Summary: We need to be honest with God, encouraging to others and disciplined for ourselves.
James: Religion that Works
March 19, 2006
Introduction: Wildfires in Texas have burned 700,000 acres. The fire has burned over 1,000 square miles. Although the exact cause of the fire is still unknown, it started somewhere with a small spark. The vast majority of all wildfires are accidental. Very rarely does someone purposefully set out to start a destructive fire.
Today we are going to look at the spark our words can be and some ways that we can help control the effect.
I. Your Words Speak Volumes.
Everyone at some point is going to fail. We are going to do or say something we shouldn’t. It is the common problem of all mankind.
“Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 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.” James 3:1-2 (NIV)
James is giving an instruction about those in leadership, specifically teaching positions in the church. He makes a warning that those who teach the word of God will be judged more harshly than those who don’t.
There are two inescapable aspects of human life: judgment and failure.
The judgment aspect of our lives is that we are accountable for what we teach others. James points out that a Christian teacher is not to say one thing and do another. Apparently that was a common practice of the leaders of that day. Aren’t you glad we are past that in church life?
He also points out that there will be times of failure in our lives.
We must understand that just because we call ourselves Christians and just because we desire to be more and more like Christ doesn’t mean we are perfect. We stumble in many ways.
The term stumble in this passage literally means to “fall or trip.” James points out that as human beings, even human beings devoted to following Christ there are areas of our lives where we will stumble and fall.
The warning is not to become proud in our spirituality.
Now, I know what you are thinking, “John thanks for making me feel like a bigger loser in my Christian walk.”
I want to help you understand that in our Christian lives, we are not gong to always be perfect. Paul, one of the greatest men of God ever knew that there were times in his life where spiritual failure was going to cause him to stumble.
“I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.” Romans 7:19-20 (The Message)
What Paul is saying is that he wants to do good, and he knows what he should do that is good, but there are times in his life when he fails to do good. Sound familiar?
The bottom line: Be honest before God and others about your life.
To be honest with God, we must be honest with ourselves.
It is so easy to make excuses for our failures, or to judge ourselves on our intentions instead of our actions. We must wrestle with the deep things in our own hearts before we try to share those things with others.
Illustration: My goal as a pastor is not to show you how you should live the Christian life. My goal as a pastor is to show you how Jesus shows up in my life. I try to be as honest as I can about the struggles of my life because life is not about me but about God’s grace. If we can’t be honest about the places we mess up and the struggles just to make the right choices, this will never be a community of followers of God that lives in honest relationship with one another.
I have struggled with some major issues in my life that drives so much of the ethos of my messages. It is in facing the fear of abandonment in my life that drives me to help others face their fear of God. It is the struggle with the fear of failure in my life that motivates me to help people understand that our life is not about ourselves but about God.
Application: Are you being honest with yourself and God in your spiritual journey? Are you struggling with the ugly issues of life to help you understand the beautiful aspects of grace? Has your spiritual practice become a source of pride?
II. The Catalyst
James points out that although the tongue is a small part of the body, it carries great significance.