Revive Our Hearts Radio

Teaching the Word, Day 1

Leslie Basham: Here's Jen Wilkin.

Jen Wilkin: The supreme act of self-control is to control your tongue. You think you're awesome because you made it through Whole30? That's nothing. Not one person in this room is free from this besetting sin.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth for Monday, January 11, 2016.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Well, if you've listened to Revive Our Hearts for any length of time, you know that we think it's really important for Christian women to teach other women the Word and the ways of God as described in Titus 2 and other passages in God's Word. In fact, Revive Our Hearts sponsored a conference called Revive '15 with women teaching women this past fall. I got so much out of that conference myself and the excellent speakers who joined us that weekend.

We're going to hear from one of those speakers today, my friend, Jen Wilkin. If you've never considered yourself a teacher, I want to encourage you to listen to Jen and to be asking yourself, How can I invest in other women and share what I've learned with them? What would that look like? What steps could I take in 2016? Let's listen now as Jen Wilkin talks about teaching the Word in fear and fearlessness.

Jen: So, when I was in high school, I met the first teacher who ever knocked my socks off. Her name was Carol Wagner, and she taught Senior Honors English at Wichita Falls High School in Wichita Falls, Texas—a sunny little garden spot on the border of Oklahoma (she said ironically).

Now, I don't know what she was doing in our community; in fact, it made us all as her students ask the question, "Why is she here?" The question that I am now posing to you. We got into class the first week of school, and she had us do a writing assignment.

I had never gotten anything but an A on an assignment, and I got a C, which made me ask the question, "Why is she here?" (laughter) A week later she began having us memorize the preamble to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales . . . in Middle English . . . before there was YouTube (so you could go there and find out how to pronounce it all)! And again, our entire class began to wonder, Why is she here? Bring back these other people who look tired and have kind of given up on us. (laughter)

So a couple weeks later we get to Shakespeare, and we all walk into class one day and sit down. Mrs. Wagner walks in, and she is wearing—I am not kidding you—a black robe from head to toe.

Her arms are folded like this, and she stands at the front of the classroom and begins to read Lady Macbeth's speech. And about three minutes into her speech, she pulls out an eight-inch-long butcher knife and begins stabbing it into the surface of her desk! (laughter) I don't think you could get away with that now, so that will tell you it was the eighties.

At which point the entire class begins to wonder, Maybe she's here because no one else will hire her! (laughter) A month later, she had us over to her house on December 16 for Jane Austen's tea party. And I thought, Well, now the truth's going to come out. We're going to find out she's here because she's desperate for money, and this is the only way she can make it.

We pull up to the front of her house, and she lived in a sprawling 1920s mansion. There were Turkish rugs on the floor. She seated us at a beautiful table and served us off of fine china. And to her, Jane Austen was a real person. (laughter) But I looked around, and you know what I thought? She doesn't need the money. Why is she here? Why is she here?

Well, I think that she was there because she believed that what she had to teach mattered! I think she was there because she believed she could convince us that English literature contained some transcendent truths, despite the improbability of doing so in Wichita Falls, Texas. And I think she suspected that the need for her presence there was great.

I don't frankly think there was a whole lot in it for her, but that's why she came and she taught. I invited this woman to my wedding! She shaped me. She wasn't teaching the Bible, but she was pointing me toward something that was going to become a greater reality for me.

The Lord was positioning me under her teaching because He wanted me to develop that kind of a feeling about a book that contains deeper truths than the preamble to Chaucer's tales, that contains a greater story of the shedding of blood than Macbeth, and that contains a deeper romance than anything Jane Austen ever penned!

Over the years I began to understand that what I needed to teach out of this Book mattered! I began to even believe that I could convince others that it mattered, and that it contained transcendent truths. And as the years passed, I knew more and more that the need was very great. Very great!

So I go through college, I get out of college, I marry a great guy, and I go to a great church—and I start having all those babies. And then I thought, Man. I have no reason to put on clothing or makeup and speak in complete sentences. Where might I go where that could happen? (laughter)

And a friend invited me to women's Bible study. I think she could smell the desperation rolling off of me. And I went, and I sat, and I thought, This is it. This is my place, and these are my people! I was put in a small group with a bunch of other women who were probably just about as desperate as I was just to have a little coffee cake and time alone.

We began to discuss these things in the Bible, and something began to stir in me—something that was forming. Do you know what I'm talking about? I hope that's why you're here. I felt it begin to burn, almost like heartburn inside of you.

And every time we would sit and listen to a video of another woman teaching, in my head I'm thinking of all the things I would have said—not in a critical way just, Oh, I would have said this. I would have given this illustration. I became a little bit annoying in my small group time, both because I would not shut up when I answered a question and because every now and then I didn't agree with what had been taught by the teacher—and in women's Bible study that's like, "Who invited her?" (laughter)

One day after small group time, Jackie Jackson (who is here today) pulled me aside, and I thought, They're going to send me home! (laughter) She said, "I noticed something in you. Have you ever considered that maybe you have a teaching gift?" And that was it. That was the start.

I gathered two women, I gathered four women, I gathered whoever was crazy enough to sit down with me, and I just started trying it, I just started doing the work. But I wasn't left to my own devices—there were women who surrounded me. There were women who resourced me and pointed me toward good places to go for study materials and who offered, "Hey, let's see if we can set up childcare for this," or "Here, let's find you a room to do this." It was this beautiful network of women that all came around and helped it happen.

What if she hadn't seen me? What if she had thought I was annoying instead of gifted? I praise God for that! One of the things that you and I need to do is be thinking, Who is around me? Who is around me, waiting for me to say, "I give you permission"?

That's what she did for me; she gave me permission. And then several years later she gave me something even better—she gave me her women's Sunday school class! She said, "I'm not going to be able to teach it. Can you take it over for a little while until we find a permanent teacher?" And seven years later, I quit teaching that class.

They were the dearest years to me. Do you know why? Because I came into teaching with a love of teaching but without a love of women. Not only that, but I couldn't even really relate to a lot of other women, like I didn't get all the girly stuff. When God gave me two daughters, I was panicked beyond belief. I'm not good at that; I don't know how to do that. So I didn't have a great deal of empathy for the women that I was teaching. I just wanted to be right, and I wanted to show them how much I knew.

And so the Lord—and Jackie—put me into a class with a bunch of women who were older than me (which freaks you out!), who had all kinds of life experience that I hadn't had (deep tragedies, deep losses), and He asked me to go in each week and open up the Word and teach it to these women. I was like, "Lord, how? How can I do that?". . . which is exactly where He wanted me.

And knowing them and knowing the things that hurt and the things that they loved and the people that they cared about—that is what brought teaching to life for me. Because all of a sudden, I realized it wasn't about being clever, it wasn't about saying things the right way. It was about letting the living and active Word do what the living and active Word does. And most of my job was just to show up prepared.

So that's what I'm hoping we can do. I'm hoping you will have permission; I'm hoping that you will find encouragement, and I'm hoping that you will find tools.

Let's turn to James 3. That is one of my favorite sounds [sound of pages turning], and I hope that everybody doesn't all go to tablets, because I would hate not to hear that sound of the pages. That would be a loss, to me.

Now stay with me, because I said I wanted to encourage you, and we're going to start out a little rough here. James 3, starting in verse 1. Ready?

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. [You may go home now!] For you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. [And he goes on; he doesn't stop there.[

For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body" (v.  1–2).

This is a showstopper of a verse. I think so often we hear James' teaching on the tongue pulled away from the context it is in, which is within the context of, "Hey, maybe not many of you should stand up and teach."

So I want us to see if we can figure out what it is that's going on here in James 3 and how it should impact a room full of women who are sitting here wondering, Should I do this? Or I have been doing this. Should I stop? Or should I turn to the person next to me and say, "I've been telling you for ten years you should do this. Now go and do it!" What ought I to do?

What does James have for us here? He has a cautionary word and also a useful word. He says, "Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness."

Now, James here is addressing a particular kind of teaching. He is talking about teaching that comes in a formal capacity. But because you all know Titus 2, right? Because women know that one—that all women are to teach younger women what is good. So nobody gets to escape the teaching role. Not all of us will be in formal teaching roles, but all of us will teach in some informal capacity, at least.

I think that what James has to say here is a good watchword, whether you're in a formal teaching setting or an informal teaching setting. He says, "Not many should become teachers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness." Now why would we be judged with greater strictness? Well, of course, because there is much at stake! There is much at stake, isn't there?

There are those chilling verses that are spoken by Jesus in Matthew 12:36–37. He says, "I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give an account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."

That is a room-clearer, isn't it, at the teaching conference, isn't it? I am out! Because I know about careless words. Anybody else in here know about careless words? Right! And so Jesus says you need to watch everything that you say. One of the verses that I think about often is, "Even a fool is considered wise when he holds his tongue" (Prov. 17:28).

I know that's true, because sometimes when I go into meetings, I write myself a sticky note that says, "Do not talk!" and I put it on my binder where I can see it. And I read it over and over again. And every time someone says something and I want to go back to my small group days and be like, "Ooh! Ooh! Me! Me! Me!". . . I read my sticky note. "Do not talk! Do not talk!"

And I can't count how many times someone has come up to me afterward and said, "I just admire your wisdom so much. You are so wise." I'm like, "It works. This totally works." Our words matter, they matter so much! Our words have the power to create and they have the power to destroy.

Our words have the power to create and they have the power to destroy.

As image-bearers, as those created in the image of God, this is something we share with Him in a removed sort of way. The words of God are miraculous in the way that they create life; they are miraculous in the work that they do. You and I don't have miraculous words, but we have words of great, great power.

The words of God are miraculous in the way that they create life; they are miraculous in the work that they do.

So it is so important for us to understand are we speaking in such a way, particularly when we open up the Scriptures, that we are life-giving or that we are destroying something? Many of us grew up in homes where we knew the destructive power of words, right?

Others of us were blessed to grow up in homes where we learned the creative power of words, where you were given permission and you were told, "You can do this. You can do this. You can do this." Those are the kinds of words of life that you and I want to be speaking, because much is at stake every time we open our mouths.

Words have the power to create and the power to destroy, and God in His wisdom determined that His gospel was going to be communicated through words. Through words. Do you ever think about how odd that is?

It's always kind of interesting to me how the Christian community eagerly awaits the release of every new Christian film that comes out. I think in particular of movies like The Passion of the Christ, where when that movie was coming out (and I'm not making a judgment call either way on the movie—I'm just looking at the reaction that people had as it was coming out), people were like, "Finally! Finally, people are going to go to this movie, and they're going to see what happened, and they're finally going to understand." Right?

Except that when you say that, what you're indicating is that for millennia—for a long, long time—God was sitting on His hands, eagerly awaiting for the video camera to be invented, so that finally His words would be in a comprehensible form and people would understand it.

Have you ever heard that expression, "The book is always better than the movie"? It's never been more true. So I think some of us have a little bit of a self-confidence issue around believing that these words will do what God has said that they will do. So I'm here to encourage you that they absolutely will.

Do you know who was the most surprised to learn that Lore Wilbert was saved while I taught for fifty minutes on one verse? Me! How faithless is that? But the Lord was showing me there is power in here. My words have power, yes. But His Word . . . oh! It has a power that is undeniable and unfathomable, and we have only to be responsible enough to show up and open it in a sober-minded way.

So the teacher will be judged with greater strictness because much is at stake. Much is at stake. There's a quote by St. Augustine that I absolutely love, that I think captures the tension that the teacher lives in. He says this:

You are my God, my Life, my holy Delight, but is this enough to say of You? Can any man say enough when he speaks of You? Yet woe betide those who are silent about You. For even those who are most gifted with speech cannot find words to describe You.

I can relate to that awe. I mean, there's too much of You. I can't possibly do justice to who You are, but how can I possibly be silent? I know that I must speak, but I know that I can never do justice to who You are!

And I think that that is the tension in which the teacher lives. We know that we will be judged with greater strictness, but we also know that there is no way we can remain silent. And so we move forward soberly—and listen, I actually really like the way James sets this up.

Because look at verse 2. It says, "For we all stumble in many ways." How many of us stumble in many ways? All of us! Okay, I like that. He says, "If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body." Did you hear what James just said?

James just said that the supreme act of self-control is to control your tongue. You think you're awesome because you made it through Whole30? That's nothing! Not one person in this room is free from this besetting sin. That's what James has just said.

Now, it takes different forms in each of us, doesn't it? Because I'll tell you another reason why I was absolutely shocked to learn that Lore Wilbert would be saved while I spent fifty minutes tearing apart one verse. It's because my tongue does not have a history of giving life.

I grew up in a home where our "love language" was sarcasm. Like when I learned at about age twenty that sarcasm was a product of anger, I was like, "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard!" Because isn't that something a sarcastic person would say? (laughter) And it took me a long time to realize that that was actually true.

In my home it was such a long-formed pattern, that I thought, I didn't grow up in an angry home. I was getting angry thinking about this, trying to figure it out. I look back and I think somewhere back along the way there was anger, but by the time I got around, it was just the way we had all learned to talk to each other. It just felt natural.

So then I married Jeff Wilkin, who is the kindest man on the face of the earth. I find out from him that in his home, he and his sister were not allowed to tease each other growing up. Huh? I knew about he and his sister. In fact, she is my best friend now. I didn't have a lot of other options—she was his best friend. No, I actually love her to death.

But when I meet him and I see the two of them together, and we're going through family albums and there's a picture of them in high school—in high school!—at Disney World, holding hands walking along at Disney World. I was like, "That ain't right! That didn't look like anything that happened in my family!" 

Then I find out that when she couldn't get a date to one of her dances in high school, he went with her to a dance. I know—it's so precious. Doesn't it make you angry? (laughter) So number one, how did he get stuck with me, right? The Lord, the Lord strong and mighty.

So he signs on for this, and the whole first year of our marriage I hurt his feelings over and over again. And you know what I would say? "Toughen up!"

He'd say, "It hurt my feelings when you said that."

"Well you know what? You're too sensitive. C'mon!" I was wrong! I was wrong! I was wrong! And I thank God that Jeff had seen a better way modeled in his home, because what if I had passed that on to my children? Oh, God, help us!

And so, in our home, guess what? They're not allowed to tease each other. I'm such a cynic I don't think I even thought that it would really work, but it has. They are each other's best friends. I have seen how words can give life instead of destroying. I needed to learn that before I stood up to teach anyone out of God's Word, because—I'm telling you—I had a long track-record, before I ever met Jeff Wilkin, of shredding relationships with my words.

People would come to me two years later and say, "You hurt my feelings two years ago."

And I would say, "That's your problem." A teacher cannot have a heart like that! A teacher has to measure every word that she says to the best of her ability.

At least you can know that you're not alone in this, right, because James is telling you here, "This is everyone's problem." And we probably shouldn't be surprised that we all have a problem with words when it is through words that God has chosen to reveal Himself.

Wouldn't it make sense that the enemy would come against that particular thing if he wants to disable the power of what God wants to do in this world? Why would he not go after our speech and our words?

Leslie: That's Jen Wilkin from the Revive '15 conference sponsored by Revive Our Hearts. The byline of that conference was "Women Teaching Women." Jen spoke with a group of women's ministry leaders about passing on God's truth with others. And all of us can benefit from that message because all of us are called to pass along God's truth in some way. And the ideas Jen gives also can help all of us in our personal study. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is here to tell you how to follow up on what you've heard.

Nancy: Jen offers so many practical ways of getting into the Bible in her book called "Women of the Word." She'll help you turn your Bible reading into studying the Bible at a deeper level. And the most important thing about that is she'll help you get to know God Himself through His Word.

I've learned a lot myself from this book, Women of the Word, and we'd like to send you a copy when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size. Just ask for this helpful book from Jen, Women of the Word, when you call us at 1–800–569–5959, or visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com and you can make your donation there.

Leslie: Thanks, Nancy. Jen Wilkin will be back tomorrow. She brought up an interesting question today. James says, "Not many of you should be teachers." But Paul says, "Older women should teach younger women."

Jen's been holding these in tension and she'll bring some resolution tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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