Bottom Line It
Let’s start at Genesis 1. The title for this sermon is “Bottom Line It.” The second title is “Bottom Line It, Please.” Genesis 1:1, what is the bottom line and why is it so important? It’s often when I’m talking to individuals or they’re talking to me I will ask them to please bottom line it and then I will beg them to bottom line it and then I will demand that they bottom line it and maybe we get there. The reason why this is so important is this is not some personal preference that I have or that I have some quirk about me that I don’t want to give you the time of day or I don’t want to listen to your story, or whatever, it is the very nature and character of who God is. And when His Holy Spirit fills us and we’re dead to self we begin to talk and to act as He does. The first sentence in the Bible is the bottom line. Genesis 1:1.
Genesis 1:1 – In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Everything is said right there. A bottom line is probably above everything else an understatement. Most of us like to tell our stories, we like to have our preambles, we like to have our discussions before we even get to the point. Many times by the time we get through with our story we’ve forgotten what point we were really going to make. Not so. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The bottom line is above all truthful. Everything that we’re going to read in scripture from then on we know comes from God. It is the ultimate truth. It’s laid out; we know exactly what the Bible is going to talk about. If man wrote the Bible a lot of you would have stories in the cosmos and the stars coming into creation and the beauty and all of the things which were there and then maybe by the middle of the fifty-sixth book you might say, “Oh, by the way, God did all of this.”
The bottom line is above all, truthful and loving. God’s character is love. It is love that bottom lines. Someone who is known for being bottom line without Jesus Christ is rude. That’s not what I’m talking about. The love itself, if you’re filled with the love of Jesus Christ, then your conversation with other people and with God and with yourself, you will speak and talk with bottom lines. Ephesians 4:15 says this:
Ephesians 4:15 – Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the head, that is, Christ.
As we grow up into the Head of Jesus Christ your conversation will be transformed and you will speak in bottom lines. The Pharisees can’t speak in bottom lines. The sinful man can’t speak in bottom lines because for him to say something out that is a bottom line and take his stand makes his life accountable for where he is or isn’t. That’s why there’s so much talk within the church and so little change. “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” If you are growing in Jesus Christ your conversation will be transformed and you will no longer talk the way that you talked when you first came to Jesus Christ. In Genesis 1:27, let’s back up there a little bit. It says:
Genesis 1:27 – So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
We are made in the image of God. And one of the images of God is what? That He talks in bottom lines. He means what He is about to say. When He speaks what He is going to declare He is absolutely clear on what He has declared. His yes means yes and His no means no. And Christians are to reflect that kind of conversation. The world calls it rude, the world calls it unloving, but we know a God who is alive. We are made into His image and when we speak we speak the truth. We speak it clearly. Ephesians 5:1 says what? “Be imitators of God.” You know that’s the calling of being a Christian. And everybody else thinks it’s these peripheral doctrines over here. But when everything is said and done this is the bottom line: “Be imitators of God.” What a calling a holy God has called us to. What an impossibility He has called us to. And one of the things that reveals just how impossible that really is, is listen to your conversation. We manipulate with our words, we hide with our words, we have our stories or lack of stories. Everybody has their own way of conversing in such a way to cover their own sin to get what they want.
If somebody comes into my office or I’m talking to them and they really, really want something, when they won’t surrender it before the cross of Jesus Christ, when they do not want to know, the last thing that I get out of their mouths is a bottom line statement of what they want. They will seek in every way to tell the story of why they’re going to want what they want, what happened before, what happened afterwards, why it should happen, rather than just coming in and saying, “I want this to happen,” or “I think we should do this,” and laying it out clearly. You want it so bad and you don’t want me to say no which means you don’t want God to come along and say no. It’s reflected in our conversation. “Be imitators of God.” Therefore we are to be a people as Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created.” “I am saying this. This is what I’m about to say.” Everything else will clarify the bottom line statement of what I just said. It has to be our every day conversation.
Colossians 3:9 – Do not lie to each other . . .
It’s sad that God has to come along and tell us that but that’s our character, that’s who we are. No man actually bottom lines anything. You have to be made into the image of Jesus Christ to tell the truth. If you attempt to go out here and with all your self effort begin to bottom line it you will just be rude, unloving, and unkind.
Colossians 3:9 – Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices
What is the practice of the old self? It’s either to get so quiet or elusive in the background that you don’t really say anything to manipulate what you want so your conversation is your silence. Or it’s to jabber and to talk and do all these things to cloud over what you’re really doing. To live a lie. God didn’t just speak the truth, He was the truth. So when I say we bottom line we mean this is who I am, this is what it’s about, this is what I’m getting ready to discuss, this is where my heart is at, and we mean in our life and our heart and our speech that this is where I’m at and this is what I am declaring. Do not lie to one another. And the reason why bottom lines are so important is why? Because without that we lie. We lie to ourselves and we lie to other people in the body and we lie to the world. We’re salesmen toward one another. Everybody is trying to sell themselves. “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices.” This is a practice of life. I still practice bottom lining. You’ll hear me on the phone and I’m talking or doing whatever and I’ll find I’m getting to it and, “Hang on,” and I’ll back up. Some of us just never back up. Some of us just keep going and going and going and I can beg, I can ask, I can plead, I can lay down the law, I can say, “Bottom line it,” and it won’t happen. Sometimes I have to say, “Go write it down and then come back.” And then you eventually discover what it was you were even trying to say in the first place. We live such a lie inside that we don’t even know what the truth is inside our hearts and therefore what comes out of our mouth is something—we just don’t know what it is. Verse 10:
Colossians 3:10 – and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
God wants to renew us in His image. And one of the ways that is going to come out is Genesis 1:1. This is what the truth is. This is the census here. This is everything that I’m going to say is built upon that one statement first.
Let’s just look at Genesis 1:3 and let’s just kind of go through Genesis a little bit and let it soak into our hearts. This is the image of God. And this is the image we have to be renewed in if we are to be a people of truth and love.
Genesis 1:3 – And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
We’re called to be imitators of God. And how did God speak? Did He say, “Um, what have I got in mind here? A lot of gray or pink or you know, this over here. Let there be light.” And there was light. And when we fellowship with one another, when we talk with one another it should be, “This is the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is who I am. This is who I am not.” We talk in bottom lines and it is a truthful statement. It is the light of the truth of the situation. God comes along, we are called to be just like Him. Let there be light and there is light, there is truth. Now, sometimes the world calls it a lack of tact. I’m often accused of having a lack of tact.
Genesis 1:6 – And God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.”
Verse 9 says:
Genesis 1:9 – And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so.
And what does it say? It was so. There has to be that in our bottom line. Just because we make a bottom line statement doesn’t mean that it is true. And just because somebody says, “I will be there at eight o’clock,” doesn’t mean that it will be so. God is who God is and you know that when He speaks He means what He says. No matter how well we respond to that we know that that’s what He means. If it says in the Bible that God created, then God created. It’s not open to conjecture, it’s not open to debate, it’s not open to discussion, that’s what it is, and everything else proceeds from that. If I tell you a yes, if I tell you a no, if I tell you this is the way that it is, that’s the way it is. If I say that my heart is wicked, if I say that I am in sin, that’s the way that it is. There are clouds, not shadows, not buffering it, not excusing it, not making it over here, that is the way that it is. If I say that I am innocent, if I say that I am righteous before the Lord, if I say that I have sinned, it is either that way or it isn’t. It is a walking in the image of the Creator, walking in truth, speaking in bottom lines. Genesis 1:11, just put yourself there, “And then I said, and then I spoke, and then I declared.”
Genesis 1:11 – Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so.
And what does it say? “And it was so.” The church is so often known as being full of hypocrisy. Its preaching goes out as teachers declare but the world doesn’t walk away and go, “It was so.” Because the bottom lines are not laid out in such a way in the church and we just throw out this gray area and everybody just does whatever they want to do. God didn’t leave it open to a vote. He didn’t say, “You know, by the way, I created light. What do you guys think? You think that’s true?” And God didn’t allow all the discussion and dialogue to go on. God said, “I created light and it was so. Take it or leave it.” “And it was so.” That should be our Christian life. That should be our witness to our neighbor. That should be what our declaration is. When we say something that’s the way it is. Look in the world, there’s many times I know, you’ve confessed your sins to the world. You go, “I’ve sinned against you and I’m sorry,” and they go, “Oh, no, it wasn’t that bad.” “No, it was so—I sinned against you.” You have to fight to keep the bottom line. The world doesn’t like bottom lines, it doesn’t like those absolutes, it doesn’t like the truth. Verse 14:
Genesis 1:14 – And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years . . . ”
Now do you realize what is happening to the bottom line? The bottom line statement has been declared and then the details follow. What do we do in human nature? You give me all the details but there’s no bottom line. A lot of times I go, “Where is your bottom line here? Where are we going with this?” And then you have to backtrack and put all the pieces together. That’s not the character of God. The character of God is to say, “Here is the truth. Now I’m going to give you the details.”
Genesis 1:15 – “. . . and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so.
“And it was so.” Is it really so in our conversation? Verse 20:
Genesis 1:20 – And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.”
And verse 24:
Genesis 1:24 – And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so.
This is not a restrictive kind of conversation. Don’t resolve right now, “Well, I’m just not going to talk.” Everybody does it. You start getting rebuked over and over again for what you’re saying. You make a complete fool of yourself and so what’s your solution? “I’m just not going to talk any more.” All of you know how well that works, right? It doesn’t work because eventually you’re going to just come exploding out over here. God didn’t say, “In the beginning God created . . .” and then that’s all that’s in the Bible. We’ve got a lot to talk about, livestock; you want to talk about the livestock? We’ll be here until at least seven. We’ve got a dairy farmer here that can fill us in on all those details. Creatures that move along the ground. There’s a lot to discuss but it begins with and springs from what? A bottom line statement. I would love to sit down and have a conversation with you that lasts an hour and a half and give you all kinds of attention if I knew what we were talking about. In the same way God would love to talk with you, He’d love to dialogue with you but He goes, “Where are you going with this? What is it you want?” It’s reflected in our pride. You know, sometimes I wonder what you guys actually pray about. If you can’t dialogue bottom line with me, what are you telling Him? What are you doing for fifteen, thirty minutes before God? I venture to say a lot of you leave the prayer closet not knowing what you got from God. You didn’t get a no, you didn’t get a yes, you didn’t even know. And I threw out all kinds of things to God that were specific and most of them were no. Although I’m beginning to find out how many of them were yes, I just thought they were no.
Genesis 2:1 – Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.
All from a bottom line statement that says, “In the beginning God created the stars . . .” Is there a lot to talk about? You bet there is. Is there a lot just to listen to? Yes. Does this give us opportunity to be slow to speak? If God says, “I created the universe and stars,” what should we be doing? Going, “Look at the stars, look at the heavens,” just listen. The same way in our conversations with other people. When we come in and say, “This is the bottom line statement, this is what I’m about to tell you, this is the truth,” we should listen. We should take to heart we’re made in the image of God and we should be speaking and reflecting that. In Ecclesiastes 6:11 it says:
Ecclesiastes 6:1 – The more the words, the less meaning, and how does that profit anyone?
Let us learn it well. The more that you talk and the more that you say the less meaning there is to what you are saying. The more you talk about brokenness or the more you talk about spirituality or the more you talk about all this, the less meaning that is involved with it. It’s not the image of the Creator. It’s not image of God. There is no truth there. You can’t grab at anything. “The more the words and the less the meaning and how does that profit anyone?” One of the reasons the church makes so little progress and profit in Jesus Christ is there’s just too much talk going on. Let’s talk about righteousness, let’s talk about brokenness, let’s talk about obedience, let’s talk about prayer, let’s talk about Scripture, let’s talk, talk, talk and nobody does anything. There is no meaning to what we are saying. It is not so, it is not clear, it is not laid out. Nobody backs up with what are you going to do about this? Because, you see, when you begin with the bottom line there is ramifications from that. Every scientist struggles with Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created . . .” and what do we see out there? Everybody is always falling all over themselves concerning that. It’s always amazed me that the more you know about science the less you know about God. I haven’t figured it out yet. And in the same way God comes to each of us and He lays down these things and when we cloud it over with our conversation there is no meaning and there is no what? Profit to it. Unless you like to just chat, unless you like to just talk and people talk themselves into hell.
A bottom line is this: tell me what you’re going to say. Say it clearly, say it truthfully, and say it succinctly. Let’s agree that it’s the truth in the Holy Spirit and then let it be so. That’s the image of God. If you say that you’re going to do something, then do it. Otherwise, don’t promise it. Don’t say you’re going to do it, don’t say it’s going to happen. If you say you’re going to do something, if you say you’re going to repent, then do it. That’s the image of Jesus Christ.
Look at Matthew 6:7. We’ve already hinted at this. Jesus says:
Matthew 6:7 – And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.
What do you pray about? Do you bring to God one bottom line after the other? If you come to the Lord about your sin do you say, “Lord, my heart is wicked above all things, deceitful above all things.”? That’s the bottom line statement. That’s a good place to begin. And then you listen and you dialogue about that deception. You come in before the Lord and you say, “Lord, I offer this request to You,” and you lay it out clearly so that He can answer. How broad our conversation is and how full of dialogue it is that God can’t speak to us clearly during the day and say, “You know, you asked this over here or you said this over here. My answer is yes, no, maybe, or wait.” We don’t want the answer is the reason. We want to pray and we want to pray and pray and we want to do all these things here. We want it so broad that we can manipulate it and get what we want. “Lord, here are fifty options about this over here.” And then we can just go out and pick out what we want to do, tack on the name of the Lord and make it feel like the Holy Spirit is there and then go out and do what we want to do. We’re babblers like pagans and we don’t know what we’re praying or what we’re saying. We don’t know why we’re there. Hosea 14:2 says, “Take words with you and return to the Lord.”
I know that this is just kind of weird because a lot of times I’m in my bedroom getting ready for the day and getting a little bit of quiet time and I’m thinking about what I’m going to tell the Lord before I go in there. Of course, He knows what I’m thinking before I even get there so it’s almost kind of a prayer but when I get in there and bend my knees and get in a position to pray before God, it is a bottom line statement before the Lord. And when you pray do not keep on babbling like the pagans because they think they’re going to be heard because of their many words. Jesus when He fed multitudes of five thousand He didn’t go, “Oh, Lord, thank You for the universe, and thank You for all You’ve done and for the food that is here. May You multiply it. May You feed . . .” He didn’t do any of that. He just blessed the food. “Thank You, God, for the bread and the fish,” and it fed five thousand. That is a bottom line. It is an understatement. When you begin to bottom line things you understate. Is it not an understatement again to say God created the universe? And so when I say, “You know, that person’s got a lot of sin in their life,” that’s an understatement. There are not enough words to describe the sins there. If somebody does something that is right there are not enough words to declare how righteous that was in God. That is, if my yes was yes and my no was no and I mean what I’m saying. I don’t just throw out words and go, “You did a good job,” if I don’t mean what I’m declaring. If it doesn’t go beyond the words that are being said. And I don’t call somebody wicked and to repentance unless I mean it far more than words can express it. I’m not a pagan babbling before you or before God. It is as it is being said. In John 11:43:
John 11:43 – When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”
Bottom line, understatement? Are you with me on that one? If we’d of been there we would have had to have a prayer partner session, we’d have had to have prayer and fasting, jumping up and down, Lazarus you know, and we’d of gone through every gyration we could find hoping Lazarus would come out. Jesus Christ stands before him and goes, “Lazarus, get out!” Where are all the specific details? We’d of been going before God, “Okay, let him walk on out, let him do this over here,” we’d have tried to get it to happen. Our God is a God of bottom lines. He’s a God of understatement. He’s a God of a few words. “The kingdom of God,” scripture says, “is not a matter of talk but of power.” It’s an understatement and Lazarus walks out.
Matthew 8:8 – The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.”
When you saw Jesus Christ you knew that He meant what He said. And you knew that God was with Him in what He said. I don’t just pray, “Lord, give me words for a sermon.” He has to be in those words. That centurion knew that if Jesus Christ said it, not if Mr. Smith said it or Pharisee Joe over here said it, but if Jesus said it. “If You just say the word and I know my daughter will be healed.” We are called to be imitators of God. If we expect God to be in our words then we’d better be with our words and take our stand. If you’re wrong be wrong. Better to come in before God and say something completely stupid as a fool than to sit there safe and secure and babble on so much that nobody knows what’s being rebuked or what’s being corrected.
In Luke 5:5, Simon answered:
Luke 5:5 – Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
We’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught a single thing, but . . . but what? “But because you say so,” “Because you say so. Let any other man tell me, let any other man tell me to put my net down over here, it wouldn’t mean anything.” But because Jesus Christ said to put your net on this side of the boat versus that side of the boat it will work. We don’t take Jesus Christ’s words seriously so we don’t talk about bottom lines. That’s really the bottom line. There’ll be about fifteen bottom lines before I’m over with here. Because they’re all important. This isn’t Genesis 1:1 that God created the universe, that’s just as important as God created the stars and the vastness of array. They’re all bottom line. You can take any one of those truths and they’re of equal weight and value. They each have their richness and their truth and their power to them. “But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” We are not obedient. We do not experience God speaking to us and we do it and realize there is power in the words because God is there. We babble, we talk, we whine, we complain, we discuss, we justify.
In Matthew 5:33, I’ll let you go there. Jesus is speaking. He says:
Matthew 5:33 – Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths that you have made to the Lord.”
Jesus Christ wants to narrow our conversation. You know, oaths were something that were good in the Old Testament and set down. But what does Jesus tell us in verse 34:
Matthew 5:34 – But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne;
Let every sentence be of equal importance. If I were called to court and they say, “Swear to tell the truth,” I would no more tell the truth there than I would outside the courtroom. They are of equal value. I’m not going to leave the courtroom and go, “Well, I’m not under oath, I’ll lie.” But that is what the world has to do because what? No man’s word means anything. Now what we’ll do is we’ll actually tack on the name of the Lord. We’ll actually use the name of the Lord to justify our life or to get what we want. But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne. Don’t be going around saying, “Oh, the Lord told me,” unless you know that it is so.
Matthew 5:35 – or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King.
Don’t say, “Oh, I had this thought and I know it’s true.” Or don’t say, “Tim said this,” or “This person over here said this,” and justify what you’re about to say. You have to stand on what you say. You’re going to be able to stand before God and say, “Tim Williams said this here,” or “I was told this over here or over here.” It is not by Jerusalem or by earth or by heaven. You will stand on what you declare and what you say and don’t say—it’s that simple. And you will not be able to call in anybody else and throw off your responsibility on them. God will say, “You said this. Did you not say this?” And you will have to say yes or no.
Matthew 5:36 – And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black.
“Now I really mean it. Now I’m going to do it.” You’re swearing, yes is yes and no is no. And you say you’re going to repent, go repent. Don’t say, “I mean it this time.” Or, “I know you’ve heard it so many times before but, Tim, I’m really going to do it this time.” You’re going to fail because why? You’re telling me you’re really going to do it. You’re swearing by your head. And you’re swearing by this over here. Just let it be yes or let it be no. Simply let it, for it says, “you cannot make even one hair white or black.”
Matthew 5:37 – Simply let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No”; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
You’re in Satan’s territory, it’s his conversation, it’s how he discusses. You’d better be careful what you say. “I want to repent. I want to be in the light. I want to change this time.” Your yes better be yes.
In 2 Samuel 12:1, we don’t have time to look at it all today. It says “The Lord sent Nathan to David.” We know the story well. David had committed murder, adultery, conspiracy, a few other minor details. When he came to him he said:
2 Samuel 12:1 – The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor.”
Now the reason I’m mentioning this is because I want you to look at the contrast between those who do not mean what they say and those who do mean what they say. In order to convict David of sin, in order for David to say a bottom line statement, look at verse 13:
2 Samuel 12:13 – Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.”
Bottom line—David sees things in bottom lines. Stealing is the same as adultery. Conspiracy is the same as his conspiracy. He sees things in the absoluteness and the bottom line with which God declares. And David says, “I’m the man. I have sinned. I’m the one that sinned against the Lord.” Because David was a man of bottom lines. He knew a God of bottom lines.
But then we have Saul, of course. Let’s go to 1 Samuel 15:19 and confront a mocker. Confront those with many words. Confront those who don’t know the image of Jesus Christ or know the image of God and you can lay out their sins specifically. You can come to them with a direct charge. You can lay it out with bottom lines and they will deny it. And they’ll discuss and they’ll argue and they’ll justify over here. What a contrast between the stories. You want to give me the story over here. You want to justify yourself over here. It’s pointed out to you your sins in all its specific array and all the things that you do and you still justify, whereas David didn’t even have to have that brought to him because why? He knew a God who was a God of bottom lines. If God said this was a sin it is sin across the board. Verse 19 Samuel says:
1 Samuel 15:19 – Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?
“Why did you not obey the Lord?” That is a clear, direct, bottom line to Saul. David didn’t need bottom lines. “Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?” Another bottom line, very clear, very specific, this is what the charge is. And his response in verse 20, is it anything like David’s? “But I did obey the Lord.” So he’s going to argue and he’s going to debate and he’s not going to respond to even a direct charge.
1 Samuel 15:20-21 – “But I did obey the Lord,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.”
“Blah, blah, blah, blah. Let’s talk about it, let’s discuss it, let’s do this over here. Oh, we did this in order to sacrifice unto the Lord your God.” It’s interesting the way he words that. Not “the Lord my God,” but “the Lord your God.” “That’s your Christianity, that’s your God, that’s not mine. I don’t have any relationship with the God you’re presenting toward me.” There is this division that takes place. There is the God of bottom line and then there’s Christianity. There is the religion over here of discussion and talk and dialogue. And then there is the living God. It’s not open for debate, it’s not open for conjecture, it’s not open for dialogue, it is the living God or your religion.
Proverbs 10:19 – When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.
David said, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Truth. Saul talks and talks and talks. Sin is not far, it’s not absent, it’s present. The more a man talks, the more a man discusses himself—I don’t care if he’s discussing specifically the sin—he comes to me and says, “You’re right, my heart is bad and I’m all these things . . .” and he just goes on and on. There’s sin there. Try to mock it and try to talk yourself into it, I don’t know what it is, the sin is there. This is a bottom line statement from God. And what did God say? “When words are many, sin is not absent.” Period. Shall we discuss it? Shall we talk about it? Shall we dialogue about it? Shall I set a man in front of me and we discuss it until the sun goes down? Very often I’ll get conversations and e-mails and the conversation goes on and on and on and it never ceases. Because sin is lurking and hiding behind the words. And we use the words and we lay out as many as we can use. And we lay them all out there so the people can’t see where we’re at. And when that doesn’t work around people we like, then we just shut up. We hide in the darkness. We find some other people that like to chat with us, safer ground, safer territory. It’s called a brood of vipers, that’s what it’s called.
In Proverbs 4:24 this is a daily thing. I’m still learning the bottom line things. It’s a joyful art form in Jesus Christ. I love it. I love to correct myself. I love to bottom line it. Apt words. We don’t have time to look at it but Proverbs 4:24 says:
Proverbs 4:24 – Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
You’ve got to put it away. You’re not actually going to get out of bed and become a bottom line person in one day. You’ve got to put off the old self and put on the new self. It’s a daily cross. You don’t rise out of bed and say, “I don’t bottom line things. I’m a talker, I’m a yakker, I’ll cloud things,” or whatever it is that you are. “Put perversity away from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.” Here are my lips and here is the corrupt talk as far as I can shove it away. I continue to learn to bottom line and rejoice in those things.
When I first became a Christian I had my justifications and I had my arguments and I had all the reasons why. All of that was there. Eventually you can either just turn your back on Jesus Christ and go, “What is the point of this? This really works?” or the bottom line “This is the sin and the more, the faster I can do that, the more that I can begin to get on with being transformed like Jesus Christ.” That’s the bottom line. You’ve got to keep it away though. You not only have to keep it away from yourself, there’s a whole world out there, it’s corrupt talk. A lot of people think Christians are corrupt talk; it’s easy to be pulled into this stuff. That’s who we are.
Look at Matthew 12:34. You’ve got to see the double talk and you’ve got to put it away. You’ve got to get rid of the boasting and you’ve got to put it away. You’ve got to see yourself clearly. You can’t use flattery. You’ve got to bottom line the things. You’ve got to be humble; you’ve got to mean exactly what you say. And where you don’t know the meaning of it, God will teach you. You have to accept that.
Matthew 12:34 – You brood of vipers . . .
All I can think of is this basket or this mountain of vipers slithering all across each other, licking the dust, injecting their poison, all of the same character, all of the same quality, all of the same vileness. Hissing at one another, talking with one another, they don’t even really know each other’s language. They recognize one another and think one another beautiful. A brood of vipers looking at each other and going, “You know, you’re the loveliest viper I’ve ever seen.”
Matthew 12:34 – You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.
“Anything.” Not one thing. “You can’t say anything good,” Jesus Christ is saying. That’s a bottom line statement. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? Now don’t be fooled by men, don’t be fooled by yourself. Let’s just take Jesus Christ here for a moment at His word. Someone who isn’t made in the image of Jesus Christ, somebody who doesn’t bottom line, cannot say one thing good. You believe the bottom line? Take a walk outside and go, “Yeah, it’s a really beautiful day to go here.” It’s a lie. You don’t know what you’re talking about. That’s why people come to visit so often and get frustrated. There isn’t a single thing they can say good and I can demolish it and destroy it every time they open their mouth. “You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” The reason we don’t bottom line things is because we’re wicked. Whatever wickedness that is there, whatever poison that is there, we would rather lick the dust than repent. Look at James 3:2.
James 3:2 – We all stumble in many ways . . .
How do I learn not to stumble or stumble as little as possible? Listen to my conversation. Look at a man’s mouth. Just listen to what he’s saying. Listen to what he declares. You know the world knows that. We’ve got people coming in the bookstore, they don’t believe in Jesus Christ. They say, “You know I heard somebody say they were born again.” This person said, “I just back out the back door.” That’s why the conversation didn’t match up—yes wasn’t yes, and no wasn’t no. So what else is there?
James 3:2 – . . . If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.
“If anyone is never at fault in what he says . . .” And you know if you want to make one giant step to get in place, then start bottom lining things and shut up. “If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.” If I want to deal with, and you name a sin where I want to keep my body in self discipline look at what I’m saying and what I’m talking about. How much folly springs from my mouth? How much saying things in an unspiritual way? How much not being clear and speaking spiritual words? Is it any wonder that I fail, that I stumble, that I bump into the wall, that I don’t get where I need to be? All I have to do is look at my conversation. Again, I want to warn you against just resolving, “Okay, I’m just not going to say anything.” That’s just a smugness and self righteousness. You’ll be bumping into every form of darkness. God talked. The universe had to be created.
James 3:3 – When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.
One little folly that comes out of my mouth turns my whole life. One justification turns my whole life. One saying something that is not the way Jesus Christ would want me to say it will turn my whole life, my whole day in a wrong direction. Some people go all the way to hell. Some people repent after the end of the day. The goal is you know there are things I’m saying that are coming out of my mouth and I’m feeling the conviction. You’re wrong. Even if what I’m saying is correct it may not be the words that Jesus Christ has in mind. It may not be His bottom line. It may not have all the purity in there that is necessary. It may be worldly or full of folly or quick judgment or justification.
James 3:4 – Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.
If you don’t speak in bottom lines your course is in some other direction. You can believe in the bottom line all you want and talk about it all you want but it’s still true. What we don’t say steers our life, what we do say steers our life.
Proverbs 17:27 – A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered.
Bottom lines are understatements. I believe God was restraining Himself when He said, “You know, let there be light.” I don’t know what the grammar rules are, everybody points that out to me quite often, but there were no adjectives in there as far as I know what an adjective is. There was no kind of superlative kind of talk; there wasn’t a run-on sentence, that much I know. I know even if it had its subject in the proper place—it was a bottom line. It wasn’t meant to be grammatically correct. A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered. They go hand in hand. Why can a man like that be even-tempered? You can spot him, I meant what I said. Take it or leave it. I’m not going to alter him, I’m not going to change him, I’m not going to get worked up. If you don’t want it you don’t want it. A man of understanding finds the right words to say and uses those words. Not content with just words, it’s not the image of who God is.
Proverbs 18:21 – The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
We’re made in the image of God. This isn’t some prosperity thing where you go, “I want a Cadillac,” and it shows up. That’s not what we’re talking about. The tongue has the power of life and death. We destroy other people, we destroy ourselves with our tongues, or we build them up. The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. You have to love the tongue. God gave us a tongue. I’d love to be able to say, “Lazarus, come forth!” And in the same way how you talk or the excuses you use, or the justifications or the praise or the righteousness or the holiness with which you speak, by the Holy Spirit you will eat the fruit of that. God can not and will not be mocked.
1 Peter 4:11 – If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God . . .
“If anyone speaks. . .” Anyone here going to open their mouth a little bit when we all meet together to eat? “If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.” We ought to try that for a week. We’re a line of blasphemy. But you know, we ought to go and say, “This, this and this, thus saith the Lord.” Thus saith the Lord. If anyone speaks, if you open your mouth it should be speaking the very words of Jesus Christ. Why? You’re supposed to be made dead to self and made in the image of God. It’s supposed to be Jesus Christ speaking through you. It is supposed to be the image of Jesus Christ in us doing the conversation. That’s what it means to be dead to self and alive in Jesus Christ. And if you can’t walk away from a conversation and say, “Thus says the Lord . . .” the conversation was unholy. You think I don’t get convicted here and there?
Let’s go to Ecclesiastes 5:1. Since your body is the temple of the living God this scripture actually applies to you every single day. It says:
Ecclesiastes 5:1 – Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.
“Go near to listen.” You know, again I’m back to if God were to show me all the stars and that He created the universe, I don’t have a question. In fact, if He were to show me the beauty my mouth would just hang there and I wouldn’t have any words. You want to hear from God? Shut up! Verse 2:
Ecclesiastes 5:2-3 – Do not be quick with your mouth do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God . . .
Not an opinion, not a concept, not a plan, not a project, not an idea, not a thing that we’re going to do. Nothing! Do not utter anything quickly. Let it sink in. Give it to the cross of Jesus Christ. Let Him work it. Not only will you spare yourself from saying a lot of stupid things and doing a lot of stupid things and you’ll spare somebody else from doing it. A lot of times we throw out ideas and let’s do this and let’s do that, and pretty soon it’s just taken on a life of its own. And I’ve had to come back to some of you and say, “Don’t throw it out there unless you know Jesus Christ wants to say it. Otherwise it’s going to roll; it’s going to take on a life of its own. I mean, just on a worldly level I said, “Let’s all barbeque.” Because that’s easy for us to obey. If I say, “Let’s carry our cross and suffer,” it doesn’t go so fast. But if I said, “Let’s go barbeque next Sunday,” I wouldn’t have to get a committee on that one. We would talk about it, we would put the plan out, it would go into life. We’d better make sure that before we speak God wants us to have the barbeque.
Ecclesiastes 5:2 – . . . God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.
You know, the scripture sounds like one complete bottom line after another, doesn’t it? “So let your words be few.”
Ecclesiastes 5:3 – As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words.
A lot of fools come my way. A lot of fools speaking a lot of wisdom, it’s just a lot of words, opinions, talk, and discussion.
Look at James 5:12. “Above all.” You know when you talk in bottom lines everything becomes above all. Everything has to do with the Holy God. I shudder when people go, “You know that scripture isn’t as important as that scripture,” or “That doctrine isn’t as important as that other doctrine,” or “It’s not a salvation issue.” You shake. There isn’t enough of a bottom line to say, “It’s no more important to God to let there be light than there was fish in the ocean or birds in the air.” He’s no more holy or righteous in that than He said over here or said over there? Because words don’t mean anything to that person. In other words, what that person is telling you is that when they talk to you they have a category over here, “Well, this doesn’t mean as much as this means over here.” And, “You can’t rely on me as much over here unless I swear over here.”
James 5:12 – Above all, my brothers, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “yes” be yes, and your “no,” no, or you will be condemned.
Not “You may be condemned.” It’s possible you could face condemnation. If you don’t remain in the love of Jesus Christ and remain in His grace and flow in His mercy and be washed by the blood of His Lamb, you may be condemned. “‘Yes’ be yes, and your ‘no,’ no, or you will be condemned.” He’s writing to Christians. Do not tell me you’re going to repent if you’re not going to repent. Better to go, “I’m not going to repent.” At least you kept your word. Verse 11, just back up one verse before that. It says:
James 5:11 – As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
Now why do we go from Job to verse 12? What is the book of Job but the longest conversation and dialogue in the Bible? And if there’s one thing about the sufferings of the cross is it makes you want to talk. You either want to complain or you want to understand it all or you want to put it all together or you want to buffer it a little bit or you want to make it a little easier. So you want to talk. Everything about walking in the desert makes you want to grumble or to talk or whatever. Of course, the reason why is because we don’t want to be crucified. “So let’s talk about this.” It would be like literally two guys coming in here, nails and hammers in their hands and I know they’re going to nail my hands and feet and crucify me and I go, “Hey, guys, let’s chat. How’s the weather?” I’m going to do everything in my power. I’m not going to go, “Okay, let’s get it over with, come on, let’s check, bottom line let’s get rolling.” That’s not human nature. So when God comes to put the cross in our life, we want to talk. We want a reason, we want the quiet time. “Come on, God, talk to me. Where are You at? What’s going on here? Is this really what it means?” And we want to “Let’s define what the cross means over here, what the sufferings mean over there,” anything but actually be crucified.
So I’m just going to read through a little bit of Job here. Not a whole lot. Job 3:1 says:
Job 3:1 – After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth.
The cross comes in, it comes flooding in, there isn’t anything he can do about it. It’s way beyond his control. This is more than he ever thought would happen so what is it? The beginning result of the cross being applied to his life. He cursed the day he was born. “Let’s read books, let’s talk about it, let’s discuss it, is there a way out of this thing? What’s going on?” That’s what we do. We’re just not honest enough to go, “Man, I wish I was never born.” We don’t do it. I used to. I used to go, “God, if this is good news, I don’t want it and I don’t want to tell anyone else about it.” Is this necessary? What is going on here? And there are plenty of other people encouraging me to curse. Let your worries be few and let God do His work. Job 4:1 says:
Job 4:1 – Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied:
And then Job 6:1 says:
Job 6:1 – Then Job replied:
Then Job 8:1 says:
Job 8:1 – Then Bildad the Shuhite replied:
And then Job 9:1 says:
Job 9:1 -Then Job replied:
And then Job 11:1 says:
Job 11:1 – Then Zophar the Naamathite replied:
And then Job 12:1 says:
Job 12:1 – Then Job replied:
We’re into a heavy amount of conversation here and James is trying to tell us, “Shut up! Don’t you see that what God is able to do here if you’ll just submit to what He’s trying to do in your life?” Job 15:1 says:
Job 15:1 – Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied:
Then Job 16:1 says:
Job 16:1 – Then Job replied:
Then Job 18:1 says:
Job 18:1 – Then Bildad the Shuhite replied:
And then Job 19:1 says:
Job 19:1 – Then Job replied:
Are you getting bored with where I’m headed with all this? Well, how do you think God feels as He’s sitting up there waiting? “Are you guys done yet?” And so much of just God getting to us is, “Are you through yet? You tried that road there, are you ready to listen?” “No, no, no, that can’t be it,” and we go off on another road. God will wait but eventually there comes that line when God says, “No more.” Job 20:1 says:
Job 20:1 – Then Zophar the Naamathite replied:
Then Job 21:1 says:
Job 21:1 – Then Job replied:
Then 22:1 says:
Job 22:1 – Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied:
And then 23:1 says:
Job 23:1 – Then Job replied:
And then 25:1 says:
Job 25:1 – Then Bildad the Shuhite replied:
Then Job 26:1 says:
Job 26:1 – Then Job replied:
And then Job 29:1 says this:
Job 29:1 – Job continued his discourse:
And God is trying to tell us, “Are you gonna shut up and listen?” Finally, God speaks and I wish we had time to read the whole thing, we don’t. But Job 38:1, you hear me quote it to you sometimes:
Job 38:1 – Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm. He said:
Not the calm. Job didn’t sit down in his little quiet time and his cappuccino and open up his purpose-driven life book and take a little sip here and all of his bed sores and all of his pains and say, “Praise You, God. I’m glad this is all going on.” This is crucifixion we’re talking about here. This is breaking of a man’s pride. This is humbling. This is God coming for who He is. This is the bottom line getting ready to speak. This is the storm. And storms are not controlled, they’re not understood, they’re not reasoned out. Scientists are still trying to figure out how tornadoes work, let alone dreaming of controlling it one day. Yeah, that would be nice, um-hum. God speaks in the storm. And God’s first introduction to Job after all of this isn’t, “Oh, Job, my how you suffered.” It isn’t words of comfort, although those of you who know the cross say, “I’d love this kind of comfort.” I have loved this kind of comfort. God doesn’t explain anything about why all this went on. As far as I know. It didn’t say it here. Verse 38:2 says God says:
Job 38:2 – Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?
This is introduction. There needs to be a plaque above my desk so that you can look at it every once in a while. “Who is this who darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?” “My counsel,” God is trying to speak and He’s trying to get through to us and He’s trying to give us counsel and we’re blabbing and we’re talking and we’re discoursing and we’re replying back and forth and we’re doing anything but listening to what the Holy Spirit has to say. And since we can’t strike at God we talk to one another. And we talk to one another and we talk to one another. Verse 40:3 says:
Job 40:3-4 – Then Job answered the Lord: “I am unworthy . . .”
Bottom line and an understatement. This went way past conversation. This ripped the soul of Job. His spirit was forlorn. There aren’t enough words or Job would have talked further. He said there are not enough words to describe the word unworthy. That’s why when I talk to somebody and I say to them, “You know, I’m unworthy in Jesus Christ,” they go, “Um-hum, me too.” And they say it with all the glibness and ease as if they’d say, “You know, it’s sunny outside.” They think what I say is their understatement. They think it’s on the same level. I don’t have enough words to describe how unworthy I am. Not because I have convinced myself or told myself that, but because He has spoken to my heart.
Job 40:4 – I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?
There’s a quiet time to behold. There’s a sitting in before the Lord on your knees. There’s a holy encounter with the bottom line, God.
Job 40:4 – . . . I put my hand over my mouth.
There’s a rich, quiet time. There’s a man for whom God says, “Those other friends, they’re going to have to ask you and to pray for their forgiveness.” There’s humility.
And finally let’s end with James 1:19. It starts off as a bottom line. Above all, my brothers…. James 1:19 says:
James 1:19 – My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, show to speak and slow to become angry,
This is a man who’s saying, “Everything I’m telling you is important.” Everyone—“everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” You won’t be able to do this until God speaks to you. If you have to, put your hand over your mouth in your quiet time until God talks. Don’t tell me you’ve gone in to your quiet time and you’ve waited and He’s not saying anything. You keep going in there. If you have to wait five years and God never says anything, He’s worth waiting for. You’ve got to keep your hand over your mouth. Keep it there. That’s what people should see in the body. That’s what the world should see in our conversation. Slow to speak and quick to listen to what other people are saying even if it’s nonsense. Did not God put up with your conversation? Then put up with other people’s conversation. There’s a lot of times I’m sitting down talking to other people and I can’t wait until they’re finished so I can say what I need to say. So I can get a bottom line out there. How much God is waiting? That’s why He writes it down. “You don’t have to keep talking. When you’re through, I’ll speak.”
Let’s go ahead and pray.
Blessed be Your name, O Lord. We praise You that You are a God who speaks and when You speak You mean what You say. And we worship You, Father, with fear and trembling, with the joy, Father, that’s hidden in You. Tame our tongues, O God. Break our hearts, in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
This transcription has been edited to a reader friendly format. Every effort has been made to be true to the speaker’s original message. Any mistranslations are unintentional. The original audio tape can be ordered free of charge by contacting Sound Doctrine Ministries.