(The following is an outline of the sermon preached on October 28, 2018, by Michael Larsen.)
Text: James 3:1-18
Every chapter in the book of James says something about managing your mouth. James 3:2 says, “We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.”
Words are significant. James gives us three reasons we have to learn to manage our mouth. Then he gives us six illustrations, two for each of the points. He was a great communicator because he knows how to illustrate.
1. MY TONGUE DIRECTS WHERE I GO
It has tremendous influence and control over my life.
James 3:3-4 says, “When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.” If you don't like the way you're headed right now, change the way you talk.
2. MY TONGUE CAN DESTROY WHAT I HAVE
James gives another illustration in James 3:5-6: “Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”
James uses another illustration. He talks about a zoo in James 3:7-8: “All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” He says it's restless. That means it's always liable to break out at any moment. You never know what your mouth is going to say.
3. MY TONGUE DISPLAYS WHO I AM
It reveals my real character. It tells what's really inside of me. First James points out how inconsistent we are in our speech in James 3:9-10: “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.”
Why can we genuinely mean something in love and kindness one minute and then genuinely mean something in hate the next minute?
James gives the answer in James 3:11-12: “Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”
The point is, whatever is in the well comes out in the water. Whatever is in the tree, comes out in the fruit. My problem is not really my tongue. My problem is my heart. What's inside is what comes out. My mouth eventually betrays what is really on the inside of me. I can fool you and pretend, but eventually my tongue is going to catch me. It's going to let you know what's really inside.
II. WHAT IS THE SOLUTION?
1. Get a new heart. Ezekiel 18:31 says to “Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel?”
I need to get a new heart. How do I get a new heart?
2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
2. Ask God for help every day. You need supernatural power to control your tongue. You can't do it on your own. Your life is a living proof of that.
3. Think before you speak. Engage your mind before you put your mouth in gear. Our tongues display who we are. What direction is your tongue leading you? Our tongues control the direction of our lives like a rudder, a bit. James is saying that the only way to get control of your tongue is let Jesus Christ have control of your heart. What's in your heart is going to come out in your mouth. You let Christ's hand be on your bit, your rudder and let Him direct your life.
We need wisdom. We need to learn how to be wise in the way we act toward people. In James 3:13-18, James does three things: 1) he defines real wisdom, 2) he shows how it differs from human wisdom, and 3) he details how it operates.
The first thing he says in v. 13 is that wisdom is a lifestyle. It has nothing to do with your intelligence. It has everything to do with your relationships and your character. “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”
Wisdom is more related to your character in relationships than it with education and intelligence. Wisdom creates humility. Knowledge leads to pride, but wisdom leads to humility.
James 3:14-16 says lack of wisdom causes all kinds of problems. “But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such `wisdom' does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, even of the devil. Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.”
How can I know if I'm wise in how I relate toward people? Today, we're going to take a wisdom test. We're going to test your wisdom to see how wise you really are. James 3:17 lists the characteristics of wise people. “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”
IF I AM WISE, I WON’T . . .
1. COMPROMISE MY INTEGRITY.
“The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure.”
2. ANTAGONIZE YOUR ANGER.
What causes arguments? If you're wise, you’ll know so then you can avoid them. Generally there are three things that cause arguments.
1. Comparing. “You're just like ...,” “Why can't you be like ...?”
2. Condemning. “It's all your fault.” “You always,” “You never.”
3. MINIMIZE YOUR FEELINGS.
James 3:17 says that wise people are considerate; they don't minimize other people's feelings. I don't have to agree with, them but I can try to understand them. 4. CRITICIZE YOUR DECISIONS/SUGGESTIONS.
5. EMPHASIZE YOUR MISTAKES.
6. DISGUISE MY OWN WEAKNESSES.
Wisdom comes from God. To get knowledge you look around. To get wisdom you look up. Knowledge comes from reason. Wisdom comes from revelation. Knowledge is something you learn. Wisdom is a gift.
James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” Wisdom is a gift from God. When you get God's wisdom in your life, day by day, as you allow Him into your life and develop your character, you'll find your relationships getting better and better. Even if the person on the other end isn't making an improvement, they'll get better because you're getting better. You know how to relate wisely instead of stupidly to people.