James: Taming the Tongue - Transforming the Heart (Part 9) w/ Shawn Miller
Miller | 7 Walk onto stage, spray flavoring into water glass. …I’ve always wanted to do that! Well, they say that eyes are the window to the soul. No doubt you’ve all heard that saying before, but today, I want to suggest to you a different statement. I want to suggest that our tongues are the doorway to our hearts. If you think about it, we use our tongues a lot during the day. Some studies have suggested that the average person says something between 13-25000 in a day. That’s enough to fill half a book; and this is only one single day. With our tongues, we can do good things, like expressing our love to a spouse, praising our children, worshiping God, laughing at a joke, sympathizing with someone’s who’s hurting, or generally just building others up. On the flipside, we can also use our tongue for evil, like cursing another driver, gossiping about another, causing disunity amongst a team, and generally tearing down others. These are just a few of endless examples that could be discussed about how we use our tongue on a daily level. Not a day goes by that we don’t us our words in some way; our tongues are just an essential tool to all of us in our everyday life! It’s probably this reason that James focuses on this in our passage today in James 3:1-12. If you have been following Pastor Bob in this series through the book of James, you’ve probably noticed by now that this book puts a huge emphasis on how our faith in Christ should influence how live out our everyday lives, and our tongues are no exception to that. If you think back to a couple weeks ago, Pastor Bob brought up the topic of real deal religion, and stated that a controlled speech is actually one of the three evidences of true religion, and if the Spirit is truly working in our lives, our tongues should show the evidence of His work. God doesn’t merely want our spirituality changed by his presence, but rather, God wants our entire lifestyle to reflect Him. This includes our words. This can be really hard sometimes. We use our words to express literally everything we are thinking and feeling. Sometimes, the wrong thing just slips! Controlling what we say can be difficult, but rather than giving up on controlling it entirely; throwing in the towel, God is calling all of us fill our hearts with His Word so that our mouths can become the overflow of His righteousness. Today, we’re going to be diving into just that topic further, and learning how we can bring our mouths, as well as our hearts in alignment with the faith that we are living out. Let’s pray Those are strong words, aren’t they! Just in reading this passage, it’s clear that James isn’t messing around, and he wants to make it clear that this is a big issue that Christian’s everywhere need to get serious about dealing with. Now, to me, when I read this passage, I read it a little bit like a war strategy. It kicks off by giving us three characteristics of our tongues, then dives into some different strategies on how to deal with the issues it can cause. It’s essential for us to understand these aspects of the tongue in order to properly address its nature. Without understanding these basic principles, we’ll be floundering in light of its power. So here we go; three characteristics of the tongue. 1-The tongue influences and affects everybody – you know, when I first read this passage, I thought that it wasn’t really talking about me, and why should it? After I’m a pretty good guy. I don’t yell at bad drivers in the road, right? I don’t have outbursts of rage at people everywhere I go, I don’t even swear – when others can hear me. Surely this passage is talking about somebody else. I thought this until I caught the last part of verse 2. Did you catch it? It says “Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.” In other words, only a perfect person has their tongue completely in check. Now, as Christian’s, we all know who the only perfect person is right? It’s Jesus! Everybody else left on this planet, all 7 billion of us, still struggle with our tongues from time to time. Everybody for the worst criminal to Pastor Bob himself. Maybe we can’t always recognize it right away, but there’s definitely somewhere in everybody’s life where our words reign unchecked. That can look in many different ways in many different people. Maybe it lies in how you talk about others when they’re not around. Maybe your words cause disunity among your peers rather than unity. Maybe it lies in how you deal with your anger. There’s an endless amount of situations where we could inadvertently use our tongues for wrong, and this is a problem all of us suffer from. 2-The tongue has influence over our entire being – throughout verses 3-6, we can see a reoccurring theme in the passage where the tongue is compared to something small that has great influence, in verse three, the bits we put into a horse’s mouth, in verse 4, the rudder we use to steer a ship, and in verse 6, the little spark that starts a massive forest fire. In light of the Fort McMurray wildfire, I think we are all familiar with the immense power a wildfire has, and to think that all was started by one little spark. 80000 were displaced for weeks as a result of the one spark. The tongue is compared to something devastating like this for a reason. Our words have the power to build unity, trust, acceptance, and relationship, or they have the power to totally alienate someone. The tongue is a small part of the body, yes, but it’s influence is far greater then it’s stature, and it’s paramount that it’s effects not be ignored. 3-The tongue cannot be controlled – We see this idea developed in verses 7-8 of our passage, check it out. It says that “All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” In the message Bible, it makes this statement a bit differently. It says “You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue”. now let me ask you a question, how many of you guys out there have traded in your dog for a tiger? How many of you have tried to convince your mothers or spouse that this was a pretty neat idea? You wouldn’t adopt a tiger into your home! That’s crazy, those things are dangerous, but this verse is suggesting that we are better off with the tiger, then a piece of our own bodies. This picture really shows just how out of control our tongues can become, and how hopeless it can feel to deal with it on your own. Has anyone ever told you to just stop swearing? What about to just get your life under control? How helpful was that advice to you, really? Unfortunately, the tongue can’t be managed by our own means. We can’t bite down on out tongues every time we think something bad is going to happen, this kind of strategy will only weaken our resolve and wear us down till we’re exhausted. Unfortunately, we’re better off trying to tame a tiger then controlling the tongue. Unfortunately, the stakes are just so high when it comes to the effects of what we say. We can see in the next section of the passage, verses 9-12 the what happens when we don’t control our tongues; the fallout from a losing strategy, and how what we say and do can just become incredibly destructive to ourselves, and everything around us. Let’s take a look. The first result of a losing strategy is that it 1-It Affects our relationship of God. Verse 9-10 draw attention to this fact. Those who struggle with their tongues can become two face, hypocrites. To his face face, they praise God and worship Him, but behind His back their mouths spew evil, and they curse both Him and what He’s created. Simply put, it’s this sort of activity that cuts us off from the heart of God. See, God is holy, and because of that holiness, God has also called us to be holy, that is, set apart from sin. When we willfully allow sin a stronghold in our lives, we’re actually cutting ourselves off from the heart of God, and preventing Him from working in and through us. 2-It affects our relationship with others Now, I think sometimes it might be really easy to undermine the impact of our words, after all, sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. as much as all of us would like to believe that silly staying sometimes, I think we all know that this simply isn’t true. The reality is, our words actually have an incredible and lasting impact on the lives of others. With our words, we actually have the power to influence their lives and their future. Bullying has been an important issue in our society as of late, and what’s interesting is the amount of research that appears around it about negative effects of bullying. Now, when we tend to hear the word bullying, we tend to think of a big gang of boys shaking down the grade 3s for their lunch money, and while this is bullying, it’s important to remember that most bullies today don’t use their fists, but their words; and look at the effects. It’s clear that even our secular society understands the destructive power of our words. We can’t be naive about how our gossip or hurtful words can affect people; the stakes are too high. But that’s not the end of the story, bullying also has a notable impact on the bully as well. Take a look. Not only do our words effect the people around us, they also effects ourselves as well, which leads us to our third point 1-It effects ourselves. It says in verse 11-12 of our passage that an uncontrolled tongue “…destroys our entire being. Even though we would say it’s only one small part of our bodies, it changes everything.” See, it’s really easy to ignore a problem. We justify these little blind spots in our life with a statement something like “I have this, but I’m mostly a good person”, or “that’s just the way I am”. We take for granted how a small issue in our life can taint our entire being. Take this glass for example. When we look at this glass, nobody says that this is mostly water, and partly juice. In the same way, when we have unresolved sin in our lives, we can’t say that as tainted humans we are mostly good and somewhat bad. The evil that comes from our tongue effects our entire being. It taints who we are and prevents us from ever becoming the follower of Jesus we are called to be. Friends, I can’t say this more plainly. It can be easy to ignore a problem with how we use our words, but the fallout from this ignorance is just too detrimental. Simply put, this cannot be. This is not what God has called Christians to be. So what do we do? How do we respond to this issue? How do we cure the evil in a restless tongue? well, fortunately for us, Jesus already wrote the prescription. It says in Matthew 12:34 “…the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” See, our mouths are not the root of the issue at all, our hearts are! Our tongues don’t instigate the things we say, but rather, they act as a witness to what’s happening inside of your heart. The tongue can’t be thought of as the individual instigator for evil, but rather, as an exit point for it to emerge from your heart. It’s for this reason that Jesus doesn’t challenge His followers examine their mouths, but examine their hearts. So what’s going on in your heart? The heart is one of the core issues of our faith, and one of the reasons Jesus had to come and die in the first place. It says in Jeremiah 17:9 that the heart is “desperately wicked”. Every insult, lie, gossip, and snide remark emerges through our tongues directly from the heart. When it comes to our lives, the heart is instigator of our tongue, and when it comes to our relationship with God, our heart is what leads the charge of rebellion. To our human standards, it doesn’t seem like we are bad people, but when we compare ourselves to God, the difference is like night and day. Not many of us have seen God face to face, but those who have actually felt unworthy in his presence. The prophet Isaiah is one such man who appeared before God, and we know from His account in Isaiah 6 that he reported feeling shameful and guilty in God’s presence. Despite being a renowned prophet of God and a loyal follower of Him, Isaiah still was faced with his sinfulness when in the presence of God. To Him, the contrast in his shortcomings was nothing less than overwhelming. Here’s the good new though, it doesn’t have to be that way. Christ has written the prescription to a wicked heart, and that is the gospel! Christ came to earth and died for all of us, and through His sacrifice, He is able to restore us and clean our hearts! Because He came to earth, all of humanity is able to know the depravity of their hearts, and where they can go to get it restored. That offer is open to everybody here, today. If you struggle with your heart today; if you have a problem with anger, temptation, laziness, selfishness, or whatever else, know this; Christ came for you, and wants to transform your heart. 1-Learn to talk less, and listen more Something really strange happened when I turned 16, that is, everybody around me started getting their own car. Now, of course, being teenagers, this instantly turned into a competition. The thing is though, we didn’t compare who had the biggest engine, or the fastest car, we compared who had the biggest stereo. Now, I don’t mind telling you, my car stereo was something else. The system total power is 1200w. Inside the car, I have 6 infinity speakers, 2 tweeters, and one 10in subwoofer. It sounds rreeallyy nice! I also have some other features that I added to the system, like solar power, so I can run the stereo when the engines off, and remote start, so I can start the stereo from up to a mile away… I have to admit, I’m still not entirely sure why this was all cool, even three years later, but hey. So having all this stuff, you probably thought that the best times I’ve had in that car was the times that I drove for miles blasting the radio and singing along with friends, and while granted that kind of thing can be fun, my favorite memories of driving in that car was in quiet. Sometime when I was 19, the stereo broke. I just didn’t work anymore, and I had to go an entire week without the listening to the radio in the car. At the time, my commute time was between one and a half to two hours every day, and I couldn’t fill that time with noise. Now think about that if you were me. How would feel? Does the idea of that much quiet scare you? I’ve come to believe that we live in a world of continual talking. Just turn on the tv, and you will be filled with information, drama, entertainment, action, and gossip. For some of us, we fill our day with it. Every waking hour is filled with something, whether it be listening to music while we work, watching tv in the evening, or texting our friends all day, every part of our day is filled with just noise. Maybe for some of us, we’re even scared of being quiet, and we actively seek to drown it out, but in doing so, I think we can effectively drown out the Spirit of God in the process. God wants to work in each of our hearts. He wants to come in and transform it so radically, we won’t even recognize it once He is done, but we have to be receptive to it. Watching tv or listening to music aren’t bad things by themselves, but my question for you is, are you leaving time in your life for the quiet? See, I think it’s through the quiet time in our life that God really brings about transformation. It’s in these moments that the Spirit really speaks to you right on a heart level; convicting where your failures are and instructing you in the ways of God. See, the quiet time we spend with Him shouldn’t be something that we find scary or boring. God wants these times to be peaceful, reflective, thoughtful, and restful. It’s through our time spent in quiet that the Spirit of God really touches out hearts, and gives us the strengths to face the stresses of the day. If your struggling with the words you say; whether that be anger, gossip, selfishness, or unkindness, it might be a sign of a problem under neither. It might be a sign that God’s word isn’t getting the chance to touch your heart. As Christians, we need that. We need God’s word to fill our hearts in order for our mouths to overflow with His righteousness. 2-Seek to love others with what you say The gospel isn’t about a bunch of rules. Christian’s aren’t called to control their tongues for the purpose of checking off a box, but rather, for the purpose of showing God’s love to the people around us. God loved us, therefore we are called to love others to. When it comes to controlling our tongue, we often time forget this fact. We only think about the things we can’t do, and forget about how we are supposed to use our tongues. As Christians we’re supposed to encourage, inspire, accept, contribute, and love with our tongues. If we only focus on what we can’t do, we’re only getting half the picture. Just as the key to a wicked heart is to fill it with the word of God, so to the key to an uncontrolled tongue is to fill it with His love and righteousness. As Christians, we need God to fill our hearts with His word in order for our mouths to overflow with Godly righteousness. We’re going to move on into a time of communion soon, but before we do that, I really want to encourage all of you out there if God’s pressing something on your hearts to address right now that you take the time and deal with it. The reality is, all of us our guilty of misusing our tongue somewhere in our lives. Ask yourself, are you using your tongue in a God honoring way? Does your anger lead you to outbursts that hurt others? Do you talk about your friends, church family, or spouse around others in such a way that builds them up, or knocks them down? Are you a gossip? Do your words speak encouragement to others? Are you thankful for what you have, or do you whine and complain when things don’t go your way? Do you use your words to topple others opinions, or to affirm your love and acceptance of them? If you recognize any of those markers in your life, I want to encourage your right now, before you come to the table, to bring them before God; Ask for God’s forgiveness for your misuse of your tongue, and seek his guidance for healing. Maybe for some of you out there can’t think of anything, or feel that you have already dealt with these issues in your life. For you, I want to challenge you to seek a way that you can use your tongue to encourage somebody else today. Following God is about more than just following a bunch rules. God doesn’t care about how well we follow a checklist, but He does care about Christian’s living out their faith. The entire book of James is about just that idea; living it out. God isn’t worried about what you can’t do and shouldn’t do. He doesn’t want Christians to be a group of people who don’t swear, and don’t insult others, but rather, God is calling his followers to become people who do. People who encourage each other, and build them up with their words. People who seek unity with the people around them, and speak words of thankfulness with what they have. Christians are called to be people who love. People who fill their hearts with His word, so that their mouths overflow with His righteousness.