June 24, 2010
Building Strong Friendships in Christ
No Flattery Today
“For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed–God is witness–“
1 Thessalonians 2:5
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I went fishing recently and waded in the small waves casting my plug for fish. I fished my plug for about fifteen minutes, casting between the sets of waves, hoping to entice some predator to attack my artificial plug. Nothing happened. But, I enjoyed the beauty of the sunrise, walking in the water, and loving the morning. I happened to look on the beach, over my shoulder, and saw a great blue heron. With its striking long white plumes on its head, and pointed beak for spearing prey, I knew it was looking for a meal, and hoping I would bring it up on the beach for it. You see, this great blue heron knew all about surf fishermen, and knew from experience where he could find a meal. He had learned that I might just produce a meal for him that morning, and all he had to do was wait. It turned out, however, that he waited in vain for me, because I caught nothing. My plug, which looks like a fish, but is not really a fish, did not fool anything that morning.
In 1 Thessalonians 2:5, Paul talks about how he never used flattering speech to persuade the Thessalonians. Before I select a lure to entice fish, I try to watch what works at the place I am fishing. I learn from other fisherman, and from the fish in the water, what attracts predators to strike. I want them so excited by my plug, and its action in the water, that they cannot resist it. In fact, I prefer fairly calm water when I cast, so I can twitch my plug to imitate a fish in distress and persuade the predator to strike. The plug and its presentation to the fish make all the difference. You see, I am selling a fake to fish.
Paul never sold a fake, never faked anyone out, and never faked any part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He never preached error, impurity, or deceit. He never spoke to please men at the expense of pleasing God first and always. He never used flattering speech. Paul had been entrusted with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and by God’s power, the message of Jesus saved men from their sins.
Sometimes I fish with live bait I castnet in the surf. When I cast up a little fish, I put it in my bait bucket with an air pump to keep it alive. Then I use special fluorocarbon leader, nearly invisible in the water, to connect my hook to my line on the fishing pole. I then hook the fish to my leader, with a small hook. I want the bait fish on my line to swim as naturally as possible. It is natural, and needs nothing from me to attract fish. I catch many fish in the daytime using live natural bait. I do not need to fool the fish, or twitch the bait. It swims by itself. I do not need to flatter the predators, or entice them in any way.
When you understand that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has the power of Jesus Christ, the living Lord, behind its message, and as the central Person of the message, then you will understand that you do not need to use flattering speech. In the New Testament, the term “flattering” only occurs here in 1 Thessalonians 2:5. In the book of Proverbs, flattery was used to describe the seductive words of the adulteress (Proverbs 2:16) and for the man who spreads a net for his neighbor’s steps (Proverbs 29:5).
The great blue heron that watched me fish left without a meal from me. I had nothing to give him, and I was not about to toss my plug to him and entice him to bite it. You see, I love those big birds, and understand their need to eat. Why would I want to entice the bird to eat something fake, and only pierce himself with hooks? The hooks in a fish’s rubbery lips cause no problems, but the heron would have serious problems eating. Flattering speech, especially when used to present the Gospel, detracts from the message and only creates the wrong impression. We never need to resort to flattery, because we actually tell people the truth about their sin, and their need for the Savior, Jesus Christ, to save them.
One other point about the great blue heron. It just stood there watching me, all four feet of the bird. It waited patiently, and kept its distance. It had no pretext for greed, because we both knew why it had come to visit me. If I just stand in the surf, the heron stays away. When I fish, it comes and stands near. It wants food, without pretext. The gulls are the same way. They only come to me when I have something to feed them. They are very straightforward, without pretext. They come to be fed. Paul said he never offered the Gospel of Jesus Christ with a pretext for greed. He came to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ so that people could be saved from their sins. He did not come for personal gain, for money, for fame, or any other hidden motive. He offered spiritual food from Jesus Christ, as a free gift. God watches me fish for men, and knows my motives.
So, we learn some more about building strong friendships in Christ.
● Strong bonds of friendship form when we share the Gospel of Jesus Christ without using any form of flattery about ourselves or the audience. Spiritual friendships are not built upon a foundation of flattery. People hear the message of salvation for sinners, presented by a sinner saved by grace. When we share, we strengthen our friendships with other believers and make new friends in Christ through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and by avoiding all flattery.
● Strong bonds of friendship grow when we remove any pretext for greed from our presentation of the Gospel. We do not need anyone’s money and do not seek earthly riches in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. By the power of God, the Lord Jesus Christ shines through His Gospel.
● We undermine the power of the Gospel, and harm friendships, when we speak flattering words or use any pretext for greed, especially in presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Application for Today
Today, I want to avoid flattering speech and any pretext for greed in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What will your motives be today when you share the Gospel of Jesus Christ?