Broadcast

Phase 3: Social Language

From the series Social Restoration

In this message, Ryan Ingram helps us see the importance of taking every thought captive, BEFORE it comes out of our mouth. There are four key questions to ask before you speak: 1) Is it true? 2) Is it helpful? 3) Is it kind? 4) Have I truly listened? Social restoration requires followers of Jesus to do the "heart work" of speaking a redemptive, social language.

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Message Transcript

Well, we are in a series called Social Restoration. We have been wrestling with this: how do we experience social restoration in such a socially divided nation? How do we not just experience it, but how do we as followers of Jesus actually bring it about in the midst of social injustice and unrest?

We began with looking at phase one, that there is a distinction or a distinctive mark of Christians and that is this social distinction that social restoration begins when followers of Jesus embrace there is no social distinction.

Among followers of Jesus there is to be no social distinction. There is to be no favoritism played, no prejudice outworking, no racism allowed among the people of God. It begins with us.

We looked at phase two and social action and said social restoration demands that followers of Jesus put their faith into social action. See, we want and we are looking for the government needs to be fixed. Politicians need to change or address. And certainly that’s great.

The solution, friends, is the Church of Jesus Christ rising up and acting in faith in their Savior to bring hope and justice. To say, “Enough is enough,” and to be the hands and feet of Jesus to bring mercy and justice to those in need.

It’s when we say we are going to live out our faith. No more mere talk, but we are going to walk the walk.

We are looking at phase three and James is then going to shift his attention to our words and then their power and look at social language. And if we look at social media, there’s a lot of language going on, isn’t there?

Oh my goodness. There is a lot of language. A lot of rhetoric. A lot of emotion. And it’s just like this onslaught. And James is going to say, actually, social restoration for us is when followers of Jesus, we actually have to pay careful, careful attention to our words and our language to bring about that restoration.

We pick it up in James chapter 3, verse 1. If you’ve got your Bibles you can open it up or you can open up your app on your phone. And James begins this way and if you remember, it’s a people that have undergone their own COVID moment. They have been persecuted. They have been disenfranchised. They are living in a world that has been turned upside down and he is helping pastor them through this.

And he says this. This is a funny way to begin, “Not many of you should become teachers.” Oh…. and in fact, the refrain today is we need more listeners than teachers. We need to be learners, don’t we? He says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers,” why? Now, this is interesting, “Because you know that those who, we who teach will be judged more strictly.”

That as a teacher, we are subject to greater or stricter judgment. Actually, before God we give account for every careless word that comes out of our mouth. Whoo. “Where words are many, sin is not far behind,” Proverbs says.

And then we have more judgment with others. In fact, I know every time I get up to speak, I am being evaluated. You know, you might sit down later and go, “Well, what did you think of the talk?” Or you might be sitting thinking right now, “Alright, I’m not so sure about this, Ingram.” And we are under judgment and evaluation.

And he says, “Listen. Not many of you should want to be teachers or those who are speaking out because there is this greater judgment that is going to come.” Now, there was this desire to be a teacher. This desire, why? Because there is honor, there is prestige, there was a platform.

Today, so many of us have a platform that many never had even fifteen years ago. Your Instagram page, by the way, you have to embrace, you can either be a teacher or a learner. And most of us are wanting to be informers and teachers.

He says, “Be on your guard because there is a stricter judgment for those of us that teach.” By the way, every parent is a teacher. For us as parents our role is to make sure that we shape our kids and help them understand Jesus and His ways. Understand what He values and how to walk with Him.

You’re not off the hook. You are the primary discipler of your kids. And you can’t outsource that. And where we would say we are going to be the primary informers.

I have wanted to watch movies that would help open our eyes and sat with one of my sons and we watched Just Mercy. Great movie, by the way, I highly recommend it. And my son’s heart breaking over the evil and injustice. And he’s like, “I’m angry, Dad.” And I wanted to help him understand: that’s righteous anger. That’s actually the right kind of anger that moves us to holy action.

Well, now he goes on to say, “We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect.” Like, if you can keep a tight rein on your tongue, if you can be careful with what you say, if you never stumble in your words, he’s going to say, actually, your entire life would be perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

And here’s what he’s saying when it comes to social restoration and our language. If we are going to experience social restoration, believers in Christ, we have to watch our words. We have to be aware of our words. We have to be so careful about what we say and what we don’t say, how we say it.

Often, communication isn’t just what we say, isn’t it true? But it’s what was received. And we so defend things and I’ll go, “Well, I didn’t mean it!” I do this in marriage, in my marriage, not in just any marriage, but my marriage. I’m like, “Well, I didn’t mean it!” But that’s how it was received and I’ve got to understand communication is bridging that gap.

And we are called to be careful or watch our words and he actually says this, “Watch your words,” why? “For they will guide,” they direct, “your life.” Well, I know this sounds obvious or a little, like, why would we ask this? But what exactly are words? What does that mean? Well, one definition that I like, it says, “Words are a communication whereby the mind finds its expression.” I like that definition. It’s a communication whereby the mind finds its expression.

And here’s the reason why. When we think about our words, we often think about them as detached. Like they are not a part of us. They are this abstract thing and I say them and they’re out there and they are this thing.

And what he’s saying is, “No, no, no. Your words are actually a part of you. They are something that came from inside of you, out of you.” And so it cannot be detached from you and that’s why we have to watch our words because they actually not only come from inside of us but they direct our lives.

So, the question is, well, how do we watch our words? I think this is so incredibly important, friends, in this season of our history as a nation and as followers of Jesus. Would you lean in in this moment? Because we have to do this well and wisely, to be the agents who bring love and grace to a hurting and broken world.

And so, how do we watch our words? Well, before you speak, stop and think. I know it sounds like common sense, but it’s not so common anymore. Before you speak, before you send that text, before you send that email, before you post on Instagram or Facebook that rant, before you make that phone call – stop and think.

And I just want you to ask four questions. First question: is it true? Is it true? Is it accurate? We live in a world today where it’s like, “Well, I’m just speaking my truth. I’ve just got to get this off my chest.” Well, let’s really wrestle with: is this accurate to what is going on?

I want you to sit down, or sit with this just for a second, because as followers of Jesus, before we speak, we actually have to do the work of really understanding what it is that we are regurgitating out to people. And what we do often is we take information in, not evaluating the source of it, and we just respond out in an emotional frenzy. And you have to stop and ask: is it true?

And then once we get to that, then we can go, okay, now I’m able to respond instead of just react. We have lots of reactors in our day today. And we have to be, as followers of Jesus, responding wisely and well to the moment.

So we ask: is it true? “Well, Ingram, I – once I figured out it’s truth, it’s my truth, I’m going to say it.” Well, no, no, no. Hold on. There’s another question. Not only is it true. Is it helpful? Is this helping the conversation? Or is this harmful?

See, I can speak my truth to you and it may be my truth and it will not help the conversation move things forward, bring about healing or restoration or justice – it may actually incite more harm and pain. Proverbs talks about this, “A harsh word stirs up wrath, but a gentle word calms wrath.”

Like, is it helpful? And then the way I’m doing it, is it helpful? And he says, okay, let’s ask this question: is it true? Is it helpful? Is what I’m about to say going to bring about the end result? Is it going to bring about reconciliation? Is it going to bring about justice? Is it going to bring about healing? Is it going to bring about love and peace?

And then we’ve got to ask, not only is it true? Is it helpful? But is it kind? And you’re like, “Ingram, this isn’t a time to be kind. Don’t know where we’re living? Kindness is dead. We’ve got to get to work.” Well, hang on. You don’t understand what kindness is.

See, we have confused niceness and kindness. See, kindness doesn’t mean I just say whatever is nice to you. Let me explain the difference and I’ll give you a silly illustration if you will. The silly illustration is this. Let’s say we’re out to dinner together, and you have a piece of food in your teeth. If I’m nice to you and I look at you, I’m not going to say anything about it. I’m going to ignore it. I’m going to let you go on your way because I don’t want to make you feel uncomfortable or feel bad. Oh, that’s nice.

But if I was kind I’d go, “Excuse me, I’m so sorry, hey, you’ve a little something here. You’ve got a little parsley here.” Because I don’t want you to walk around and smile and somebody else and be walking around with that on your face.

See, kindness actually addresses things for the good of the other person. We have to ask the question: is it true? Is this accurate? Is it helpful? Am I adding to the conversation? Am I building up? Am I helping? Is it kind? Not just like I’m being nice to you and I don’t want to address something but is it really kind to you? Is this going to be for your best?

And then, finally, and this is really important, have I truly listened? Before you speak, stop and think, Have I truly listened? Have I heard? Have I taken time before I repost or before I rant to really hear where someone is coming from and what is going on in them? Friends, followers of Jesus, we have to become far better listeners than question-answerers.

I like how David Augsburger, I think that’s how you say his last name, said it. Here’s why this is so important. He said, “Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person they are almost indistinguishable.” This is so important. Before I speak in, before I’m going to lean in, before I’m going to utter words, I’m going to go, “Have I listened? Have I really heard?” Not have I just figured out how to respond and what argument I have or what thoughts do I have, but I want to understand where you’re coming from.

See, social restoration, it requires of us that we lean in and we watch our words and we ask the questions: is it true? Is it helpful? Is it kind? Or have I truly listened? And I want to talk about what’s at stake? Like, why do we have to be so careful with what we say?
And James actually is going to unpack how words are so powerful. That this would give us pause as we begin to engage with one another, as we begin to have dialogue with others we might disagree with. As we post.

Listen to what he says. He’s going to say that words are powerful. Now, we know that already, but we need to be reminded of it. He says, “We put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us. We can turn a 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. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.”

Here’s what he’s saying. He’s saying our words have directional force. Your words. My words have directional force. The same way a bit in a horse and a rudder to a boat – steers the horse, your words have directional force, both in your life and in other’s lives.

See, your words are powerful. Some of the words that we are saying to ourselves are directing the very course of your life. I’m no good. I’m a failure. I’ll just never make it. This is impossible. It has directional force. And we have all experienced it.
And then we’ve got to ask, not only is it true? Is it helpful? But is it kind?

See, kindness actually addresses things for the good of the other person. Am I adding to the conversation? Am I building up? Am I helping? Is it kind? Not just like I’m being nice to you and I don’t want to address something but is it really kind to you? Is this going to be for your best? And then, finally, have I truly listened?

Friends, followers of Jesus, we have to become far better listeners than question-answerers.

I like how David Augsburger, I think that’s how you say his last name, said it. Here’s why this is so important. He said, “Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person they are almost indistinguishable.” This is so important. Before I speak in, before I’m going to lean in, before I’m going to utter words, I’m going to go, “Have I listened? Have I really heard?” Not have I just figured out how to respond and what argument I have or what thoughts do I have, but I want to understand where you’re coming from.

See, social restoration, it requires of us that we lean in and we watch our words and we ask the questions: is it true? Is it helpful? Is it kind? Or have I truly listened? And I want to talk about what’s at stake? Like, why do we have to be so careful with what we say?

And James actually is going to unpack how words are so powerful. That this would give us pause as we begin to engage with one another, as we begin to have dialogue with others we might disagree with. As we post.

Listen to what he says. He’s going to say that words are powerful. Now, we know that already, but we need to be reminded of it. He says, “We put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us. We can turn a 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. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.”

Here’s what he’s saying. He’s saying our words have directional force. Your words. My words have directional force. The same way a bit in a horse and a rudder to a boat – steers the horse, your words have directional force, both in your life and in other’s lives.

See, your words are powerful. Some of the words that we are saying to ourselves are directing the very course of your life. I’m no good. I’m a failure. I’ll just never make it. This is impossible. It has directional force.

And we have all experienced it. That someone’s words in our life has had directional force, hasn’t it? Maybe it was a coach that offered encouragement. Maybe it was a mentor who spoke in or a parent that surrounded you and the career path that you’re on was actually set in place by someone else’s words. And it has directional force, both good and for bad.

I was reminded of a friend of mine who was wrestling whether he wanted to start his company or not. He had this entrepreneurial spirit and we sat down and we had this conversation and it’s like, “Man, what’ the worst that can happen? You’re a really smart, gifted guy. You start this thing and it doesn’t work, you’re going to go get a new job. You’re young! Go for it!”
And he points back and he goes, “Ryan, that conversation was the tipping point for me to start this business.” See, your words, my words, they have directional force. We have to be careful because we’ve got to recognize our words have directional force.

The second thing he’s going to go from bit to horses. He’s going to say our words, and we know this, have destructive power that can do harm. He talks about how a little spark…

See, we think of our words, remember that definition of words as a communication by where the mind finds expression? Like, it’s just a little thing. It’s just a – I didn’t even mean it. It wasn’t that big of a deal. And James says, “In the same way that a spark can move and turn a whole forest onto fire. Our words can have the same impact. They actually can be so destructive, we have got to be so careful because we recognize it might have just been an off comment and it can really, really create damage.

I was thinking about this in my own life and I was having breakfast with a friend and we were talking about it and there’s obviously, I mean, when you start something there are lots of insecurities, fears, all these sort of things and we were talking about it. And he made this comment about my preaching and compared me to someone else. And it just cut me to the point where that conversation shaped the way I thought about my communication for years. I never felt good enough, every time I got up to speak I was desperately insecure feeling like I just didn’t have enough.

And so, then I started, instead of trying to communicate God’s Word, I was trying to get people to think well of me. Literally, years. One conversation and it wasn’t even something that he meant in that way, but it just pierced my heart and we have all had that before. And unfortunately, we have done that before to others. He says why we are to be so careful? Our words have directional force. Our words have destructive power.

And then he finally, he says, “Our words are very difficult to control.” In fact, he says, “We can tame animals, wild animals. And we have tamed all sorts of them. But you can’t tame the tongue.”

Notice what he says in James chapter 3, verse 7. He says, “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’s a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” Wow. Trying to underscore the damage. See, we don’t think a whole lot about this, but the damage that can be done.

See, our words, James would say, in and of ourselves and in our own strength, it’s not difficult, it’s actually impossible. We need the Spirit of God to transform us to be able to tame our tongue, not just our willpower. And they are difficult to control.

And they are powerful. So then, what do we do with them? How do we become a people that bring restoration and healing in the words that we have because they are powerful? And not destruction and harm?

Well, James is going to tell us first, we have to repent. Oh boy. I used the “R” word. Repent for the incongruity of your words. Notice what he says. “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 comes praises and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”

We actually, the first step for you, the first step for me is we repent of our incongruity, the dissonance of where we sing songs, where we just worshipped and recognize that we yelled at our kids. Where we just worshipped, and we just talked about someone negatively. Where we just worshipped and on Monday, we just slam our boss or our coworker or our spouse or a friend or a roommate.

And we’ve got to repent and own ours. See, it’s easy to look at everybody else. It’s easy to go, like, look at what they are doing and how they are doing it. This is not the invitation for you to evaluate everybody else’s language. This is the invitation for you, that’s the reason I changed the pronoun. All the other ones were “our” and “we”. I changed it to “your” because it is for you, for me. Okay, we are going to repent and say, God, this is not okay. This is not right.

Years ago, there was a high-profile pastor that stepped out of his ministry and he was doing some things that I didn’t understand. And I remember sitting around a table with friends and we were talking about it. And me and another buddy who were in ministry, we were so critical of his decisions. We don’t know him. At that point, I had never met him. Didn’t know all the circumstances. And I just spoke so negatively and authoritative in that moment.

And I remember driving home from hanging out with my friends and my wife said to me, “Ryan, that was not right. The way you spoke about him and you don’t know.” And it was so convicting. And I had to repent of my own brokenness where I can praise God and preach the gospel and then cut down someone who is preaching the gospel. Friends, that should not be.

And I sent a text out to the friends and apologized and I asked for forgiveness. And the humor of God was a few months later, ended up doing and speaking at a conference with this person. It was just like God going like, See? Pay attention.

See, we have to repent. It begins right there. God, I’m sorry, because my words as I worship You, I cannot cut down any other human, whether I agree with them or disagree with them, like them or dislike them, they are Imago Dei. Image bearers of You. And so, I will not have incongruity. I will not have dissonance. I will not praise You and curse them. And so, God, would You do the work in me?

So, what do we do? We repent. And then we have to go to the root and address the fruit. This is what James says. He says, “Can both fresh water and saltwater flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives or a grape vine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” He’s going, “You’ve got to get to the root of the issue. If you don’t like the fruit, you don’t adjust externally.” And that’s what we try to do. We try to just put a muzzle on our lips of, like, “I’m going to try harder not to say this or say that.” He says, “No, no, no, no. Go to the root.” What’s the root? The heart. He’s actually talking about what Jesus talked about.

Luke chapter 6, verse 43, Jesus said, “For there is no good tree which produces bad fruit, nor on the other hand, a bad tree which produces good fruit. For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick up grapes from briar bushes. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good. The evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil.” Now notice this, “For his mouth speaks from that which his heart is filled.”

You’ve got to go to the root. See, what we do is we go, “I just didn’t mean it. It slipped out.” Our words reveal what is in our heart. This is what Jesus is saying. This is what James is talking about. And if our words are cutting, if our words are critical, if our words are putting down, if our words have incongruity where we are worshipping God on one hand and we are putting down His image bearers on the other, he says you have to do heart work. God, it’s actually a heart issue. It’s not a words issue. It’s a heart issue.

That’s why social restoration requires followers of Jesus to do the heart work – the heart work, the work of the heart – to bring about redemptive social language. See, for us to be a people where our words bring healing instead of hurt, where our words are not bringing hatred or discord or divisiveness or animosity but where we are bringers of peace and justice and righteousness and grace. It begins in here, not out there.

See, we are wanting everything out there and we need to adjust that. And the invitation is: I’m going to repent for what the brokenness in my language and God, it is revealing something in my heart. And so, I am going to do the heart work. God, as David prayed, give me a clean heart, O God. A prayer that I pray so often is, God, would You make me a man after Your own heart? If You just study the Scriptures,

“Guard your heart above all else, for from it flows the wellspring of life.” The Scripture speaks immensely about your heart. God, give me an undivided heart. And as you do that, what will flow out is the fruit of righteousness, the fruit of peace, the fruit of hope, the fruit of life.

And Proverbs says this, “The tongue has the power of life and death.” Our words are powerful. Jesus follower, your words are powerful. And we have the opportunity wherever we’re at, whether it’s online or in person, to bring life. And so, in this moment, where are you at? Where do you need to be? It’s not about other people and what they are saying and what they are posting. What about you?