Word to the Wise: Watch what you say - to yourself

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All too often we affix labels onto others. All too often we live up, or down, to the labels that others have placed upon us. Years ago Shad Helmstetter wrote a book titled, “What Do You Say When You Talk to Yourself.” It focused on the basic and important theme that what we tell ourselves is powerful. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of death and life.” Words can kill and they can give life. Words can break a spirit or make one. In his book “No More Mr. Nice Guy” author Stephen Brown relates this story — “I was shocked. My eyes and ears had to be playing tricks on me. I had just heard a television talk show host pose the following question to Martin Luther King: ‘Is it true that black people are lazy and got rhythm?’ Yet as shocked as I was by the question, I was even more startled by King’s answer. He replied, ‘Yes, it’s true.’ Now my attention was riveted as he explained his answer. He said, ‘If you tell people for two hundred years that they are lazy and got rhythm, sooner or later you will produce a generation of them that meet those standards.’” For 400 years Israel had been told that they were slaves and nothing more. Yet now, in Exodus 19:6, God told Moses that He was re-orienting their identity. God said that this nation of former slaves would now be “My treasured possession, a kingdom of priests, a holy nation.” God re-formed their identity around Him. And the same is true for us. All of our lives the world tries to dictate our identity. But now God has come and has rewritten the script. Our former labels no longer hold true. We are “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession” (1 Peter 2:9). As the famous hymn declares, “I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.” Without hesitation or shame I hold to the vicarious death of Jesus on the cross as the basis for a new identity. You can call me whatever names or labels you please. Above it all, through His Word, I can hear God calling me “forgiven,” Christian,” and, most movingly, “my child.” Now that’s a label we can live up to, with the help of His Spirit. You can reach Tom Rupp at