Who or what controls your speech? Like a mighty ship that is controlled by a small rudder, our tongues are a small member with great power. Our speech is being controlled either by the Lord or it is being controlled by our own anger, bitterness, and selfishness. When Jesus is in control, we do not have to fear what is going to leak out between our teeth. In our text this week, we learn to be wary that we don't offend with our tongue.
A Christian marriage is intended to portray Christ and His church to the world. But how do we ensure that our marriages live up to God's standards? God's Word contains what we need not only to flourish, but to overcome the emotional, societal, and spiritual attacks we face in our marriages. In this series, Pastor Skip Heitzig covers various scriptural texts to give us the biblical view on marriage. From dating to dealing with in-laws; from anger management to managing your finances; from conflict resolution to delightful sexual relations, this powerful series will provide the tools you need to strengthen your home and relationships.
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Greek terms: διδάσκαλος; didaskalos – a teacher, master
Publications referenced: "His Needs Her Needs" by Willard F. Harley
Figures referenced: Oswald Chambers, Gino's Nona, Sammy Tanagho, Warren Wiersbe, Thomas Watson, Bill Clinton, Matthew Henry
Cross references: Psalm 19:14, Psalm 39:1, 3, Proverbs 18:21, Proverbs 26:20-21, Matthew 5:37, Matthew 12:34, Ephesians 4:29, Colossians 4:6
Good morning Calvary of Albuquerque and congratulations on 30 years.
I first came to Calvary myself to visit your church in 1983 and then again in 1884 and then joined the staff in 1985. My wife Mary and my three children were here from 1985 to 1992 and next month in October, we'll be celebrating 20 years in Colorado so it's wonderful to be able to participate.
Turn in your Bibles to James Chapter Three. Skip of course provided the introduction. We're going to be looking at James Chapter Three, Faith Walkin' and Tongue Talkin'. The Book of James is about submission to God, a controlled tongue and wisdom from above. Let's pray.
Heavenly Father, we thank you and praise you and glorify you. Lord, we know that sometimes out of our mouth comes condemnation instead of commendation. Sometimes, poison rather than praise. So Heaven Father, we pray that by your Holy Spirit and by the Lord Jesus Christ you would take control of our heart by taking control of our mind.
Lord, we pray for the marriages at the Calvary and Albuquerque, we pray for that husband and that wife who are literally holding on by a tread. Lord, we pray that we could learn to cultivate repentance, confession, forgiveness and reconciliation. Lord we pray that we would experience unity in our church and unity in our marriage, in Jesus' name, amen.
James Chapter Three beginning in Verse One it says, "My brother and let not many of you become teachers knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment for we all stumbling in many things. If anyone does not stumble on word, he is a perfect man able also to able also to bridle the whole body."
"Indeed, we put bits in horses' mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. 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. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! 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 for every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison."
With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt and fresh water."
A wife one evening drew her husband's attention to the couple next door. And she said, "Do you see that couple? Look at how devoted they are to each other. He kisses her every time they meet. Why don't you do that?" He said, "I'd love too but I don't know her all that well." Danger wives have probably come into a circumstance where their husband has said something mean, something rude, something inappropriate and for as many young marriages, it feels like its time to panic but stay calm.
You see, the truth is we need to learn how to submit to God and allow His Holy Spirit to control our speech.
You probably know that there are rules for marriage in conversation. You can say what you mean but you can't say it meanly.
There is an unwritten rule in the south. I was born in New Orleans and spent a lot of my youth going back and forth in the south and you learn that you can say whatever you want about anyone so long as at the end of the sentence you say, "Bless their heart."
Whatever else communication means, it means shared understanding. Good communication is the art and science of sending and receiving clear messages to one another. Even when we talk, even when we don't talk, even when we write you see the truth is that silence itself can be a message.
And so we're back in Pastor James's office. And the theme of the little Book of James is God wants us to grow up. He wants us to mature. James has been talking about mature of faith. The Book of James is a book about maturity in the face of difficulty and to trial and testing. And then James moves on to the subject of maturity in the face of temptation and now maturity in how we treat others. Real saving faith results in a change in the way you live.
Here's part of the point. Jesus changes our life. And because He changes our life, He changes our thinking. And because He changes our thinking, He changes our hearts. And because He changes our heart, He changes our lips. If Jesus is Lord of your life then He insists on being the Lord of your speech. Our speech, our communication will reflect either maturity or immaturity.
In his book, his needs, her needs, Willard F. Harley makes a strong case for building an affair proof marriage. He then cites the differences in needs for both men and women. Most women put affection at the top of their list of needs followed by conversation, honesty, openness, financial support, family commitment. What did men put at the top of their list? Sexual fulfillment, recreational companionship, an attractive spouse, domestic support, admiration but what everything links to all of those needs is the mechanism of communication, shared understanding. It was Oswald Chambers who said that the tongue becomes the ambassador of the heart reflecting what the Bible says. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.
This last August has been particularly difficult for me. My grandmother who was getting ready to turned 102 in October went to go be with the Lord at the age of 101. Many of you know about the Aurora theater massacre that took place not far from my city of Littleton. But because I work with the local law enforcement and with the FBI, I have the great privilege of being able to respond to that great difficulty.
When my grandmother died, before she died, when she turned a 100, I asked her a question. I said, "Nona, how do you live to be a 100 years old?" And she with a bright smile said, "You've got to have more birthday than anybody else." Out of the abundance of her heart her mouth would speak.
A tribute was once paid to a great linguist who had learned seven different languages but not only had he learned to speak in seven different languages but he learned how to keep his mouth shut in each and every one of those languages. That's something I need to learn. Even though I can laugh in a hundred different languages, I have yet to learn the sacred art of silence in my native tongue. Saving faces off in accomplish fights is keeping the lower part of your face shut. My other grandma used to say, "A close mouth gathers no feet."
James reminds us that the Christian is patient in trouble in Chapter One. Practices the truth in Chapter Two but now he is giving us the characteristics of a mature faith and that means control over the tongue and he gives six pictures of the tongue, a bit, a fire, a poisonous animal, a fountain, and a fig tree.
Let's look at the tongue and its power. "My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment." James speaks of the importance of the tongue. And the word by the way translated teachers as the Greek word "Didaskalos."
There's nothing wrong with wanting to be a teacher of God's word. His warning is directed towards the person who thinks he or she may have a better relationship God or a greater chance of salvation with God or a greater power or influence in the Kingdom of God but what James is saying that's not the point of being a teacher. The point of being a teacher puts you at risk and subject to greater judgment. But remember in the context of what he is about to say teachers depend on words to do their job.
That is what they used. People may look at the pastor or the Bible teacher and think how wonderful it is to be a Bible teacher and it is a privilege and there is a certain measure of authority but that authority and privilege is really outweighed by responsibility and accountability. But this is the point, teachers and husbands and wives and Christians all use words.
And teachers are supposed to use their mouth to share God's word and to share God's promises and to share God's message of hope in the Gospel. And husbands are supposed to use their words to strengthen marriages and unity. And I know that you have been going through a very long series and you've noted that the goal of marriage is unity and unity based on trust and respect and affection. And there are words that can build trust and promote respect and affection. And there are words that can tear them down.
You probably said either silently or out loud, "I can't listen to that guy." because you don't respect his life. You've seen teachers who say things but they do other things. No wonder Paul in the Book of Ephesians Chapter 4 Verse 29 said, "Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth but what is good and necessary for edification that it may impart grace to the hearers.
The Bible teaches that communication should promote unity. That means unity in the church, unity in our family, unity in our marriages, foster understanding, communication should be clear.
In Mathew Chapter Five, we learn that our yes should be yes and our no should be no. Our speech should be wholesome. And I want you to think about it. If that was all you knew about the biblical basis of communication, if you didn't know anything else, then you would know that there is no room for verbal manipulation, for gossip, for intentional miscommunication, for lying, for anger, for cover-ups.
And so in Verse 2, James says, "For we all, 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, the mature person. The mature person who controls his or her speech is able to keep the whole body in check." James says is in effect saying, "We all stumble in many things."
And James is including himself in Verse 2. Look what it says, "We." He doesn't say, "I am James. I am the half brother of Jesus and dude, I'm a holy dude. I'm the Pastor of Cavalry Chapel in Jerusalem." I mean many people stumble and I have better control than most you know. He is making an admission. I'm not perfect. I sometimes offend people.
Honesty compels us to admit that we all offend at times and James seems to be saying that out of the opportunities that we have to offensive, our speech the hardest one to avoid usually includes words.
Joel Rosenberg and Samy Tanagho were at my church not too long ago. Samy Tanagho is an Evangelist and he does outreach to Muslims and he loves Muslim people he writes about loving them and having affection for them and reaching out to them and looking for opportunities to open doors rather than close doors to build bridges instead of burning them down.
And I had them on my radio program. I have a radio program on Salem Network and we were talking about this very issue and we were talking about all of the problems, challenges and obstacles when it comes to ministering to Muslim people and I said something. I think Samy who's from Egypt said, "Gino my brother, make sure you confine your offense to the Gospel."
I could feel the air go through my heart that was as if the Holy Spirit himself had spoken to me. "Gino confine your offense to the gospel. When you speak are you willing to limit it to the gospel?
Ladies have you ever asked the question, "Why won't my husband talk to me?" Men have you ever heard your wife say, "Why won't you talk to me?" and the man is thinking in his brain, he's hearing the voice of his mother, he's hearing the voice of his father, a grandmother or a grandfather hearing if you can't say something nice, you know the rest.
Don't say anything at all and sometimes men forget that even their silence becomes conversation. Women ask, "Why don't we talk." And of the moment that a woman says to a man, "We need to talk." what's usually the men's response? "What do you want to talk about?" My father said that there are two times when a man doesn't understand a woman before marriage and after marriage.
While attending a marriage seminar dealing with communication, tom and his wife Grace listened to the instructor, the instructor said, "It's essential that husbands and wives understand the man's likes and dislikes." And he addressed the men, "Man, can you name your wife's favorite flower?" and the man touched his wife -- Pillsbury, right? No wonder James uses this metaphor of a bridle. James says that a person who know how control their mouth, it becomes a sign of maturity. The person who cannot control their mouth cannot control body. James links words with deeds and that our words have an affect on our deeds.
Warren tells us the story of a pastor friend who had a woman in his church who was a gossip and she would stay on the phone most of the day sharing tidbits of juicy information about anyone who is willing to listen and she came to the pastor one day and she said, "Oh, pastor the Lord has convicted me. He's convicted me of my sin. My mouth, my tongue is getting me and other people into trouble." and Warren Wiersbe, "My friend knew that she wasn't sincere because she's gone through this before."
And guardedly he asked her, "Well what do you want to do about it?" And she said, "I want to put my tongue on the altar." And the pastor looked at her and said, "Lady, there's not altar big enough in the world to hold your tongue." and he let her think about it for a while because sometimes we under estimate the size of our tongues.
Ladies, I'm going to tell you a secret. Men generally desire communications that is clear and that is honest and that is gossip free and words are powerful. We know that words are connected to our heart that's why the Psalm says 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?" How is it possible that something so small can be so powerful?
And that's the point that James makes. He does it in the series of illustrations. First how to control it in Verses three and four and then how it can consume those who around them in Verse five. Verse three, "Indeed, we put bits in horses' mouths that they may obey us in order turn their whole body." Some of you are very familiar with horses. These are magnificent creatures 1200, 1500 pounds. You put a bit in a bridle and you turn them to the left, you can turn them to the right. I'm not a horseman by any stretch of the imagination.
I remember when I was 10 years old, there was a girl in my class room invited me over to go horse back riding with her. And she said, "You can ride a horse right?" I'm 10 years old and I've seen every episode of Roy Rogers, Paladin, I've watch hundreds of westerns, it didn't look that difficult and so I lied and I said, "Sure, I can ride a horse." And she put me on top of the horse and the horse took off. And within 10 seconds I was underneath the horse's neck holding on for dear life. I had no idea how to turn a horse to the left or to the right.
And some of us have no idea how to control our speech. It never occurs to us to listen to what the scripture say that we have to take our speech and we have to remind ourselves that Jesus can take our speech and holds it hostage and then provides us a mechanism of submission.
He says in Verse four, "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." The pilot is the one who directs and controls the ship. The point becomes who or what controls your speech. Do you?
In order words, part of the challenges, your speech is being controlled by promises, by praise, by the Lord or unforgiveness and bitterness. It's being controlled by anger and selfishness. When Jesus is in control of the heart, Jesus can control the mouth. And when Jesus is in control, you don't have to fear what's going to leak out between your teeth.
There was the Puritan preacher Thomas Watson who famously said, "God has given us two ears but one tongue to show that we should be swift to hear but slow to speak. God has sent double fins before the tongue, the teeth and the lips to teach us to be weary that we don't offend with our tongue." Husbands, wives something or someone is controlling your heart which in turn is controlling your speech.
By the way when a judge renders a verdict, the judge can say guilty or not guilty. And the very moment that the judge speaks it can mean the difference between incarceration and freedom. A president can speak a few words and plunge a nation into war or recession or some other global obligation that same president can speak a few words and provide pardon for he convict.
I remember after the Columbine incident, I met with the former famous President of the United States and I remember asking him about his heart attack and asking him about his health and asking what he enjoys in life now. And he talked about raising money for good causes.
And in 2008, we had the Democratic National Convention in Denver Colorado and I was with the FBI who happened to be with the secret service and the head of the secret service comes over and he says, "Pastor, come over here. I want you to do that thing." I go, "What thing?" "You know that thing that you do."
So here is the whole contingent of the secret service and I come out and they are all gathered. They are doing their morning briefing for the convention and I said, "Many of you remember that in the beginning I denied having a relationship with that woman Miss Lewinsky. I later admitted that I did in fact have an inappropriate relationship but I want you to know and I want the American people to know I'm ready to deny it all over again."
Oh my, yes that's when they started howling and laughing. You see the tongue is a little member. It can boast great things but look what it says in Verse five, "See how great a forest a little fire kindles!" And in New Mexico and in Colorado, we are two states that understand how one spark can create a mechanism where whole forest can go up in smoke.
What's does the tongue, what does the bit, what does the rudder all have in common? The power to move a body, the power to move a horse, the power to move a boat, the power to point, the power to set on a course of action. That's the idea. It affects lives. It sets the tone and the direction for our marriage and the environment of our church. And look what it says in Verse six, "And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity."
That means the tongue is power but the tongue is also perverse. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body. It sets on fire the course of nature and it is itself set on fire by how? James began with the importance of the tongue in Verses 1 and 2 then the illustrations about the tongue in Verses Three through Five but now he goes from importance, an illustration to this subject of inequity. What is it about our mouth that so corrupts and destroys us in our church and in our marriage?
Listen to another translation. In the New Living Translation it says, "And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is full of wickedness that can ruin your whole life. It can turn the entire course of your life into a blazing flame of destruction, for it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals and birds and reptiles and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is an uncontrollable evil, full of deadly poison."
And when he's talking about this deadly poison, he's using it I think in the context of a poisonous animal like a scorpion or viper or a snake. And if you have ever experienced poison from a very, very small animal, poison is usually very, very light almost transparent. It seems impossible that something so small can be so toxic. And that's the point that he's making.
In Proverbs 26:20 it says, "Fire goes out for lack of fuel, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops." Verse 26:21 of Proverbs, "A quarrelsome person starts fights as easily as hot embers light charcoal or fire lights wood." The point, how do you kill a fire? How do you put out the fire? You have to starve the fuel supply. You know that. Anyone who's ever been involved in a fire knows that you've got to remove the wood that is burning. You have to remove the oxygen in order to make the fire go out. You have to starve its fuel supply. And so what is supplying the perversity in the poison in your speech with your husband, with your wife, with your children, with the people in your church?
What happens in a church when people fuel the fire of destruction by saying things that aren't true, that are mean, that are harmful, that are destructive? What happens in a marriage when the fires of harmful speech destroy trust and alienate affection and promote destructive behavior? People who can't control their mouths destroy churches and husbands and wife who can't control their speech, they not only promote an atmosphere of terror and trial but they literally put the marriage at risk.
So, how can we create an environment of harmony and love and unity instead of division and contention? You have to replace poison with an antidote. You know in the Bible it says that we have to stop lying and we have to start telling the truth.
The Bible says that when that word, when that deed begins to present himself inside of our heart, we need to have an alternative and so we have to promote the kind of communication and conversation that promotes trust and respect and affection. And we do that by developing an interest in our spouse, by developing interest in what their favorite topics of conversation are. We use conversation to inform and investigate and understand our spouse. And one of the difficulties is of course to give each the other person's undivided attention.
You know in the Psalm 39 Verse One and then again in Verse Three the Psalm has wrote, "For Jeduthun, the choir director: A psalm of David. I said to myself I will watch what I do and I won't sin in what I say. I will curve my tongue when the ungodly are around me." Then in Verse three, "My thoughts grew hot within me and began to burn, igniting a fire of words."
Have you ever had that happen in your life, in your heart where something was said or something was done and it felt like your inside is caught on fire and you are so angry that you didn't know what to do? I had that happen.
I was working at the Department of Social Services, my mother was in charge and a drunk came in and grabbed her. And when I mean grab her I mean grabbed her in ways that drunk shouldn't be groping women and this woman happened to be my mother. And I don't know it was like a red fire went off inside of my heart and I decided that I was going to kill this man. And so I got up in an arm bar and I smashed his head up against the wall and mother goes, "Gino, you're killing him." And I go, "Yeah, that's exactly what I'm doing. That's exactly what I'm doing."
But the Bible says that in order to deal with uncontrollable outburst of anger that we have to put on the mind of Christ and the character of Christ and the fruit of the Spirit, look what it says in Verse Six again, "and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell."
I don't know if you've ever seen a burned victim where their 20% or 50% or 60% of their body is covered in wounds. It creates a hellish nightmarish existence. The idea that James is this word course is an oval track or a wheel. The point that he's making is that when you singe one part of your life, the chances are you're going to singe all the rest of your life.
When Hitler wrote his autobiography in prison called Mein Kampf, 125 people lost their lives for every word that he wrote in World War II. Words can start wars, burns cities, break hearts, ruin reputations, cause marriages to suffer and sometimes die and words can destroy souls and sentence people to hell and we sometimes underestimate the power of speech. We say sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never harm me but it's not true.
Colossians Chapter Four Verse Six says, "Let your speech always be with grace seasoned with salt so that you may know how to answer each one." Does it come as a shock to you to learn that a clear message has to be filled with grace and seasoned with salt? What does that mean? It means that you have to be clear in your speech. You have to take time for one another. You have to speak for yourself and let your spouse speak for himself or herself and really listen.
You know, I have to be really careful because my wife and I have been married close to 30 years and I've come to appreciate the fact that when says, "You're not listening." I drop everything and I really do drop everything and I say, "Help me understand. Help me to think first then speak second."
A husband was trying to prove to his wife that women talk more than men and he showed her a study which indicated that men use about 10,000 words per day and women use 20,000 words per day and his wife thought about it for a while and she said to her husband that women use twice as many words as men because they have to repeat to them everything they say. And her husband went, "What?" Marriage is more than a word it's a sentence, a life sentence.
And so he writes in Verse Seven "For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison." and so the tongue is likened to a dangerous animal.
You know there's a reason why parks have signs posted. If you go to Lion Country Safari, there's a sign that says, "Don't leave your car. Please close your windows.
A few weeks ago my wife and I were in Alaska. We were on an Alaskan cruise and we heard even while we there of a photographer who is trying to photograph a grizzly bear and he was told, "Don't get within 300 yards of the bear." a he approached the bear and got within 30 yards of the bear. And when they found the photographer, he was what they called a "food cash." He was eaten by the bear. There is a reason why the warning is given. The tongue is dangerous.
In Verse nine James says, "With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh."
Think about it iniquity, Verse Six, incorrigibility Verses Seven and Eight, inconsistency Verses Nine through 12. Now James points out the hopeless contradiction. We tried it to two different things at once with our tongue. We praised God with it and we poison our family, our church, our marriage and James says it ought not to be that way. The point? Caring couples communicate in a caring way. A controlled tongue promotes unity and believers in the church, unity in the marriage.
I'm going close with just a quick story. And man and his wife were having some problems at home and they were giving each other something that I know you never do, the silent treatment. And suddenly, the man realizes the next day he had to wake up at five o'clock for an early morning business flight and he needed his wife to wake him up at five and not wanting to be the first to break the silence and lose the war. He wrote on a piece of paper, "Please wake me up at five a.m." And he left it where he knew she would find it. And the next morning he woke up and it was nine o'clock and he had missed his flight and he was getting ready to yell at his wife when he found a piece of paper right next to his pillow. The paper read, "It's five o'clock. Wake up."
We sometimes think that we can tame the tongue writing it down on a piece of paper. You know, James is right. No man or woman can control the tongue, that's the bad news. But you know what the good news is? Jesus Christ can change your heart. And because Jesus Christ can change your heart, he can change your speech. He can change your life.
Matthew Henry wrote, "No man can tame the tongue without supernatural grace and assistance." The apostle does not intend to represent it as a thing impossible, but as a thing extremely difficult, which therefore will require great watchfulness, and pains, and prayer." But that's what maturity and faith does and that's what maturity and speech brings, an opportunity to promote unity through right speech, trust, respect, affection. Let's pray for our marriages.
Heavenly Father, I pray for every man and every woman, those who are married but particularly those are who are in trouble. Lord I pray that by your Holy Spirit you will draw them together.
Lord, I pray that they would sense and see that there is a direction that they can take, that winning the war on words requires a much more difficult fight and that is what will my heart be like and who will my heart serve.
Lord we pray that it would be Jesus. We pray that He would forgive us and watch us and fill us with a gracious heart and a merciful heart and a forgiving heart so that we could be gracious and merciful and forgiving in our speech in Jesus' name, amen.