|What Jim Said | Jim Said, "Shut It."|
|February 18, 2012|
Part 4 of 4 | February 19, 2012
Before we get into the message today, I want to remind everybody of our new series that starts next week. We’ve been pumping this up for three weeks now and it’s almost here. Next week, we are kicking off a series called Bring It!
God is going to use this series to blow us up. I absolutely believe that our church is a move of God…and the next steps that God is going to lead us through are going to boggle our minds!
In this series, we’re going to talk about who God has called us to be. We’re going to explore our God-given vision. We’re going to reorient ourselves around our mission.
It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be direct. It’s going to be encouraging. It’s going to be exciting. I can’t wait to get it started! It all kicks off next week.
Now, let’s get into this last message of our current series. We’re wrapping up our series called What Jim Said. We’ve spent the last four weeks exploring the New Testament book of James, and it’s been one of the most direct, gut-check series that we’ve ever had. That’s because the tone of this series has been set by the tone of the book. And the tone of the book of James is intense and in-your-face.
So far in this series, Jim has told us to “Watch it. Stop it. And prove it.”
Today, in the last week of this series, Jim is going to tell us to, “Shut it.” We’re going to be in James 3 today. We’re going to talk about our mouths. Our words. Taming our tongues. And man…is it going to get TENSE in here today! But this is the Word of God.
In Hebrews 12, the Bible says, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12, NIV)
The Bible is not a snuggie. It’s a sword. It’s not a cute collection of kid’s stories. It is a weapon. It filets us. It cuts us open, even to the joints and marrow, the depth of who we are. It calls us out. It judges our thoughts, our attitudes, and our hearts.
And that’s what is going to happen today. You’re not going to like everything you’re about to hear. I don’t like everything that I’m about to say. But it’s not the word of me. And it’s not the word of you. It’s the Word of God. So fasten your seatbelts. Here we go.
James chapter 3. Let’s listen to what Jim said one more time. Starting in verse 2, James writes, “We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.” (James 3:2, NIV)
We ALL stumble in many ways, but if anyone doesn’t stumble in what they say, they are a perfect person. That’s how pervasive the untamed tongue is. If anyone is perfect in their speech, their entire life is perfect. And in all of human history, only one person has hit that standard. Maybe you’ve heard of Him. His Name is Jesus.
We are all flawed, imperfect, sinful human beings…and that is never more evident than when you think about the words that we say.
In the next verses, James does what any good preacher does. He uses some illustrations. “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.” (James 3:3-4, NIV)
He uses two illustrations of small things that control big things. You put a small bit into a horse’s mouth, you can use that tiny bit to control the big animal. Even more impressive…you can steer a huge ship with a very small rudder.
You may think your tongue is small, that your words are insignificant, that what you say really does matter that much. In fact, you’re not even sure why we’re talking about this today. This seems like pretty small, insignificant, petty stuff. You couldn’t be more wrong.
Next verse. “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 body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” (James 3:5-6, NIV)
James makes another small/big comparison. He said that an entire forest can be set on fire by the smallest spark. We all grew up hearing Smokey the Bear tell us the same thing. We all learned that an entire forest could go up in flames due to one small, careless spark.
And then James goes for the jugular. He said, “The tongue also is a fire.” He didn’t say that the tongue is LIKE a fire. He said that the tongue IS a fire. It is a world of evil among all the other parts of your body.
It corrupts everything. It messes up everything. It sets the very course of your life on fire. And the tongue itself is set on fire by hell.
The fires of hell are contained in every careless, hurtful, divisive word that you speak. You have hell raging inside of your own mouth. And every time you spew hateful, critical, condemning words, you are setting yourself and others ablaze with the fires of hell.
I know that sounds overly dramatic, but it’s not. It’s Biblical. It’s the Word of God. I’ve said before that we are never more like Jesus than when we serve. According to James, we are never more like Satan than when we speak.
Next verse. “All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3:7-8, NIV)
We can tame all kinds of animals, from a dog to a horse to a killer whale. You name it, mankind can tame it. But that same person that can get Fido to fetch a stick or Shamu to jump through a hoop can’t tame their own tongue. No human being can tame the tongue.
Gary Holloway said, “The lion tamer in the center ring of a circus is in less danger than anyone who has a tongue.”
No human being can tame their tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. Your words do not just have the power to wound. They have the power to kill. What you say can be the killshot to someone else’s dream. Their life. Even their eternity.
James says that our tongues are “a restless evil.” The word “restless” could also be translated as inconsistent. Our tongues are schizophrenic. They do one thing, and then immediately do another. The inconsistency is staggering, which is what James says in the next verse.
“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.
Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” (James 3:9-12, NIV)
It’s just incredibly inconsistent, isn’t it? We come to church. We sing. We praise God. We use our mouths to offer worship. And then we turn around and we use that same tongue to curse someone else, who is made in God’s image.
It’s like expecting to get fresh water and salt water from the same spring. It’s impossibly inconsistent.
Think about the past week. Did you let someone at work have it?
How about when you’re driving? How often do you curse someone else while you’re driving? Man, that’s really hitting below the belt, isn’t it?
When is the last time you were a rude jerk to your waiter? Do you know that people who work in restaurants consistently say that Sundays are their worst day work because they have to deal with the church crowd? Do you realize how pathetic that is?
And I hear Christians try to justify it all the time. I hear all the excuses of why Christians act like jerks…but none of those excuses change the fact that they are acting like jerks. Seriously, I think Taylor Swift asked the key question. Why you gotta be so mean? Seriously, why?
We’ve got to realize that one of the fastest ways to destroy our witness for Christ is with our words. The pilot light of hell is present in our words, and when we speak carelessly or maliciously…when we are short-tempered and rude…when we speak negatively or critically…that pilot light ignites an inferno.
Here’s the way Jesus said it. In Matthew 12, Jesus Himself said, “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.
The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.
But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:33-37, NIV 1984)
Wow. How’s everybody feeling now? Everybody feeling all warm and fuzzy? This is heavy, heavy stuff…and this is straight from the mouth of Jesus. You still think God doesn’t take our words seriously?
So what do we do? We slow down. Speed is everything when it comes to our words.
Rewind back to James 1. In verses 19-20, James says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19-20, NIV)
Look at what James said about the velocity of our ears and our mouths. Our ears move quickly, our mouth moves slowly. He commands us to be quick to listen, and slow to speak. But it’s amazing how many times we get those things reversed, isn’t it?
How many times do you decide how you’re going to respond to another person before they are even finished speaking? How often to you jump to conclusions? How many times do you speak without thinking it through? How many times do you make assumptions that you know what the other person is saying, feeling, and thinking, and you respond too quickly? When it comes to our words…when it comes to how we respond to other people…speed is everything.
A couple of weeks ago, we got a little bit of snow on Friday night. I came up to church early on Saturday morning. As I was leaving, I was in a hurry. I knew our parking lot was icy, but I didn’t care. I hopped in my car and took off. The next thing I knew, my car is out of control and I’m sliding toward a wooden post at the end of our driveway. I got enough traction to turn my car, but that just sent me skidding toward our mailbox. I ended up stopping about 2 inches from our mailbox. But none of that would have happened if I wasn’t in a hurry.
If I had slowed down, I would have been fine. I wouldn’t have gone skidding out of control. My speed was the only cause for things getting out of control.
Same thing goes for our words. If you want things to spiral out of control, slow down your ears and speed up your mouth. That’ll do it.
Do you want to understand someone else? Or do you just want to be heard?
In Proverbs 18, the Bible says, “Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions.” (Proverbs 18:2, NIV)
That’ll preach right there. If your primary concern is not to understand but to be heard, you’re a fool. You are an ignorant, arrogant fool.
Be quick to listen and slow to speak. Be quick to understand and slow in your attempt to be understood.
Here’s what it comes down to. Do you want to make a point or do you want to make a difference?
Not too long ago, I was having a conversation with a person who was incredibly angry with God. Actually, I’ve had a lot of these conversations with people lately.
This person was experiencing a tragedy and they simply could not understand why God would allow it to happen. They were incredibly angry about it. They were blaming God for it.
In my younger days, I would have picked up my theological hammer and started swinging. I would have given them all kinds of Biblical principles about the problem of evil and our fallen world. I would have given them a theological dissertation of why these kinds of tragedies occur.
Now that I’m a little older and a little wiser, that’s not how I responded. This person said, “Why would God allow this to happen?” You know how I responded? “I don’t know. I just don’t know.”
And that’s all I said. The rest of the time, I just listened. The more I grow in my walk with Jesus, the more I realize that I’m not required to have all the answers. I don’t have to pontificate on any and every subject. I don’t have to have a sermon at the ready for anything that comes my way. Most of the time, it’s actually better if I don’t.
This person was asking hard questions, but I really don’t think they expected me to have the answers. They just needed me to be their sounding board. They just needed someone who was going to be quick to listen and slow to speak.
Now, let’s go back to something that James said in chapter 3. He said, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” (James 3:9-10, NIV)
Again, it’s the inconsistency. We praise God and we curse other people, all with the same mouth.
Recently, Nicki got an email from a young pastor’s wife. Nicki had told her a long time ago that if she ever needed anything, to just ask. Apparently things got a point where this pastor’s wife decided to take her up on that offer.
She just unloaded in this email. She asked Nicki a ton of questions. But you know what she opened with? You know what her first question was? Her first question was, “How do you serve alongside people who are disrespectful and critical of your husband about things that aren’t even biblical?”
Nicki immediately knew what she was going through, because she’s been through it herself. So has every other pastor’s wife.
Here’s something I’ve come to realize…more pastors are run out of the ministry by church members than by Satan himself. More church leaders are wounded by the words of people than by any demonic force.
Let me ask you…you’re here today. Ready to worship. Ready to praise God this morning. But are you going to sit around the lunch table this afternoon and criticize our church? Are you going to critique me? “I liked the sermon.” “Well, I didn’t. I didn’t like it at all.” That’s awesome…because you think I’m actually here to entertain you! Don’t tell me how much you enjoyed the sermon, because that’s not the point. Tell me what’s going to change in your life because of the Word the Lord spoke to you today.
Are you going to complain about the music? “I don’t like those songs. I don’t like the band. I don’t like the way Brian does this or that.”
Are you going to gossip about a church leader? “They didn’t shake my hand today.” Or, “I don’t like it what they did with this,” even though it has nothing to do with anything in the Bible. Or, “They didn’t do (fill in the blank) for me. I know I didn’t say anything about it, but they should have known anyway. They should be able to read my mind.”
I know it sounds like I’m exaggerating…but I promise you, I’m not. Pastors and church leaders receive this kind of criticism all the time.
In Hebrews 13, the Bible says, “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.” (Hebrews 13:17, NIV)
Our job as leaders gets infinitely more difficult when we have to constantly navigate the criticism and negativity of our people.
Now, just so you don’t think all I’m going to do is hammer on you, I do want to say that our church is unified. We receive so much love and affirmation and encouragement from our people. The vast, vast, vast majority of people in our church are in lockstep with our leaders and our vision. That is awesome…and that is rare. Believe me, we fully understand what a rare gift from God this is. And we are thankful to Him and to you. We really, really are.
In Proverbs 12, the Bible says it so simply. “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (Proverbs 12:18, NIV)
Every one of us gets to choose which it will be. Our words can be instruments of healing or weapons of destruction. We get to choose.
I read a study that said the average man speaks 7,000 words in a day. The average woman speaks 20,000. There’s probably a whole sermon on marriage right there, but that’s not the point right now.
The point is we all speak several thousand of words everyday, which means we make several thousand choices everyday. Every word is a choice between a salve and a sword. Every word is a choice to bring healing or destruction.
When we choose destruction, James compares that to a fire. He said that our critical, negative, divisive tongue is a fire. Now, check this out.
In Proverbs 26, the Bible says, “Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down. As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome person for kindling strife.” (Proverbs 26:20-21, NIV)
Wow! This Scripture blew my mind this week. These words were written by Solomon. It’s almost like Solomon has visited a lot of American churches today.
If you remove a gossip, a slanderer, a critic from the situation, the fire goes out. It’s like removing wood from a fire. The fire has no fuel and the fire goes out.
You know why that’s true? Because that person’s tongue contains the fire of hell. And that fire spreads.
Negativity is contagious. Criticism and resentment are contagious. But if you remove the fuel, the fire will go away.
That’s why we simply have no time for people who want to take shots at our church, our leaders, and our vision.
Now, I’m not saying we’re perfect. We’re far, far from it. And if someone has a legitimate issue, especially if it’s a biblical issue, we’ll work hard to sort it out. But if it’s a person that is just in love with the sound of their own voice…if it’s a critical, divisive person who just wants to spread hellfire with their words…we’ve simply got no time for it because we know the damage that will occur if that fire spreads.
But this isn’t just true in our church. The same thing holds true in our own personal lives. If someone is speaking death and destruction into your life…if they are lighting things on fire with their words in your life…you don’t have to take that. You have permission to dismiss that person and the fire that they’re trying to start.
This is going to set somebody free today. You’ve never actually realized the truth that you DON’T have to take this. You DON’T have to let this person set your life on fire. You just don’t. God’s Word gives you permission to dismiss that person and their destruction.
In Ecclesiastes 7, the Bible says, “Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you…” (Ecclesiastes 7:21, NIV)
There is freedom in this verse. Don’t pay attention to every word people say. You don’t have to let your life be set on fire with the words of an ignorant, arrogant critic.
Now, obviously we’re not talking about godly, constructive criticism here. That’s another sermon. What we’re talking about is the negative, destructive, hurtful, damning words that some people want to use to burn you up. You don’t have to listen. You don’t have to pay attention. You don’t have to give them the time of day. You can walk away. You can break ties. You can cut them out of your life. The Bible gives you permission to do that.
But if you look at the rest of the passage, it gets pretty sobering.
“Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you—for you know in your heart that many times you yourself have cursed others.” (Ecclesiastes 7:21-22, NIV)
Well, that was unpleasant. But true. The reason we shouldn’t pay attention to every word that people say against us is because we know how many times we have spoken against other people.
Here is the prayer that we all have to own. In Psalm 141, David wrote, “Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips. (Psalm 141:3, NIV)
That’s it. That’s the prayer that we need to be offering everyday. Multiple times a day. “God, set a guard over my mouth. Lord, keep watch over the door of my lips. God, I want to please and honor you with my words, but there’s no way I can do it on my own. I am so sinful and so broken. I need you to heal me and my words.”
Can you imagine how different our lives would be if that prayer became a daily thing for us? That would be an absolute game changer.
One more time from James 3. “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” (James 3:9-10, NIV)
It doesn’t matter how many times I read these verses. They cut me open every time.
It’s time to do it better, church. We are the people of God. We are surrounded by people made in the image of God. It’s time to do it better. It’s time to speed up our ears, slow down our mouths, and just flat do it better.
And it starts by seeing other people as God sees them. James said that we don’t curse other people because they have been made in God’s likeness. They are created in the image of God, just like I am. Just like you are.
They are people who are loved intensely by God. They are people that God loved so much that He gave up His own Son for them. That’s who they are. And that’s who you are.
You are also intensely loved by God. You are created in God’s image and likeness. And He loved you so much that His own Son, Jesus, went to the cross to pay the price for your sin. He died for all your sin, including every careless, hateful, derogatory, critical, divisive word you’ve ever said.
In 1 John, the Bible says, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7, NIV)
Jesus purifies us from ALL sin. That’s what the cross is all about. And that’s why we give you a chance to respond each week.
This series has been tough. I know some of it has been hard to hear. It’s also been tough to preach. But like I said earlier in the series, it’s the tough truth that really grinds us and sharpens us into people who are more like Jesus.
Think about where we’ve been in this series. We talked about temptation. We are the people of God, and we’d better know how to deal with temptation, because it’s coming for us. How are you dealing with it in your life? Has your approach changed? Or are you still flirting with the same temptation? That flirtation will lead to death. It’s time to step up our game.
We also talked about favoritism. The people of God don’t change based on who is around. We don’t change the way we treat people based on what they can do for us. And we don’t do that as a church, either. Someone with a lot of money can’t come in here and buy our vision. At the same time, someone who has no money will be loved and ministered to just like anybody else.
We’ve explored the relationship of faith and works. Faith is a verb. It’s not just hearing. It’s not just learning. It’s not just attending. Faith is doing. Are you putting it into action? Has your faith moved you this past week?
And then today, we wrapped up the series by talking about our words. Are you going to make a change this week? Are the people around you going to notice a difference in the way you talk to others and the way you talk about others?
If not, then you probably shouldn’t participate in the rest of this service. We are going to spend the rest of our time using our mouths to sing praise. We are going to use our tongues to do what they were made to do…worship God. But if you’re planning on using that same tongue to bring destruction to someone else later, you’d be better off to just sit quietly. At least that would be consistent.
But for the rest of us who are committed to being changed by God…we’re committed to using our words and our lives to build up other people who are made in God’s image…then let’s come together and use our voices to do what they were made to do. Let’s worship!
|< Prev||Next >|