Ah, Christmas break: the one time of year I refuse to set my alarm and allow myself to sleep until my body feels it’s had enough. I’ve been sleeping till 8 am the last few days which may not seem late to you, but when 5:30 am is your usual wake up call, 8 am feels like noon! It’s been a restful and relaxing two weeks, although the achiever in me is officially ready to get back to accomplishing more than binging Netflix’s Manhunt: Unabomber series.
What a fascinating show, though. I had heard of the Unabomber. I remember seeing his sketch as a child, and since my mom worked for the U.S. Postal Service, we paid attention when his devastating crimes were on the news. I knew he mailed bombs and successfully remained anonymous for 17 long years, but I had never heard the story of how the FBI caught the twisted recluse.
The study of human speech including the units, nature, structure, and modification of language.
FBI profiler, James Fitzgerald relentlessly studied the Unabomber’s 35,000-word manifesto–the structure and nature of his words. He studied how he phrased things, how he spelled things. And based on his language alone, the profiler was able to predict how old the bomber was, where he grew up, that he lived cut off from the rest of the world, and when he received his Ph.D. All of that and more, just based on studying his type-written words.
Fitzgerald believed that if the manifesto were published, someone, somewhere would recognize the language and turn the Unabomber in, and he was right.
A woman read the manifesto and immediately recognized the language from letters her husband had received from his brother. Could the Unabomber be her brother-in-law whom she had never met? She turned him in as a suspect and handed over a box full of letters Ted Kaczynski had sent to her husband over many years. After matching up words, phrases, and timelines, the FBI got their search warrant which led to Ted’s arrest and a lifetime behind bars.
This was the first search warrant in history based on forensic linguistics. Kaczynski was the first man in the history of the United States convicted on language clues.
Language is very much a part of who we are. The words we say and the way we say them represent our age, our ethnicity, where we grew up, and what we know.
I used to confuse my husband when we were dating when I started talking about crayons because I pronounce them “crowns.” He thought it was just a weird Sarah word, but the more he got to know my family, he realized we all say “crowns.” And it doesn’t end there; it seems that everyone who grew up in East Tulsa says it the same way. Josh was a South Tulsa kid, and it’s easy to tell when he says “Cray-ons” all fancy like.
I’m sure you can think of specific words or phrases you say, that would be concrete enough evidence to prove you were a 90s kid, an avid C.S. Lewis reader, a west-coaster or an east-coaster.
But what about a Christ-follower? Is your speech, your writing, the way you string words together, concrete enough evidence to prove your devotion to God and His way of doing things?
Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do or SAY, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.
Whatever we do or SAY. God’s Word is clear: our words matter.
If a linguistics expert were to study you, combing over the 20,000 words you say in a day, would they conclude that you were just like Jesus? Do the words that come out of your mouth or off of your fingertips represent Jesus?
Every word Jesus said was full of truth and grace. His words were deliberate, thought through. Full of hope. He was never talking just to hear Himself talk, but to set captives free.
Every. Moment. Red. Letter.
Everyone could tell He wasn’t from around these parts. He was always talking Kingdom. His words were futuristic and confident, but not prideful. He was honoring–so, so honoring of His father. He spoke love, and he never complained, like ever. He was full of wisdom and perfect advice. He used his speech to encourage.
I could go on and on about the beautiful language of Jesus, but I think this statement from Him sums it all up.
The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. John 6:63
If everything we say is meant to represent Jesus than everything we say should be spirit and life. And because Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit to flow in and through us like a mighty river, we have everything we need to represent Jesus and represent Him well!
I’ve noticed when I speak spirit to spirit with my kids it goes over so much better than when I speak from my flesh to theirs. My flesh accomplishes nothing. I can yell and be annoyed and tell them to stop being mean to each other, or I can ask the Holy Spirit to speak through me as I sit them down and purpose to represent Jesus and get to the root of the issue at hand–whether it’s jealousy or someone just being tired and hungry.
When I speak life over my husband, he receives it. He soaks it up. It charges him to step right on into whatever God is calling him to do. But when I speak death the opposite happens.
Spirit and Life or Flesh and Death? You get to choose. You get to decide how you’ll string words together this year. You get to decide if you’ll let your flesh lead the way in your day-to-day conversations or if you’ll allow the Spirit to work through you. You get to decide if you speak death over yourself by agreeing with the lies of the enemy or if you speak life by agreeing with the promises of God. The choice seems obvious to me, but just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s not easy.
It’s humanly impossible to represent Jesus with whatever we say or type this year, unless, we decide to let Him do the heavy lifting.
Matthew 11:29-30 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.
If you’ll accept this holy burden to speak spirit and life and allow Jesus to be your teacher, you can genuinely represent Him to every person you come in contact with this coming new year. And that’s good news because what the world needs is more of Him and less of us.
Remember, language is very much a part of who we are. The words we say and the way we say them represent our age, our ethnicity, where we grew up, and what we know.
May our language represent Jesus and everything good and perfect that He stands for. Spirit and Life, friends, Spirit and Life!
In 1989, five boys, ages 14 to 16, were arrested for causing trouble in New York’s Central Park. While they were being held for questioning, a 28-year-old woman was found in the same park, critically beaten and sexually assaulted. The detectives asked the young boys if they had anything to do with it, they all said no. After hours of interrogation, the boys were professionally coerced into admitting they were the ones responsible for the awful crime against the innocent jogger, even though they were not. The detectives had them convinced that if they would just make up a statement, they could go home. And they wanted to go home, so they confessed.
When the cases of the five boys went to trial, there was no incriminating evidence against any of them. In fact, all the evidence pointed to the fact that they did not commit this crime. No DNA from any of the boys was found on the victim and they were in another part of the park, causing trouble with a bunch of other kids, when the crime would have happened. But a district attorney had their confessions on tape and because of those confessions (which did not agree with one another) they would each spend the next seven to ten years in prison!
What can we learn from this crazy but true story? Do not confess things that are not true!
We make confessions every day. We confess we are tired. We confess we are stressed. We confess we don’t feel good. We confess we are overweight. We confess we don’t like our jobs. We confess we aren’t good enough. We confess the wrong kind of confessions all of the time, and most of the time, we do it without even realizing it.
Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
The word confession in this verse is from the Greek word homologia and it’s not referring to someone who just reads confessions or makes mindless parrot-like confessions, it’s referring to someone who has meditated on God’s Word and has it so down in their heart that it fills them with hope and when they open their mouth they can’t help but confess what God says about them. They can’t help it, because they believe it.
When you hear people talk, or see their Facebook posts, about how they are dreading Monday or about how it’s going to be a realllly long week, you can be sure they haven’t taken the time to get in sync with God concerning those things. We know this because we know He isn’t dreading Monday and we know He’s not complaining about the long week. He says, “This is the day I have made, rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)
We have to pay attention to our confessions, because they matter. Life and death are in the power of the tongue. When you say things about yourself, your husband, your children, your day, your week or your year, that don’t agree with what God says about them, you are confessing things that are not true! When those boys opened their mouths and confessed to a crime they did not commit, they changed the path of their lives forever.
Don’t let your circumstances coerce you into confessing a lie! Get in the Word and let it sink down into your spirit, so when you open your mouth or update your status, you confess truth, hope, and faith in a faithful God!