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The tongue may be small, but it is most certainly powerful. We should never be people who say that He is the Lord of our lives, but not the Lord of our lips. "Out of the abundance of the heart so the mouth speaks." Oftentimes our actions are a representation of the heart. When we truly let Christ work in our lives, evidence of His love and grace is manifested by our actions, and, in particular in our words.
Truth About Prayer and Healing
The Truth About Suffering and the Believer
The Truth About Wealth and the Joneses
The Truth About Slander and Silence
The Truth About Conflict in Our Lives and Communities
The Truth About Transformed People
The Truth About the Tongue
The Truth About Genuine Faith
The Truth About How to Treat People
The Truth About the Believer and the Word
The Truth About Temptation and How True Believers Respond
The Truth about Troubles and Trials
Good morning. It is great to be together. I am excited to be here right now, and I'm excited to be with our friends in Fort Worth. Right now we get to dive into James, and we'd best pray, because your pastor needs this text this morning.
Father, thank you so much for the privilege of learning from you. Thank you for your abundant grace and for your never-ending shepherding of our hearts, that you who began this good work in us wants to bring it about to completion.
So, Lord, we come to you this morning and ask that you would do your work, that you would take your Word and it would pierce our hearts, it would soften the broken hardness that is there and would allow your Word to go in, be implanted in our souls, germinate, take root, and bear fruit, and by the way we speak and the way we live all could see we are people who have done business with you.
We thank you, Lord, for what you're going to teach us this morning. I pray for friends who are here who aren't really sure who you are, that they would see your grace, your goodness, your kindness in you and in you as you dwell in us and that they would come to know the God who saves sinners and fools and makes us a source of blessing, filled with hope and joy. May that be our story even as we labor through the trials that are in this world, amen.
There are few books as practical as this one, so it does not surprise me this is the very first letter the Holy Spirit decided to give to the church. After Matthew, Mark, and Luke were around, the very first epistle, the very first letter written to the church, that the church might be all God intends the church to be, is the book of James.
What James is going to do is walk us through, "Church, this is what we're all about. You say you know God and love God, that you've been reconciled to him, that you have beheld his glory and you know God in all his fullness? Then why aren't you asking God for wisdom? Why do you keep looking to the world when God has given you his revelation?" That's James, chapter 1.
"Why are you confused at the fiery ordeal among you? He told you you were going to have trouble. You of all people should know why there's sickness, death, despair, deceit, and why this world is filled with evil men. God told you what happened. The world left him. This is not his world. He is sovereign over it, but this is a world informed by darkness. Why are you so overwhelmed with trials? You're the only people who really understand why they're here and what they can do.
Why do you keep giving in to temptation? You have seen the goodness of God, that he would run toward you in your sin, that he became sin on your behalf that you might become the righteousness of God in him and be reconciled to him. Why do you rail against God and speak as if he doesn't know what he's doing when you've seen the wonder of his work and his redemption through Jesus Christ?
Why do you say you know and love God when you are not merciful to one another and do what the world does, which is to give favoritism to the elite and the beautiful and the rich and the famous? Why do you say you know God and you are filled with creeds and songs but your life is like the cretins and simpletons who don't know God?" That's the book of James, chapters 1-2. Now the book of James, chapter 3, is "Why do you say he is Lord of your life and yet there's one area it doesn't ever evidence itself?"
Let me start with a riddle, because I love riddles. Here's one way to ask a simple question. "What weighs practically nothing but few men can hold it?" Or how about this? If you're a student of the Bible and you know where we are in James you'll have the answer right here. I like this one. It's a rhyme.
I'm sometimes held but rarely touched.
I'm always wet yet never rust.
I'm often wagged and sometimes bit.
To use me well you must have wit.
What am I?
Answer: I am the tongue. I don't weigh much, but very few folks can hold me.
We know how important it is to be able to hold the tongue. I wasn't alive, obviously, during World War II. Some folks in our body were, and if you were around in that time you became very familiar with a phrase the War Advertising Council propagated. They made a lot of posters about this, and then eventually it became a colloquialism in American history.
That little colloquialism is simply, "Loose lips sink ships." It was a little phrase that was put out there. "Listen. We don't know who's among us right here. We don't know who's wiring information back to Europe." It was certainly true of sailors. They told sailors, "Don't be telling people what's going on, because you never know what you're going to say to somebody that's going to get to somebody else, and that will defeat us. Loose lips sink ships."
I love the Brits. They didn't have a "Loose lips sink ships." Their little phrase over in England during World War II was, "Keep mum." Then the Germans, who were our foes and our enemies, had this phrase: Schäm Dich, Schwätzer. It means, "Shame on you, blabbermouth." I love that. "Shut up. You're going to sink us." That really is what James is going to say in James 3:1-12. We should never be people who say he is the Lord of our life but not the Lord of our lips.
I wore this tee shirt intentionally today. We ought to be able to not just wear shirts that say, "Come and see" but "Listen and learn." "Listen and see how we have been transformed." If all we are is inviting people to a place where there is a lot of great activity and great songs are sung and great truth is taught but that truth does not transform in the way we speak, we're not going to have much of a mission.
Have you ever heard this little phrase? "Your mouth is speaking so loud I can't hear what your life is trying to tell me." The way you live your life is so loud and so wrong… Your lips are just like mine. They're destructive. I'm here to tell you this morning there is nothing in my life…nothing…that has caused me and brought me more joy than my tongue and brought me more pain and cost me more trouble than my tongue.
Proverbs 18 says this little bad boy has the power of life and death. This thing has blessed me. It has blessed more people than any other part of my body, and this thing has wounded more people than any other part of my body. What we ought to see is because of our relationship with Jesus, church, it ought to be increasingly a blessing and decreasingly a curse. When you meet somebody, right away you listen to them speak and, based on how they speak, you know if they're from the northeast, the Deep South, down under, England, the inner city, Israel…
Right away, you start to hear them speak, and you go, "I know where you're from by the accent on your tongue." Well, it is God's intention that whether you speak with an Irish brogue, a Deep South sweetness, an inner city slang, a hip-hop beat, or an Australian sweetness it is informed by him. He doesn't much care where your family of origin is. He wants to know if you have a relationship with him. If you do, people ought to hear the way you speak and know immediately where you're from.
When's the last time somebody said, "I know who you are"? Let me show you something really amazing. In the early days of the church, the very first ways they knew there was something different going on is that their tongue was radically transformed. It's the very first miracle of the church. This is no small area that has been perverted and become a distraction to others. You are going to be around people who will tell you the sign of being a spiritual person is that you speak in an ecstatic tongue.
Some people talk about a prayer language or "Do you have the gift of tongues?" As lovingly as I can tell you, let me say this. The evidence you have been transformed by Jesus Christ and that his Spirit dwells in you is not that you speak in some tongue unknown to you. The evidence you have been transformed by Jesus Christ and that his Spirit dwells in you is that you control the tongue you have.
Early on in the church, the very first miracle was that their tongues started to speak in a language they didn't know, but it was a known language. The word for tongue there is glossa. It's where we get glossary, which means a book of words that mean something. The other word that is used in Acts 2 is dialektos, where we get dialect from. It was a bank of words that was in a known dialect. All men heard these men, with their tongues that were transformed, speak of the excellencies of God and the glories of what he has done.
I am here to tell you if you are a spiritual person, that same thing ought to happen. People will hear your tongue be transformed, and it will use a bank of words in a language they understand that will speak of the glories of God and the excellencies of what he has done. If that isn't consistently happening, James would say, "Easy" before you're convinced you know anything more than a bunch of empty facts. If you want to know you are filled with faith, it ought to show up right here first. Let's read it and let's teach it. Here we go.
"Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. Now if we put the bits into the horses' mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well. Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires.
So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race.
But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh."
Let's get with it. Let's have our tongues changed. The tongue is not just going to change by the will; it's going to change by the power of God and the indwelling of his Spirit. I've told you already our tongue can get us in trouble and out of trouble faster than anything I know of. I think about the young man who was working at a grocery store. He's sitting there in the produce section. Some woman walks up to him and says, "Son, can I buy a half a head of lettuce?"
He said, "What?" She said, "Can I buy half a head of lettuce?" He said, "Look. God grows them in an entire head, and that's the way we sell them." She goes, "I have been shopping here for decades, and I just need a half a head of lettuce. Can I buy a half a head of lettuce?" He goes, "I don't know. I'll go ask the store manager." So he walks up to the front of the store and says to the manager, "Let me tell you something. There is this crazy wacko of a woman who has asked me if we can sell her a half a head of lettuce."
The manager's eyes are this big. Huge. Because unbeknownst to this young man, that woman had followed him up to the front of the store. He can tell by the manager looking at him like, "What are you doing?" He turns around and sees the woman, and he says, "And this dear lady wants to buy the other half." The lady walked away, and the store manager looked at him and said, "That is amazing. I've never seen anybody recover like that. Where did you learn to do that?"
He goes, "Brother, I am from Grand Rapids, Michigan, where we have learned to be very quick on our feet." He goes, "You know what? There ain't nothing from Grand Rapids, Michigan, except a bunch of hockey players and ugly women." The manager's eyes got huge and he said, "My wife is from Grand Rapids." He said, "Well, what hockey team did she play for?" Have you ever been there? Just constantly trying to rescue yourself from where that rascal ran?
Every now and then you get something, and every now and then you just go, "Oh man. I've got nothing." Let me just say this at the beginning. If I can just help you with something… Let me jump to verse 2. I'm going to insert a little point right here. Look at verse 2. "For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man…" There are no perfect men here. I am a servant here. I have the incredible privilege to lead and teach and serve you here, but there are no perfect people here.
I said a couple of weeks ago the more I grow in my relationship with God I see the further my desperate need for grace. I don't get more excited to meet him based on my life and what I've done; I get more excited about grace and what he has done because I know how desperately I need him. He is our Savior. There's not a single person here who will forever master the tongue, so we have to be a community of grace.
This is true. Proverbs, chapter 4, says this about who we are. Proverbs 4:18 says, "The path of the righteous is like the new day's sun" or "like the coming of dawn." You think about that. It's dark. The path of the righteous, the path of the church, James is going to tell us, the path of your life after you genuinely come into relationship with God is like the new day. What happens? You're up early. You see darkness start to wane. You see the new day sun come.
Proverbs 4:18 says it grows brighter and brighter until the new day comes, until the full day. Some of your Bibles might say "until the noonday has arrived" or "until the full day is here." That's what we ought to be. We ought to be increasingly getting brighter more and more. None of us are going to be perfect. We are justified, we are declared righteous, vindicated from our sin because the finished work of Christ.
We vindicate we really have a relationship with Christ by the way we continue to be conformed to his image (that's sanctification), and one day God will finish that process (that's glorification). I'm not asking you to be perfect. None of us is going to be perfect here. We're all going to make mistakes. We're going to eagerly extend grace to one another, but grace doesn't enable sin. Grace lovingly, carefully, first looking to itself lest it too be tempted, thinking it's better than them, or it's going to do it in anger… Grace lovingly offers forgiveness and life.
We're going to all make mistakes with our tongue, so this is not a message about perfection, because the Bible doesn't teach perfectionism. The Bible talks about a perfect Savior for sinners who ought to be increasingly conformed to his image. Hear me. I'm not making an excuse for our tongues. I am calling you to the fullness of what Scripture says, but let's be gracious to one another.
Wives, do not unload on your husband this afternoon and say, "Did you listen today?" What you ought to do is not in any way overlook something that was said or done that is dishonoring to God. In a loving way, you go to him. Here's what you should do. Just make a note. When you are not a perfect person… Proverbs also says in 24:16, "A righteous man falls seven times and rises again." This is what makes us righteous. We confess our sins.
We use the same tongue that was destructive to confess, which means agree with God. "That wasn't of God. That was not of the Spirit. That was Todd, not God." And we forsake. We go, "I'm not going to say that again. I'm not saying ever. I'm just saying I am not going to continue in that practice. I'm not going to continue to let my flesh and my anger guide me." We'll find compassion if we're amongst God's people here.
This is what you should do if your tongue sins. This is how you handle it. Proverbs 6:2-5: "If you have been snared with the words of your mouth…" Here it's specifically talking about making an oath. If you've been caught with the words of your mouth, if you said, "Hey, I will give surety. I will tell you that guy is worth his weight in gold" or "That guy over there I endorse. You can give him a loan. You can give him a job."
In other words, what he's saying is if you've done that flippantly, you've done that too quickly, and you realize it, here's what you should do. The application is good for all misuses of the tongue. "…do this then, my son, and deliver yourself; since you have come into the hand of your neighbor, go, humble yourself, and importune your neighbor." In other words, throw yourself before them.
"Give no sleep to your eyes, nor slumber to your eyelids; deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hunter's hand and like a bird from the hand of the fowler." Question. How does a gazelle run away from a hunter? Like his life depends on it. How does a bird try to get out of a net? Like his life depends on it. Your ministry, your opportunity to represent Christ is going to be significantly compromised every time this little bad boy runs away in anger, in pride, in impurity, in lust, in selfishness, in anything that is contrary to God.
So what you do is go, "That thing that happened there? I want to tell you what you thought it was is what it was. It's wrong. It's not consistent with who I am. I'm asking God for forgiveness. I'm asking you for forgiveness, and I'm not going to tell you because you've forgiven me just to blow it off and move on. I'm going to restore trust. I'm going to make amends when I can, but I'm going to deal with it and not just let time heal all wounds."
We have some phrases in our society that are incredibly deceitful. Time doesn't heal all wounds; forgiveness heals wounds. Biblical forgiveness, which involves acknowledgement, repentance, amends. One of the greatest lies we tell our kids is, "Sticks and stones may break your bones, but names will never hurt you." We try to say that to encourage them when people are saying mean things to them, but if we're not careful, we're going to give them license to say things to other people.
You need to know something. I have broken stuff from my big toe to my skull and a lot in between. It has all healed, and I can run and jump, but there are some words I have heard that, to this day, have left wounds in my heart. One of the great lies is that this tongue is not that deadly. It contradicts Scripture. Let me just teach it to you right here.
"Let not many of you become teachers…" Apparently, there was a desire for a lot of folks to jump up very quickly and start to lead others. He's saying, "Listen. You have to be careful. You don't want to do that." When they were in a gathering… Typically, what would happen in smaller synagogues is they'd just say, "Hey, does anybody have a word from their time with the scrolls?"
Different guys would want to jump up, not to encourage others but because they wanted to be recognized as a rabbi, as a leader, as a person of influence. They wanted some of that prestige that comes with it. James is saying, "Hey, let's not all run for the microphone, because there is judgment that is going to come on all of us."
All of us in some way are teachers. We all do know that. Every single one of us in some way is a teacher, but be really careful before you want to put yourself before others, because you're not just going to be judged for your own stupidity. There is a consequence to leading others down the stupidity you yourself advocate.
This doesn't mean if you don't have a microphone you're not a teacher, but it's specifically talking about, "Don't rush too quickly to be the primary leadership influence in other's lives." That's why the Scripture says, "Don't lay your hands on somebody too quickly to have those moments. Make sure their life is informed by the Word of God."
Can I tell you one of the greatest things we do here at Watermark and one of the most dangerous things we do at Watermark? We push you into ministry. We push you into shepherding. We want you, as a professed follower of Christ who can rightly articulate the gospel, to be in community with other believers, where you practice the one anothers of Scripture, where you speak the truth to one another in love.
We trust you're going to do that, and we put you with other members of Watermark who have done that, and we make that into the community God intends, where you're known and cared for and loved and shepherded, but we sometimes put you in community with people who say they love God and honor God but don't speak with the wisdom of God.
So in your Community Group, you are often teaching one another in a way that's inconsistent with James 1:5, which says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men and doesn't withhold." He doesn't mind that you ask. If you want to radically improve Watermark, you want to radically improve your Community Group… First of all, you want to radically improve Watermark? Quit telling people you're a regular attender.
Show up today at 2:00, go to Membership, understand what it means to be connected with other people, hear what the gospel is, respond to it, give testimony that you're a part of that, and don't isolate yourself contrary to the wisdom of God. Get connected in community, and when you're in that community, make a pact with each other. "We're not going to teach one another unless we do what the Word of God says," which is to counsel one another from God's Word.
Watch this. "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment." Solution: 1 Timothy 4:7-16. "Have nothing to do with Dallas' wisdom. Have nothing to do with the ways of the world and the knowledge you're going to pick up on talk radio, self-help books, Mama, colloquialisms, common sense. You should be people of uncommon sense. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness, so that you might be able to say something."
It's great that we're all fit here and wanting to do all of these different things, and we should take care of the body because it's the only body we ever have to serve God, but we ought to discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness all the more, because that has benefit for this life and also the life to come. Verse 9:
"It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers. Prescribe and teach these things. Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe."
What's the very first thing there? The way you talk. It ought to be completely different. "Well, how can I make my talk completely different?" Here's one way. "Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture…" When you're in community and you're going to be thrust into the role of teacher and shepherd to somebody else and somebody else is talking about the trouble they're having in their marriage, the sin that's easily entangling them, the broken relationship they have with their family, the desire to leave their job because it's hard right now and go to something else…
Why don't you give attention to the public reading of Scripture in your Community Group? Because here's the thing. If you don't know what Scripture to read when you come across a certain problem, we have staff here assigned to your Community Group. All you have to do is pick up the phone and call your coach, call the staff person.
There is not a single Community Group here that if I'm the only person who can know what Scripture needs to be read in your Community Group will not have me in your Community Group this week. Now here's the great thing. This is a disciple-making church, so it has been years since somebody said, "I think Wagner is the only one who would know what Scripture to read here." Sometimes Wagner says to other people, "Hey, what Scripture would you read here?"
So here we go. "…give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching. Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery." Which is the leadership of the church. In other words, use your gifts to encourage each other.
"Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure…" Vindicate you are a person of faith because you speak faithfully. "…you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you." And we won't be some dead church that says we believe something on Sunday through our songs and our creeds but never admonish and encourage and help and spur on folks to practice it.
I am going to be giving account for the way I teach here, and you are going to be giving account for the way you teach others, the counsel you give. If you don't have any idea what God would have to say in a circumstance, be a spiritual leader. A spiritual leader says, "I'm going to be the first person who seeks what God wants. I don't know what God wants. I'm going to study the best I can, and I'm going to email my coach. I'm going to ask the rest of my community, and we're not going to give a decree on this until we find out what God's Word has to say."
We've already covered verse 2. Look at verse 3. I'm just going to go through here, because James is extremely articulate in the way he gives us very powerful word pictures. One is a bit in a horse's mouth. One is a small rudder that controls a ship. One is a small fire that destroys an entire forest. One is a wild beast that can't be tamed. One is deadly poison, one is a fountain, and one is a fig tree. I can take any one of these and preach for an hour because they're so illustrative, but let's see if we can't learn something. Watch this about the tongue. I'll give you a few things.
First, the tongue proselytizes. You will make disciples. That's James 3:1. Careful who you teach, careful how you teach, but you are going to make converts eventually. This is why, by the way, God is so constantly admonishing you to watch who you hang out with. Proverbs 13:20 says, "The companion of fools will suffer harm, but those who walk with wise men will be wise." Walk with wise men. They will help you.
That's why you have to be in community with people who go, "I'm not going to teach unless I do it faithfully." One more thing. I'm going to show you this about God, just how seriously this issue of the tongue is. People sometimes come up and ask me questions because they hear little phrases. One of the questions they ask me is, "Todd, what are the seven deadly sins?" I go, "I don't know. It was some book by some novelist I think."
There aren't seven deadly sins. Biblically speaking, there's only one sin that's primary, and everything else is just a little corollary. The one sin is to not believe in the kindness and goodness and holiness and righteousness of God, and everything else is just a secondary sin. It's just an application of that one sin. I reject God, his goodness, his kindness, his desire to have relationship with me and my need for it, and then I go everywhere else.
But watch this. There is a place in the Proverbs where it says, "There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination…" Here's what's amazing about this. Watch this list. "…haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers."
Three of the seven, a whopping 43 percent of the things God hates, have to do with this bad boy because of the way it affects people. A little bit later, in Proverbs 8:13, it says, "The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverted mouth, I hate." Pride and arrogance will make one, the evil way will make two (that's what pride and arrogant people do), and the perverted mouth that speaks error. That's 33 percent.
God is going, "Do you want to know what really hacks me off? This little bad boy that gets off course." Do you see why James early in the very first letter goes, "Let's talk about the tongue"? Because it sets entire cities to destruction. That's another thing it says. I mentioned the fact that it says in Proverbs 18 that death and life are in the power of the tongue. Proverbs 11:11 says the entire city will be brought to ruin by a foolish leader and tongue.
So it proselytizes. It proclaims who you are and what you believe. That's what the tongue does. We don't hear an accent, necessarily. We just hear you accentuate what matters to you. You get to verse 3, you're going to find out it's very powerful. Here's the truth. You get the bit, you get the horse. A horse is a very powerful animal, but you get the bit, you get the whole horse.
A ship is a huge vessel, but you get that little rudder, you get the ship. You're in a car with a group of people, you get the wheel, you get the car and everybody in it. You get the tongue, you get the man. What we're going to find out is the tongue is just a microphone of the human soul. The tongue just broadcasts what's going on in the central processing unit. Jesus tells us again and again, "This is illustrative of what's going on right here."
That's why James, right after he says, "Faith without works is dead…" In other words, there is no evidence you really have a faith if it doesn't bring about something in your life. James is saying here that little tongue is going to tell you what you really believe. How is it doing? It is very, very powerful. I mentioned Proverbs 11:11. "By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is torn down."
What you're seeing in our country right now is the power of the tongue. For the very first time in American history you have the entertainment industry, the political industry, the monetary industry, the media, and education… All four or five of those major developers, influencers of society and culture are all controlled primarily by tongues that are wicked. By that I mean tongues that are not sharing consistent wisdom with those who are listening.
We are being influenced. It is crazy, gang. How many times have your kids said this to you or how many times have you said this? "I don't listen to the lyrics; I just like the music." That's like saying, "I don't listen to what he says; he's just my best friend. I know he's constantly telling me to objectify women and be racist and be selfish, but I just like him. I don't listen to the language." Well, the Bible says the companion of fools will suffer harm.
What you're seeing in our country right now is an illustration of a parading wicked tongue that mocks God, that still wants to stamp on its coins, "In God we trust," but does not want to trust in God in the way that we'd do anything, and it will be our ruin. So here's the deal. How encouraging. What if I told you you were the solution to this amazing, great country that was really in trouble?
That doesn't mean you go out and curse them; it means you begin to jump in where we have abdicated our responsibility and swallowed our tongues, because here's the truth. All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing and to sit in little closed houses and sing songs and separate themselves from society and think they're holy because they're not associating with the wicked world. Well, the Bible says, "Get in the world and proclaim the excellencies of God."
I'm going to do an entire series this fall, starting late September or early October, and it's going to be called Declaration. I'm going to declare to you what God's Word has to say about things that are affecting our world. I'm going to tell you God's Word has this to say about the economy, about immigration, about marriage, about liberty, about life, and I'm going to make a divine proposal.
I'm going to share with you what God wants and go, "Is this maybe a better way?" I'm going to do it in a loving, winsome way. I'm going to equip you to be in the game so the wicked tongues aren't the only ones people listen to. I'm going to call you to get over the fence with your neighbor and just engage their hearts, and we're going to get ready to use our tongues to redeem this land.
What an amazing privilege we have. We are the hope of this country if we are sons of God, followers of Jesus Christ, because he's the hope of the world. What a privilege, but we have to make sure this bit is controlling this horse. We have to make sure that rudder is steering us toward the truth of God's Word.
Verse 5 says, "So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!" When I was a kid, Smokey the Bear was what was advertised as public service announcements. I'll never forget that one ad that started with a raging forest fire. It spread across the screen, and it went all the way back, and then there was this little boy's voice that said, "Mommy, where do forest fires come from?" And it just went down to one little match, and then the screen went black.
It's saying it's one person being irresponsible, and it just consumes an entire landscape. Have you ever experienced that? Have you ever been that match? Of course you have. We all have. James is just saying, "Let's tame that bad boy." But here's the truth. You really can't tame it. That's where he's going to go next. He says in verse 7, "For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue…"
So we don't really tame it. Here's what you do. You put it in a cage and smother it. Question. Where can you find a cage for your tongue? Sometimes when that thing starts to run wild, just shut it and wait until the Spirit of God is informing what it's going to do. You go, "Ha!" You whip that sucker. Let me tell you something. The only person whose tongue never sins is a dead man. How beautiful for us, because we say, "I'm a dead man. It's no longer I who lives but Christ lives in me."
Do you know when this bad boy gets me in trouble? When Todd Wagner is virile and alive. That's trouble. There have been so many times I've had to say, "That right there was not God. That was Todd, and it wasn't pretty, and it hurt you. Instead of being a source of blessing, it was poisonous, hateful, selfish." I'm just like you. I'll sit here. I'll sing, I'll preach, and I'll go home, and all of a sudden it's Todd, not God. It's flesh filled, not Spirit filled.
Sometimes my wife goes, "You want me to come listen to that tongue teach?" I usually respond in a very loving way immediately. No, I do what I taught you in Proverbs 6:2-5. I importune myself and ask for grace and repent. I agree with her that she shouldn't listen to that tongue teach; she should lovingly admonish it in its unruliness with grace. I deal with it like my very life is dependent on it, because it is.
"But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil…" That's why David said in Psalm 141, "Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.""Father, you have to be the one." Kirby, my little girl, was in the car. She's always kind of throwing out stuff, getting conversation going, stirring it up.
She basically said the other day to her brothers and sisters, "Okay, I've got one. Would you rather be lying in bed at night and there is a 20-foot, unfed, hungry python in your room or a kangaroo who thinks you have her joey in bed with you?" I look at her like, "Can you do something else right now besides throw us into these unreal situations?" But how about this? Would you rather let a lion loose in this building right now or let every single person here have a hateful tongue?
It is possible that you let a lion loose in this room and Siegfried or Roy shows up, on a good day, and tames that bad boy, because you can tame Shamu, you can tame a pig, you can tame a wolverine, but you cannot always tame this tongue. If this tongue gets wild in this room, it will destroy this place. The lion may not. A lion may take out a row, but our tongues will take out this church. I'm saying we have to get this thing.
Here's the point. "…from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way." We've been talking about this message for a while, and we talked to our little arts team, creative team. We brainstormed some stuff, and I told them, "I want you to make this little video or little drama." We bounced a bunch across a lot of things. They came up with an idea a whole lot better than I could have contributed to.
I saw it this week, and I said, "We cannot show that. It is entirely too convicting. What else do you have?" They came up and said, "Are you serious? Do you know how much work we put into this? We can't use it?" I go, "My tongue got me in trouble through email. I was kidding. It's unbelievable. I'm not kidding about it being convicting." Watch this.
Male:"Let all that I am praise the Lord with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name."
Male: What is your problem?
Male: "Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me."
Male: Are you kidding me?
Male: "He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle's! The Lord gives righteousness and justice to all who are treated unfairly.
He revealed his character to Moses and his deeds to the people of Israel. The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow [to anger and abounding in lovingkindness] . He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.
Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. The wind blows, and we are gone—as though we had never been here. But the love of the Lord remains forever with those who fear him. His salvation extends to the children's children of those who are faithful to his covenant, of those who obey his commandments! The Lord has made the heavens his throne; from there he rules over everything."
Male: What do you want from me? I mean, I have a job. I've got responsibilities.
Female: We just miss you.
Male: What is the problem? The kids are fine!
Male: "Praise the Lord, you angels, you mighty ones who carry out his plans, listening for each of his commands. Yes, praise the Lord you armies of angels who serve him and do his will! Praise the Lord, everything he has created, everything in all his kingdom. Let all that I am praise the Lord"
[End of video]
Wes said, "I've been preparing for that role for a lifetime." Just to bring a little comic relief to the deep conviction we all feel. That's good. That's what James 3 should do. No one is perfect, but there ought to be a culture here that is saying, "Let's let Jesus go to work and not have a dead faith. Let's have an evidence in our tongues, in the way we treat others, in the way we understand trials and respond to temptations.
Let's use our tongues to declare the excellencies of God and the restorative nature of his loving leadership, and let's be a leader to each other's lives. Let's extend grace, but grace doesn't enable sin and just let things go out there undealt with. No, we go ahead and capture that wild thing that ran out there. We're not animal control; we're sin control, and we lovingly bring it back in and put it in the cage and repent."
Gang, this little section ends with… It says God wants us to be productive. Not just poisonous but productive, a fountain, a source of life. If our hearts are connected to Jesus, the fountain of living water, it ought to not be bitter water. If our roots are deep in the soil of God's Word, it ought to produce good fruit. That's what Jesus says.
In Luke, chapter 6, he says, "The good man out of a good heart brings forth good fruit." James is saying, "Are you good people? Are you people associated with a good God? Then let's show that. Let's stop letting our tongues rail against God in anger, rail against other people in gossip, speak worldly fables. Let's be godly." There is nothing worse than being in a relationship with a person with a nasty tongue. Nothing.
True story. I am married for six weeks, and I get a panicked phone call from my wife. We are actually house sitting. It's the very first summer we're married. Some friends of mine are away, so we're staying in their house while we try and figure out where we're going to live. This guy happens to be kind of a novice doctor of sorts. He had a bunch of medical books in his house. This is before the days of the Internet.
My wife calls me in a panicked state, and I come home. She says, "Look at my tongue!" She opened her mouth, and her tongue didn't look exactly like this picture, but it was black and it was nasty. This is my bride of six weeks. She goes, "I don't know why my tongue is black," but, I don't either, but I just swore I'd kiss that forever, is what I'm thinking.
So I went to this big old medical journal that was up there. Sure enough, there is something in that journal. It's called hairy black tongue disease. It is lingua villosa nigra. I thought to myself, "Oh man." I start reading. It says, "Unknown cause, unknown cure." I'm like, "Oh my gosh! I am married to a hairy black tongue." I called a doctor friend. They go, "He's in surgery." I go, "Not for long. Get him out. I've got a hairy black tongue."
They go, "No, we can't get him." I go, "This is an emergency, okay? You need to get to him and tell him Alex has a hairy black tongue." It was the worst 15 minutes of my life. I was trying not to destroy my wife with my tongue. I was trying to figure out how I was never going to kiss that black hairy tongue again. We're pacing back and forth. I'm trying to be kind. All of a sudden the phone rings. I go, "Hello!"
"Doctor? What's going on?"
He goes, "Let me ask you a question. Settle down. Has Alex not been feeling well?" I go, "Well, I don't know how she's feeling, but she has a hairy black tongue!" He said, "Has she not been feeling well?" I go, "Sweetie, have you not been feeling well?" She goes, "No, I haven't been feeling well." I go, "What's wrong?" She goes, "My stomach was upset." He goes, "Ah. Did she just take some Pepto-Bismol?" I go, "What?"
He goes, "Did she just take some Pepto-Bismol?" I go, "Did you just take some Pepto-Bismol?" She goes, "Yes." He goes, "All right. Go read the label and call me back later if you need to. Goodbye," and hung up. So I went and got the Pepto-Bismol. If you ever get Pepto-Bismol you'll read this. It says right there under drug facts, "This beneficial medication may cause a temporary and harmless darkening of the tongue or stool."
Now let me tell you something. A darkening of the stool is one thing, but a darkening of the tongue got my attention. I wasn't watching what was being flushed down the toilet, but I was watching what was in her mouth. Praise God it goes away. I've been kissing it for 30 years, and it's awesome. But I want to tell you something, gang. If you marry a woman or a man with a black tongue or you say you love God and you have a black tongue, then don't tell people you know the cure, because it gets in the way of our King.
That psalm we read in that little video is the psalm we're going to sing right now, and our job is in the morning and in the evening to let us be praising him. If you catch yourself not, let's deal with it quickly, but may others know we're God's people by the accent with which we speak.
Jesus says, "Out of the abundance of the heart so the mouth speaks." If you find yourself consistently filled with bitterness and anger and wrath and malice and hate, that tells you what's going on right here. We gather to encourage each other, to remind each other of things that are true. If you're waiting until next Sunday to be reminded and encouraged and have your heart filled with God's Word again, I can tell you what your tongue looks like Sunday evening, Monday morning, Wednesday afternoon.
God wants us to daily encourage each other from his Word, from his people. Come and gather. Get connected. If you've never dealt with the root cause of bitterness, anger, wrath, malice, and hate, would you come to the one who heals those hearts and takes what is tired and broken and renews it, makes it tender, malleable to his truth, and will you walk in death with me that he might live? We won't be perfect, but we ought to be moving toward Christ. Amen? Come and receive the grace of God. Go and declare it. Have a great week of worship. We'll see you.