J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

Sermon Notes and Family Devotion for James 3:6-11

Big Idea:  Godly control of your speech will lead to glorifying God in many areas.

James 3:6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness.

·    How does James describe the tongue?
·    When you first hear that, does that description sound accurate or overblown?

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.

·    How does your speech affect your entire body?
·    Can you think of an example where you said something and it directly affected how you acted towards someone?

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.

·    To what does James contrast the tongue?
·    Have you ever considered James warning about the tongue at the end of verse 8?
·    Can you think of situations where you allow yourself to let your speech get out of hand?

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.

·    What are two things we do with the tongue?
·    Why should this not be?  What then should we be doing instead?

There are literally hundreds of verses in the Bible about our speech.  We are commanded when to speak, and we are commanded when not to speak.  We are commanded how to encourage one another with words.  We are commanded how to speak to our parents, to our kids, to our spouses, and even commanded how to speak of God.

And despite George Carlin’s famous rant that there are 7 cuss words, the Bible does not give us a list of words that we cannot say.  We are told not to take the Lord’s name in vain, and some people take that so far as to say that you should not even say God’s name out loud.  But believe it or not, the Bible does not give us a list of words not to say.

The bible does tell us that the heart behind our speech matters.  Jesus said in Matthew 15:18 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.

It is the heart the makes one word beneficial or hurtful.  It is the heart that makes a word sinful or obedient.  Typically innocuous speech can be sinful depending upon what our heart motive is.  And the smallest word can be glorifying to God when given wisely with a desire to glorify God.

I remember when I first learned the wisdom of the properly timed word.  I had become an RA at ECU which the Resident Adviser or the guy in the dorm that supposedly would help guide the younger students.  Well, I went to our first training session and I met the coordinator for the whole campus.  She had completely gray hair and I just couldn’t gauge how old she was.   I was a naïve 19 years old at the time.  So all of a sudden, this little girl runs up to her and jumps in her arm, and this is when I get it really wrong.    I said, “Oh, is this your granddaughter???”  I should have said, “Oh, is this your sister?”  The RA Coordinator dryly said, “No, this is my daughter,” and I never got a promotion in the 3 years I served as an RA.  One question, without a lot of wisdom behind, and probably ruined her day.

It appears that most folks either I know though fall into one of two camps.  Either they are so scared of saying something wrong that they are practically silent or folks talk so much they are practically white noise.  Too much or too little.  Too crude or not honest enough.

If you have read the Hunger Games, we’re either Caesar Flickerman or a bunch aphoxes.  Too much talk or not enough.  I must talk too much because when I fall silent, people start getting worried about me.  But James this week is going to make some incredible promises about how we speak, so with that in mind, let’s pursue this Big Idea

Big Idea:  Godly control of your speech will lead to glorifying God in many areas.

James 3: 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.

Now as a brief reminder, last week we saw James speaking about speech as well.  However, he couched that conversation into a warning about not many people being teachers.  Everyone wants to be a teacher, no one wants to be a student.  And last week, he let us know that it is impossible to completely tame our tongues but then he encouraged us that it only takes a little bit of Godly speaking to make a big difference.  So that brings us to verse 6.

James 3:6 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.

Now, look at how James describes the tongue.  He says the tongue, meaning speech is a tongue of fire, a world of unrighteousness.  When you first hear that, does that description sound accurate or overblown?  I imagine it would only seem overblown if you have somehow fooled yourself into thinking that you have yours under control, but more than likely, all of us realize just how dangerous our words can be.

You see, one of the reasons that the tongue is a world of unrighteousness is that one simple phrase given or delivered or spoken at the wrong time can mess up someone for the rest of their life.  Errant words are so powerful.  I know of one girl who was caught by her parents messing around with her boyfriend.  Her father’s response was, “Well dirty girls do dirty things.”  After that crushing response, that girl just decided, “Well I guess dad thinks I’m a dirty girl so that what’s what I’m going to be.”

I know one young man who no matter what he did, he’s couldn’t find a way to encourage him or praise him.  5 A’s and B meant one big failure.  He could bat .400 in baseball but his dad could only point out how he failed to turn that double play in the second.  If he studied his Bible, his parents would say, “Well that what you should do every day.”  And though we are responsible for ourselves, this young man figured, “Nothing I ever do is going to be good enough, so I’m checking out.”  And today, he is a coke addict.

James says that when we use our words to hurt, to maim, to demean, those words are literally set on fire by hell itself.  Those words cause bodily harm.  They hurt the one speaking as they reinforce and embitter.  They hurt the one receiving those words as they reinforce and damage and dredge up hurt.  Words are set on fire by hell when those words are seasoned with the truth of scripture and the grace of Jesus.

Gang, those stories are not hyperbolic – I haven’t exaggerated anything.  James says, the tongue is a world of unrighteousness. Words are so powerful that there is a temptation to just never speak but that is faithless response.  Jesus redeems speech just like He redeems our souls, so the faithful response to the dangers of speech is to peak words of life, words of truth, and words of hope.

James really wants us to get this point, and I want you as an individual, you as families, and we as SK get church to get this.  I want my heart to get this.  So James goes in verse 7

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.

James says, “Look around.  Any animal in the world can be tamed.”  Take for instance the Askew house – their 100 +lb dog, Benji.  Mike will tell you that he could survive in the woods with that dog.  Big, giant, strong, and completely trained.  If they tell him to get in his bed, he gets in his bed.  If they tell him to quiet down, he quiets down.  It didn’t just happen.  They trained him, but the point is, here is this massive, animal that could rage and hurt, but is completely tamed by the Askew’s.  He responds to everyone from Mike all the way down to Noah.

James makes that point to make this one.  You, alone, no manner of self-control or self-exertion is going to control your tongue.  No one can tame it.  The tongue is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

Have you ever had that person in your life, and no matter how hard you try, they just irritate you so badly that you just say things you know you shouldn’t say?  Maybe it is someone at work.  Maybe it is one of your family members.  Maybe it is someone here.  Huh, maybe it’s me.  Maybe just the sight of my face tempts you to want to start cussing.

And no matter how hard you try.  At some point, that person or I just frustrate you to no end.   And you think you are not going to say what you want to say but you say it.  And oh, what you have to say is good and juicy and sarcastic and hurtful and it just makes you feel great say it.  Until then you are convicted that you are hurting someone, you are disobeying, you are sinning.

James says, “On your own, you cannot tame the tongue.”  But you are thinking, “Well Gordon this is when you are going to preach the gospel to us, right?  This is when you are going to tell us about Jesus?”  Yeah, but probably not how you think.  Listen ot verse 9.

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.

Right now, we have sung songs of praise and worship to God.  Just a minute ago, we sang this line:  O Love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee; I give thee back the life I owe.  We sang to God, “Your love is so great to me that you will never let me go.  And because of that love, I am going to find rest for my weary soul.  And I give you every part of myself.  I leave nothing to me but give all to you.

Now, that is good and right and glorifying to God if we mean it.  James’ point is that right now you use your tongue to sing those words.  But when you leave this place, you are going to use that very same mouth to mock people, judge people, and curse people.  You might think its okay because you just say it to yourself or because your trolling on your computer or because some passive/aggressive Facebook thing, but James doesn’t give you an out or a rationalization.  James says, “We should not use the same tongue to bless God and curse one another.”  You can’t bless God and then curse someone made in the image of God.

Gang, let’s get this right now.

·    You can’t bless God and then make fun of homosexuals.
·    You can’t bless God and then mock whichever politician or political party you don’t like.
·    You can’t bless God and then run your wife or husband into the ground when they are not around.
·    Huh, you can’t bless God and then run your wife or husband into the ground to their face.
·    You can’t bless God and then cuss your parents out.
·    You can’t bless God and then cuss your kids out.

And before any of us start to get self-righteous and start pointing at others and saying, “Yeah, you talk to better,” James has already made the point, nobody can tame the tongue.  We have to pray to do more of the first and none of the second.  Dear God my tongue is raging fire.  I enjoy sinning with the way that I speak.  Please enable me to praise you with my mouth here as I sing about you and sing to you, and please enable me to praise you by the way I speak to others and the way I speak about others.  God’s enabling you to speak words of truth with words of grace to someone is as glorifying to God as when you right here and now sing your praise song.

James makes a very helpful analogy here.  He says, “When you find water flowing down stream, you don’t get an hour of fresh water and then an hour of salt water.”  You either get one or the other.  When you go to a fig tree, you don’t find olives.  You get one or the other.  You get either one or the other.

Now here is the dilemma this passage presents.  James makes it very clear that no one can tame the tongue.  Every single person is guilty of using their tongue for evil.  But then, James specifically goes after Christians and tells points out the hypocrisy in our lives.  This isn’t a teaching where we are supposed to self-righteous and go, “Yeah, I can’t stand when someone says  cuss word around me,” or “Can you believe how so and so speaks to their children.”  “Oh we don’t say, “Hate or fool or stupid,” or whatever speech laws you make.

James is going to have none of that.  He has a specific rebuke for anyone who claims the name of Christ.  We shouldn’t spend all of this time attempting to praise God with our words and then walk away from here and start judging, gossiping, and condemning each other and anyone else with our words either.

But we’ve covered that.  It is James’ third point that is troublesome to me.  He said you can do both.  Bodies of water either produce salt or fresh water.  They don’t switch and do one and then the other.  Trees produce one type of fruit but not another.

So where does that leave us?  Which one are we?   Are we those that bless God or are we the ones that condemn, hurt, and judge with our words?  Are we blind to how we use our words assuming that we do just fine even after all of these admonitions.

Well as always, we have got to use all of the scripture to understand any of the scripture.  Turn with me to 1 Thess to help us understand where to go with this.  How can we redeem our speech when we just fail?  We bless God and curse me.  We bless God and lie.  What are we going to do?

1 Thessalonians 5: 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.

For those who have faith in Jesus, you are no longer destined to experience the wrath of God.  God has destined His children for salvation through Jesus.  Have we all forgotten that?  Is not enough to give us joy?  I’m telling you, this pastors flesh is being stripped from Him right now.  So many thing upon which I depend on count on for joy, things I never knew I assumed, but did.  God is removing them away, not because He is mean or harsh, but because in love He wants me to recognize our powerful and fundamental and assuring and loving is the work of Jesus Christ.

I am not destined for God’s wrath but destined to obtain salvation.  That is my hope.  That is your only hope.  Whether we’re talking about Moses waiting for Jesus return, the disciples and what they’ve done or you and me waiting for Jesus, our only hope is the Gospel.  Jesus has secured forgiveness for us, secured God’s love for us, removed God’s wrath and brought us into salvation.  If you notice, we always end each sermon with the Gospel.  There is no application, change, repentance, or hope without it.  So, Paul feels same way and after reminding us of the Gospel, he tells us how to redeem this problem with have our speech.

11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

Get this gang.  Please.  It is foundational for the transforming work God is doing at SK right now.  One of the results of your guaranteed assured salvation earned by Jesus Christ should be that you use your words to encourage one another and build up one another.  If you claim faith in Christ, but your speech is characterized by harsh criticism, sarcasm, judgmentalism, disapproving tone, hatred, anger, and ridicule, why do you think you can claim faith in Jesus?   Godly speech doesn’t save you.  Godly speech is evidence that you have been saved.

Paul is commanding them to do the same thing that they already doing.  You redeemed folks, you folks who have been spared God’s wrath, you folks who know the love of the Father and forgiveness, you know what you are doing, encouraging and building one another up.  So keep doing that.

What does that look like?  Paul tells us.  It is two specific things.  Encouraging one another.  Building one another up.  Let’s look at each one of those as Paul intended.

What does it mean for us to encourage one another?  There are a myriad of ways but I would like focus on two.  The first is we can encourage each other silently.  We can just be with people.  In Job 2, we find that Job had lost all of his wealth and his children.  His body was covered in sores and his wife was telling him to deny God.  At that time, Job had 3 friends and you know what they did?  Listen to Job 2

Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. 12 And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. 13 And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.

I love the end of vs 11.  They made an appointment to come together and who sympathy and comfort him.  How did they do that?  By being with him.  Words weren’t necessary.  Presence comforts.   Who right now do you know that is discouraged?  Who feels alone?  Who needs your presences?   Remember Jesus came to us.  The presence of the Holy Spirit is described as a comforting presence.

But of course, you can speak words of encouragement.  They don’t have to be words that tell people how tough they are or blow a bunch of smoke that tries to get people to depend on themselves.  Encourage them with the Gospel.  Encourage them with the truths of scripture.  Jesus tells His children they will never leave them or forsake them.  Paul tells us that God is so great that we can do everything through His strength because God strengthens those that trust in Him.  Make that your goal:  know the scriptures to be encouraged and to be able to encourage others.

Just last week, I was holding a grown man while he cried and was coming down from a terrible high of drugs and alcohol.  He struggles as he has never experienced the approval of love of his earthly father.  I told him of John 17 where Jesus says, “Father, loved them as you have loved me.”  The truth that Jesus’s life and death and resurrection secures the undying love and approval of the Father gives hope and encouragement.

But in addition to encourage folks, we can build them up.  Speak to folks about either who they are in Jesus Christ or who they can be in Jesus Christ.  Here is brief description.  And hear these as comfort to your soul and encourage words to build up others.

In Jesus you are a

·    John 1:12             Child of God
·    John 15:15         Friend of Jesus
·    Romans 8:14, 15         Son/daughter of God
·    Romans 8:17         An heir with Christ sharing His inheritance with Him
·    1 Corinthians 12:27     A member of the body of  Christ’s body
·    Ephesians 1:1         A saint
·    Philippians 3:20         A citizen of heaven
·    Colossians 3:3         Hidden with Christ in God

And the promises go on.  You can build people up by reminding them that they partake in Christ, they are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession and on and on.  The promises of God to build people up are great.  And what will happen when we do that?

23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24  He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

God will sanctify you completely.  That’s a great promise, but what does that mean?  Sanctification means becoming more and more like Jesus Christ.  Verse 23 tells us that as we use our speech to encourage one another and build each other up, God uses that process to sanctify us.  You want me to encourage.  Speak to me about Jesus and it will make me more like Jesus.

And God is the one doing this ultimately.  He has ordained you as part of this process.  Your whole spirit, soul and body will be protected and kept blameless by God until Jesus returns.  God calls you.  He is faithful.  He will do this in your life.  And God has chosen you to be part of this process.  Be with people.  Speak the truths of scripture to them.  Remind them who they are in Jesus.

And God will keep and protect you and them and all the future believers who come to know Jesus by your faithful words

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May 6, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,

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