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Jame 3 Taming the Tongue - transcript

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I remember the images, I’m not that old, but I remember the images of the cold war.  I remember the images of people, those videos that they used to put on in the school that told you when the siren sounds in town you dive under your desk.  I remember that noisy old siren and wondering how is that going to help if there is a nuclear bomb.  But they tested that thing faithfully twice a year and twice a year we all crawled under our desk.  We were all afraid of a tiny little atom being split in our neighbourhood.  We were building bomb shelters.  We were doing all kinds of crazy things during the cold war.  But this atom is split everyday down in Pickering and up in Kincardine.  And it’s used for good.  Such a tiny powerful thing that can be terrifying and cause great destruction or can turn the lights on and turn the TV on.  I was checking on the news and I saw one of the things they were saying was that the standard mailing envelope has a natural weave where it has pores of a 100 microns-100 microns.  I thought ok well that’s novel.  Where’s the point going?  And then they said that an anthrax spore is 5 microns.  It’s like carrying anthrax in a sieve and what they were saying was this tiny little itty bitty anthrax spore as your letters are munched through the machines and going through sorters blown by fans and read by machines is being jostled about and -- this tiny little spore is reeking havoc throughout the United States.  Powerful but small.  Even look at TNT blowing a stump out of somebody’s yard or making the highway a little wider or packed into a bomb.  These things are so small but yet so powerful.  James wants us to know that our tongue is like an atom are we going to use for good or are we leaving radioactive residue everywhere we go.  Please turn with me to James chapter 3 that’s where I’ll be reading from this morning, beginning at verse 1.


James 3:1 –12.

Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

 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.

 3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.

 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.

 5 Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.

 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

 7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man,

 8 but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

 9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness.

 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.

 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?

 12 My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can salt spring produce fresh water


 If you’ve ever got up in the night, if you’ve got children especially, but if you’ve ever got up in the night to do that little raid on the fridge, don’t want to turn on the lights, don’t want to alert the wife, you tip toe down the hall and just when you step out into the hallway and you step on a leggo block.  This thing packs a whollap I’m telling you.  Especially in the middle of the night.  Sometimes we’re surprised at how much pain or how much influence on our lives such a small piece has.  Have you ever said something that blew up in your face?  Ever had a conversation the words came out of your mouth and went boom right in front of you.  And oh how dearly you wished to drag them back in before.  Have you ever been on the end of receiving that bomb?  When someone who has your trust or someone you’ve respected has just hammered you out of nowhere with their tongue, speaking untruth, speaking something vile, and just boom. 


Life tells us that even the smallest things can have the greatest influence and power.  As Christians we need to harness the energy of our tongue.  We need to take that tongue that has the power to direct, the power to destroy, and focus it on a power to delight. 



We’re staying within the theme that Pastor Marshall has laid out.  If you’ve got your collector card series, this is going to be a great referenceMake sure that you keep these on hand and look at the follow up questions and really think about the effect on your life, what it is to walk the talk.

James opens this section with the first two verses.  James 3:1-2.   As Christians we’re to share our faith.  That’s a gimme-the great commission.  We’re all teachers of some sort and we need to know that the primary way we convey our message is through our mouth.  And with that James is saying there’s a sobering responsibility here.  Do you understand what it means to be a teacher?  Do you understand what it means to engage your tongue in this business?  It’s not to steer everyone away from being a teacher, it’s saying, do you understand the responsibility for what comes out of your mouth?  James 1:19-20.  We are commanded to share God’s word.  We are commanded to teach, to make disciples.  We’ve got to be careful.  The tongue can lead the whole person. “ If any man is never at fault in what he says he is a perfect man.”  We need to save this tongue from evil and use it for the purposes of praising, preaching, presenting the gospel.  Use it to accomplish a task.  First thing we’re going to look at is that James says in taming the tongue we require the understanding of it’s power to direct.


James 3:3-4 – Power to Direct

James 3:3 I should give this part over to Lindsay (horse trainer in congregation) and you can come up and talk to us about turning those horses around.  But those great majestic animals, a horse, so beautiful and if you’ve ever galloped on a horse, you’ll give up everything else for excitement-almost a motorcycle but the power of a horse, the amazing feeling of galloping on a horse and feeling that push forward.  What an amazing power!  And simply by pulling the rein or against his neck whether your western or eastern, I’ll give you the translation.  But by pulling the bit you can turn that whole beautiful animal, that powerful beast and turn them.  And we can make that horse worthy to accomplish a task.  You can imagine at a horse race if they opened the gate and the horses all went wherever they wanted.  It doesn’t matter how great a horse you’ve got if you can’t follow the path, if you can’t accomplish what needs to be done.  I love this story.  My Dad took us out to Edmonton and decided he was going to take us to this ranch and we were going to go horseback riding.  He never set his stirrups before we left and they were too long.  And we turned the first corner and the guy says, “Let’s go!”  and while the horse already knew the routine-wheeeey….away we went.  He’s bouncing around in his saddle.  It was horrible.  I tried not to laugh.  But he was out of control.  We got back to the barn and ( my dad’s probably not a great horseman), he can’t hear me so it’s ok I said that; but the horse decided you know it’s kind of hot out here, I’m going into the barn.  And the barn has a door just high enough for me to get in.  So I saw my dad being really affectionate, hugging his horse by the neck going eah…but he couldn’t turn the horse.  He didn’t know how to make that horse turn with the bit.  There are consequences to going the wrong direction.  There are consequences to losing that power to direct, winding up place we don’t want to be.  Heading someplace you just didn’t intend.  And as Christians we have to guard our lives against that.  If we’re going to “walk the talk”, our tongue is setting our course.  When you look at James 3:4.   The tongue has the power of control.  It can steer us into trouble and it can steer us out of trouble.  Our tongue can take us on a voyage like the Titanic or it can take us on a cruise.  We can go into spiritually calm waters of Christ’s love and protection or into the tumultuous storms of this world.  So many lives get run up on the rocks because we don’t guard the tongue and recognize it’s absolute power to direct us.  The tongue has the power of life and death and those who love it will eat it’s fruit, Proverbs 18.  The tongue has the power of life and death.  The tongue has the power to set the direction in our life.  To tame our tongue we must understand this and plot a course.  And that means understanding how we’re going to use our tongue to direct.  Where are we going to allow it to lead us?  This week we’re going to have to remember the impact of what comes out of my mouth may change the direction of my life.  C.S.Lewis says in Mere Christianity, “In every decision we make, we either become a little more hellish or a little more heavenly” – “ In every decision we make , we become a little more hellish or a little more heavenly.” We need to think about the course we’re plotting with our tongue.  Taming the tongue requires that we understand that it has the power to direct.  Taming the tongue also requires that we understand that it has the power to destroy.

Power to Destroy 3:5-8

James 3:5-6  The tongue is also a fire.  Without wood it says in Proverbs 26:20 “without wood a fire goes out, without gossip a quarrel dies down.  As charcoal to embers and as wood to a fire so is quarrelsome man for kindling strife.”   After the wars in London so many of the booksellers were decimated that it’s hard to find antique books in London even to this day.  Because fire raged through and destroyed a huge collection, a marvelous tale of history, of great authors and writers and contributions were just burnt up like that.  We must have all seen the California fires of years past.  The scorched earth.  Just burnt through houses, burnt through trees, melted highways and dropped bridges.  The power of fire is incredible.  The Chicago fire, they still talk about it in Chicago.  I’m not sure anyone is still alive that saw it.  But it was huge; it decimated the core of that city.  Scorched earth.  But not only does a fire have heat damage but there’s that smell.  You know that morning after the campfire and you get up and you go to put that sweatshirt or coat back on and you go…. agh!  That’s an absolutely rotten stinking smell.  The fire of hell that burns in gossip leave even a worse stench behind.  On Broadway there’s this charred spot where yesterday somebody came up to share a tidbit with someone and you can still smell the waft.  How about at Zellers, did any of us go up and make an innocent comment yesterday, where we were saying something in our lives that we don’t know the whole story.  It’s irrelevant information but man I want to share, it’s juicy.  It’s a fire that I just want to spread.  Is there a smell and a stench where you were talking to someone at Zellers yesterday.  How about the foyer out here?  I’ll tell you the truth when I was preparing this sermon this part hammered me.  The number to times I’ve stood in that foyer and had someone come up and tug my shoulder to tell me something.  Man that’s your bother or your sister, what are you doing!  Have you ever done it?  I mean, we’ve all slipped.  Let’s come to that point.  I mean I’ve made the mistake and said something and after go, oh Lord forgive me.  It’s such a horrible weapon.  We have to purge it from our church.  This is the family.  And then we have to go out and we have to purge it from our community.  If it’s not important and it’s not relevant, don’t say it.  Don’t ever speak information about another human being that could even be marginally misconstrued.  There’s a lot of burn, a lot of hurt, and a lot of stench that comes with gossip.  And as a church we have to lead by example in our community.  And it starts here and it radiates out. 

James 3:7& 8 says that,   Yeah sure we’ve tamed lions but I don’t go through African Lion Safari with the windows down.  I’m really afraid that that animal will come in and tear me to shreds.  But that’s the warning.  The tongue is like a wild animal.  Look at the damage it can inflict.  Are there snakes and lions loose in here this morning?  Is there anybody venomous?  We can’t tame the tongue but we can surrender it to God.  Understanding that the tongue has the power to destroy is understanding that we have to surrender our tongue to God.  There’s no way we do this on our own.  This week when you go out think about the fire and think about the wild animal with every conversation you have.  There’s an upshot.  James doesn’t quite approach it from the upshot but I thought this tongue that God’s given us can be used as a power to delight.  It says in

Power to Delight

James3: 9-10  Praising God, we come in and we worship and we throw our lives down before God and we pray and we read scripture but then we malign another human being, a human being made in God’s very image.  It’s hypocritical to praise God and to attack His image.  It doesn’t even make any sense.  Look at the contrast.  In our homes if you have a dog or cat you have a bowl down on the floor for the dog or the cat.  When company comes in you don’t slip that up on the table for your company to eat from.  That’s just nasty!  Vile even.  Yet we are so easily persuaded to use this plate, this offering plate, that we give our offering to God every Sunday and hopefully all through the week but then we’ll use that same plate to serve bad language, gossip, all of those things that come out of our mouth.  Look at what your serving God with next.  James calls it a fountain. 

James 11  Walkerton is a real good example here.  When you go to the tap and you turn it on and that’s cold and clear and you know it’s good water, like we do.  I don’t think anybody here is saying we don’t use our tap at all.  But when you know the water supply is good - yah kids go ahead grab a glass of water, make the juice whatever’s going on.  It’s a valuable thing.  A good water supply is a valuable thing.  A bad water supply however is valueless.  It’s useless.  What are you going to use it for?  Kids go make yourself a Kool-aid-I don’t think so.  The quandary in Walkerton was that they didn’t know if the water was good yet or still bad, good yet or still bad.  The testing and testing and testing and testing, and what was the water supply treated like because it was good and bad and good and bad.  It was treated as bad.  And that’s how the world views us.  Are we a good fountain, sharing the water of the living Christ or are we spewing poison or what’s the flavour of the day.  A good water supply is good a bad water supply is bad and one that flips back and forth is bad.  You can’t trust it, you can’t use it; it’s worthless.  This good water supply needs to pour out kindness, encouragement, prayer, forgiveness, confession.  The living water of Christ needs to flow from this fountain.  Let’s look at James 3:12,   Matthew 7: 16-20Thorns, grapes, olives.  What kind of tree are you?  What are you offering?  It’s inconsistent to offer both because nobody wants to take the gamble.  I’m going to reach in and get a thorn.   What kind of tree, what kind of fruit do we bear?  Pastor Earl went through a series on worship at the beginning of his time here with us and so much of worship is us giving to God all that we are, pouring out.  Our tongue needs to be engaged in bearing good fruit and giving good things back to God.  And it also needs to bear good things for the people around us, to make an impact in our life, to make an impact in our community, to be a reliable source of fruit, to be a stream of living water.  Taming the tongue requires that we engage its power to delight. 


The power to direct, James called it a bit or a rudder and it’s going to steer us one of two ways.  It’s going to steer us towards God or it’s going to steer us away from God.  It’s going to steer us in the way of Christian service or it’s going to steer us away to a corner.  It’s going to steer us to love or it’s going to steer us to hate.  There’s no middle ground.  You’re going to take one path or the other.  You’re going to become a little more hellish or Lord willing something a little more heavenly.  Every time you speak you set a new course.  Every word that comes out of your mouth sets a new course.  We have to train ourselves to listen to what direction did I change or make or am I still on the right  path.  Anybody  who’s a sailor knows if you doing this (demonstrating tacking cris-cross motion) across the lake it takes you a lot longer to get there.  It’s about straightening out our course and recognizing that the tongue has the power to direct and we need to give that tongue to God.  And we need to remember that it has the power to destroy like a fire or a wild animal, lit by hell itself.  When the words come out of your mouth, are you leaving scorched earth?  Are you tearing flesh from bone or have you extinguished that fire and don’t use it for that purpose.  Have you tamed that animal, have you offered it over to God?  And with the power to delight , James calls it a fountain and a tree.  Does Orangeville know that they have a fountain in the centre of town or over here?  But do they know this fountain exists where they can come for refreshing where they don’t have to test the quality of the water with each and every one of us they meet.  Do they know that there is consistency?  Do they know that this is a good water supply?  Let’s be that good water supply.  Let’s take it to heart to say anybody who meets anybody from Orangeville Baptist Church is going to say, oh wheew, safe to drink.  That’s a huge effort on everyone’s part but we have to do it.  What good is our witness if we’re not a reliable source of water and what kind of tree are we and what kind of fruit are we bearing for our community.  What kind of fruit are we bearing in our lives, what does God see?  Are there thorns among our fruit?  Are we strictly a thorn tree, I hope not.  But it’s inconsistent to have a tree that we can’t harvest for God, that God can’t use that fruit, can’t make impact in the community, can’t do the things He wants us to do with our lives.  What kind of tree are we?  I want to pray this morning in closing and in this prayer I want to offer collectively our tongue to God, put it on His alter and say Lord take this tongue, purify it.  May I be committed to using it for your service, may I be committed to you Lord and not misuse a gift You’ve given us a power something so incredibly powerful.  Let’s pray………. 

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