Summary: James tells us the mature person is able to bridle his tongue.

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Holiness and the Tongue

Text: James 3:1-12

Introduction: In 1994, a tabloid that you can purchase while standing in line at any local grocery store ran the headline "Killer Bug Ate My Face." Although the reporting was intentionally sensational, the story was based on seven real cases of invasive strep A bacteria in a city in England. When invasive strep A, which is not the same as strep throat, takes hold in a victim’s body, the flesh starts to die at an incredible rate of several inches per hour. Each year about 1,500 people die from this ailment. Newsweek writer, Geoffrey Cowley, describes what happens after the deadly microbes take hold in a person’s body: The bacteria then multiply rapidly, producing toxins in the process. For three days, the patient may suffer swollen lymph nodes, a rising fever and excruciating pain at the site of the infection. Penicillin can stop the attack at this stage, but by day four, infected tissues start dying. Bacteria soon saturate the bloodstream, destroying muscles and organs and sending the body into shock. Death can follow within hours...Invasive strep is rare, but it’s also unforgiving. Most of us here wouldn’t wish that on our worst enemies. If there is a counterpart to strep A bacteria in the church today it has to be sins of the tongue. Nothing can so quickly destroy the body of Christ as gossip, slander, criticism, complaining and lies. Often the damage is so severe that, apart from the redeeming grace of God, it is nearly impossible to recover from it. This morning in our sixth message in our series "In the World, But Not of It," we’re going to talk about holiness and the tongue. I expect that there will be much interest in what the Bible has to say about this subject for a couple of reasons. First, every one of us has stumbled badly at one time or another in how we have used our tongue. (SHARE MY STORY ABOUT REFERRING TO THE BRIDE’S SISTER AS HER MOTHER IN A WEDDING I PERFORMED RECENTLY.) Second, I suspect that is equally true that you and I have been the recipient of harsh words from someone that have damaged us as well. So I invite you to listen and learn from the Holy Spirit as He speaks to us from the Word of God found in James 3.

Background: The body of believers to whom James writes his letter was led by people who had no formal training that qualified them for preaching and teaching. (This is not to argue that formal training by itself makes for authentic teaching.) In fact, it was relatively easy for people with some communication skills to promote themselves as teachers. These people, often motivated by personal gain, taught in word and deed that God was the source of temptation (See James 1:13), that a person could have faith that was not evidenced by works (See James 2:14) and that the wealthy deserved preferential treatment over others (See James 2:1). James’ response is to call for control of the tongue, citing the problems associated with it, the potential impact of the tongue and the perils that arise from its misuse. Let’s look at it together.

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