Summary: Since words have power to help, heal, hinder, hurt, harm, humiliate or build one another up in the faith; the remainder of this sermon is going to review James 3:1-12 and conclude that if one can control the tongue one can control any part of one’s life for Christ!

Controlling Your Tongue

James 3:1-12

Online Sermon: defines “words” as a unit of language, consisting of one or more spoken sounds of their written representation, that functions as a principal carrier of meaning.” Words are the primary way in which we communicate our thoughts, emotions and desires to others and as such are incredibly powerful! For example, it was by God’s spoken word that all things came into existence (Genesis 1). The Bible is also filled with countless stories of speeches from heroes of the faith that inspire us with hope and assurance. Does not David’s words to Goliath, “you come to me with spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty” (1 Samuel 17:45) increase our faith when threatened by formidable enemies? And surely when we face the darkest of valleys in life are not the words “the Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing” or “He refreshes my soul” (Psalms 23) a source of great comfort? And are not Solomon’s words at the temple dedication that despite the “the heavens, the highest heaven, cannot contain God,” He chose to live in temple built by hands (1 Kings 8:24) humble and fill our hearts with incredible joy! And does not Peter and the other Apostle’s words to the Sanhedrin, “we must obey God rather than human beings” (Acts 5:29), inspire us to speak the word of God boldly to those who persecute us for introducing them to the light? And what about Peter’s words to Simon the sorcerer, “may your money perish with you because you thought that you could buy the gift of God with money” (Acts 8:20) not overwhelm our hearts with hope and joy that despite living in a fallen world of injustice Paul says, “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith not by works” (Ephesians 2:8-9)! And does not hearing Paul say that “the Spirit Himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26) make us feel our simple prayers have profound meaning and does not hearing him say “nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39) enable us to rejoice in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) for He who “went to prepare a place for us” will one day return and take us home to eternally be with Him (John 14:3).

And yet while the words of the heroes of faith in the Bible inspire us to do good deeds and praise God the Father in heaven, do not the words of the villains of the Bible also provide a dire warning that our speech can also have severe consequences! Would not the Eve’s lie to the serpent, “you must not touch it (the tree of Good and Evil) or you will die” forever wring in her ears, especially during the pain of childbirth? Would not the Israelite people regret saying to Aaron “come, make us gods who will go before us” (Exodus 32) as three thousand of them were killed by the Levites? As the Israelite wandered 40 years in the wilderness would not the spies who said, “we can’t attack these people, they are stronger than we are” (Numbers 13:31) regret their foolish talk? And would not the commander of Sennacherib’s army regret saying, “who of all the gods of these countries has been able to save his hand from me, how then can the Lord deliver Jerusalem from my hand” (2 Kings 18:35) the night the angel of the Lord struck down 185,000 of his army (19:35)? Did not Job repent saying “let the Almighty answer me” (31:35) when he heard the words of God “brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me” (38:3)? Did not Judas hang himself (Matthew 7:5) out of “remorse” (27:3) for having said “what are you willing to give me if I deliver Him (Jesus) over to you” (Matthew 26:14)? As a blind Apostle Paul is led by the hand into Damascus did, he not regret making “murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples” (Acts 9)? And as the morning star burns forever in hell he may or may not regret but certainly will reflect on how his foolish were the words of his heart “I will raise my throne above the stars of God and sit enthroned on the mount of assembly” (Isaiah 14:13)! Since words have power to help, heal, hinder, hurt, harm, humiliate or build one another up in the faith; the remainder of this sermon is going to review James 3:1-12 and conclude that if one can control the tongue one can control any part of one’s life for Christ!

Words are so important that those who say them as part of their profession bear great responsibility to do so with fear and trembling. Since honor was often given to teachers and its gift was easy to counterfeit with eloquence and charisma, the church of James’ day was plagued with false teachers (e.g., 1 Tim. 1:7; Titus 1:11; 2 Pet. 2:1). So powerful and important are words that James warns those who want to be teachers of the word of God ought to do so with great care for they will be judged by God more strictly than others. False teachers, for example, “we are told in the book of Jude will get more hell in hell than non-teacher sinners.” We should also heed Jesus’ warning who said “if anyone causes one of these little ones – those who believe in Me – to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:6). Those who have the gift of teaching “bear an awesome responsibility for their exercise of that gift in nurturing people of the faith.” Not only will the teacher’s words be judged so will their attitudes and lifestyle. “To teach to satisfy our own ego needs” or in any manner that “misrepresents and distorts the Word of God” will not “go unnoticed by heaven” but recorded and that person will give an account before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). This is one of the reasons why I as a pastor spend about 15 hours combing through God’s word and countless commentaries to ensure what I teach is right in God’s sight and then try to take time every day to repent of my sins so that my witness might match what I say at the pulpit! Even though James is primarily dealing with false teachers in today’s passage this warning applies to all Christians for Jesus said that “everyone will have to give an account on the day of judgement for every empty word spoken” (Matthew 12:36).

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