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Most of the articles on these WebPages have been written by godly men with a central belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. However as with most of us, they may have different beliefs concerning some particular doctrines. These articles have been made available for the purpose of “gleaning the good” where good can be found. I do not necessarily endorse all that is written by others, anymore than I expect others to endorse all that I write.

   Morning Thoughts by Elder Philip Conley

Ecclesiastes 12:10, "The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth."

This morning, our speaking and manner of communication continue to give us great pains in the flesh. More often than not, that which is spoken is not nearly as damaging as the way it was spoken. The old child's song, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" seems less and less true as time goes by. While words will not break literal bones, they can break something far more sensitive: spirits and fellowship. In places where we find unacceptable words being spoken or perhaps truth being proclaimed unacceptably, we will find ruin, confusion, and chaos in their wake. If someone claims that they are misunderstood, yet their pathway is littered with circumstance after circumstance of confusion and chaos, then perchance the misunderstanding is with the speaker more than the hearers. As Solomon reaches the close of this most sorrowful book, he makes three very important statements about his conclusion. The first is in our
verse about acceptable words, the next being what those acceptable words are compared to: goads and nails (verse 11), and man's duty as a result (verse 13). Therefore, let us look at acceptable words and discover how they lead to our duty before God.

Sometimes a misunderstanding of a verse comes from a misunderstanding of words themselves. We may have many different connotations arise in our mind from the word "acceptable," but what does it really mean? The word "acceptable" here means delight, pleasure, and longing. Words should be spoken, Solomon asserts, that invoke delight and pleasure with a sense of longing. As Solomon declares the preacher's pursuit of finding these words, let us apply them first to preachers and afterward to all people, since preachers are held to the same standard of acceptable speaking as anyone else.

Without labouring overmuch the point, words will find a pleasing sense to some part of us. Worldly words and speeches appeal greatly to the flesh. Spiritual words and speeches appeal greatly to the spirit or new man. Therefore, the preacher should obviously find acceptable words that the new man takes delight in and brings out that sense of longing that he has. Words that bring about contention, strife, backbiting, and confusion will always appeal to the old man, but our course should be to avoid them. So, the question might arise, "How can a minister preach things that might be uncomfortable and the folks take pleasure in them? How could he use proper words of our duty and course to bring out a sense of longing?" This indeed is a good question, and I believe the answer to the question, will show forth the perfect pattern for preaching and in turn, the perfect pattern for our communication in our daily lives.

I was asked recently, "What is the stigma with duty preaching?" My response was, "I don't believe there is a stigma with duty preaching but with certain presentations of duty preaching." When duty is sounded, good and upright words may be brought forth. When duty is heralded, the preacher may bring out words of truth. But, for those words to be acceptable - pleasing and bringing out a sense of longing - there must be a proper and fitting presentation to them. My late father once said, "The best duty preaching is when the sheep don't feel like they are being fed duty." What he meant by that was that if we browbeat someone into submission, they may admit that we are right and speaking the truth, but they are probably less inclined to follow after what we just based on the presentation of it. So, how should duty be preached to be pleasing and bring out a sense of longing?

Using the Scriptures as a guide, doctrinal points (fundamentals of truth about God's work and salvation) are laid out first like the foundation of a house. Consider the opening of the New Testament epistles. They are filled with the rich, doctrinal tones that we rejoice in and take comfort in. The duty points of the epistle proceed after like the structure of the house upon the foundation. What if someone started with the roof instead of the slab? The house project would not go far. What if someone stopped after the slab was laid? There would not be much shelter from the circumstances of life. Therefore, acceptable words of duty and exhortation must succeed the foundation of the Rock and His work. After hearing about what Christ has done and what He has victoriously accomplished, there is a sense of longing in our hearts about what we should do. What was the response of the people at Pentecost? They had just heard about Christ's work and
fulfillment of God's eternal purpose. Their question is one that stirs in our minds all the time. Men and brethren, what shall we do? The answer is not nothing, but the answer is based on what was just proclaimed.

Knowing of His great work, we have much to do. Knowing what He has done for us, we have great pleasure and delight in His service. It is not a labour of whip-laden duty. It is not a labour of fear-driven terror. It is a labour of sweet love and repose, for One that has done so much for us deserves all that we can possibly offer Him. With a firm foundation in place, the building fits nicely, but a shaky foundation leads to wobbly and unsteady structures. There is not much love-driven labour for one that is terrified of what God might do to them if they do not honour Him. There is not much sweet delight and longing for one that is laden down under grievous burdens that he should not have to bear. But, duty finds a sweet lodging in our hearts when we understand why we are doing it, coupled with the longing in our soul to eventually see the One that has done all of these things for us. Each day of service brings us one day closer home. Each minute of labour brings us that much closer to seeing His face in righteousness and being satisfied. Service like that is sweet and full of good pleasure.

Transitioning to our day-to-day speaking for a moment, what delight should we be looking to strike with folks that we see daily? Indeed, I have not the opportunity to sit them down and preach a sermon to them. Sadly, these days many can only take about 5-10 minutes of religious discussion. But, a good starting point of acceptable words is to speak of the love of God. Generally, that is a subject that all "think" we agree on. If we can speak about the unchangeableness of God, the immutability of His counsel, and the constancy of His love, then we have a good starting point to encourage them in the understanding of complete and finished atonement and redemption. Further, we have the opportunity to encourage them to a sweet labour of service - not for gain or out of fear - but driven solely by love and joy. Then, should they continue to be thirsty for these words, three simple words can follow, "Come and see."

Solomon goes on to describe that acceptable words that bring this delight and longing are words of truth and written uprightly. There is much good to be found in reading different books, but only one comes with acceptable words and nothing else. Other written sources (which much study in leads to weariness of the flesh - Verse 12) have flaws and bones to throw out. The word of truth from God's Holy Book is full of nothing but the pure and precious acceptable words. (Psalm 12:7-8) So, knowing how we ought to communicate both in the pulpit and in our daily lives, what immediately flows out? The first is the knowledge of what these words do, and the second is the knowledge of what our course is at all times.

These acceptable words are like goads and nails. (Verse 11) Goads are used on livestock to get them to move. Nails are used to fasten and hold things in place. What happens when either of these things are misused (spoken unacceptably). Well, when doctrine is presented incorrectly (perhaps even true doctrine with a faulty presentation), that is much like half-nailing something, hitting our thumb, bending the nail, or breaking the nail. True doctrine presented acceptably is like hitting a nail squarely and eventually flush to the surface with a good support. When duty is presented incorrectly, that is like poking cattle too hard or too soft with a goad. Those poked too softly will be less likely to go in the direction of the prod, and those poked too hard will be anything from mad, to injured, to mortally wounded. When the goad is used correctly, that is like an even balance of force and direction to yield the greatest liklihood of a profitable
result.

What flows from acceptable words and the use them acceptably? Our duty and course is clear. (Verse 13) Fear (respect) God. Take a submissive place before Him seeking to honour Him, keep silent before Him (Habbakkuk 2:20), and listen to Him. Keep His commandments. Take every word spoken for every circumstance and apply our lives to it as closely as we can. One of my greatest chuckles came when I first saw the new Christian fad: the W.W.J.D. bracelets and shirts that people were wearing. Of course, that stood for "What Would Jesus Do?" Friends, the question is not "What Would Jesus Do," but rather, "What Did Jesus Do?" We know the great work that He did in redemption for us, and we know the different ways He approached people in talking and commandments that we have to follow for every choice and change of life. Since His words and commandments are complete (II Timothy 3:16-17), failure to understand what we should do stems, not from a failure of God's word to tell us, but a failure in our minds to grasp what it does say. Therefore, let us seek not only words of truth (for without that, nothing acceptable will come), but also seek to present them in a pleasing and delightful way that brings out the hope and sense of longing more and more to see His rich and beautiful face.


In Hope,

Bro Philip