Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
Let’s start off this morning with a 2-day challenge.
I’m going to give you 7 things, and you decide if you think you could go 2 days (48 hours) without doing any of the following 7 things.
This is called “The Tongue Test”
Here it is…can you go 2 days without:
Complaining (I’m out of the running already)
Boasting about anything you’ve done lately
Gossiping or repeating bad information about someone else
Saying any words to someone else that could hurt them in any way
Defending or excuse yourself or behavior in any way
Using sarcasm is any way that could speak ill of someone
Lying in even the smallest degree.
How many of you think you could past the tongue test for 2 days?
You already failed…you just lied
We have a problem.
I heard a guy say once, if you can’t go 24 hours without drinking alcohol, you’ve lost control.
If we can’t go 24 hours without keeping our tongue in check, we’ve lost control…of our words.
Thankfully, the Bible, as always, has a solution for us.
And we’re going to get into that as we continue in our “More Than Words” series on the Letter of James this morning.
We are in James chapter 3 now.
I really encourage you to have the Bible in front of you every week…
because I want you to look more at what the book says than what I say.
If I ever say anything different than what you see, trust the Word, not me.
(James 3:1-12) – NIV
Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their 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 body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being 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 human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
THE TONGUE CAN WREAK HAVOC
One of the things that jumps out at you right away from this passage is how much HAVOC the tongue can wreak
The tongue is this itty bitty part of your body, but its power is quite out of proportion compared to the rest of your body.
It’s like a rudder on a ship…or a bit in the mouth of a horse.
Most of us can still remember hurtful things people said to us years ago.
They were just tiny words…out of a small mouth…
But their power is enormous.
And so we see our problem is not only that we don’t have very much control over our words…it’s that our words tend to leave our mouths and create explosions of havoc.
Look at what James says in verse 6 if you still have it front of you: The tongue is also a fire.
It’s one little spark…and boom…forest fire.
Smoky Bear is not a fan of your tongue.
Anyone remember how the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 started?
Many believed that Mrs. O’Leary’s cow, kicked over a lantern, and boom…the Great Chicago Fire.
Lots of times, we, much like that cow, don’t intend to create the harm we do when the words seem to slip out of our mouths, but once they’re out, we can’t get them back.
And once the fire starts, it’s hard to contain and put out.
The famous seminary professor, Bruce Waltke, once said, “A fool’s tongue…is long enough to cut his own throat.”
And so, I love this passage in 1 Peter
(1 Peter 3:10) – NEW LIVING TRANSLATION!!!
10 For the Scriptures say, “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies.
A WINDOW INTO YOUR HEART
And so what do we do about this?
We’ve obviously got a problem…that most of us can’t control.
I think a lot of us are confused about how to fix this problem…otherwise, we’d have a better grip on it!
And the culture around us is just as confused.
On some levels, our culture does understand that this whole “tongue” thing is a problem, but the culture is confused about the solution.
Our culture understands that words wreak havoc…they cause people to bully…they cause others to get depressed…even some to commit suicide.
All because of words.
The culture understands that part…that’s it a problem
It just doesn’t have a great solution
The culture’s solution to this problem has been to create bully-free zones, and forbid harassment and hate speech and on and on.
And listen, in no sense of the word, am I pro-bullying, but the culture doesn’t understand that you cannot change people’s minds without changing their hearts.
You cannot legislate morality.
In other words, you cannot make people better because you create a law telling them what not to do.
It’s like putting a bunch of snakes into a pen with 10 mice, and then posting signs that say, “Don’t eat the mice”
And that’s why our problems aren’t going away.
We’re not getting any more control over our tongues...despite all the posted signs.
And this is where Christianity, and the Bible have a really different answer than the culture.
It all starts by stepping back from this passage.
This is all connected.
We’re doing this series week by week…but it’s all one short little letter with a theme.
This isn’t an isolated passage on how to stop hurting people with words and how to use kind words.
Not at all.
James is carrying on his main theme of his letter…that your faith…if it’s real…will be more than words…more than just a recipe.
And if your faith is real, there will be FRUIT in your life.
And the words that come out of your mouth…are an example of that fruit!
James has actually already said this exact thing in his letter.
(James 1:26) – NIV
Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.
Now, James always speaks in strong language, but he’s saying, “If you call yourself a Christian, but your tongue is absolutely out of control… “the fruit of your words” might be displaying evidence to the contrary.
See, the tongue is like a window in which others can see into your heart.
Once again James’ teaching is basically identical to that of his brother Jesus.
(Matthew 12:33-35) – NIV
33 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.
There it is! The mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
The tongue is like the fruit of the tree which starts inside of your heart.
Our words are a window into what’s really in inside our hearts…who we really are.
And so…if you’re always gossiping about other people…your words are like a window into the jealousy that’s hiding in your heart.
If you’re constantly talking about family, friends, or co-workers that hurt you or disappointed you…your words are like a window into the bitterness inside your heart.
Our words should be one of the best indicators to us that we are depraved.
Remember the “Tongue Test” from the beginning?!
And yet…rather than use that as a litmus test that oughta point us to Jesus…unfortunately, most of us have a corresponding excuse or rationalization to go along with each “sin of the tongue.”
One of the most popular…and one I’ve heard people personally say over 6 times in the last 6 months or so…is an excuse that goes like this: “Yeah, I said it, but that’s just who I am…I say what’s on my mind!”
A woman once came up to the great evangelist, John Wesley, and said she knew what her talent was.
She said, “I think my talent from God is to speak my mind.”
Wesley replied, “I don’t think God would mind if you buried that talent.”
Remember, the Bible says, the heart…at its core (without Jesus) is wicked.
And so before you say, “I just need to speak my mind because that’s who I am…” remember that you are (without Jesus’ radical transformation) is not much to boast about.
Here’s another excuse we seem to always bring up: “I’m sorry…I was just super tired and incredibly stressed…I didn’t mean to say it…that’s not the real me.”
In fact, every time a famous person gets a DWI or gets caught doing something bad…that exact excuse is always in the press release.
‘And we use that same press release on our spouse…on our kids when our tongue supposedly gets the best of us: “Sorry honey, daddy’s just been really stressed at work lately”
But the Bible accurately explains that “pressure” doesn’t bring forth a fake version of you…but actually pushes out the real version of you.
The Bible would say, that when you’re really stressed (your kids are driving you insane…you’re working long hours with lots of demands)…what pressure is squeezing out of you…is the REAL YOU…your REAL heart is coming out (often through the window of your words)
But when there’s no pressure applied to our lives, we can fake it
And so we need to start looking harder…and certainly more honestly…at the times when we just lash out at our co-workers…
Or you say hurtful words to your parents in the heat of the moment…
Because every time we brush it off as “that’s not really me…that’s stress”…we’re lying to ourselves.
And we’re not really facing the problem (our heart)
And as we say often, if we don’t face the real problem, we don’t grow!
And on top of all this, some of us aren’t very good at understanding how much damage our words are really having on our lives and the lives around us.
Because you can’t FEEL the effect of your words on another person.
It’s similar to another mouth problem…bad breath.
The person with bad breath rarely knows that they have it.
So what do you do??
You’ve got to ask a trusted friend. J
And we need to do the same here.
This is why something like House Groups…Christian community is so important.
We need people that we can ask, “When you listen to my words…what do you see in my heart?”
I dare…every single one of you…to ask somebody that question this week.
“When you listen to my words…what do you see through the window into my heart?”
FOLLOW SCRIPTURE’S ADVICE
And then how do you start to work on this yourself? On your own?
I think it starts with just taking Scripture seriously.
If the Bible says that our words can be like a rudder, a bit, or a spark that leads to a massive fire…than we need to be incredibly serious and painstakingly careful about what we say.
Unfortunately, some of you have already excused yourself from this message.
(Which, P.S. Never excuse yourself from the Word of God.
Anytime you hear yourself saying, “Huh, this Bible passage doesn’t really apply to me today…” That ought to always be a sign to your sin has you taking the “delusional pills” again)
But some of you have excused yourselves from this messaged because you’ve said… “Phew, thankfully I’m an introvert!”
But this isn’t just about the folks who work with 100’s of people or speak in front of crowds (although v.1 says, teachers ought to be extra careful)
But our words can start a forest fire…in even the heart of a small child.
When a quiet, introverted mother, gets angry one day, and tells her child, “You always mess up. All the time!”
Those words…just words…can be the words that “jam a child’s rudder.”
Words will steer them towards insecurity the rest of their life.”
Even an introverted husband, who normally doesn’t even say much when he and his wife argue…can start a fire that could eventually consume their marriage if after 10 minutes of silence, he utters, “I’m not sure I even feel anything for you anymore”
It doesn’t matter how introverted you are…we all speak words.
And so what the Bible is trying to do…at square 1…is intensify your awareness that your words really matter.
It wants you leaving today…not just babbling on like normal…
But reflecting about the words you use when you talk with your family.
It wants you reflecting about the words you use at work
Do you talk the same there…or with your friends? Do you represent Christ just the same at work as you do here?
And then we’re to begin the process that James says back in 1:19
(James 1:19) – NIV
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,
That we, as people who follow Jesus, would be slow to speak.
That we would think… “How are my words going to affect my co-worker if I just let loose on them right now?”
That we would think… “I’m just not going to say that out loud right now” … because…it just doesn’t glorify God…it just doesn’t
And so for you…whether your struggle is gossip, or for you it’s slander, of for you it’s anger, or criticism, or boasting, or lying…. (or if you’re like me…ALL of them).
We first need to heed the wisdom of the Bible and say… “let’s be slow to speak”
We’re all like fire-breathing dragons…that just need to think about what we’re going to say while we take a long drink of water first.
RENOVATION OF THE HEART
But for the Bible, change is not synonymous with behaviorism.
Yes, be serious about this topic…yes, be slow to speak…your words have weight.
But long term change is always done through deeper spiritual change.
Because, like we said, if you’re able to keep your mouth in check, you’re still not necessarily changing who you are on the inside.
You are definitely saving yourself some pain and havoc…but what about when the pressure is applied again? And life gets stressful again?
We’ve got to go back to where we started.
The answer isn’t just to control the tongue.
That’s part 1…but part two…is to dive deeper into the source, and change the spring from which our words flow out of…the heart.
That’s why James, in verses 10-12 uses the tree/fruit imagery again…and more specifically, he says, “Can a salt spring produce fresh water?”
We need to look to the source for change.
If you have a well at your house…and every time you turn on the faucet, dirty water is coming out, the answer isn’t just to turn on the faucet less often
You need to change something AT THE SOURCE!
That’s what James is saying
And he’s also saying that you can’t do this yourself.
(James 3:8) – NIV
8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
You can’t fully control it!
You need supernatural help!
A change in the source!
Let me explain how this all works together by telling you about my own battle with the tongue.
Before I became a Christian at 18…I didn’t do drugs or run away from home…or anything like that.
But as my life pertains to today’s topic, I was about as far away from Jesus as one could get.
There’s a passage in Romans that says, “the mouth is like an open grave”
That was me.
Every other word I said was a swear word.
My language was perverse, and vile, and worse yet, I made it a lifestyle to insult people as often as I could.
One of the adages I actually lived by in high school (no lie) was: “I may not be able to beat anyone up, but I can make absolutely anyone cry with my words”
If someone made me upset…I tore them apart to every single one of my friends, and then would often tear that person a part to their face.
I looked and acted…absolutely nothing like Jesus as it pertains to this subject.
And then I met Jesus.
And I thought… “oh boy…this is going to take a while” J
And 16 years later, the battle continues.
However, in a lot of ways, God has given me great victory in this area.
And it started with “my part”
Which was just trusting God’s Word.
That it’s NOT a good idea to keep tearing people down like this…to speak in a manner that in no way reflects Christ…and on and on.
And it started with me, in my head saying, “Slow to speak…slow to speak…nope…don’t’ say that out loud…that’s going to cause the great Fire of Minnesota if you say that”
And at the beginning, it just started with not saying out loud.
Oh I still said it in my head!
But at least I wasn’t kicking over any lanterns that way.
But the Bible gives us an even better long-term strategy, and that is the Renovation of your Heart.
Because the more you surrender your will and your life to Jesus…through prayer…through learning his Word…the more he changes your heart.
This is why the spiritual disciplines of prayer and reading the Bible are SO important!
They really work!
When you let God’s word sink into your heart…
When you pray…and His presence molds your heart…
He will RENOVATE YOUR HEART…change it!
And so what happened for me is at first…I just kept most of the bad thoughts in my head.
And over time…as the Holy Spirit changed me…I stopped thinking like that...
He was renovating my heart, and you could see it in the fruit of my words.
Does it still come up in my mind sometimes?
But is it like it was before?
Not even close.
God can change you.
A NEW VIEW IN THE WINDOW
And this is where the Bible provides beautiful solutions…so much richer and deeper than trying to post signs about snakes not eating mice.
God can change us.
And he can not only change your heart to stop thinking some of the sinful things we’re always thinking….
It’s better than that…He can help you think Godly things instead
See, it’s important that we don’t see the tongue as ONLY an evil thing.
The tongue can be used for great good.
It has the same amount of power to heal as it does to destroy.
And so when God starts to change you…
He’ll start to remove bitterness from your lips and replace it with forgiveness.
He’ll start to remove criticism from your lips and replace it with encouragement
He’ll start to remove the tendency to just say what’s on your mind…and he’ll start enabling you to speak what’s on HIS mind!
And your words…will still be a window into your heart.
Except now…when people hear your words…they will look through the window...and see Jesus.
That’s the transformation of God.
I pray he begins to do that in your life!
Let me pray.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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