Can You Say the “H” Word?
New Hope Baptist Church
9/23 & 10/28, 2007
9:30 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.
1 Pet. 1:15-16
By way of introduction, Judges Chapters 11 and 12 tell the story of Jephthah, the son of Gilead’s night of pleasure with a whore. Gilead took the boy home to live with his wife and his other, legitimate sons. The Bible says that Jephthah was a mighty warrior, so he must have grown up strong, good-looking and capable. This naturally appalled his half brothers, so they put him out of the house to deny him any part of their inheritance. Later, they came into some trouble and the idol gods they had been serving could not help them, so they went and found Jephthah and promised him total leadership of the people if he would return and fight the Ammonites. He returned and they beat the Ammonites but in turn made an enemy of the tribe of Ephraim because they weren’t invited to the melee. Isn’t that the way it is many times? No matter what you do or how you do it, you just can’t please everybody. That’s why it is important and necessary to try and please God alone because with man, somebody is always going to complain. I’m not going to stop here, but I know that’s why Jesus said, “I always do what The Father tells me”. There is no winning with man. Somebody is always going to be indifferent. Somebody is always going to pick a fight about your suggestion, or how you say a thing, or how you do a thing, or just about anything. Just do it God’s way and let people fight with Him! The Ephraimites picked a fight that they couldn’t win; so many of them tried to escape. In order to get away, they had to cross the Jordan and Jephthah and his men had it covered. So, when a man from Ephraim tried to cross, he was asked to say “Shibboleth”. Because the dialect of their tongue was different, they could not say the “H” in the word and so they pronounced it as “Sibboleth”. The meaning of the word, ‘shibboleth’ has evolved from this account. It is now used to describe a word or custom or practice that would distinguish one group of people from another and to identify individuals as either members of the group or imposters. In other words, how you say what you say distinguishes you from one group or another. We use this pattern to distinguish people all the time, don’t we? Have you ever met a person of the opposite sex, and thought, man they are fine and I like what I see, only to have them open their mouths and speak, and all of your premonitions fade away? Sometimes it’s better to let a person think you a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.
From the text today, we find a picture of someone who had the cards of life stacked against him; someone whom the world today would give odds of being a total failure, a malevolent person of society. We can see a person who would be voted in high school as someone most likely to be a menace to society and die before his time.
Taking into account both Scripture texts, I want to lift three things, three aspects of life we experience; First, ‘A regretful life’; second, ‘A redeemed life’; and third, ‘A rewarding life’.
A Regretful Life:
All of us have some things in our lives that we would call regretful, either from natural occurrences or by another’s action.
Sometimes, the value of a person is determined in mathematical terms; they are considered like algebra problems so that their total worth as a person is the sum of the parts of their lives. Like an algebra problem, if there is a negative value found anywhere in the equation, the sum total must be, by definition, negative. I can see a bit of validity in that way of thinking, for our Lord Himself said that if a man falters on one point of the Law, he is guilty of breaking all. Praise God we are not judged by the Law.
There is a paradox though, as many Christians today have adopted this way of attaching value to each other in the church. We put our guards up and value our imaginary territory, based solely on perceived knowledge about others. Most times when we read something into another person’s character, we are really responding to our own negative traits and character flaws that we project onto others. Truth be told, the real culprit is the same as in the Judges text. The real culprit is greed. Greed, wanting more than you need; greed, wanting more than you can accommodate; not just wanting more, but wanting all; not just wanting all that belongs to you but some or all of what belongs to others. Greed! Greed is like an octopus; it has many tentacles. Greed reaches far and long and wide and can take on many different facets. In the Judges text we find greed showing up as jealousy and envy.
Even though Jephthah and his brothers had different mothers, they had the same father. The father no doubt was willing and able to provide the same care, the same resources, the same advantages to Jephthah as to his other sons, but greed, in the form of jealousy and envy, stopped it. They knew that there was enough inheritance to go around, but remember the Bible says that Jephthah was a mighty warrior. He was strong and capable; he was independent; he was promising in his demeanor and character and therefore a threat to them. Their greed caused more regret in Jephthah’s life. Not totally unlike us today, right?
Even though we all have the same Father who is willing to supply the same benefits to all of His children, much dissention and unrest within the church today seems to stem from this pair, jealousy and envy.
Not only are they the most used tools of discontent; they are also the most likely overlooked root to many ails in the church today. People dislike others for no justifiable reason; people tear down others without just cause; people set up circumstances to cause failure just to bring malcontent on others, when all the while its jealousy and envy that has pushed them on. Sometimes regret is caused by others.
Regret by Others:
People will put you out and put you down when you act like you are strong willed and different from them and their intents.
As long as you fall into the same rut with everyone else, as long as you talk about the same people; find fault with the same things; complain about the same programs, you will be tolerated, for a while.
It’s unfortunate that we can find these maladies in the church, but we also see them almost everyday in the world; people are just hard to deal with these days. Jealousy and envy, greed and all of its’ clusters in the workplace, in our relationships and friendships and in our day to day dealings in the world. But it’s most hurtful when we have to endure it in our homes from our family and those we are taught that we can trust. In our personal homes or our church homes, jealousy and envy can be devastating to an individual. These things can lead to a regretful life, things caused by another. Not only can regret be caused by others, there is also a regret that has been inherited from others.
Regret from Others:
I don’t care what kind of spoon was in your mouth at birth; it could have been silver or wood; gold or cement; platinum or paper; bronze or wood; you could have been born into wealth or poverty; on eastside or Westside; on either side of the tracks or in between; to one parent or two; loving parents or monsters; an only child or one of many; I can make a case today that no matter the condition or circumstance you were born into, you came here in a regretful state. This regret has nothing to do with possessions or lack of them. The Bible says in Romans 3:9-10 that all have sinned; there is none righteous, not one.
No matter where we’ve come from, we all have a regretful past life in that we came here being formed in sin and shaped in iniquity.
A Redeemed Life:
But a regretful past is just that. Past! Too many times a regretful past keeps Christians from fully experiencing a Redeemed life. The problem is that the world has conditioned you to believe that because you had to succumb to and endure regretful situations, your future, and your entire life must, by definition, also be negative. Some of you came from abusive homes; some of you suffered abuse in your childhoods and took wrong turns and made wrong decisions that landed you in regretful situations and places; some have been cast out and put down and treated like aliens among family and friends, but the operative words are ‘have been’. But I want to assure you that you don’t have to continue with a negative attitude about yourself. You don’t have to live in silent pain that has been inflicted on you by others; you don’t have to succumb to and remain in a fallen state or remain regretful.
The thing you must know about the past is that it leaves a distinct trail in your mind, and it will lure you there, back to the past, if you are not careful. You don’t believe me? If I was to talk to any one of you right now, and compliment you on your dress or your shoes or your suit, but go on to say that your hairstyle is not becoming, you will hear the compliment but in the days and weeks to come you will only remember the complaint. The past leaves a trail, and the trail can only take you back to the past. The trail can only cause you to backtrack and become stuck in an area of regretful-ness and hamper you from growing and moving ahead. Don’t be distracted by issues from the past. Look forward, look ahead like Paul and forget those things that are behind, and the trail will soon vanish in the wind. We all have some regretful life areas, but we can all experience a Redeemed Life. Have you ever been redeemed? I know we all want to say yes, that Christ has redeemed us, but outside of that experience, have you ever been redeemed? I remember when I was in Jr. High school I was rather quiet and non-assuming. There was always somebody who wanted to take me on to make themselves look bigger, rougher, and bolder and worth involvement within the inner circles.
One day a friend and I were walking home. We decided to take a shorter route which necessitated passing through a rather rough area. It seemed like we were going to make it through when all of a sudden a girl came out of this house and stepped down in front of us. She was rough looking and she immediately decided to pick on me. Well, I was quiet but I didn’t easily back down. She decided not to take me on but said that she would get somebody named Lahana to deal with me. Now, I was really dismayed and I felt like my heart had split my chest open. She shouted out for Lahana to come out; as my heart raced faster and harder, a real mean looking, unkempt looking boy came out of the door. Our eyes met. All of a sudden the blood that had built up in my head seemed to dissipate and my heart was no longer threatening attack and my mouth opened, my eyes widened and I said, Leonard? It was my cousin. I had been redeemed and saved from a dreadful situation.
Well, just like the leaders of the Gideonites went down and found Jephthah and offered him redemption and even more than he would have inherited from his earthly father; just like my cousin stood in my place in front of the girl and told her I was blood; in just the same way Jesus came down from Glory to offer redemption to man. You can live that redeemed life today. It’s in Jesus. You can experience the joy of living a redeemed life. You can shed all regret and begin to live life as the redeemed of Christ, today. Your past, regretful life, the state into which you were born has been redeemed. You no longer have to live in regret. Your present life will now make sense. You will be able to look ahead and live with purpose and began to enjoy the rewarding life, now, on earth.
A Rewarding Life:
An unchecked regretful life can keep you from experiencing a redeemed life to the fullest and short circuit you knowing a rewarding life today. There are two aspects of life that you don’t ever have to worry about again: Your past or regretful part of life is over. It’s in the past. It has been redeemed, if you know Jesus as Lord. You never have to worry about your future. If you belong to Jesus, your future is secure. The price paid for your redemption has secured your future in heaven. Nothing can change or stop that. One day, we all have to leave this place and those in Jesus have heaven as their destination.
It’s the present life that needs work. It’s the present life that you’ve been called by the Lord to live out. I asked earlier, “Can You say the H Word?” I asked a few people that question and their response was to ask if I meant the word ‘hell’. No! Peter reminds us in 1 Peter that God has called us to live a certain way. He said “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” The Ephremites had a problem pronouncing ‘Shibboleth’. I wonder, can you say the H word? I don’t mean can you pronounce it. I mean can you say it; every aspect of you. Does your life say HOLY? Does your behavior say HOLY? Is your character HOLY? On Monday, at work, do you say HOLY? When circumstances would urge you to scream profanities, are you instead saying HOLY? It’s The Father’s nature, to be holy. Do you look like him?
Living a Holy life is not an option! We are called, exhorted to live holy. There are two aspects to holiness. Scripture speaks of a holiness that we have in Christ before God, and a holiness that we are to strive after. We are made to be holy in our standing before God, through Christ; but we are called to be holy in our daily lives.
We do more living out of error as Christians than we do out of righteousness. There is an ignorance that leads to indulgence but that indulgence is usually or should only be practiced by the unsaved. They lack spiritual intelligence, and this causes them to give themselves to all kinds of fleshly and worldly indulgencies.
We too, were born with a fallen nature and it was natural for us to live sinful lives. But that should not be the case today if you know Christ. You see, nature determines appetites and actions. A dog and a cat behave differently because they have different natures. Dogs are canines; cats are felines; dogs bark and cats purr; when a dogs’ tail is up it shows superiority; when a cats’ tail is up it’s just happy; dogs like daytime and cats are nocturnal; a dogs’ claws stay out whereas a cats’ retract; a dogs’ tongue is smooth and used for sweating; a cats’ tongue has barbs and can be used to lick meat off a bone; a dog will pee with one leg up, but a cat will keep all paws on the ground; you can treat both a dog and a cat real good, feed them well and give them good care and a dog will think, ‘you must be god’, but a cat will think, ‘I must be god’.
You are now ‘partakers of the divine nature’ if you are in Christ, called by God to live no longer after the flesh, but after His nature, of whose you are; Called to live Holy because He is holy. It doesn’t matter what you do; what matters is, is what you do Holy?
Can you say the H word? There is no secret to it. Just be HOLY. “There is no secret what God can do” when you live HOLY. I can’t use positive thinking to make it in this life. I couldn’t get all the things God has already done for me by thinking positively. I can’t think high enough to receive all the things God has in store for me. I can’t even imagine those things. The Bible says, “Eye has not seen nor ear heard, it has not even entered into the hearts or minds of man, all that God has in store for those who love Him.
There’s no secret. You just have to say the H word. Be ye HOLY, for I an HOLY. You can’t think it! You need favor and you get it when you can say the H word. I know that His thoughts are not my thoughts; His ways are not my ways, that’s why I need to be HOLY. Notice that I’ve changed persons from 3rd person plural to 1st person singular, from you to me, because I can’t speak totally for you, but I know what I need. I need favor in this world, I need strength to make it from day to day dealing with people in this world, I need guidance, and therefore, I have to live HOLY. Peter says to get our minds set straight. We need to be able to proclaim: I am exclusively His, I am leaning on Him, and I consult with Him. I’m a part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have the Holy Spirit’s power. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made; I’m a disciple of Christ. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. Like an old preacher from Africa said, my mind is made up; my past is redeemed; my present makes sense; my future is secure. I’m finished and done with low living and worldly talking. I no longer need position, promotions, or popularity. I don’t have to be right. I live life by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, am uplifted by prayer, and I labor with power. My face is set, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, and my guide reliable. I will not be detoured, lured away, turned back, or delayed. I will not hesitate in the presence of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity. I won’t give up, shut up, or let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, and preached up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till He comes, give till I drop, and work till He stops me. And when He comes for His own, He will have no problem recognizing me…My banner will be clear.” HOLY unto the Lord.
We can say the H word, as we trust in Jesus because unlike us, Jesus has no part of His earthly life as regretful. His is the only life that we can look back upon and find a trail that leads upward to freedom and heaven and not backwards into regret. Let me show you what I mean:
If Jesus had not been born of a virgin and overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, His calling the disciples would have been just making friends; turning water into wine would have just been magic; He would not have gone to Jerusalem and telling Nicodemus that he must be born again would have only been philosophical; had He not gone back to Galilee, His detour through Samaria would have left a woman at the well in sin; had He not met the woman at the well, He might have missed the man by the pool at Bethesda; had He not been at Bethesda, He might never have fed 5000 plus people from a fish sandwich; had He not gone again into Jerusalem, He would have missed the woman caught in adultery; had He not been willing to walk down the streets, He would not have placed spit balls on the blind man’s eyes; had He not decided to return to Judea, He would not have said, Lazarus, come forth; had He not been in Bethany, Mary could not have anointed His feet; had He not rode a donkey into Jerusalem, He would not have heard the cries of Hosanna!; had He not been in Jerusalem, He would not have washed the disciples’ feet and declared ‘I am the way, the truth, and the light’; had He not been in Jerusalem, He would not have promised to send the Comforter; had He not prayed in the garden, He would not have said, ‘Father, the time has come’; had it not been His time, He would not have endured unjust trials promulgated by trumped up charges; had there not been unjust trials, the crowds would not have cried, Crucify Him!; had they not cried Crucify Him, He would not have carried a cross to Golgotha; had He not been on Golgotha, He would not have said, ‘it is finished’; had He not said, ‘it is finished’, He would not have died; had He not died, He would not have been buried; had He not been buried, He could not have stayed in the ground all day Friday; had He not stayed all day Friday; He could not have been there all day Saturday, and had He not stayed all day Saturday, He could not have risen early on Sunday morning. Hallelujah! Had He not risen on Sunday morning, He could not have walked the Emmaus road; He could not have met with Thomas; He could not have fried fish on the beach; He would not have taken a cloud to heaven and He would not be coming back again! When He comes back, will He find you living Holy? Will He find you saying the ‘H’ word in every area of your life? A Holy life is our ‘Shibboleth’ and children of God should be living Holy and different from the world. Can you say HOLY today? He’s called you to be holy, because He is holy!e would not have promised to send thHe h