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Blessings & Curses

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Blessings & Curses

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Today we’re talking about talking, about communicating. Statistics show that women talk far more than men talk. Whether you’re a man or a woman, you’re bombarded with talking. TV, radio, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, emails, we’re constantly engaged by communication. James has a lot to teach us about it.
Today we’re talking about talking, about communicating. Statistics show that women talk far more than men talk. Whether you’re a man or a woman, you’re bombarded with talking. TV, radio, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, emails, we’re constantly engaged by communication. James has a lot to teach us about it.
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Words are powerful; with them we can encourage and also put down. Solomon says in that “the tongue has the power of life and death.” Consider how many young people are taking their own lives because people are bullying them, tearing them down, and discouraging them. There are hundreds and hundreds. It is so easy to belittle and ridicule. All it takes are a few keystrokes.
says “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Words can rip right into us. But words can also soothe, encourage and lift us.
Most of us are not prepared for any kind of verbal assault. I grew up learning, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” The thing is, most of the time, I wasn’t waging against sticks and stones, but actually against words, and they did hurt!
Words that were spoken years ago, can come back and shape us later in life. The things you do as a parent are shaped by what you heard as a child. If you were mocked for acting a certain way, before you know it, you’ll be careful to try to stop your child from acting like you did. But we shouldn’t have to do that. We should let our kids be kids, and find their own way, and build them up with our words and encourage them!
Most of our actions and reactions have to do with words we hear. Words can wound, or heal. All speaking is potentially dangerous, so be careful who you’re listening to. Be careful who you listen to.
Read verse 3
Renee’s cousin has horses. Her daughter, Chelsey loves riding her horse. It is amazing what she can get her horse to do. Have you ever been on a horse? They’re very tall. You feel like you’re way up there! It is amazing that with such a simple thing as a bit and bridle, you can direct where you want the horse to go. Amazing.
Read verse 4-5a
It is the same idea, stated again. Speech is powerful. But used without care, it’s dangerous.
Read 5b-10a
If you are a student of history, then you know that awesome and terrible things have happened because of the power of speech. Consider Hitler’s rise and the powerful use of speech and propaganda. He convinced people to do terrible things, and to think nothing of it!
That’s the truth of the holocaust. It’s the truth of abortion today. The people pushing for abortions use words that dehumanise, like ‘clump of cells, foetus.’ But it is a person, a baby has its own DNA, blood type, finger prints, beating heart, feels pain, the brain functions, everything indicates it is a unique, living human being. But powerful rhetoric has convinced countless people that it is nothing. They’ve dehumanised it. That the rights of the mother trump the rights of the child.
But this is where Christianity is different from the rest of the world. The power of Christianity isn’t in words, in rhetoric, or even in reasoned argument. It rests in the power of God. Even the apostle Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament, claims that he came, not with powerful words, not with wise words, but by a demonstration of God’s power. Do you worry about what to say to people who aren’t Christians? Stop worrying about it. It is about the Holy Spirit, in you, in them. Say what needs to be said, plainly, clearly, lovingly.
That’s our foundation, the power of God at work. Yes, we’ve had good preachers, teachers, apologists, but it is the Holy Spirit who changes hearts.
Words can bless, words can heal. Words can curse, words can hurt. Words tell us how we’re doing, spiritually.
Look again at verse 2 “We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.” One of the ways we stumble is in how we use our words. But if we are able to keep our words pure, our lives will be also.
Think about that. Be careful with words. The tongue never wears out. Notice that? As you grow older, there are things that you can’t do, that you could do before. A ninety year old, probably can’t sprint as fast as she could at 20. But the tongue is still as powerful at ninety as at 20.
James isn’t saying, wow, if you can just control your tongue, everything else will be peachy, you’ll have a pure life. Rather, he’s getting to the heart of the matter.
Listen to Jesus’ teaching in , “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” So, knowing that the average person spends a fifth of their life speaking, what do the words we say and write reveal about our hearts?
Why are words so powerful? Why do we take offense at people’s words? Why doesn’t the saying, “I’m rubber, you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you”, work? It doesn’t work because words connect our hearts to other people’s hearts. This is why we speak vows at weddings. They are promises, that bring out the feeling in our hearts. This is why other people’s opinions, other people’s words hurt. We can’t always choose whether or not to be offended. Sometimes the offense comes because the people who spoke to us matter deeply to us.
I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit. Particularly as it concerns Christians. Why do some people give up on church? Often it is because harsh words were spoken to them. Why is church different from any other place? It is because this should be a safe place, a place of encouragement. But it can easily become a place of criticism and discouragement, let us be very careful how we speak!
Words reveal our hearts. This is a gift from God. You don’t need to wonder what condition your heart is in. Not your physical heart, your spiritual, soul heart. Your words tell you. If you speak angry words, you have an angry heart. You can’t justify them based on circumstances, like not enough sleep, not enough coffee. Your words reveal your heart.
Or what if someone is really happy about something, they got a new car and you’re jealous, so you don’t want to share in their happiness, so you say things that deflect it. I prefer trucks, or, wow, those tires will cost a mint to replace, what are they, 22’s? It’s a passive aggressive way of knocking people down.
Do you talk about yourself? Do you really listen? What drives your words? Is it the need to be better than others? Is it a desire to learn more about the person you’re with?
What do your words reveal about you? If you explode in anger, even only a couple of times a month, you’re an angry person. If you tear people down, you’re a jealous person. If you are bitter, you’ll speak in such a way that poisons people’s lives.
So this is where the gospel comes in. Understanding our identity in Christ transforms our mouths, turning us into people who bless and heal, encourage and strengthen in our words, it sets us free to be glad!
If you have received Christ, if you understand what he’s done, what we’ll celebrate next Sunday, his death, fully paying for your sins, transforming you from enemy into saint, son of God. Then speak that to your heart right now. Say to yourself. I’m God’s son. God adopted me through Jesus’ blood.
That’s my identity, that’s what shapes my words. I don’t need to get angry, or use angry words when I don’t get things my way, because it isn’t about me. I don’t need to try to control or manipulate people, I just get to rejoice in who they are. If there’s someone who is better than I am at many things, I get to say, “Wow, that’s a gifted person!”
If you identify yourself on who you think you are, the best dad, the best boss, the best salesman, the best business owner, the best employee, the best pastor, the best church volunteer, you’ll need to tear people down in order to feel good about who you are, because they’re threatening your identity.
We do this. We’re constantly comparing ourselves to others. Why do we make such a big deal about certain sins? Because then we can pretend we’re better. If someone compliments someone else for doing a good job, we can so easily tear them down, by gossiping, saying something about them that might not even be true. Or if it is true, damaging that person’s reputation by saying it. You know, so and so is such a great preacher. Oh, yeah? I heard he had an account with Ashley Madison.
But when we’re grounded in Christ, we have confidence in our identity with him; we can build up and encourage. In fact, it will change how you interact with others. You’ll want to surround yourself with people who are better than you are, because you can celebrate their awesomeness without feeling threatened, your identity is safe in Christ.
But if it isn’t in Christ, you’ll look for weak people, people who are not as good as you are. So that you can feel better about yourself.
Rest in Christ’s identity. Rest in the knowledge that God is satisfied in you, as you are right now, not some future you, just you. He’ll use you for his glory, no matter what. Don’t compare yourself to others. If someone is better than you, are praise God that he’s doing good things through them.
So, ask yourself. Am I free to rejoice in others? Is my heart full of anger? Is it full of jealousy? Do I need to point out the weaknesses I can see in other people? Do I criticise other people, other churches, other businesses, other anything? Do I think I have the only special insight on all that is wrong with the world? If so, you need Christ. You need his identity, it will change how you see the world.
If you are confident in Christ, you’ll see the world differently. Everything will be awesome. You’ll rejoice in the good things that other people have. You’ll rejoice in everything because you are solid, sure in Christ.
Sometimes it is necessary to say a hard word, to bring a critique. Sometimes people are doing the wrong thing, and they need to be told that. It is hard. Sometimes hard words are a blessing. Proverbs says, the wounds of a friend are a gift from God. Sometimes we need to say, “You’re not being faithful here, you need to repent.”
This is my vision, what I would love to happen to us, to Springdale. I would love for us to be slow to speak. But when we do speak, that we’d be encouraging and building each and everyone up, “I see that you’re really growing in your faith, keep it up! I know praying out loud is hard, but you do great at it!”
Instead of merely thinking how great a person is, tell them! But before we can get there, we have to examine our mouths, our words. What do they say about us? Are you angry, bitter, jealous, desperate, sad, or needy?
This is good news. God loves you. He tells you “See how your words betray you? See how they are showing you your heart, that’s awesome, I can fix that in you! See how you’re trying to control everything? Stop, trust me. I’m the one in control. We need to confess, first to God, then to others.
If, in anger, you’ve spoken, or acted out, you need to confess to those who heard you. You can’t just say, “God I’m angry, help me not to be angry anymore.” You need to confess to those whom you’ve hurt in your anger.
Remember, faith works. Faith isn’t just believing, it is doing. It’s both. Trust that God’s transforming you. Trust your identity in him. Trust him. Then act. Be slow to speak. Choose your words carefully. Examine your heart. Examine your words, if they reveal something is wrong with your heart, deal with it. Confess to God and to others. Amen.
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