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Taking on Our Tongue Trouble

Notes & Transcripts

Christianity Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Part 7: Taking on Our Tongue Trouble

James 3:1-12

Sermon by Rick Crandall

Grayson Baptist Church - March 25, 2012

*Have you had any trouble with your tongue trouble this week?

-Did you say some things you just shouldn’t have said?

-What about the things you really should have said, but didn’t?

*All of us have tongue trouble from time to time, but God wants to help us. And James 3 is one of the best places to get that help. How does God help us here?

1. First, He stresses the peril of tongue trouble.

*So in vs. 1&2, James said:

1. My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.

2. For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.

*Verse 1 in the KJV says, “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.”

*James is mainly talking about preachers and teachers here, but what he says applies to all of us on some level. And what is the judgment or condemnation he mentions in vs. 1? -- Is he talking about losing our salvation? -- No.

*Here James is talking about the chastening Hand of God that we see in Hebrews 12:4-7, which tells believers:

4. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.

5. And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;

6. For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives."

7. If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?

*James is also reminding us of the judgment seat of Christ, as he will do again in James 5:9, where he said: “Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!”

*In Romans 14:10-12, the Apostle Paul also warned us about the judgment seat of Christ. -- There Paul asked:

10. . . . Why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

11. For it is written: "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God."

12. So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.

*God cares about what we say, so He stresses the peril of tongue trouble.

2. Then He shows us the power of our tongues.

*And the Lord does this starting in vs. 3, where James said:

3. Indeed, we put bits in horses' mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body.

4. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires.

5. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. . .

*God wants us to know here that your tongue has great power for good -- or for evil.

[1] Your tongue has the power to change the whole direction of your life. That’s why James reminds us that little things can have great power.

-In vs. 3 he gives illustration of the bit in horse’s mouth.

-In vs. 4 he gives illustration of a ship’s rudder.

*Little things that can change the direction of big things. Tim George gave the example of two warships that had the largest full-load displacement in the world: U.S. Navy aircraft carriers.

*The USS Nimitz and Dwight D. Eisenhower each weigh about 91,000 tons.

-They are over 1,000 feet long and can travel over 30 knots per hour, powered by engines that can generate 280,000 horsepower.

*Each of those carriers is manned by a crew of 6,100. But as big as these ships are, they are both turned by one man steering a rudder 1/1000th the size of the ship. A tiny rudder can change the direction of those great ships. 1)

*And your tiny tongue can change the whole direction of your life.

-If you don’t believe it, just think about cussing your boss out at work.

-Or think back to the time when you said those two little words: “I do.”

*Your tongue has the power to change the whole direction of your life.

[2] And in vs. 5&6, your tongue can bring on disaster. Here James said:

5. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!

6. And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.

*In vs. 5&6, the Lord gives us the illustration of a little fire getting out of control. One of the most famous examples happened on Oct. 8, 1871. About 8:30 that night, Mrs. O’Leary was milking her cow.

*She had a little oil lamp with her. It was just a little flickering flame. But when the lamp was knocked over, presumably by her cow, it spread to a little patch of hay. Soon, the whole stable was on fire, and the next building and the next.

*Before the Great Chicago Fire was over it had devastated an area one mile wide and three miles long. Over half the city was destroyed: 17,500 buildings. Three hundred people died and 125,000 people were left homeless. (1)

*It all started from a tiny flame. And here God warns us that our tongues have the same kind of destructive power.

-God cares about what we say, so He shows us the power of our tongues.

3. And He stresses the poison in our tongues.

*As James said in vs. 7&8:

7. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind.

8. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.

*Our tongues can be full of deadly poison. How do we spread the poison?

[1] One way is with gossip.

*Frank Herrington told about a full-page ad he saw in the Wall St. Journal. It was titled “The Snake that Poisons Everybody” and it went something like this:

-“It topples governments, wrecks marriages, ruins careers, destroys reputations; causes heartaches, nightmares, indigestion; spawns suspicion, generates grief, dispatches innocent people to cry on their pillows. Even its name hisses. It's called gossip: Office gossip, shop gossip, party gossip. It makes headlines and headaches. Before you repeat a story, ask yourself: Is it true? Is it fair? Is it necessary? -- If not, keep silent.” (2)

*We spread tongue poison with gossip.

[2] But also with our angry, bitter, hateful words. That’s why back in chapter 1, James said:

19. So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath;

20. for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

[3] Another way to spread tongue poison is through unjust or excessive criticism.

*God’s Word makes this point in James 4:11&12. Here James gave this warning:

11. Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.

12. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?

[4] We also spread the poison with dishonesty. In chapter 5, James will tell us to let our “yes” be “yes” and our “no” be “no.” In other words: -Be honest

*I like the story Rick Stacy told about a lady who went to her butcher to buy a chicken for her family’s dinner. Well, he only had one chicken left. The lady asked him to weigh it and it was on the small side. So she asked him if he had a bigger chicken and he said: “Sure.”

*Then he took the chicken with him into the back room. A minute later he came back with the same chicken and laid it on the scale along with a little extra pressure from his thumb. He thought he had it made until the lady said, “I’ll take both chickens.” (3)

Ouch! -- Do you think she ever went back to that butcher?

*On a serious note, Proverbs 6:17 tells us that God hates a lying tongue. -- Why?

-Why is honesty so important? -- Because trust is the foundation of all healthy relationships. Once you find out that someone has been dishonest with you, it is very hard to rebuild that trust. Yes there is forgiveness, grace and mercy.

*But broken trust is hard to rebuild. And trust is the foundation of all healthy relationships, so God wants us to be honest.

*We’ve seen several kinds of poison from our tongues: Gossip, angry, hateful words, excessive criticism, lies. And we could mention more. No wonder Richard Tow was struck by this little poem:

“I’m careful of the words I say

to keep them soft and sweet,

I never know from day to day

which ones I’ll have to eat.” (4)

*God cares about what we say, so He stresses the poison in our tongues.

4. And He tries to push us away from tongue trouble.

*God’s Word does this in vs. 9-12. There James said:

9. With it (with our tongue) we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.

10. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.

11. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?

12. Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.

*Remember that James is talking to believers here. And he knows that sometimes we curse men with the same tongue we use to bless God. James says: “Church, it ought not to be that way!”

*Then James gives us a big push away from our sin. And he does it with four more examples from nature, four things that just can’t be:

-Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?

-Can a fig tree bear olives?

-Can a grapevine bear figs?

-Can a spring give both salt water and fresh?

*Of course the answer is “No, no, no, and no.”

-God cares about what we say, so He pushes us away from tongue trouble.

5. And He supplies the power we need over tongue trouble.

*We can find the power we need back in vs. 8&9. Here James said:

8. . . No man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.

9. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.

*No man can tame his tongue by himself. But James shows us blessing God the Father in vs. 9. And if we are Christians, we bless God as OUR Father.

This reminds us that Christians have a source of help that unbelievers cannot imagine. We can’t control our tongues, but the Lord can. And He can surely help us!

*Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay the price for all of our sins. That includes all the things we shouldn’t have said, and all of the things we should have said, but didn’t. Jesus died for all of our sins. Three days later He rose again in complete victory over sin and death.

*When we turn to God and trust in the cross of Christ, when we open our hearts to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord, then our sins are forgiven.

-We are born again with a new nature.

-We receive the gift of eternal life.

-And the Spirit of God comes to live in our hearts.

*Then the Lord begins to get hold of our tongue. He helps us stop from saying the wrong things. And He helps us start to say the right things.

-Jesus Christ can and will change our lives!

*In Oct. of 1995 “Christianity Today” had an article written by Harold Miller. He told about the changes God brought to the natives in the Amazon basin of Peru.

*Miller wrote: “Just one generation ago these were fearful, aggressive, and animistic people. All of their contacts with outsiders were marked by violence. -- But now they’ve been transformed.

*One missionary writes that since embracing faith in Christ, the men of those tribes are more tender with their wives and children. These native believers have problems like Christians anywhere else. But they, more than most, can appreciate the difference between ‘before’ and ‘after’ Christ.

*An anthropologist recently visited the Bora people and started criticizing the missionaries. He said: ‘Christianity is for the white man. You people should go back to your old religion and your old ways.’

*One of the Bora church leaders looked at the anthropologist with righteous indignation. Then he said: ‘Yes, and if we did, -- you’d be the first one in the pot!’” (5)

*Jesus Christ can change us! Like the Bora Christians, Jesus can change what goes in our mouths. And He can surely change what comes out of our mouths.

-Let Him do it.

*Let’s pray like David prayed in Psalm 19:14: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.

*Would you please bow for prayer.

1. Adapted from SermonCentral sermon “The Power of the Tongue” by Tim George - James 3:1-12

2. Adapted from Wall Street Journal ad placed by United Technologies (Found in sermon by Frank Harrington)

3. SermonCentral illustration contributed by Rick Stacy

4. SermonCentral sermon “Loose Lips Sink Ships” by Richard Tow - James 3:1-12

5. SermonCentral illustration contributed by: Harold Miller (Source “Christianity Today” - Oct. 2, 1995 - p. 29)

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