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Summary: Nuclear power can be harnessed to bring destruction or benefit. The same is true for our tongue.

Sermon Notes June 1, 2014

Tests for the Tongue

James 1:5-12

At 5 AM on July 16, 1945, in northern New Mexico, the pre-dawn sky was instantaneously illuminated by the blinding flash. The mushroom cloud from the first Atomic detonation spilled upward for 40,000 feet and was visible for 60 miles.

Just 21 days later, a B29 Superfortress bomber dropped an atomic bomb named “Little Boy” on Hiroshima, Japan, killing 100,000 people. As he looked down at the explosion, Robert Lewis, the co-pilot of the Enola Gay said, “What have we done?”

Atomic power had been harnessed for the first time with devastating impact.

Six YEARS later, On December 20, 1951, something else spectacular happened. In Arco, Idaho, the still dark sky was brightened with light as well. Not nearly as bright as the New Mexico sky was 6 years before. But it was brightened just the same. It was brightened by light bulbs powered by the first electricity produced from nuclear energy.

Nuclear energy can be used for great destruction or for great good. Today, 100 commercial reactors produce about 19% of the America’s electrical energy. Nuclear scans detect cancer and other diseases and Radiation therapy is used to treat cancer.

The same physics, the same electrons can be harnessed to bring destruction or benefit. The same is true for our tongue.

LAST WEEK we examined that our words Reveal what our Hearts Contain.

THIS WEEK we will continue to examine the subject of our speech by looking at Tests for our Tongue. The exhortations in James concerning our speech are not primarily focused on helping us to improve our communication and avoid wrong communication. Rather, James instructs us that we can tell the condition of our hearts by paying attention to what comes from our lips. Before we look at some specific tests to determine what our words reveal, let’s go directly to James 3:5-8 where James gives us

EIGHT Unflattering Descriptions of our Tongues. James 3:5-8

These EIGHT TERMS describe the deadly power of our words

1. “a fire” James 3:6 In describing the tongue as “a fire,” James may have been thinking to similar Old Testament descriptions. “A worthless man plots evil, and his speech is like a scorching fire.” (Proverbs 16:27, ESV)

“Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I am only joking!” For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases. As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife” (Proverbs 26:18–21, ESV)

Notice the emphasis on FIRE in both of these passages in Proverbs. In Prov 26:18-21, the illustration of fire is carried through the entire proverb. The passage describes “firebrands,” “lack of wood,” “charcoal,” “hot embers,” and “kindling.” All of these terms give us the picture of words that can flare into dangerous flames.

2. The second unflattering description of our tongues is that they are a “a world of unrighteousness” James 3:6. All kinds of evil come from our words.

3. Our words “stain the whole body”

4. They “Set on fire the course of life”

5. They are “Set on fire by hell.” Theses three descriptions provide a THREE PART PROGRESSION regarding our words. First, corrupt words stand in representation of our whole body (they stain the whole body). Second, corrupt bodies become corrupt lives (set on fire the course of life). Third, corrupt lives have their origin in hell (they are set on fire by hell itself). This third description informs us that Satan is ultimately responsible for the sinful words that we speak. Our evil words come from our sinful nature, which ultimately finds its source in Satan.

6. Continuing in James’ unflattering description of our tongues, he writes, that our tongues are “A restless evil.” Just like the “unstable man.” “he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:8, ESV)

7. They are “Full of deadly poison.” “They make their tongue sharp as a serpent’s, and under their lips is the venom of asps.” (Psalm 140:3, ESV)

Conclusion - Our words betray us.

No One can Tame the Tongue

Every creature has been tamed

Circus elephants

Service animals

Killer whales

But the tongue (much smaller) cannot be tamed.

Yet, many sermons get to this point and then give instructions on how to tame the tongue!

The PROBLEM: You don’t think that you have a problem with your tongue! It is easy to be self deceived.

Illustration - a pilot can easily become disoriented when flying into bad weather. Pilots must learn to rely on their instruments. In training, pilots put on special glasses to blur out the horizon and help them focus only on their instruments. We are easily disoriented concerning our own hearts. We need the true instrument of the Bible to help us evaluate whether or not our words are words that bring destruction or blessing.

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