Faithlife Sermons

The Freedom of Speech

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James tells us that the human tongue is likened to that of a fire; uncontrollable!

Notes & Transcripts

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Can anyone tell me what this is that I just read?
Can anyone tell me what this is that I just read?
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Yes, this is the 1st Amendment to the United States Constitution.
It is here, that citizens of the Unites States find their constitutional right called the Freedom of Speech.
This amendment protects the right to freedom of religion and freedom of expression from government interference.
It was adopted into the Bill of Rights in 1791. The Supreme Court interprets the extent of the protection afforded to these rights.
In reading a little bit on this, about what has been called legal and illegal within the 1st Amendment rights, I found this interesting.
It was declared illegal in 1968, for people to burn their draft cards in anti-war protests.
Yet, in 1989 it was declared LEGAL, for people, while engaging in acts of symbolic speech, to BURN the United States flag!
Go figure!
Anyway, under this great nation’s constitution, we have been blessed with the right and the ability to speak freely and to assemble publicly in order to express our thoughts and attitudes.
This was established to protect all people’s, regardless of nationality, sex or religion.
And while it is a great freedom in our country, with the openness and equal right for all to speak, with it, comes a great backlash for people.
In a perfect world, people would only do and say things that were beneficial and uplifting to one another. People would agree to disagree and move on in their lives.
This however is not the case, and we tend to speak without regard to the feelings of others and cause great lament and hurts in other’s lives!
So, in light of this constitutional right and privilege that we have, I would like to focus on one main aspect of the “Freedom” of Speech.

I’m sure that we have all heard of and read about weapons of mass destruction, right? Well, this morning, we are going to look at one such weapon that has done more damage and caused more harm than anything else in history. This weapon is an intricate part and a key player in our 1st amendment right and it is also a key player in our roles as witnesses for Jesus Christ!

This something is more dangerous and devas
And yes, while this is correct, I am wanting to focus more on one extremely dangerous aspect of sin.
Now in order for me to introduce you to this “juggernaut” of a weapon that I speak of, allow me to start off by talking briefly with you, about the the raw strength and power of some of the muscles of the human anatomy, and in doing so, it will help guide us right to this key player in our lesson today. Would that be OK with everyone?
OK, here you go, ANATOMY 101 at Cumberland Worship Center.
This first muscle is notably considered the largest muscle of the human body and it is also a very powerful one. It is the GLUTEUS MAXIMUS, or otherwise known as the buttock! (It is the prime hip extensor of the body and crucial for our upright activity.
The next muscle is, in terms of power and function, is the lower calf muscle, or what we call the SOLEUS muscle. This muscle is able to exert the most force continually, as it prime in keeping us from falling forward as well as assisting us in walking, running, dancing. It helps to plantar flex the ankle join and thus it is constantly firing off to counter our balance and keep us standing!
When we talk about output and power, we must remember the main star in the human anatomy, the HEART! This muscle works 24/7 (or at least you had better hope it is) and in its daily work, every time it contracts (around 70 times per minute), it pumps about 2 oz (60 milliliters) of blood through it into the body. This equates to around 2,000 gallons of blood/day and in an average lifespan, it will have beat about 2.5 billion times and pushed out some 200 million liters of blood, or around 53 million gallons! (That is the equivalency of what the largest oil tankers on the ocean hold!)
The next muscle of power that I mention, is able to create the greatest amount of force within the human body, based on its size. It is the jaw muscle, called the MASSETER MUSCLE. This little muscle can generate up to 200 lbs of force back on the molars, when we bite down on something! The Guinness Book record holder for the most force generated with this muscle, was set back in 1986 by a guy in Lake City, Florida, who was able to bite down with a amazing 975 lbs of force for two seconds!
And finally, the muscle that has so much versatility and function and necessity for humans and has been labeled the strongest muscle of the human body (although this is false); ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, I present to you the star of the show today, (SHOW SLIDE FIRST) the human TONGUE!
This amazing muscle, is responsible for our ability to eat and drink and in conjunction with this, the tongue allows for the taste of whatever we put in our mouth. It has been called the strongest muscle, because it never tires, no matter how much it is used (and for some of us, that is a lot), it keeps going. This due to the fact that it is actually comprised of 8 different muscles that work together, symbiotically, for its function!
There is one more function of this little guy, that actually makes him the star of the show today, and that is the ability to allow for speech!
The human tongue can move in some amazing ways to allow for and create some astounding sounds and vocals! (How many of you can roll your tongue? According to statistics, anywhere from 65-81% of Americans can do this!)
It is the human tongue that we will be looking at this morning and it is the human tongue that I alluded to earlier with regard to the 1st Amendment right and our effective roles as witnesses for Jesus Christ.
In both cases, our ability and gift to speak is enacted upon and used!

So, why, you may ask, would I refer to this little, approximately 3.5” long muscle, as the single greatest weapon of mass destruction in all of history? Especially when you compare it to the other more massive muscles of the human anatomy!

Well, this will be answered by reading within the word of God today.
Before we read, let me ask you something. What is the cause of people being killed with other weapons, such as guns, knives, bombs, etc.?
Is it the weapon itself, or the mind and action of the person behind the weapon?
In other words, does the gun actually kill another person, or is it the mind of the person that pulls the trigger?
With that thought in mind, let’s move forward.
Let me show a quick video and then we’ll turn in our Bibles to the verses for today.
Show Skit Guys Walk the Talk video.

A quick question for all of you. Are we people of faith? Are any of you here today, one of the faithful and chosen ones who live and operate within the beliefs of the religion known as Christianity? The one and only religion that was and is and forever will stand as the only TRUE religion in the world! Is that any of you in here this morning?

Please turn with me in your Bibles, to the book of and follow along as I read.
James 1:26–27 ESV
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
Now, let’s hold onto and retain the last phrase in that passage that we just read, “and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
The key word here that I am looking at, is the word, “unstained”. In the Greek, this word is, “aspilos” and it literally means, “spotless, without defect, without blemish; pure (morally), not marred in one’s character.”
So, look carefully here, at what the half brother of Jesus, James, says about our religious beliefs in direct correlation to what we say and how we use our tongues. He says that if you do not control your tongue (your words you speak), that is, if you speak and say, whatever pops into your mind, then you are not what you claim or think to be, in terms of your Christianity!
He says here that “your version” of Christianity is worthless! And I stress the phrase, “your version”, because the Bible clearly speaks to us about the control of our tongue, and the words that we speak.
Now turn with a couple of chapters forward, to ,
James 3:1–12 ESV
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 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. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.
Now there is a lot of information in these 12 verses and I am not going to try, in such a short period of time, to go into depth on all of it. If I attempted this, in such a short period of time, I would be doing this passage an injustice and not giving you the true meat of this word.
So, having said this, I am going to pull out some the specific points from this passage that are very valid to my message today and that need to be spoken for all of us here, or listening to this message today! AMEN?!

First of all, let me say this. With regard to verse 1, which says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness”, there are two things that need some clarity here.

It is important to understand who James was talking to and the day and time in which they were living, which can give some insight into this verse.
In the day and time when James wrote this, it is necessary to understand that the “teachers” of the new church, the body of Christ, were, in a sense and in the eyes of the people, a replacement for that of the Rabbis of Judaism.
The reason that I mention this, is because the Rabbis were regarded with great respect and authority in the eyes of the people and because of this, many of the Rabbis were elevated to such a high level of pomp and heir, that it swayed and skewed the way that they looked at and carried themselves around those whom they taught. In other words, it was a breeding ground for PRIDE!
It was held in many people’s thoughts and opinions, that their responsibilities and duties, their loyalties, were to be given to the Rabbis before that even of their own parents, since their parents only brought them into this world, but the Rabbis teaching prepared them and helped to bring them into the next life to come!
So, James, right off the bat, is warning that with this position, could come a great danger (self pride) and with this great level of deity and respect that came with it, also, came the responsibility to the Lord and then the people, to make sure that everything that you were teaching, was exactly as God had given it!
Not your own version and flavor to exalt yourself and keep your popularity ratings high.
Which is the very thing that was happening at that time, Judaizers who were coming into the new church and teaching the Law and circumcision in conjunction with the Gospel message, and causing great confusion and grief to the new church.
Paul addressed this very situation in the churches that he wrote his epistles to.
So, James is warning teachers of this situation and their need to focus on the accuracy and exactness of their teachings, because ultimately, they do not answer to the people for their teachings, but to the Lord, Himself! The Lord is the judge of all, not man!
Also, with this, we need to understand something else that James is talking about. James is specifically addressing, in this chapter, the difficulty of controlling the tongue, right?
Well, if you become a teacher, guess what you are depending upon the most? Exactly, your speaking skills (a.k.a. the tongue). As one commentary states, “The instrument of teaching is speech, and its agent is the tongue.”
So, if it dangerous for the average lay person as to the perils of the tongue and working on controlling it, then to those who become teachers of the Word, the heat is greatly intensified, because you are now speaking on behalf of God and all eye are upon you!
Especially the eyes of the Lord, who is weighing your heart and what is coming out of your mouth, in His name!
So, for this reason, teachers of the word should strongly consider what they are about to do and the role they are taking on, because they are no longer trying to just control their tongue for their own soul’s benefit, but they are now having to guard their tongue in every instant, because of the weight that comes with it.
Teachers of the word are literally putting themselves in a very dangerous position, by virtue of their answering the call to teach the Word before the body! Thus meaning that your very role in the body is linked with controlling the uncontrollable; the human tongue!
For this reason, James warns that not to many should desire this position, even though it could bring popularity and prestige in the eye of others. (And as I have said before, as all eyes are upon you, you had better make sure that what you teaching matches up with the life that you are living!! AMEN?!)

The matter of the tongue and the severity associated with it and its power/danger, were not inherent, or new to the NT church, by the way. Throughout the wisdom verses in Proverbs, as well as other books in the OT, we find various warnings about the flagrant use of the tongue.

Proverbs 18:20–21 ESV
From the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach is satisfied; he is satisfied by the yield of his lips. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
Proverbs 15:1–4 NLT
A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. The tongue of the wise makes knowledge appealing, but the mouth of a fool belches out foolishness. The Lord is watching everywhere, keeping his eye on both the evil and the good. Gentle words are a tree of life; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.
Psalm 34:12–13 NLT
Does anyone want to live a life that is long and prosperous? Then keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies!
In fact, consider this. Immediately following the fall of mankind in the garden with Adam and Eve, the very next sin that came was a sin of speech, as Adam deflected blame and pointed his fault onto Eve and then she did the same thing and blamed the serpent. .
Genesis 3:12 NLT
The man replied, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.”
Genesis 3:12–13 NLT
The man replied, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.” Then the Lord God asked the woman, “What have you done?” “The serpent deceived me,” she replied. “That’s why I ate it.”
Lying and deceit are two of the reasons that the tongue is named by James as, “a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body.”
The Bible mentions many different kinds of tongues and the majority of them are all negative: a flattering tongue, a proud tongue, a lying tongue, a deceitful tongue, a perverted tongue, a soothing tongue, a healing tongue, a destructive tongue, a mischievous tongue, a soft tongue and a backbiting tongue!
Most of these descriptions for the tongue are severe in their nature!
So severe is the issue and power of the human tongue, that James tell us, that if we could control our tongues, then we would be PERFECT and could thus control our entire body in ever way.
We would become sinless if we could totally control our tongues!
As it stands, however, for the same reason that I asked you earlier if the reason people were being killed by weapons, was a fault of the guns and knives, or was it actually the heart and mind of the person behind those weapons; for this reason, I say to you now that the reason that no human can ever master and completely control the tongue is because the heart and mind of every human is naturally sinful.
No one is exempt from this, as the Bible tells us, “No one is righteous, not even one” “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the TRUTH is not in us.”
We are all sinful and thus we will never be able to completely master the tongue, which is what James is warning us about!
In verse 8, James tells us, “but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison.”
And hear me out on this people, this is not an excuse to use the tongue to do with as you please!
“Well, you know, the Bible says that it is impossible to tame the tongue, I just couldn’t help it. I tried to hold back that slew of curse words that I just threw at you, but I just couldn’t stop them from coming out of my mouth!”
This is the whole point of this message today.
Paul tells us in ,
1 Corinthians 9:27 NLT
I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.
And what is Paul telling us here?
That as Christians, it is our duty to work and train ourselves and bring our bodies under submission.
Romans 3:10 NLT
As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous— not even one.
Well, wait, didn’t James just say that we can’t master the tongue and thus we can’t master the whole body?
Romans 3:23 ESV
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Yes, he did. But here is the key that we must understand.
In verses 13-18 of this chapter, James speaks about asking for the wisdom of God and using it in our lives, to make decisions.
I John
He says that our wrong motives and jealousy and selfish ambitions are what keep us from living honorable lives and thus show that we are using WORLDLY wisdom and not GODLY wisdom.
In other words, we must be drawing our wisdom from God and His Word so that we can live “honorable” (in the Greek, this word means, “morally good”) lives.
On our own, and using our own “worldly” wisdom and intellect, we will sin, we will use our tongues for destruction and selfish gain!
Remember that I said earlier to remember the word, “unstained” from the passage in James and that the Greek word for “unstained” meant, “spotless, without defect, without blemish; pure (morally), not marred in one’s character”?
Well, in verse 6 of our passage, James says that the tongue is a world of wickedness and it “corrupts” the your entire body!
The word here for corrupts, literally means it STAINS and DEFILES your entire body!
So, when you and I act on our own intellect and our natural, worldly wisdom, we will open our mouths and blast someone and in doing so, we STAIN AND DEFILE our entire body and as Paul said, in doing so, we disqualify ourselves as effective witnesses for Jesus!
The only way to lessen the tendency of misusing the tongue and keep the odds in your favor is through the principle of ,
Romans 12:1–2 ESV
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
If we will submit our bodies, in their entirety (body, heart, soul and mind) as a living sacrifice (dying to our wants) and yielding to the will of God and then He will renew and strengthen and change the way our minds look at things and operate!
When this happens, your first reaction will not be to lash out, that is, not to TONGUE lash someone to death, but rather to act in love and humility!
If you are yielding to Holy Spirit and His voice, then you will have control over the tongue. “For God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control.”

Let me say this. At the opening of this message, I mentioned to you about our founding fathers giving us the gift of, “freedom of speech”. And with this gift, many have abused it and caused great hurts and scars in other’s lives, with no sense of accountability!

As a Christian, you and I do not have this same type of right. We are to refrain from the liberty of using our tongues and our speech to hurt and negatively impact others. Thus, damaging our witness for the Kingdom!
Listen to what Jesus said about your words and my words, “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you.”
Jesus, Himself, said,
Be very careful of what you say to others. Don’t let your life become STAINED, as James said, because of the sinful tendency of the natural mind and the use of your tongue (your speech).
Always be mindful of what you’re saying to others and be patient in their understanding and interpretation of what you say. People, by nature, heat what they want to hear and react upon it.
So, make sure that your life’s actions match up to you words and speech, so as to lessen the odds of being misunderstood!
Morris, an 82 year-old man, went to the doctor at the Medical Clinic to get a physical. A few days later the doctor saw Morris walking down the street with a gorgeous young woman on his arm. A couple of days later the doctor spoke to Morris and said, "You’re really doing great, aren’t you?" "Just doing what you said, Doc: ’Get a hot mamma and be cheerful,’" Morris replied. To which doctor said, "I didn’t say that, Morris. I said, ’You’ve got a heart murmur. Be careful!’"
Morris, an 82 year-old man, went to the doctor at The Trailer Estates Medical Clinic to get a physical. A few days later the doctor saw Morris walking down the street with a gorgeous young woman on his arm. A couple of days later the doctor spoke to Morris and said, "You’re really doing great, aren’t you?" "Just doing what you said, Doc: ’Get a hot mamma and be cheerful,’" Morris replied. To which doctor said, "I didn’t say that, Morris. I said, ’You’ve got a heart murmur. Be careful!’"
Always be mindful of your thoughts and ultimately your words. Guard your thoughts and strengthen your mind and heart with the Word of God, so that you will be prepared and ready for whatever comes against you.
reminds us of this, “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”
And when you keep God’s abiding Word stored within your heart, then your tongue will be predisposed to speaking of only edifying and spiritually healthy words to others.
Remember, Jesus said that it is not what you put into your mouth that defiles the body, but rather what is coming out of the mouth is what defiles the body; or as James said, it “stains the entire body”.
It is the true nature of what is inside your heart that shows up on the tongue.
Jesus made the accountability factor much more intense, when He said, ““You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.”
You and I cannot “tame the tongue”, on our own. Just like when you go to the doctor and he tells you to open your mouth and stick out your tongue, he does so because the tongue is an indicator of the health of the human body. Well, spiritually, the tongue is an indicator of the health of the spiritual body as well.
As Paul told us, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
Garbage in; garbage out! Right?!
As Paul told us, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
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