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The Tamed Tongue: Controlling the Uncontrollable [Wise Speech]

James calls the tongue "a rudder", "a small fire" and a "restless evil". From James 3:1-12 and a slew of verses in Proverbs, Todd draws 13 exhortations that both believers and unbelivers should heed if they hope to avoid the pain and destruction the uncontrolled tongue can cause.

Todd WagnerDec 3, 2006

Messages In This Series (10)
Be Thirsty: Where the Sherpas Drink
Todd WagnerJan 7, 2007
Kindness: Never Random and Far Too Rare
Todd WagnerDec 17, 2006
How to be a Prude and Like It: Living a Life of Discernment
Todd WagnerDec 10, 2006
The Tamed Tongue: Controlling the Uncontrollable [Wise Speech]
Todd WagnerDec 3, 2006
Purity and the King of Candy Selection
Todd WagnerNov 19, 2006
A Generous Dozen, part 2 [Generosity]
Todd WagnerNov 12, 2006
A Generous Dozen, part 1 [Generosity]
Todd WagnerNov 4, 2006
Integrity: Sleeping Well, Living Better
Todd WagnerOct 29, 2006
If You Don't Get the 'God' Question Right, It Doesn't Matter What You Get [The Fear of God]
Todd WagnerOct 22, 2006
Who Needs a Dragon When You Have a Father Like This? (Introduction to 'This is the Life!')
Todd WagnerOct 15, 2006

We are making our way through a little series that has been a lot of fun. It's a series that we said at the very beginning of it was a great series for you to invite your friends, because whether they agree with us on who we are singing about as we set our hearts up in a place where we can receive the Word of God or what we believe specifically about who Jesus is or not, the things we're going to talk about are going to be useful to everybody.

If you look back over what we've talked about so far, that has been completely true. We talked two weeks ago about how wisdom would have you stay away from the adulteress or the adulterer and purity and what it brings into your life and the consequences of being a person who is a slave to your flesh. It is said that man is just a sum of his desires. That's not true. A true man or woman is much greater than what he desires in his flesh. It's a man who can control his flesh.

We looked before at generosity and integrity. We looked at what ultimately wisdom was rooted in. All of these different things, whether you believe what we believe about who Jesus is and about what Christmas is about or not, these are things which everybody would love to have in their lives.

We talked two weeks ago about how a man needs to be able to control his flesh and the impulses of his flesh, or he will be a man who will be reduced to a loaf of bread. I'm going to talk today about the most difficult piece of flesh to control. It is a message that I need to continually go back over what I'm going to share with you today.

I'm going to give you scores of pithy summations of volumes of Scripture. What we're doing is looking at a little book that is packed with proverbial sayings, sayings that, if we could just apply them to our lives, will bring us the life we've always looked for, the keys to a full life. This little thing gives us more heartache than anything in our lives.

In fact, what I'm going to do by starting is I'm going to give you probably the greatest paragraph on this thing ever written. What you'll find out is it's in the New Testament book that has the closest characteristics to the book of Proverbs. It's a man who was just going to lay it out like it is and just tell you the truth and hope that you can swallow it.

I'm going to talk to you today about how you cannot have a full life unless you learn to tame the tongue. James, chapter 3… Let me just read to you, like I said, probably the greatest paragraph that was ever written on this topic. Then, we're going to dive in and have a lot of fun looking at some truths about the tongue. I think you're going to find this extremely applicable to your life. Here we go.

First of all, he says, "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment." In other words, if you're somebody who is going to influence others with your life, you'd better be careful, because God does not take it kindly when you mislead people he loves. Here's the reality. When we think of teachers, we typically think of those who spend time with our kids between the ages of 6 and 18, or you think of guys who do what I do, but the reality is every single one of us is a teacher.

The things we say and the things we do are constantly preaching and teaching others, "This is the right way to live," or sometimes we're teaching, "Don't live anything like this," because our lives are such wrecks, but all of us are teachers. What he says is that you have to be very careful what you're teaching and communicating. Here we go with this great paragraph. I'm going to try to get my way through it without commenting.

"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."

Here's the bottom line of what he's saying in this passage. Nobody can tame the tongue on their own. Nobody, but people who say they have a relationship with the Divine One and whose lives have been transformed who know God and who don't tame the tongue, it would suggest they don't know a tamer of man, that they don't know somebody who is divine and who is super over our natural being.

Therefore, James is saying that we all understand why the world runs amuck with its tongue while it sets blazing fires and speaks the very words of hell, but why do those who sing praises to God use that same tongue to destroy their fellow man made in the image of God? It should not be so. Here is my summary statement. You need to know this. If you can't control your tongue, you are not in relationship with Jesus Christ. You're just not.

Let me tell you, if you watch my life, you're going to find times where you go, "I'm not really sure about that tongue right there," and if you're right that in that moment my tongue was just running wild and was just a reaction to the welling up of emotions inside my flesh or the circumstances that are around me, I am capable of doing that even now though I have a relationship with Jesus Christ, but the moments I do that when my tongue is being divisive and slanderous or informed by anger or vile, I am in that moment not in fellowship with Christ.

Therefore, I am out of relationship with him, and what I need to do is acknowledge my being out of that relationship and run back to him freed of guilt and shame celebrating his salvation which comes to me which puts me back in a good place as we just sang, but if you are consistently in a place where your tongue is causing you trouble, it ought to really, really cause you pause before you celebrate that you have a relationship with Jesus.

If you, I would say, can't control your tongue, you don't know God. If your tongue is consistently running, if your tongue is consistently causing divisions, if your tongue is consistently gossiping and slanderous, at the very least, you don't know God the way that you're known, and chances are you might have an intellectual understanding of God but you're not experiencing fellowship with God, because, if you're in fellowship with God, you can do things which men who are left just to themselves cannot do.

If you're not able to be different from them in the way you control that little hunk of cells and tissue and blood, it would suggest to others that maybe you're not the man of God in relationship with Jesus, or to say it one last time, if you can't control your tongue, you are not a spiritual person, and you are the not spiritual person you represent yourself to be.

Let me say it to you this way. If I could not go 24 hours without abusing alcohol or using alcohol inappropriately, what would you call me? An alcoholic. If I can't go 24 hours without smoking a cigarette, what would you call me? You'd say I'm addicted to nicotine. If I cannot go 24 hours without cursing, blaspheming, rebelling, dividing, or scorching with my tongue, you'd say, "There's a real problem, Todd, in your life," and it wouldn't suggest that you are in relationship with God.

Folks, this thing (this ability to tame the tongue) can only come, I'm going to tell you, when your relationship with the one who, when he was here, perfectly modeled how to use it. What about us? Do those who know us best…? I want to tell you something. I won't criticize their life and what they believe, but watching their life and specifically listening to their tongue… There is something going on there that is supernatural.

Here we go. I'm going to give you about a score of pithy statements I've come up with that summarize large hunks of Scriptures Solomon has given us in the book of Proverbs. Here's the first one. Are you ready? What I'm going to do is quickly read all of these things. They'll be posted on the web. At this point, I hope you brought your Bible. Flip if you want, but you will not be able to keep up.

1 . If you hang out with the wrong kind of tongue, you will soon hang yourself. What I've done is I've just summarized blocks of Scripture, and I'm going to give you my own proverbial statements. Then, I'm going to back them up. In other words, you need to know this about listening to people wag their tongues. It will affect you. It will influence your life.

Just like your own tongue is a rudder which will dictate the course of life which you go or you put a piece of metal in a horse's mouth or a strong animal you can make turn to the left or the right, the tongue that informs your heart and your mind is like a rudder in your life. Don't be naïve.

Watch this. I'm going to show you something really amazing. I'm going to show you when God goes out and lists… We've heard before. People come up and ask me sometimes, "What are the seven deadly sins?" That's a phrase we've all heard before. Right? Well, the Bible doesn't really list out the seven deadly sins (I think that's a title of a Stephen King novel or something like that), but it does have a couple of places… The closest things we get to it are found in the book of Proverbs.

In Proverbs, chapter 6, verses 16 through 19, this is what it says. "There are six things which the LORD hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him…"Shut that off for a second. I'm going to rip off six things Solomon says the Lord hates, and I'm going to give you another one. In a poetic way, it says, "Here are seven things God is not really fond of."

Think about this. When the wisest man who ever lived wanted to tick off seven things God hates, 42 percent of them have to do with… Guess what. The tongue. Three out of the seven have a direct relationship to what I'm talking about this morning, so if you're going to be a spiritual person or a person who knows God, you'd better get 42 percent of your life right. Here we go. This is what it says.

"Haughty eyes…" In other words, arrogance or pride of someone who thinks they know better. Secondly, "…a lying tongue…" A tongue that does not speak the truth. Thirdly, "…and hands that shed innocent blood…" Isn't that encouraging that God hates that? It doesn't surprise us. We sometimes wonder and marvel at his willingness to wait before he executes justice and judgment, but that's because we always think of the third thing God hates and not the second.

"…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." God hates. Proverbs 8, verse 13, gives you three things, and 33 percent of them have to do with the thing I'm talking about today. "The fear of the LORD ** is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverted mouth…" The mouth which does not speak truth, that does not inform itself with love, he says,"…I hate."**

If you hang out with somebody who is a hater of God because they speak lies, because they will spread strife, because their mouth is perverted… If that's the comic you listen to, if that's the humorist who guides you, if that's the lyricist you have on your iPod, you are naïve that it's not going to affect you.

I'm going to tell you, if you hang out with those whose tongues are people who consistently pour forth speech that God says is one of the top things he hates, it won't be long before that little rudder that is influencing around your ship is going to influence your life in such a way that you will sail toward destruction. If you hang out with the wrong kind of tongue, you will be soon hung out to dry yourself.

That's why in Proverbs, chapter 4, verse 24, Solomon said, "Put away from you a deceitful mouth and put devious speech far from you."In fact, in Proverbs, chapter 30, verses 7 and 8, the king is talking there about things he wants, and in verse 7, he says, "Listen, Lord. I'm going to sum up my entire life right here."

This is what he says. "Two things I asked of You…before I die…" Guess what the very first thing he says is."Keep deception and lies far from me…" Why? Because he knows, "If I'm around liars and if I'm around those who deceive me and if the pressure of the peers I'm around is pushing me a certain direction, I know it's going to cost me everything.

A little later in verse 9, he says, "… that I not be full and deny You and say, 'Who is the L *ORD?'" *You could probably chase it to the second thing he says.**"…give me neither poverty nor riches…" so as not to become too full of contentment and think I don't need God who is the author of all good things including the wealth and prosperity he gives me. He says, "If I listen to somebody who tells me I don't need God, that I'm God myself, and I'll be full of myself, and it will cost me everything."

When he talks to his son in verse 24 of Proverbs, chapter 4, he says, "Keep deception and lies far from you." In verse 23 before that is where he says to guard your heart."Be careful who is informing it, what you're hanging out with that is pouring forth speech into your heart, for from your heart and what informs it flow the wellsprings of life." Proverbs, chapter 13, verse 20, says it as succinctly as we can. "He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm."

I just want to ask you guys. Who is consistently speaking into your life? What are you reading? What are you listening to? What is on your iPod? What is your entertainment? What is instructing you? Who are your teachers? Who are your friends who are giving you counsel? I'll just take it back to where we were two weeks ago. If you think you can hang out with people who have seductive, persuasive speech and not be moved, you are ignorant.

Proverbs, chapter 5, verse 3, says, "For the lips of an adulteress drip honey and smoother than oil is her speech…" You can't just listen for long. Proverbs 7:21: "With her many persuasions she entices him; with her flattering lips she seduces him." You hang out with the wrong kind of tongue and it won't be long before you are hung out to dry yourself.

Proverbs 17:4 summarizes some of this idea when it simply says, "An evildoer listens to wicked lips; a liar pays attention to a destructive tongue." What are you paying attention to? Proverbs 11:9: "With his mouth the godless man destroys his neighbor, but through knowledge the righteous will be delivered."

You have individuals who are begging for an audience with your heart and your mind, and they're using their tongues. They're using their communication in every way they can to try and get access into your heart. That's why it says to guard your heart. Watch what tongues you're listening to.

I'm going to tell you. When you come in here every week you ought to have a filter (a cheesecloth) that the words I'm saying are running through. It is God's Word? Ask, "Is what Wagner is saying up there consistent with what God has said?" As Jesus said, he has the words of life. You have to ask yourself, "What is the merit to what he is saying?"

I'm going to tell you, if I am not 100 percent in alignment and agreement with God's Word, you take what I'm saying with a grain of salt. I'll tell you if I'm giving you my opinion, but it's your job to discern when I don't tell you I'm giving you my opinion and I'm speaking with authority if my authority is in line with the only authority you should trust, because everybody is trying to influence you and capture you. What are you letting speak into your life? Because that tongue determines everything about your destiny.

2 . If you make a mistake with your tongue, and Lord knows we're all going to, which is why we need a Lord, you should not wait a minute before you go and do everything you can to fix it. This is a significant thing that marks us as people who are set apart. All of us, because we're not completely and perfectly in relationship with Jesus, because we do give our hearts to other directions, because we don't know God as fully as we're known, because we're not the full spiritual people we should be, and because we quench the Spirit and grieve the Spirit, there are times when our tongues get us in trouble.

Can I have an, "Amen," please? I ought to go preach in South Dallas. It would be a far more enthusiastic response, not because they misuse their tongues more but because they know when to use it right in a situation like this. One of my favorite give-and-takes between a man who would communicate like this and his audience is when some folks are trying to encourage that man. "You keep going, Pastor."

I heard an old lady one time say when a guy was preaching… He was going and going and going. She was in the back. She said, "That's in my Bible! That's in my Bible right there!" Let me just tell you when I say something like this, say, "That's been my experience! Yep, I've gotten myself in trouble with my tongue." The quicker I go and make amends the better I am. Let me show you. In Proverbs 6, here's what it says. Proverbs 6:2-5, says,

"If you have been snared with the words of your mouth, have been caught with the words of your mouth, do this then, my son, and deliver yourself; since you have come into the hand of your neighbor, go, humble yourself, and importune [plead or beg] your neighbor. 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."

It's hunting season. If you were a deer and you saw somebody point a gun at you, what would you do? Go, "Hey! Just one second on that one. There's some good cud here that I'm not sure I can find somewhere else. If you could just hold on for just a second…" How would that deer react? Right out of there. How does a bird react when a fowler is there to take him out? He moves like his life depends on it. Why? Because it does.

I'm going to tell you. When you blow it with your tongue, and if you're on this side of the grave you will, hopefully the more you live in relationship with Christ and listen to the truths of Scripture today and attune yourself to it and fix yourself to it, the less you will as a mark of the transforming grace in your life and the relationship with the Divine that you have, but there are going to be times you go, "I blew it!" When you blow it, you go and deal with it like your life depends on it.

3 . The tongue can destroy a land or the tongue can deliver it. This little thing right here can affect billions of people. In our country, 300 million people. Around the world, 8 billion people. I shared with you guys not long ago I had the privilege of being in Rwanda. When I was there, I went to their national museum where they memorialized the genocide (the senseless killing of almost 1 million people in 100 days).

I don't mean they gassed them. I don't mean there was one bomb that took them out like Nagasaki or Hiroshima. I mean hand-to-hand, rape and brutality, stab them, fire them in the latrine, and chop them up until they're unrecognizable. I'm talking clubs. I'm talking mutilation. It was gruesome, and people around the world said, "How could they do that?"

Do you know what the answer is? They spent the first third of their museum explaining to people, "This is how genocide happened." Starting in the late 70s, they had an idiot for a president, and he began to spew forth hatred. He began to divide the country and make racist statements between the Hutus and the Tutsis. Through his leadership and through the media incessantly proclaiming that Tutsis were cockroaches, it became very easy.

All of a sudden, one night when the circumstances were right for Hutus who had the majority to start walking around and stepping on people like they were bugs that did nothing but annoy them, it happened like never before in modern history. Because the tongue of a man had convinced people's hearts and their hearts had been conditioned, eventually they were ready to go through incredible hate.

It's what happened in Europe in the 40s. There was a man whose tongue went loose and convinced people that certain other folks were wicked. You want to see stupidity in action? Rent the movie, Mississippi Burning, and your heart will burn with such anger. You couldn't believe there was a time in our country when people looked at other people because of their skin color and treated them with such inhumanity.

Do you know why? Because generations of ignorant men had wagged their tongues to their sons and daughters telling them that certain people, because of the shade of their skin, were less than human. It can destroy a land (this little tongue), but it can also deliver it. You ask yourself, "How in the world can nations of people celebrate when an airplane flies into a tower and kills what we call innocent people?" The answer is, "Al-Jazeera."

When media goes to work and that tongue starts to inform people again and again and again like it did in Rwanda and like it's doing in many Arab nations right now, people become deceived with propaganda. That's why what tongue you hang out with will determine whether or not you're going to be hung out to dry.

Folks, listen. It can also be delivered by that. Through men like Abraham Lincoln our country was delivered. Through men like Martin Luther King, Jr. our country was delivered, because he used his little tongue to stand up against stupidity and declare truth and righteousness. William Wilberforce changed the strongest industry that has ever existed in Europe through his tongue and took out slavery and the inhumanity associated with it.

It can deliver a land. This little thing can bring your family together. It can set your child free. It can destine them for greatness, or it can handicap them in a way they will never get over. Can I tell you a proverb that is repeated incessantly in our culture that is a lie right from hell? "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me."

I have to tell you something. My dad tanned my hide. He tanned my hide a few times, and I don't walk with any kind of a limp, but there are times that words flew out that still at times make me pause and limp that are decades old. This little thing right here can bring your land together, or it can destroy it like nothing else, and you have to be careful with that tongue.

Proverbs 11:11: " By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is torn down." Proverbs 12:6:" The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood, but the mouth of the upright will deliver them." Proverbs 16:10: "A divine decision is in the lips of the king; his mouth should not err in judgment."

If that king isn't speaking rightly, it's going to destroy the land. If you, O mother and father, O brother and sister, O neighbor and co-worker, err in judgment the kingdom which you represent and the kingdom which you lead is going to suffer. That's why it says in Proverbs 14:1, " The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down…" How is your tongue doing, Mom? How is your tongue doing, Dad, O king? The destiny of the nation you lead rides on it. This is no trifling matter.

4 . A wise tongue can fill your life with good things. I'm going to just encourage you. You should know this. Like I said, because so few people can hold their tongues and because so few people's tongues really speak forth words of wisdom, the person whose tongue does that is celebrated and sought after. Do you want a great life? You learn to shepherd that couple of ounces between your teeth, and you won't believe the life you have.

Proverbs 12:14: "A man will be satisfied with good by the fruit of his words, and the deeds of a man's hands will return to him." Do you see how he puts the words right on the same level with your actions? Proverbs 13:2:" From the fruit of a man's mouth he enjoys good, but the desire of the treacherous is violence." Proverbs 10:20: "The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver, the heart of the wicked is worth little."

In other words, if you have a righteous tongue, it is worth its weight in precious metal. I'm going to tell you that it's worth far more. Proverbs 20:15: "There is gold, and an abundance of jewels; but the lips of knowledge are a more precious thing." In other words, if you could have somebody who was going to speak truth, or if you could speak truth yourself or have infinite riches, which would you choose? I'm going to tell you. Take the tongue. If the genie is there and gives you one wish, take the tongue, because it will give you the riches.

Proverbs 22:29 says, "Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men."If you have a tongue that is good or a tongue that can sing or if you have a skill that is amazing, you're going to be pushed to places you can't believe. Your tongue will give you life.

This is the statement I said at the beginning: a wise tongue will fill your life with good things. If you're somebody sitting out here today and you want to know how to have a good life, learn to tame the tongue. Learn to inform the tongue so it can speak things that other people go, "I want to be around that tongue." Kings beg for tongues to come.

I told you a way that we can't believe. Kings have literally asked our tongues to come and shepherd their people. Why? Because we yield the wisdom which informs our tongues to God who has better ideas than we do, and people go, "We want some of that." We go, "I can tell you where to find it, but if you want me to come say it to you, I'd love to do that."

Proverbs 20:15: "There is gold, and an abundance of jewels; but the lips of knowledge are a more precious thing." Proverbs 25:11:" Like apples of gold in settings of silver…" What a great picture! "…is a word spoken in right circumstances." Proverbs 24:26 says, " He kisses the lips who gives a right answer." Who doesn't love a good kiss? Come on! When you get somebody whose words are life to you, it is like, "That brother is a good kisser." That's just biblical right there. Here we go.

5 . A foolish tongue is a magnet for disaster. Can I hear an, "Amen?" Oh, man! You guys are acting like you haven't experienced that. A foolish tongue is a magnet for disaster. Here's what it says in Proverbs 18, verse 6. " A fool's lips bring strife, and his mouth calls for blows." You just summed up a lot of my life from about 18 to 28 right there.

Proverbs 18:7: " A fool's mouth is his ruin, and his lips are the snare of his soul." The tongue can destroy the life of an acquaintance or heal those near it. Proverbs 18:7. A fool's tongue is a magnet for disaster. Some of you guys go, "Why? Why in the world is there so much trouble in my life?"

I have an idea. I have an idea. How do you get where you are? Choices. You make a series of good choices and things are going to be good for you. You make a series of bad choices and things are not going to be so good for you. How do you learn to make good choices? You find somebody who is filled with good wisdom, and you begin to make the choices they make. If you are destructive with your tongue, if you repeat stupidity with your tongue, it's going to bring pain into your life.

6 . A foul tongue is a fleeting tongue. This is something you have to remember. A foul tongue is a fleeting tongue. By foul, I don't just mean one who drops four-letter words. I mean a tongue that is going to speak error and lies. That's another way to foul off with the tongue. You need to know something.

That tongue is not going to endure forever, but sometimes you hear people say things about you or you see people advancing themselves beyond you because their tongue is speaking lies and mistruths, and you get called to the ring, and you can't help but find yourself competing against that tongue because you are so desperate to make sure nobody believes it.

Let me just give you a great word of advice. You just have to say, "No. There's going to be a day when that is going to pass away, and that tongue will be exposed for what it is." People will say that people who believe Jesus Christ is the center of everything and relationship with him is everything are fools and idiots who believe in a child's fantasy.

I could get all worked up over that, and I'm going to fight them again and again and again and again about it, or I could just say, "There's going to be a day… I'll do all I can if you want to engage in not just empty rhetoric and ad hominem arguments and calling each other names, but if you want to talk about the wisdom and the reasons to believe, I'm happy to enter into that with you, but at the end of the day I'm going to sleep really well."

When folks spew forth lies about you, if you run around and try to make sure everybody knows those lies aren't true, it's going to control your entire schedule. Now, there is a time to communicate appropriately when asked. You don't always have to plead the fifth, but what you don't want to do is become a fool to answer a fool.

You have to realize that rebel is having his day in the sun. This is one of the keys to what Jesus knew. Can you imagine? People always talk to me about the sufferings of Christ on the cross, and I will tell you the physical suffering is more immense than anything I will even ever approach, but I really firmly believe the greatest suffering Christ went through was the verbal abuse he experienced.

Can you imagine being creator God and letting people mock your power and ability? Can you imagine knowing all things that ever were and ever will be and having somebody put a piece of cloth over your eyes and jack your jaw and say, "Prophet, who hit you?" Can you imagine having all power at your fingertips and being hung on a cross and people saying, "If you're God, bring yourself down"? Knowing you could do it, but because of your love for that idiot, you don't.

Can you imagine the torment of your soul when people go, "I guess we were wrong about him"? People you love whose hearts are broken and think they've just given the last three years to a fool and knowing the emotional pain they're going through by watching you not stand up for yourself… Can you imagine how much that hurt because the foul tongue was having its moment?

Can you imagine the love which held him to that cross? It wasn't the nails, it has been well said, but it was his love that held him there. It was his ability to know, "Right now the foul tongue is having its season, but I'm not going to let it provoke me out of me serving other people." This is it.

First Peter, chapter 2, verses 21 through 23 say that these things happened as an example for you in order that you should follow in his steps. In other words, this is one of only two places in Scripture that says this happened as an example. When Jesus did not get seduced by the foul tongue to enter into that arena and shoot back, it says that this happened as an example for us.

Watch this in verse 22. "and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously…" It talks about how he waited. "I'm going to let them have their time. It's not my job to correct them right now."

Here we go. Proverbs 12:19: " Truthful lips will be established forever, but a lying tongue is only for a moment." It's only for a moment. I'm telling you… I told you guys. I think I could go back and just really dominate fourth grade socially. Do you know I'm getting to do that? Right now, I have eighth grade, sixth grade, fourth grade, second grade, first grade, and hanging out with a bunch of 3-year-olds. How? Through my kids, and we're talking all of the time.

Cooper gets in the car with me sometimes. "Hey, Dad. So-and-so said today his team is going to absolutely crush us in football. What should I have said to that?" I know what I said when I was in fourth grade, and it brought about utter ruin. I said, "Cooper, here's what you should do. First of all, just smile and nod at him. That will drive him absolutely crazy. Secondly, say, 'I'm so proud of you. That's exactly what you should believe about your team. I'm glad you believe in your teammates.' That will drive him nuts!"

I think I could do really well in fourth grade. Unfortunately, I'm not in fourth grade really. I have to compete with 43-year-olds and 50-year-olds and 60-year-olds and 20-year-olds. Sometimes people say some things and I'll go, "All right. You want to go? You want to throw down?" Proverb 19:1: " Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than he who is perverse in speech and is a fool." Proverbs 10:31:" The mouth of the righteous flows with wisdom, but the perverted tongue will be cut out."

I was in the car with my kids the other day when somebody next to us was pretty excited. They were using some pretty animated language, and I just looked at them. Everything in me wanted to respond to his confidences about his football team, if you follow my metaphor, and my kids were just watching me.

Cooper said to me, "Dad, how come you aren't responding to him?" My first thought was, "Because you're in the car." My second thought was, "Because that poor man is just a victim of some real ignorance. One day his tongue is going to be cut out, not because of what he's saying right now, but he just doesn't know. He just doesn't know."

Every now and then I roll my window down if they're going off on me, and I just go, "You're lucky I'm kind." That's what I say back. I go, "That's so weak, Wagner, because you're just taking him on. You're just mocking him by saying that. That's not kind to say that." Boy! Is it hard? Man! It's so hard! I have to sit there sometimes and go, "It's just a fleeting moment, Lord. It's his day to make himself think he's big and I'm small."

7 . The tongue that lies to prosper will not prosper long. It's a corollary to this particular one. Proverbs 20:17 says, "Bread obtained by falsehood is sweet to a man, but afterward his mouth will be filled with gravel." Proverbs 21:6: " The acquisition of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor, the pursuit of death."

Think about the people whose résumés have been exposed and they lied to get themselves there. The head coach of Notre Dame, the president of a university, the CEO of a company, to capture the heart of a woman or to impress you in a fleeting conversation. We have some friends around here who have been trained uniquely to serve our country as Navy SEALs.

One thing I always get amused at is how many Navy SEALs I meet around Dallas and how many Special Forces men there are out there. It's really interesting when one of those guys drops that sometimes when one of these other guys who were in those circles. They go, "Really? Where did you serve? Who was your commander?" That's a very small community.

This worked as a party gimmick for a long time and at bars for this guy, but all of a sudden you see a major crawfish happen in that conversation. Some of us have tongues that are lying that will cause us to prosper for a moment, but I'm going to tell you there is going to be a day when you're going to be found out. Some of us are lying right now to keep jobs, and it's not worth it. It's just not worth it.

8 . Your mouth will create your greatest pain or bring you your greatest pleasure. You know what the right response to that is. "Duh! Duh! I'm getting convinced now." Watch this. Proverbs 14:3: " In the mouth of the foolish is a rod for his back, but the lips of the wise will protect them." Don't you want good tongues and good lips? Proverbs 18:20:"With the fruit of a man's mouth his stomach will be satisfied; he will be satisfied with the product of his lips." Proverbs 18:21:" Death and life are in the power of the tongue…" Do you guys see how immensely important this is? The next one…

9 . The tongue can spark a firestorm of trouble, or it can be the means which God uses to extinguish the flames of destruction and anger. Did you know that little hunk and mass of blood and tissue in your mouth can set an entire country to ruin, a family to ruin, a holiday to ruin, a moment to ruin, or a marriage to ruin, or it can heal? It can heal! It is incredibly powerful.

If you are a spiritual person, your tongue will extinguish flames of destruction. Proverbs 19:28: " A rascally witness makes a mockery of justice, and the mouth of the wicked spreads iniquity." Proverbs 25:23:" The north wind brings forth rain, and a backbiting tongue, an angry countenance."

Here's one (Proverbs 15:1). This is the right answer. "Dad, why aren't you responding to that guy?" Proverbs 15:1: "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Let me tell you a great story. I think it's a story. I don't know that it's true, but it's a story about two guys who lived by each other up in a rural setting.

One night, a guy found his neighbor's horse in the middle of his field, so he took that horse to the public pound, if you would, and turned it in. He bumped into the guy who owned the horse later that day and said, "I saw your horse last night on my property, and I took him to the public pound, and if I find him there again, I'm going to do it again."

I'm going to read to you the guy's response. He said, "Let me just tell you something. The other night, I looked out my window and I saw your cattle in my field. I took your cattle and drove them over to your house. I put them in your barn, and I fixed your gate, and if it happens again, I'm going to do the exact same thing."

What do you think that did to that first guy? Well, in the story, he said, "Excuse me." He drove to the pound, bailed out the man's horse, and brought it back and said, "Thank you for being a good neighbor." Right here it can let a fire go or it can put it out. Have you had that experience? Oh, man! I have in my marriage, in my friendship, in my competitions, and in my driving.

I have done this before. Somebody has just rightly wronged me and gone off on me. I roll my window down and go, "What have I done? I don't even know what I did that would have made you so angry. I want to ask your forgiveness." Sometimes they say, "You need my forgiveness, you…" They say an expletive.

I say, "I know. That's why I'm asking for it. What did I do? Will you forgive me? I'm sorry I'm not competent." It just goes away. They're stunned. They usually run off the road into a ditch, because they don't know what to do with it, especially when they go, "He's 6' 5" and 220. That's amazing!"

10 . The tongue can open the hearts of hard men, or it can make life harder for others to find life. Proverbs 25:15: " By forbearance a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue breaks the bone." "The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable…" How about that? Are people rejecting your counsel again and again and again?

Maybe it's not just what you're saying; it's how you are saying it. " The heart of the wise instructs his mouth and adds persuasiveness to his lips." *"* The wise in heart will be called understanding, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness."Do you see what I'm saying? The tongue can open the hearts of hard men or make life harder for others to find life.

11 . The slow tongue and the silent tongue are highly underrated. Here's how my dad used to communicate this to me. "Son, let me just tell you something. It's better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt." That's what he used to say to me. I didn't know it, but he was just quoting Scripture.

Another guy said it this way. "It used to be a miracle in the Bible when a jackass would speak. Now, it's a miracle when a jackass stays silent." That's the idea. So many of us value a quick wit and a sharp tongue. Do you know what the Bible says? This is what the Bible says. Proverbs 29:20: " Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him."

If you speak fast, the likelihood that you're going to say something before you think about it increases. " The one who guards his mouth preserves his life; the one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin." It's not because there are a lot of insects going to fly into it. It's what is going to fly out.

Proverbs 15:28: " The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things." I love this statement. Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools talk because they have to say something. Proverbs 17:28:" Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is considered prudent."

Proverbs 21:23: " He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles." Proverbs 10:19:"When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise." That is the very first proverb I had one of my children, who God has gifted with an incredibly articulate tongue, memorize. That one! Guess which one I go back to her again and again with and say, "What does Proverbs 10:19 say? Yep. We haven't done that, have we?"

"Nope."

"How's that working out for us?"

"Not very well."

"Let's figure out a program that will be an appropriate consequence so you can see the wisdom of that verse in your life."

12 . Your tongue's activity determines what activity you are fit for. In other words, Proverbs 17:7 says, " Excellent speech is not fitting for a fool, much less are lying lips to a prince." In other words, if you can't speak words of truth you're not fit for princehood and leadership. Proverbs 22:11:" He who loves purity of heart and whose speech is gracious, the king is his friend." Proverbs 16:13: "Righteous lips are the delight of kings, and he who speaks right is loved." Folks, you will be exalted if you can learn to use this thing wisely and speak truth.

13 . A man's mouth is the mirror to his soul. The bottom line… Do you want to know what somebody is like? Listen to their tongue. Proverbs 18:4: " The words of a man's mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook." Do you want to know what's inside of a man's heart? Listen to his tongue. This is what Jesus said, by the way, in Matthew, chapter 12, when he was just sharing with his disciples the bottom-line truth about what it meant to be a spiritual man. Listen to this. Matthew, chapter 12, verses 33 through 37:

"Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil."

This is where we're wrapping up right here, and this is the main thing you need to get right with your tongue. In the context of what Jesus said, he's saying this to a group of men who have rejected who he is. "But I tell you that every careless word that people speak…" In other words, you right now are threatened by my leadership, because if you were curious if Jesus was divine, one of the greatest evidences of the divinity of Jesus Christ is his tongue never got him in trouble.

I didn't say he didn't say some things sometimes that made people angry, but you know he never had to ask forgiveness for what he said. One ministry I am proficient at that glorifies God that Jesus never did is the ministry of, "I am so sorry. Will you forgive me?" Did you know those are very biblical words my Lord never spoke? If you were curious as to whether or not his life was unique and divine, go look at his interaction with people and see how many times he says, "I'm sorry." The mistakes and apologies of Jesus are the shortest message ever preached if someone is going to do some exegesis on that.

Folks, God wants to conform us more into his image. I'm going to tell you something. There are people who say they were astonished at his word and they were amazed at his teachings. People hung on every word. Jesus said, "My words are sure and true, and they're never going to pass away. They will always stand up." Do you want to have any questions about whether or not Jesus is divine? You watch the way he controlled his tongue.

I told you this is what it is. This is what it will cost you if you don't do it. This is what will benefit you if you do it. This is how Jesus Christ is the complete fulfillment of the perfectly wise life. Check him out. What you think of him in your heart will be informed by what you say about him with your tongue, and it will mean to you everything. Let me pray.

Father, thank you so much for my friends and the fact that we get to sit here today and just look at what is going on between our lips and between our teeth. We realize our tongue is really not the issue. It's just the instrument, and it shows what's really going on in our hearts and what we're listening to as we go through life.

I pray my group of friends who are here would grow in their exceeding wisdom and they would have your tongue train their hearts so that their tongue can speak words of life to others. We thank you, Lord, for how you are making us new everyday and how you're using your Word to change our hearts so that our tongues bring us life and not death and so that our tongues heal our land and don't cause conflict in it.

I pray for folks who are really beat up right now because their marriage is a disaster, because they have escalated in response to people's tough statements, and their tongues have gotten them in a great fix. I thank you, Lord, that you want to offer forgiveness and provide for us a better way. May we seek it diligently and begin to speak to others the way you have informed us will bring life, restoration, wholeness, healing, love, and the life we've always wanted! For your glory and our good, we pray, amen.

One of the most well-known texts in the New Testament is where it tells us to not be drunk with wine but to be filled with the Spirit. Then, he tells us right away what it means to be filled with the Spirit. He says right after that a spiritual person will speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

What he's saying is, "Let your words pour forth praises to God, words of affirmation and encouragement, and words where appropriate that admonish the unruly, encourage the faint-hearted, and help the weak." It is the first mark of a heart or a life that knows it's nothing. It doesn't speak with its own feelings anymore. It speaks with a tongue informed by love that has radically invaded it.

If your tongue is out of control, I give you Jesus. Come to him. He wants to give you a tongue that brings forth life, but until your tongue acknowledges who he is, I don't think your tongue is going to head that direction. We love you. I can't wait for these next four weeks as we celebrate the birth of this Jesus in songs together, but I pray we celebrate Jesus in our lives in the way we use this hunk of tissue and blood these next seven days. That will be a great week of worship.


About 'This is the Life! Volume 1'

It's the ultimate self-help book. Centuries before Drs. Laura, Phil and Benjamin came on the scene to tell us how to live, love and parent wisely, God weighed in on these matters in the Book of Proverbs. Today's "life coaches" have simply repackaged God's wisdom but the concepts are timeless and truly life-changing. In this multi-volume series, Todd Wagner combs through the book's 31 chapters and identifies principles for approaching life with wisdom and skill. Each of the attributes is perfectly embodied in the person of Jesus Christ and guaranteed to bring abundant life to those who apply them - regardless of whether they've chosen to acknowledge Christ as Lord or not. Discover the blessed life God has in store for you in Volume 1 of this practical and applicable series on Proverbs. This is The Life, Volume 1, offers advice on: the fear of God, integrity, generosity, purity, wise words, discernment, kindness, and the thirst for knowledge.