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.

Tests to see what your words are telling you. (Six warnings for our words from James)
1. Are my words angry? “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19–20, ESV)
a. When was the last time I insulted someone?
b. When was the last time I lost my temper?
c. When was the last time I raised my voice at my children? My spouse? My cat/dog? The television?
d. Have I ever cursed someone (spoken words of condemnation, wishing something bad upon them?)
e. Do I withhold words and give someone the silent treatment (a passive form of anger)
f. Someone has said that great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, and small minds discuss people.

2. Am I self-deceived?. “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” (James 1:26, ESV)
a. Bridle his tongue.. The doctor told his patient her that her vocal cords needed total rest – she was forbidden to talk for 6 months! With a husband and 6 kids, this seemed impossible, but she did what she was told. When she needed the kids she blew a whistle. Whenever she needed to communicate she wrote things on pads of paper. After six months, her voice came back. When asked what it was like to communicate only in writing, she said this: “You’d be surprised how many notes I crumpled up and threw into the trash before I gave them to anyone. Seeing my words before anyone heard them had an effect that I don’t think I can ever forget.” (Brian Bill, “Taming the Tongue”)
b. Are you honest about the condition of your heart?
c. When was the last time you spent time in prayer asking the Lord to reveal to you the condition of your heart? (“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23–24, ESV)
d. When was the last time you asked someone to give you an honest evaluation of one particular area of your life?
e. Do you have a friend that holds you accountable in one or more area of your life?
f. When was the last time you graciously accepted criticism from your spouse? Your children? A friend or coworker? Your parents?

3. Are my words praise-worthy? “But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?” (James 2:6–7, ESV); “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8, ESV)
a. Do I use God’s name in vain in any form?
b. Do I verbally speak about my love for the Lord?
c. So I make my friends laugh at the expense of others?
d. When was the last time I sent a card, text or called someone with a word of encouragement?
e. Do I send thank you notes?
f. When was the last time someone thanked me for something I said?

4. Am I a quarreler? “You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.” (James 4:2, ESV)
a. Do I enjoy arguing?
b. Do I have to have the last word?
c. Do I challenge the information people give me (the weather, the sports score, driving directions, etc)

5. Am I a bragger? “As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” (James 4:16, ESV)
a. When was the last time I stretched the truth?
b. Am I content if someone else gets the credit, as long as the job gets done?
c. Do I put my whole life on Facebook?

6. Do I swear? “But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.” (James 5:12, ESV)
a. When was the last time I used an expletive?
b. Do I tell people only what they want to hear?
c. Am I a people pleaser?
d. Do I answer people in authority politely?
e. When was the last time I made a promise that I was unable to keep?

What to do?
1. Honestly evaluate our words. They will tell us our heart’s condition.
2. Come to Christ for forgiveness and cleansing.
3. Bathe your life in the Word of God.
4. Exchange your pride for openness and accountability.

“Small and influential, the tongue must be controlled; satanic and infectious, the tongue must be corralled; salty and inconsistent, the tongue must be cleansed”
J. Ronald Blue, “James,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 828. Sustenance