Why Christians Must Tame the Tongue (James Sermon 6)
February 16, 2020 | Andy Davis
Sanctification, War Against the Flesh, Holiness, Good Works, Indwelling Sin
Turn in your Bibles to James 3. You'll be looking this morning at the text you heard read for us, James 3:1-12. In the year of 2012, I went on a mission trip to Nepal, fulfilling a dream. For many, many years, I'd wanted to go to Nepal, prayed for many years for an unreached people group there, and yearned to be able to share the Gospel there in Nepal and had the opportunity in 2012. At one point, we were driving along a road that was alongside on the verge of a raging river swollen by a month of rains, torrential downpours. The river had a brown muddy look to it. It was not attractive at all, but I had never seen such a rushing torrent in all my life. It looked like a stampede of bison back in the Old West. Not that I've ever seen that but what I imagine it would look like. A stampede of muddy bison. It was rising and falling and roaring and undulating with peaks and troughs, and unspeakable power. It was terrifying just to drive alongside it, wondering if at any moment, it might leap out of its boundaries, and swallow up the very road that we were driving on. It was ugly, it was powerful, it was threatening and dangerous. I feel certain if anyone were to have fallen into it, they would immediately be swept to their death, or pulled down under and drowned. So these words are in my mind as I think about that image. Dirty, dangerous, powerful. So as we come to this passage this morning, James 3:1-12, that picture's in my mind. An overwhelming force, a rushing torrent, a deadly power, able to sweep away whole villages in a flood and swiftly bring death. But look at what we're actually talking about today, we're talking about the tongue. That little muscle behind your teeth that has no bone to it, but how powerful it is. James zeros in on the tongue as it seems like a weapon of mass destruction. I think James wouldn't have known that expression, but if he understood it, he would say, yes, that's exactly what it is. The human race speaks an almost immeasurable torrent of words every single day.
We Speak Many Words Every Day
Estimates put the average ration of words for you as between 18 and 25,000, some of you more, some of you less. Seven and a half billion people. I know a percentage of those haven't learned to speak yet, but they will. So we're talking about approximately 150 trillion words every day spoken by the human race, and God listens to every one of them, remembers all of them, but what's really terrifying is not the sheer volume of human words, but what the Bible says about how evil many, if not most of them are, and that's exactly what James 3:1-12 is addressing, the absolute necessity of we Christians, who James calls again and again. “My brothers, my brothers. We Christians have to tame the tongue by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Now in context we've just passed through what I call the theological center of the Book of James. James is a very practical book. It seeks to address how Christianity is actually affecting your life. What's actually going on with you now that you've heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And he's seeking to instruct Christians on what genuine faith looks like in the real world. Now he's just made it plain at the end of James 2, that faith without works is dead. If your faith isn't actually affecting what you do, then it's a dead faith, a useless faith, a demon faith.
But immediately after that, he addresses the tongue because there is such a powerful connection between the heart and the tongue. Who you really are as a person and what you say, and James wants his readers to know that the transformation of the tongue is essential to genuine salvation. It may be the single greatest proof that you really are a Christian, how you use your tongue. So we're going to draw out from the text today six reasons why all Christians must tame the tongue by the power of the Holy Spirit.
I. Because By Our Words We Will Be Judged
The Tongue is a Clear Reflection of the Heart
Reason number one, “Because By Our Words We Will Be Judged.” Because by our words, we will be judged. Look at verse 1, “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” Now for me as a teacher of the word of God. I must read that with fear and trembling. I was sitting over there in the seat just like all of you, were sitting in your seats but I have to get up and walk up here and talk, and I have to do so with fear and trembling because it says that “not many of us should be teachers,” and the NIV puts it, “presume to be teachers.” I think that's to take that honor on yourself. Many of you should not do that. Why? Because we who teach will be judged more strictly, more severely. Why is that because of the great danger of hypocrisy, of saying one thing with your mouth, and living a different way with your life. Richard Baxter in his classic, Reformed Pastor, said this to his brother pastors, "Take heed to yourselves lest you live in those sins which you preach against in others, lest you be guilty of that which daily you condemn. Will you preach God's laws, and then willfully break them? If sin be evil, then why do you live in it? And if it be not, then why do you dissuade men from it? If sin be dangerous then how dare you venture on it? But if it be not then why do you tell men so? If God's threatenings be true, then why do you not fear them? And if they be false then why do you needlessly trouble men with them and put them into such frights without a cause?" That's very convicting for me. “Let not many of you presume to be teachers because you're going to be judged more severely if you get up in front of people and talk about God's word, and then you don't live it out in your own life.”
We're going to be judged. James says more severely, but on the other hand, God has ordained the teaching office as essential to the completion of the salvation of the flock of Christ. So what am I supposed to do? The talents, the Parable of the Talents, five talents, two talents, one talent, the one with the five went out and put it to work and gained five more, the one with the two went out and put it to work and gained two more. But then there's that one with the one talent that was afraid of the master because he's such a severe judge and he's harsh, and unfair, and so he takes his talent, hides in the ground and he's called a, “wicked lazy servant.” So, I'm hemmed in by the word of God. It says in Romans 12, if your gift is teaching, then teach. And so those of us that have the gift of teaching, we need to venture forward and teach but this passage stands as a warning to be certain that we understand that we are going to be judged more severely even as we teach week by week. What is this link then between the tongue and judgment?
Jesus Clearly Links the Heart to the Tongue
Well, it's because there's a clear link between the tongue and the heart. Between the tongue and the heart. We're going to be judged, evaluated by our words, and Jesus made this link very clear. You remember when he was driving out demons and his enemies claimed that it was by Beelzebub, the prince of devils that he was driving out demons? That's a filthy statement. Well, they made many filthy statements about Jesus. And at one point Jesus zeros in on that. Talk to his blasphemous enemies, and he said this in Matthew 12:33-35. “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, make a tree bad and it's fruit will be bad for a tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good. For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him. And the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.” So that's why there's this link between what we do with our tongue, and Judgment Day. Out of the overflow or out of the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks. The heart then really is the issue, the heart is the storage receptacle of all manner of things. The heart does many things, biblically. There are many verbs attached or connected to the heart, biblically. So what you ponder, you ponder in your heart, what you delight in, you delight with your heart. What you ruminate over, what you fantasize about. What you covet, what you lust after, what you desire and pursue, what you love, what you hate, what you choose, what you reject, what you consider, what you plan for, the heart does all of these things. It's the core of your being.
Now the Bible makes it plain, the basic nature of the unregenerate heart is wickedness. Jeremiah 17:9 it says, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” That's where all of us starts, with a deceitful wicked heart. Do you not see the supernatural grace of salvation? Jesus said, "Make a tree good and its fruit will be good.” That's the one thing we cannot do, we can't make ourselves good, we can't make our hearts good.
And so, as the Gospel has unfolded so clearly and so powerfully and in great detail in the Book of Romans, the first section of Romans unfolds the universality of sin. And it culminates in this crescendo in Romans 3 saying there's, “no one righteous, not even one, there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God, all have turned away, they've together become worthless. There is no one who does good, not even one”, now, listen to the next words, “their throats are open graves, their tongues practice deceit, the poison of vipers is on their lips, and their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” That's four straight statements about the mouth. The poison of our unregenerate mouths. The tongue therefore, is a clear tattletale to the state of the heart. What's really going on in your heart?
Jesus Says, “By Our Words We Will Be Judged”
And Jesus says, “by our words we will be evaluated.” As he continues there in Matthew 12:36-37. “But I tell you that men will have to give an account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word you have spoken. For by your words, you will be acquitted and by your words, you will be condemned.” That's an amazing statement. The tongue is such a sure-fire reflection of the state of the heart that all Jesus, the Judge of all the Earth will need, is a full catalog of your career in words and he'll know exactly the state of your heart. Now, he'll look at more than that, but I'm just saying that all he needs are your words if he has a 100% catalogue of the words.
Now, does he? Does God keep track? Oh, he does. I remember sharing the Gospel with somebody, and I came to that verse. It’s a very useful verse in witnessing. You'll have to give an account on the day of judgment for every careless word you have spoken. Well this individual who had the great misfortune of sitting next to me on a four-hour flight, and I said, you're going to have to give an account on the day of judgment for every careless word you have spoken. He said to me, “But I don't remember everything I've said.” What would you say next to that? “That's okay, God does. He's got it all written down. Every single word.” Job said, "Oh that my words were recorded. That they were written on a scroll. That they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead or engraved in rock forever.” Don't you want to say to brother Job, be careful what you wish for? Everything has been written down. God has a perfect record, an accurate record of everything that we've ever said, and we're going to have to give an account on the Day of Judgment for all of it. Therefore we ought to tame our tongues, brothers and sisters.
What is the Tongue Capable Of Doing?
Now what are the different things the tongue is capable of? It's remarkable the catalog of corruption linked to the human tongue. There are so many different ways that we can sin. James says in verse 2, "We all stumble in many ways.” What a self-reflective, open, honest statement that is. He's saying, “I'm not a perfect person. All of us stumble in many ways.” Alright, but when it comes to the tongue, how many different ways can we stumble? It's remarkable. When I was writing my book on sanctification, An Infinite Journey, I actually cataloged the sins of the tongue alphabetically. You're ready? Here we go: Arguing, blasphemy, boasting, coarse speech, complaining, cursing, deceit, disrespect, exaggeration, false doctrine, filthy joking, flattery, foolish talk, gossip, insults, lies, mockery, rebellion, sarcasm, seduction, slander, threats, words of unbelief. And that's just a partial list. If you're thinking, what about this or what about that? Come and tell me afterwards, I'll make the list longer and more detailed for the second edition of that book. And for all of these verbal sins, God is going to bring people into judgment, and his record of our words is perfect. Do you not see how much we need a savior? Thank God that God sent his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to die in our place under the wrath we deserve for such a catalog of corruption.
And I'm pleading with you, be certain that Jesus is your savior today. Don't leave this place unconverted. You don't want to stand before the perfect judge with this catalog of your own words and have to give an account for everything you've said and you don't have a savior to intercede for you whose blood was shed on the cross, to save you from your sins. So come to Christ and trust in him. On Judgment Day our words will be a perfect reflection of the state of our heart and our souls.
II. By Taming the Tongue We Control Our Whole Bodies
Control Your Tongue, Control Your Life
Secondly, we need to tame the tongue because by taming the tongue we control our whole bodies. By taming the tongue we control our whole bodies. Look at verse 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.” So what James is doing is he's telling us that controlling the tongue is a key step to controlling your whole life. James has already said if you don't bridle the tongue, your religion is worthless, you're deceiving yourself. He said that in chapter one, But conversely if you want a genuine salvation, you have to start really with the tongue, bridling the tongue will enable you to control your whole life. “Now, if you're able to do that, if you're never at fault in anything you say, you are a perfect person,” James says.
Now, we will never be perfect in this life. We will never be perfect. There is only one man who ever perfectly controlled his tongue and that's Jesus Christ, but he did perfectly control his tongue. He made it through his whole life in this world without once saying something wrong. And never failing to say the right thing that the situation called for. I think about Proverbs 25:11, which says, “a word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Jesus had almost a countless number of those. Saying exactly the right thing to the person, what was needed for that situation. He knew how to deal with broken-hearted sinners who felt there was no hope for them. “The bruised reed, he did not break. The smoldering wick he did not snuff out,” he knew how to lift up a weeping sinner and give him or her hope of forgiveness. He also could speak like a lion to self-righteous, arrogant religious leaders who needed to have someone speak to them like a lion. He did both.
Now James is not in any way implying that we can be perfect, but it is the goal of sanctification. After justification, after our sins have been forgiven and we've been born again, to seek perfection every day. So what do you say we start with just the rest of the day. For the rest of the day that we will be perfect in speech. What a goal. Wouldn't that be sweet, if you could put your head on the pillow tonight and say, from the time that the pastor said that on, you didn't say anything wrong. But then Monday will come, and there's another day in which you can be perfect in your speech.
The Tongue Determines the Spiritual Course of Your Life
Now, the point that he's making here is the tongue controls the course of your life, actually. Look at verse six, "The tongue is also 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." James literally says that the tongue sets the whole course of his life on fire when it's used for evil. It's interesting. The word that he uses here is the word wheel, like the wheel of fate, or the hinge of fate, that kind of thing. For us, we might think of a steering wheel, that kind of thing. But the whole course of your life is set in motion or in direction by how you use your tongue. Now, for the unregenerate person, James, I think is speaking in verse 6 of the evil that seizes his or her tongue and sets that tongue on fire, even as though it were set on fire by Hell. The direction of that kind of life, that type of talking is Hell, eternity in the Lake of Fire. That's what he's saying. It's a terrifying direction to be on. If you want to know, "Am I on the broad roads that leads to destruction?", look at how you talk.
Conversely and positively, when he rescues you from that highway to Hell, and brings you to that straight and narrow gate, he's going to affect by the Spirit the way you talk. So, if you want to grow in grace in the knowledge of Christ, if you want to be more and more conformed to the perfection of Christ, the way he used his tongue, then ask Christ through the Holy Spirit to change the way you talk, to control your speech patterns. So, to weed out the bitterness and complaining you reveal in trials. The way you don't consider it pure joy, but you actually start to complain and murmur against God, start there. Or perhaps kill the gossip or the slander by which you assassinate the character of people who are not even there with you, behind their backs, the things you say about them. Or putting lies and deceitfulness to death. To put an end to the exaggeration that you use when you tell that story about what you did, and you end up the knight in shining armor and the other person, the villain in the dark hat. We all do this, we twist the truth, it's malleable and we make it say what we want. To kill the habit of flattery by which you manipulate people. You say things you really don't believe good things about them, so that you can bring them in your thrall, you can control them, manipulation, that flattery. There is so much work to be done, isn't there brothers and sisters? There's so much to be done. It's like, "Oh God, I want to be a sanctified man, I want to be a sanctified woman." The Holy Spirit is saying to us through this text, “Then control your tongue. You get control of your tongue, your body will follow.”
He uses two illustrations to prove this point. The bit in the horse's mouth and the rudder of the great ship. Look at verse three and four, when we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example, although they are so large, and are driven by strong winds, they're steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. So the bit in the horse's mouth is a clear illustration of how this whole powerful animal can be turned by a little piece of metal.
I mean, the horse outweighs the rider by 10 to 20 times. The horse, I don't think is getting up in the morning, saying, “I really want to plow your field for you.” Can I pull your wagon? Think of a wild bronco. Like, “I really am just looking for someone that will ride me. I'm just yearning to have a human being get on my back.” But instead the horse has to be broken, and then the bit has been developed somewhere along the line by horse trainers, to say, this is the way you make it turn left or right. Tiny piece of metal. James also speaks of the rudder. Think about a massive ship, all of the steel and all of the weights and all of this, and it's turned by this very tiny portion of metal left or right, whatever direction the pilot wants to go. And so, what he's saying is, the tongue is like that for you. If you can control your tongue, you can turn your whole body. If you can control your tongue, the whole ship is steered.
III. Because the Tongue Has a Powerful Effect on Others
Alright, thirdly, because we have to control our tongues because the tongue has such a powerful effect on others. Verses 5-6, likewise, “the tongue is also a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark, 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.” So the tongue makes great boast, because it has great influence. It has great power.
The Tongue “Makes Great Boasts” Because of Its Great Power
For me, I cannot help but think about eschatology, about the end of the world and about the Antichrist that is coming. And Daniel 7 makes it plain that he's characterized more than anything by great boasting. The little horn made great boasts, boast even up to Heaven. He's going to set himself up in God's temple declaring himself to be God and accepting worship. He's like the quintessential unregenerate human. All of us are that if it weren't for Christ. We would want to be that person, to be set up in God's temple and be up on a throne and be worshipped and making these boasts that claim up to Heaven.
Or think about politicians that have used the power of rhetoric, the power of the tongue. I think about Adolf Hitler and his ability to just capture the heart and soul of the German nation with these nighttime rallies, like at Nuremberg, where he would use a light show and all that, and he said that the will of the people can be more easily controlled at night. And then you look at videos of his speeches and how powerful and how boastful and arrogant they were and how the entire nation was swayed by his tongue. There are so many examples of this, of politicians that have been able to capture the moment, for good or bad. Think about the Gettysburg Address, which is so short and Lincoln was able to just zero in on the issue of slavery. Yes, but the issue of representative government and will government of the people, by the people, for the people, even survive or will it break into factions and keep breaking apart and breaking apart? Or you think about Winston Churchill, what it'd be like to become prime minister in May of 1940, and have to galvanize the English nation against the kind of tyranny that had taken over all of Europe, Western Europe. And be able to say with words, we're going to fight on the seas and oceans, our goal is victory at all costs lest we submit to slavery. See, I'm not Churchill or else I couldn't do it, but I could do it right here. But that kind of passion, that speaking that galvanized the nation, the whole nation gathers around one man's tongue. And so, James likens the small tongue and the damage it can do to a spark that sets a whole forest on fire.
A Spark Starting A Forest Fire
So I didn't know that much about the history of forest fires in the United States. Do you know the deadliest forest fire in the history of the United States? It was the exact same time as the Chicago fire, but it was a different fire. It was in the upper peninsula of Michigan and in Wisconsin, killed 1,500 people. You don't see 1,500 people dying in forest fires, they usually flee, they have time to get out. But it was just a weird combination of winds and a storm front that came down and the people were trapped and they died. The exact same time as apparently, Mrs O'Leary's cow kicked over a kerosene lantern. We've been told it's a myth, but it's really good for illustration for this sermon, right here. So, one cow and one kerosene lantern and the whole city burns up that kind of thing. But it was a myth. Anyway, preacher's story, but where I think the point's made. Tiny spark. One idea can get in and ruin everything, can destroy it, and people can be swept away.
IV. Because the Tongue is Set on Fire by Hell
The Satanic Origin of the Fire
Fourth reason: Because the tongue is set on fire itself by Hell. The Satanic origin of this evil fire is clear. Look at verse 6 again, “the tongue is also 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.” This may be the single most devastating verse in the entire Bible on human speech. Layer upon layer of the damage the human tongue can do. “It's a fire,” it says, “burning up, destroying much good.” He calls it interestingly, a world of evil. It's a system of evil. There's a logic to the things we say. They take root in the minds and they persuade hearts, they sway wills toward evil. There's a logic to it, there's this world.
I think about the tragedies of Shakespeare and how clear words are powerful. But one in particular, I remember this one struck me more than any of them, the tragedies of Shakespeare and that's Othello. And in that we have the power of slander. And you have Othello and he's got a friend who really isn't a friend, an evil guy named Iago who whispers in his ear that his, Othello's wife, Desdemona is committing adultery, is unfaithful to him. It's not true but he's able to turn his heart against his own faithful wife. And we know that she's faithful for the way that Shakespeare writes the play, but it's all the power of whispers into the ear and the heart can turn and he ends up killing Desdemona and then committing suicide. All of that from Iago's tongue. So James says the tongue directs the whole course of someone's life in evil. And Satan uses the tongue to do his work. Think of the role of the tongue in the crucifixion of Jesus. Think about that. The people that got together and plotted many times to kill Jesus. The way that Judas told where Jesus would be that night. The way that they slandered him when he was on trial and gave false witnesses against him. The way that they persuaded Pontius Pilate who wanted to set him free to kill him.
V. Because the Tongue is So Wild
More Wild Than Untamed Beasts
The fifth reason that we need to control the tongue is because the tongue is so wild. Look at verses 7-8, "All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the Sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil full of deadly poison." So James likens the tongue to a wild animal, barely, it's just untamable. Now, every kind of animal has been tamed. Some of you have actually been to the circus. I remember when we were first here, 20 years ago, we got tickets to the circus in Raleigh. And it was quite remarkable what the animal trainers could do to lions and elephants and the things that they could make them do. I remember a number of years ago, I went to Sea World in Orlando, And there was a woman there with a bucket of fish attached to her belt and she's got all these hand signals and all that, and she's making Orcas, I mean they are at the top of the food chain in the ocean, making them jump and do ridiculous things. The Orcas, like do you have any self-respect? Like the untrained Orca coming along and saying, "Because of a few sardines you're jumping through a hoop? Have some dignity, have some self-respect." But here's this skillful animal trainer able to make this massive animal do whatever she wants it to do. But the real question the text would ask is, “Yeah, but what does she talk like after the show's over?” She's able to control this massive Orca but she can't control the way she talks and neither can any of us.
But No Man Can Tame the Tongue
Now when it says, "No man can tame the tongue." you might say then, "What's the point? Why are we listening to this sermon? Just so we can all go home and feel bad?" No let me tell you what I think is one of the most important verses concerning our salvation. It's the first beatitude, blessed are the spiritual beggars for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. God doesn't want you to bring your capabilities and your abilities and all of this stuff to him and say, what a great person I am. He wants you to bring your brokenness and your sinfulness and your corruption to him and say, "Would you please heal me, fix me?" Jesus said “it's not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous. I'm not calling on perfect people to talk so we can all know how perfect they are. I'm calling on broken sinners to bring me their brokenness and they're sinfulness and I will heal you, I will save you.” So that's what we're supposed to do with this. We're supposed to bring our brokenness and our tongues to the Lord. And then you're going to start praying differently about your tongue. You're going to say something like this, "Set a guard over the door of my mouth, keep watch over the door of my lips, O Lord." Psalm 141:3.
Guard Your Mouth
I live in Butner, near the federal facility up there. What a gentle word for that, “federal facility.” Alright, it's got spiral razor wire and big towers and searchlights and guards. And a whole system by which you can get in if you have the permission to get in, no one can get out. It's you're like, "Well is that what my mouth is like?" Yes, yes. Can you imagine like Amnesty Day, once a month, there at Butner. Just letting everyone out, just get out in the community, and we'll get them all back. And it's like, "No, please don't." I don't want those murderers and those folks out because of the damage they'll do to me and my family, etcetera. Well, think about your mouth like that. Say, "Lord, would you please dispatch an angel and set the angel over the door of my mouth and set guard so that nothing harmful gets out of my mouth." You probably need to slow down your speech as we talked about earlier. Quick to listen, slow to speak.
Used to be true, I don't know if it's still true, the FCC had like a seven-second delay so they could beep out things that shouldn't be said. I don't know if they still do that anymore, they should. There are some things that get said that I don't want to hear. But alright, whether they do it or not, why don't you do it? Seven second delay. I'm going to wait, wait a second or seven seconds before I say something to my wife or my husband, some of you, alright. I'm going to be careful. I'm going to be slow to speak.
VI. Because the Tongue is Given to Praise God
Six, because the tongue is given to praise God. “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father and with it we curse men who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing, my brothers this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brother's can a fig tree bear olives or a grape vine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” Well, here's the thing, our changed nature should result in praise and worship to God. It's the best thing you can do with your tongue. You know you will be doing that with your redeemed tongue in Heaven. Your tongue will be glorified in Heaven. You will shine like the sun in the kingdom of your father and you will talk only perfect words in Heaven. Isn't that encouraging? Think about that. But now, we should be consistently praising and glorifying God.
Now, when we fell into sin our tongues fell with us. You remember the first sin that Adam committed after eating the fruit? Do you remember? God confronted him. “The woman you put here with me, she gave me some of the fruit.” So he's taken a swipe at both God and his wife. But when we have been redeemed, genuinely redeemed, we're going to speak to one another with “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” We're going to sing and make music in our hearts to the Lord. We're going to always give thanks to God the Father through our lord Jesus Christ, Ephesians 5. That's the redeemed tongue. We're going to worship God. So our tongues show our redeemed nature.
Now, the question he's asking here is how can you praise God one moment and then do that the next moment. How can we sing, in a few moments we're going to sing a closing hymn, how can we sing that closing hymn praising God and then get in the car and say this or that to each other. How can you do that? How can a fresh spring produce salt water or vice versa? But let's speak positively. You've been redeemed, there should be good fruit flowing from your life, not bitterness and not wickedness. So out of your mouths, you should be praising God and out of your mouths you should be blessing others and not speaking in this way. So let your mouth show your transformed nature.
Evaluate Yourself in Light of God’s Law
Alright, applications. This should make all of us repent. We're looking in the mirror of God's word, the perfect law that gives freedom. We're looking in it. How do we look, how do we look? So we should be convicted by this. Start with your family life, without joking at all, just start with your marriage. How do you talk to your spouse? It could be that some of you husbands have some things you need to ask forgiveness for as soon as you can. Ways that you've spoken perhaps even this morning, this very morning to your wife. Some of you wives may need to do the same thing to your husbands. Ways that you've talked to him that show disrespect or sin. We need to look in the mirror of God's law and say, "How am I actually talking to my kids? What do they hear when they hear me speaking? Do they hear a redeemed person?" and you kids, you teens, how do you talk? How do you talk to each other? How do you talk to your parents? You're looking in the mirror of God's law now, what is it saying about the way you're actually using your tongue?
And what about specific occurrences? Let's go back to the one I mentioned. Affliction comes in your life, you're hurting, something is happening whether great or small. Is your nature to praise God and trust him and speak those words or do you complain? Do you murmur? It's a very common sin, but it's still a sin. “O God set a guard over the door of my mouth when I'm hurting. I don't want to question you.” What about the issue of gossip or slander. How do you talk about someone who is not there? Gossip about other people in the church can hurt their reputation. It can affect the way other people think about them. Do you do it? Do you have a reason to repent, a reason to ask forgiveness? What about lying? What about exaggeration? Tell you what, next time you tell a story about yourself in which you believe that you did well, put that seven-second delay in there and make sure you tell the truth. Don't exaggerate the truth, don't go beyond what the truth is.
What About Your Language?
What about filthy language, course language? My brother-in-law lives in Amish Country, Pennsylvania. Like what are you going to do with that? Alright, well, I'll tell you. For about a year he had a job in New York City and he would commute from Amish County, Pennsylvania, up to New York City. The closer and closer he got to the Big Apple, he noticed, not just a change in accents, but a change in vocabulary. Unbelievable, the things that were said. But woe to us, if we ever think the sin is just out there, are there coarse words that come out of your mouth, false speaking? Learn therefore to be quiet in God's presence. Start in your prayer life. I would start by getting into the presence of God and just being quiet. “The Lord is in his holy temple. Let all the Earth be silent before him,” Habakkuk. Let's be silent before God and then say, "Lord, would you please teach me what to say and how to say it?" I love this mouth filter that I've used before, Ephesians 4:29, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen." So that weeds out the bad, it allows the pure water through.
I have a whole house water filter, changing that cartridge is quite a moment. Actually, we had a year in that house before I put one in. I'm like, "What did I drink for that year?" The nasty color of that pure white cartridge that I put in there, it's not pure white anymore. It's a combination of reddish-orange from that clay that we have here in North Carolina and something black, and I'm not sure what that black is but the filter has caught it out. Well, set that filter over your mouth. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen.
So you think about World War I, that gas mask thing, with the big cartridge in front of the mouth like that, that's to protect you from what you're breathing in. It'd be nice to have one for what goes out. But boy, would that look weird? There's a lot of people wearing masks now but imagine a mouth filter. Say what's that, what's a mouth filter? What does it do? Well, it doesn't let any unwholesome talk come out of my mouth but only what is helpful. Well, you don't have to physically wear one. Clean out your heart, clean out your heart. Start there. Say, "Lord, what is in my heart?" I love Philippians 4:8, “whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy, think about those things.” You think about those things and that will come out of your mouth. That's one of the reasons I love to memorize scripture. When I'm going through, what I'm doing now is the Gospel of Mark, when I'm doing Mark to and from work when I'm getting over it and saying it over and over, it's amazing the amount of Mark that's coming out of my mouth. It's just Mark all the time. And so, fill your mind with the Word of God. Friends, we have a challenge in front of us, don't we? We have the rest of this day, let's resolve to be holy by the power of the Holy Spirit for the rest of this day.
Close with me in prayer. Father thank you for the clarity of the Word of God. We thank you for the warning tone that it strikes for us. We thank you that you have not left us as orphans, but through the Spirit of Christ, you are in us if we're redeemed. Oh God, I pray that you transform our tongues. Help us to say only those things that will bless and benefit first our spouses then our kids, our parents, our brothers, sisters at home and then our neighbors, our co-workers, Lord, our fellow church members. Help us to use our mouths for what you designed them to do, which is to praise and exalt your glory and your goodness. We pray in Jesus' name, amen.