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Why Do I Say the Things I Say?

Taming the Tongue: Week 1  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Introduction to Course: Every Fire Begins with a Spark

Proverbs 18:21 ESV
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
James 3:2–12 ESV
2 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. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 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. 5 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! 6 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. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

The Great Fire of London

After being devastated from a year-long outbreak of the bubonic plague, London was finally returning to normal. Shops were reopening, and people were once again walking freely about the streets. This same year, however, had been very dry, and the crowded, wooded structures of London were tender-dry. [Susan Wise Bauer. The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, vol. 3, Early Modern Times (Charles City, VA: Peace Hill Press, 2004), 124-126. Most this narration of the story was sourced here.]
Then one night in September of 1666, as the story is told, a bakery caught fire, as one little coal fell out of the fire unnoticed, and it began to burn some wood nearby. Soon, the entire bakery was in flames, and the fire began to spread to the structures nearby. Some poor decisions were made by the Lord Mayor of London, as he spoke in a rash and crass manner about the insignificance of the fire. Within a very short-time of him leaving the scene of the fire, the blaze began to burn out of control.
As the fire spread across structures, it approached the ship-builders house, which contained barrels of tar used to seal the seems of ships. When the fire reached this home, the barrels exploded, blowing the roof of the house off! Fire rose into the air, and the burning pieces of shingles and wood flew out and caught other nearby houses on fire.
Soon the fire spread across the city. The Lord Mayor would live to regret his thoughtless and rash decision to ignore the fire. The fire went on to burn for three days until the wind died down and the firefighting efforts started to work. But by the end of the blaze, most of London had been burned, which included an estimated 13,000 homes, almost a hundred churches, and almost all official buildings. The city was left in ruin.
All it took was one unguarded fire, one hot coal rolling out, and one poorly spoken decision to unleash devastation on a whole city. And James tells us this is exactly the way our tongues work. With our tongues we can start great fires and wreak havoc on our lives and the lives of others.
This is a sin that affects every single person in this room. Every single person. Even if we exercise great self-control in our lives, we all know that our tongues are nearly impossible to contain at every moment of every day. Even James admits that he stumbles in what he says because he also is not perfect. Only a perfect man can speak without sinning all the time. And there has only been one man, Jesus, that has lived his whole life without stumbling in his speech.
List the top three ways you struggle with taming your tongue. (Use Clark’s attached chart for help on categories if you are not sure how to answer.)
[1] Susan Wise Bauer. The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, vol. 3, Early Modern Times (Charles City, VA: Peace Hill Press, 2004), 124-126. Most this narration of the story was sourced here.
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What are your top three strengths in speaking life to others? (Use Clark’s attached chart for help on categories if you are not sure how to answer.)
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What fires have you started in your life with the spark of an uncontrolled tongue in the last month?

You Are the Problem

As you can see, the title of this morning’s class is, “Why Do I Say the Things I Say?” The answer to this question is both straight-forward and complex.
Let’s start with the straight-forward answer: the problem is in you!
Jesus said:
Luke 6:43–45 ESV
43 “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
Matthew 15:18–20 ESV
18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”
:-45
Illustration: Squeezing the sponge
If the problem is in your own heart, this means that when you say things that should not have been said:
You cannot shift the blame to another person.
You cannot shift the blame to your circumstances.
You must take full responsibility for every word that comes out of your mouth.
In what ways do you tend to shift blame to other people or circumstances when you lose control of your tongue? Why do you think you do that?
Is there anyone you have hurt with your words recently or not-so-recently to whom you need to take responsibility, repent, ask forgiveness, and see to reconcile the relationship? List the names below and try to contact them this week.
Illustration: I come from a long day. I’m hungry (more like hangry), tired, and feeling generally annoyed. We sit down for dinner, which my wife has spent the last hour-and-a-half preparing. Not only do I not show appreciation, I make a negative remark about not being the mood to eat what she’s prepared. When she is hurt, I then react that I didn’t mean it that way, and she shouldn’t have taken it that way.
It’s certainly not my fault! She didn’t ask me what I wanted to eat, and there are about 20 reasons why I am justifiably grouchy right now. The one thing I am sure of is that everything I have said or not said was the right way to handle the situation. This is not my fault!
WRONG. After about 15 minutes of holding my position, I realize that I have been seeing everything backwards. It was not her fault for fixing something I wasn’t in the mood for: it was my fault for not being grateful and thankful.
My unloving words also were not caused by my stressful day: it was my fault for not casting my burden upon the Lord, asking Him for strength and peace, and then coming home with a heart full of gratitude for all the blessings in my life.
It’s time to repent…again.

I know I’m the problem, but I don’t understand why I react the way I do

So, if that’s the straight-forward answer (that the problem is in you!), we now come to the complex answer: We’re so messed up, so bent towards sin, we don’t even know why we react the way we do a lot of the time.
Proverbs 18:4 ESV
The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.
We need healing at the deepest levels: we need to be made new. We need a new heart.
We need healing at the deepest levels: we need to be made new. We need a new heart.
There are ways that we have learned to speak, to be silent, to lash out, to bottle up, to criticize, or to flatter that must be radically changed if we are to glorify God with our words.
We know that we are not inherently good: we really all get this. Don’t believe anyone who tells you differently. You know how many things you have thought or said in the last week that did not measure up to God’s standard of holiness.
How then, do we become the good person who produces good out of the good treasure in his heart?
What it takes to produce life-giving speech is something that must come from outside of us and then transform us into something new. And this power to produce good fruit comes from a changed heart that is created by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. Truly good works are impossible without this heart-changing faith.
This heart-changing faith comes when Christ pours out his Spirit in us: then we have union with Christ. The prophet Ezekiel in the Old Testament prophesied what we can experience today because of Jesus Christ. He proclaimed:
Ezekiel 36:26–27 ESV
26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
The fulfillment of this word came when the resurrected Christ, having defeated death and sin, ascended to the right hand of the Father. And he poured out His Spirit on all who repent, are baptized, and put their faith in Jesus Christ, receiving the forgiveness of sins.
And once you are in Christ, you are a new creation. Paul wrote:
2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
And, as those who are made new, purchased by the blood of Christ, we are to leave behind our old and sinful ways.
Rather, we are to live and speak in ways that bring glory to God by the grace given to us. This includes our words.
1 Peter 2:1–2 ESV
1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—
1 Peter 2:1–5 ESV
1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. 4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:1–3 ESV
1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
1 Peter 2:1-5
Ephesians 4:29 ESV
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Our new heart is able to receive and give the grace of God. This new heart will produce words that give life to those around us.
In what ways do your words and interactions with others show evidence of your new heart?
How has your speech become more gracious over the past year? If it has not improved, why do you think that is?
In what ways have you be neglecting the power of the Holy Spirit in your life to speak with gracious words?
What unhealthy patterns of speech need to be undone in your life?

Leaving Behind Old Ways of Speaking

If you came to feel good about yourself this morning, you picked the wrong morning. We are all sinners in our speech. But, we are all here so that we can begin to move in the right direction. We are called to put away these sinful ways to speaking to others.
Our choice of words matters, the truth matters, timing matters, attitude matters, and the intent behind our words matters. The wisdom that it takes to speak simultaneously with truth and love is supernatural.
As we have read, the potential for damage from our sinful words is horrific, like a great forest fire, according to James, or like a “scorching fire” according to . And we have all experienced the heat of these flames when we have spoken an angry word, let a rash judgment slip out, or intentionally made a cutting remark to a friend or family member.
Serious reflection on our words should lead to serious confession of the sins of our lips to the Lord. It should lead us to be in awe of His great mercy towards us. It should lead us to fear the Lord.
Serious reflection on our words should lead to serious confession of the sins of our lips to the Lord.
Matthew 12:34–37 ESV
34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Did you hear that? Every careless word spoken will be brought into judgement. And it is by our words that we will be justified or condemned. Oh, we need to fear the Lord more in every word we speak.
There are almost innumerable ways we can sin with our lips. I went through the scriptures in Proverbs that address our speech, and I came up with 21 different types of speech that would fall under the category of speech that leads to death, or sinful speech.
1. Lying or false witness
2. Sowing discord (stirring up conflict)
3. Perverse speech
4. Hostile speech
5. Hateful speech
6. Unguarded speech
7. Speech that lacks sense
8. Speech that tears down the community
9. Speech that belittles others
10.Slander (false statements to harm the reputation of another)
11.Rash words (lack of deliberation or caution – hasty)
12.Harsh words (excessively critical or negative)
13.Foolish speech (lack of judgment or discretion)
14.The Whisperer (Gossip – revealing personal or sensational facts about others or spreading rumors or reports of an intimate nature)
15.Loving your own opinions
16.Speaking before listening
17.The Scoffer (a mocker, lacks respect or reverence, or despises others)
18.The Meddler (you get into other people’s business)
19.Quarrelsome (someone who likes to get into petty arguments or disagreements)
20.Conceals sin (by our words, we make it sound like we have no sin)
Flattery (praising others excessively from motives of self-interest)
Flattery (praising others excessively from motives of self-interest)
21.Flattery (praising others excessively from motives of self-interest)
These are ways of speaking God is calling us to leave behind!
Most of us know that we should not speak in most of these ways, and we know when we have crossed the line.
But there is one category above that I want to highlight this morning: unguarded speech.

Unguarded Speech

We bring death through our speech by not guarding, or restraining, our speech. We do not have the right to say whatever we want to say whenever we want to say it.
We do not have the right to say whatever we want to say whenever we want to say it.
A great sign of wisdom is knowing when to simply not say anything. How many times have we gotten ourselves in trouble by blabbering on when we should have just not said anything?
Proverbs 10:19 ESV
When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.
says:
This means that the more you talk, the more you sin! A person who understands the sinfulness of his own heart will naturally be careful about how much he speaks, knowing that what flows out naturally might not be holy.
“When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”
This means that the more you talk, the more you sin! A person who understands the sinfulness of his own heart will naturally be careful about how much he speaks, knowing that what flows out naturally might not be holy.
Proverbs 13:3 ESV
Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.
Likewise, says:
The connotation in the Hebrew here, according to one commentator, is that the speech that ruins this person here is indiscreet and lewd, not conforming to proper social norms. This ruin comes from a general lack of caution regarding your speech.
“Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.”
The connotation in the Hebrew here, according to one commentator, is that the speech that ruins this person here is indiscreet and lewd, not conforming to proper social norms. This ruin comes from a general lack of caution regarding your speech.
Proverbs 15:28 ESV
The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.
Then, in , we read:
“The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.”
The righteous person takes the time to answer well, to consider how and what to say at the appropriate time. The wicked person is inconsiderate, emotional, and thoughtless in their responses to others.
The righteous person takes the time to answer well, to consider how and what to say at the appropriate time. The wicked person is inconsiderate, emotional, and thoughtless in their responses to others.
Proverbs 29:20 ESV
Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
Last, tells us:
“Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”
Do not be too quick to speak. Take the time to answer appropriately.
Do not be too quick to speak. Take the time to answer appropriately.
So how do you know if this describes you?
Some of you might inherently know that you are guilty of this, but my guess is that many of you have no idea that your speech is unguarded. In fact, you might habitually blame others’ reactions to your speech rather than admit your speech is the problem.
If you find yourself often saying things like the following, you might be guilty of unguarded speech:
“I’m just trying to be real…”
“I’m just sayin’…”
“I just call it like I see it…”
“That person is just too sensitive…”
“I just needed to vent…”
“They just don’t get my humor…”
“I’m tired of playing games…”
“Sorry, word vomit…”
“I’m just thinking out loud…”
“Sorry, sometimes I just don’t have a filter…”
There is no excuse for speaking without considering the effect our words will have on those around us.
James 1:26 ESV
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.
Is the sin of unguarded speech a new category for you? In what ways have you left your mouth unguarded? How can you change this?
Is the sin of unguarded speech a new category for you? In what ways have you left your mouth unguarded? How can you change this?

Embracing New Ways of Speaking

Embracing New Ways of Speaking

We are not just called away from sinful speech that brings death, we are called to sanctified speech that gives life.
Proverbs
Proverbs 13:14 ESV
The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.
Like the long list of patterns of sinful speech, there is also a long list of categories of righteous speech in the Bible. I think it is helpful to list them. Here is a list from Proverbs:
Like the long list of patterns of sinful speech, there is also a long list of categories of righteous speech in the Bible. I think it is helpful to list them. Here is a list from Proverbs:
1. True and honest speech
2. Loving speech
3. Speech that promotes understanding
4. Speech that spreads knowledge
5. Restrained and guarded speech
6. Speech that feeds others
7. Right and acceptable speech
8. Speech that blesses the community
9. Speech that displays that a person is trustworthy with information
10.Speech that brings healing to others
11.Speech that is like a fountain of life
12.Gentle speech
13.Speech that is fitting or qualified for the moment (apt)
14.Timely speech
15.Gracious speech
16.Humble speech
17.The confession of sins
18.Rebukes that give life to others
Our words should be filled with what is true, kind, helpful, necessary, thoughtful, life-giving, fitting, and timely.
James 3:17 ESV
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
List three life-giving ways of speaking that you are going to incorporate into your daily life this week:
James 3:14 ESV
But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.
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Conclusion: Fountain or Fire?

So what do you do if you are looking around right now and all you see are the raging, scorching fires that were sparked by your own sinful words?
If these or other fires are burning in your life, today is the day to seek peace and reconciliation.
Start this reconciliation process by:
Confessing your sins to God and to the people you have hurt
Asking for their forgiveness.
Asking God to create a clean heart in you and to renew a right spirit within you, humbly acknowledging your own sin and powerlessness to change without him.
Taking full responsibility for every word that you speak or do not speak. You need to stop making excuses for yourself.
It is time to lay hold of the grace of God to become a fountain of life that begins to extinguish the fires around you. When you are operating in the wisdom of God, you will begin to promote peace. Those winds that are feeding the raging fires set by your tongue will begin to die down, and the firefighting measures will begin to quiet the flames.
Then you can start the process of rebuilding all that has been lost and burned to the ground.
We are all sowing to a harvest, either a harvest of life and righteousness or a harvest of death and wickedness.
By grace, we are no longer marked by lying, but we are men and women of truth.
“Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right, for my mouth will utter truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips.”
If you love the power of your tongue to bring life, you will reap a harvest of righteousness that is sown in peace. If you love the power of your tongue to bring death, then you will reap a harvest of death that is sown in discord. Sow to the harvest you want to reap.
By the grace of God, let your mouth be filled with words that give life to every single person around you.
By grace, we learn to restrain our words, considering what is true, kind and helpful. We become men and women of understanding, as spoken of in :
When you look around at the relationships in your life, do you see healthy growth or scorched earth? Take a moment of serious reflection. If your closest relationships are heading towards an ash heap, please take immediate action. You need to plead with the Lord for a new heart, new desires, and a new way of speaking.
“Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.”
By grace, we reject gossip and slander. Instead, we keep things covered out of love and respect for one another. As says:
“Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.”
By grace, we leave behind reckless and rash speech, and instead we speak with wisdom that brings healing, as it says in :
“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
By grace, we lead people away from death and to life through our words. says:
“The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.”
By grace, we lovingly learn to speak to others in a fitting and timely way, as teaches:
“To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is!”
Our words should be filled with what is true, kind, helpful, necessary, thoughtful, life-giving, fitting, and timely.
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