You for making me a new creation. Now, help my mind catch up to my new identity. Purify my lips. Keep watch over the door of my mouth. Show me when old habit patterns start to creep back in and give me the wisdom to sweep them out. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
What is one old habit that you cleaned out of your heart closet, that has crept back in and needs to be swept our again?
The re-released and updated version of my best-selling book and Bible study guide, The Power of a Woman’s Words: How the Words You Speak Shape the Lives of Others are hot off the press. They include new content, including a chapter on the power of a woman’s words to her adult children…it’s complicated! Perfect for your women’s ministry’s next Bible study!
Words are one of the most powerful forces in the universe, and God has entrusted them to you! They echo in hearts and minds long after they are spoken. How will we use this gift? Your words can change the course of someone’s day…even someone’s life. Learn how to
- exchange careless words that hurt for intentional words that help others succeed
- recognize words that tear down confidence and replace them with words that build others up
- overcome the negativity that pushes people away and become a well of positivity that draws others in
- tame your tongue by practicing practical principles that help you think before you speak
- stop being disappointed in your lack of control by taking hold of the power of the Holy Spirit