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About this series
How to Change for the Better
Are you tired of self-help programs that never bring results? Have you tried diets and work-out programs that only bring frustration? How does lasting change occur? This series from James 3 deals with how God changes us, from the inside out, and how this change can be lasting, fruitful, and significant in the deepest areas of our lives.More from this series
Can you imagine what it would do for you spiritually, emotionally, and relationally if God would allow you some sort of tool to do a spiritual x-ray and instead of seeing through your skin and looking at a bone, you could see into your heart and know your motives, know your values, know your beliefs, know your attitudes, know what is really going on in your soul and in your heart?
And then instead of constantly trying to change, by treating symptoms of an outburst of anger and impatience here and an addiction there and a troubled relationship here and an inability to get your finances under control here – symptoms above the waterline – what would happen if you could see the root? The cause?
Now, you’ll notice on the front, we have been using this diagram. If you haven’t been here for a couple of weeks, this is a very poor picture of an iceberg. I drew it myself, that’s why it’s a very poor picture.
The little wavy line? That’s the waterline. And we all know that, what is it? Ten percent of an iceberg is above the surface and nine-tenths are below the surface or thereabouts. And above the surface is what we can see: your behavior; or what you can hear: your speech.
And the thesis I want to make this morning is that our tongue is the window of our soul.
Our tongue is the window of our soul. Your tongue can act like an x-ray, an MRI, a sonogram. It has the ability to let you know what is going on under the surface. If you want to know what is in your heart: your true motives, how you really feel, where the anger issues are. According to Jesus in Luke 6:45, you can know what they are if you listen to your tongue.
Follow along as I read Luke 6:45. It says, “The good man, out of the good treasure of his heart, brings forth what is good. And the evil man, out of the evil treasure, brings forth what is evil.” So, whatever is inside comes out. Now, notice the last phrase, “For his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.”
Now, what I want you to know, as an average American, you have thirty conversations a day. If you’re a man, you speak about twenty thousand words a day. If you’re a woman, about thirty thousand words. I don’t know why the difference there but it’s just research.
About one-fifth or twenty percent of your entire life will be spent talking. In any given year, you’re going to fill sixty-six books of eight hundred pages by just your words.
All those words are a reflection of what’s inside. Now, here is what I want to do today. I want to go on a journey and look at the power of the tongue. I want you to see that it’s a powerful tool, and then I want you to learn how to use your tongue, what is coming out of your tongue, so that you can look inside and allow God to do a work from the inside out that will bring lasting change.
So turn the page with me if you will and let’s look at James chapter 3, verses 2 to 12. The first principle that flows out of verse 2 is that if you can control your tongue, you can control your life, according to James.
If you can control your tongue, if you ever get to the point that you can control what comes out of your mouth, only the things that you want to come out of your mouth that are honoring to God and edifying to people, he says, when you ever get to that point, you are an ultra-mature Christian.
Follow along in verse 2. It says, “We all stumble in many ways.” Notice James throws himself in there. It’s in the present tense. We all stumble, habitually stumble, we all struggle with this. And the word stumble here means for moral or spiritual failure.
We all habitually blow it. That would be a good, loose vernacular. “If anyone is never at fault in what he says,” in other words, if what comes out of your mouth is never wrong, never impure, never ungodly, “he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check,” or under control in obedience.
The word perfect here is that exact word, it showed up in verse 1 of chapter 4. It showed up multiple times. It’s that idea of integrity. Perfect means complete, reaching your full potential. It’s translated in other places in the Scripture as mature. You know you are a mature, godly believer, not when all your friends think that, not even when you think that. He says the acid test is when you can control what comes out of your mouth. It honors God and it builds up people.
So that’s pretty exciting! The ultimate mark of maturity and godliness is the restraint and the positive use of your tongue. Why?
Put simply: because it takes such submission to the Spirit of God that if your tongue is controlled, it’s evidence that your lust, passions, disciplines, and character issues have already been controlled by the Spirit.
Notice the second point James is going to make, that there is some proof here. You might say to yourself, That’s a pretty strong statement. You’re trying to tell me this two ounce piece of muscle, mucus, membrane, and some nerves really has that kind of power? He is going to say, “Yeah, let me give you three illustrations.”
Notice the next section here. He says, “When we put bits in the mouth of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.” One tiny, little piece – a bit or a bridle – in this huge animal with a ninety-five pound jockey, and all he does is pull back and he makes the whole animal go one direction.
Illustration number two, “Or take ships as an example. Although they are large and they are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.” He says, “You want me to prove how powerful the tongue is? You have one little thing in the mouth of a horse, it takes this huge animal and makes it go wherever you want it. Or you’ve got this huge ship and there are waves this way and wind that way in the sails. The pilot can gear the whole thing by one little thing under the water called a rudder.”
Horse, ship, then notice he makes his final point. “Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.” And the boast here is not a bad word. He says it makes boasts, big boasts. It makes big impact. Wherever your tongue goes, so goes the person.
If you want to change the direction of your life, you must change the direction of your tongue. Because ultimately, you’re going to see this merging. What James is going to do is he is going to merge it more and more.
He is going to say the tongue is really a reflection of the heart. And he is going to use this idea of the tongue as the outward thing that you can see that is connected to those deep-seated values and beliefs and attitudes and where you’re at in your relationship with God.
And so he says, “Three quick proofs, how powerful the tongue is. The horse, the ship, and then the actual tongue.” In fact, I bet I could give you a couple of examples and you’d say, Ah, I got it.
I have this picture and our P.E. teacher was a guy named Neil Lance. And Neil became later a mentor and a coach. But he changed my life and I still remember some words he said to me. My mom and dad, I didn’t realize it at the time, they were going through some tough times. My dad was moving from being a casual drinker to an alcoholic, and I was at that critical time, about thirteen, when I was really looking for some models.
And I was very insecure, like everyone else in the world, and I decided I would display my insecurities by being very loud and boisterous and cocky, because down deep I was very afraid.
And I thought if I could be loud and boisterous and cocky and fool people, then even though I knew I wasn’t tough, maybe they would think I was. And so I had a mouth that was really a big problem. Some of you may think it still is a big problem but it was really bad then!
And so I am really mouthing off to some guys and I’ll never forget, he was a big guy. “Ingram!” He brought me in his office, shut the door, he looked around and it was one of those coaches things where they have a little window. He turned the blinds. They do this in school anymore. He grabbed me by the chest on the shirt, lifts me up, jams me against the wall, and then I sink into the chair and he is looking at me with his eyes on me, and I am scared to death. My little heart is going like this.
And then he says, “You need to learn to keep your big mouth shut!” And I’m going like this and then he said, “I really like you and you’re going to keep mouthing off like that and someone out there is going to figure there is nothing behind it and they are going to kick your little rear end, number one. Number two,” and then I’ll never forget this.
“You don’t know how good you could be. You don’t know how good you could be. But your mouth will get you in trouble and you’ll never find out.”
The power of words. At a time when I was looking for a role model, at a time when I needed someone to speak into my life, those words sent me on the most obsessive-compulsive journey toward proving myself in basketball that you have ever seen! And kept me out of a lot of negative things.
Our tongue is a small but powerful instrument to institute major changes in our lives.
Let me give you another picture. Everyone, when your kids are born, God has a blueprint, from the womb. And some kids, they are born, and I had one that we would take him out in public, he would wave a strangers, laugh, giggle, the life of the party. I had one that she came out crying and was crying for the first several years ever since. You know?
But it was just her personality. The glass is always half empty. She was just negative. And as she got older, then it began to come out of her mouth. And no matter what, whatever you were eating, “I don’t like that.” Whatever it was this. It was just negative, negative, negative, complain, complain, complain.
And pretty soon, Theresa and I are getting concerned, and more than just childhood. And so we thought, We have to help her. And so, we came up with a little plan. And it was also one of those times where I have an unusual family where all my kids are about six or six and a half years apart. And there is a little window when one is about thirteen and the other is about seven. They, like, hate each other’s guts. I’ve seen it happen three times.
And so, you’re at the dinner table and one person says one thing and they don’t even get it out of their mouth and the other person goes, “[unintelligible yelling].” And they go, “[unintelligible yelling].” You know? It was terrible.
And so Theresa and I came up with this plan. I got a jar and I decided that only good things were going to come out of our mouths. And I said, “Annie, I know your brother is picking on you some, but you know what? What you say all the time. When you say something that is unkind, whining, or complaining,” I started out with a nickel. Her allowance was only, like, a buck back then or something.
And then I moved to a dime. Then it was a quarter. I remember at one point, like, the seventh time in one meal, “Annie, go to your room, get fifty cents, put it in the jar.” And then we took verses and she began to memorize verses about the use of her tongue.
And about beginning to renew her mind and thinking about how she would choose to view things. And so negative reinforcements over here and then if she ever said anything positive, Theresa and I would high-five each other. “Oh, Annie! Way to go, honey! We’re so proud of you.”
And we went for about a year and a half where, I mean, our missions giving really went up. We’d just take that jar and we would pour it in, give it away.
When her tongue changed, her life changed. When she evaluated anything, she was always critical and negative. And that’s a habit pattern. That’s a mental habit pattern. And that had to be broken.
But the way to break it, as the tongue goes, so goes the life. If you want to see radical change, you must redirect your tongue. The most vivid example I have ever seen of this in my life, you know how it is when you are attracted to someone? I can say this, my wife gave me permission.
And when you’re in love, everything is positive, positive, positive. And then you get married and then after six months it’s like, Wow! This person sure has changed. Well, I started listening to my wife talk, “I can’t do that. Oh, I don’t want to do that. Well, they wouldn’t want me. Oh, I would never do that. Oh, I’m not a very good person. Oh, no one likes me.”
And it was like her words, all the time. And I’m thinking, “I think she is wonderful”, kind, godly, beautiful. And she’s got all this self-talk about, I’m not worthwhile, I don’t like me, no one could like me, I don’t bring anything to the table, I’m not gifted, I’m not smart, I’m not kind, I’m not godly. It’s, I’m not, not, not, not, not. It kept her from taking any kind of steps.
And I’m scratching my head and so I’m trying so, as men, we are going to fix things, right? So, I tell her all the right stuff. “No, honey, you’re beautiful and you’re talented and you ought to try this and you ought to try that.”
It was like, guys, have you ever had this? BBs off the old tank. Bing! Bing! Bing! And I would do this for a couple of years and I’m thinking, What my wife’s words are telling me: she, her soul, she doesn’t like her. A negative self-image would be a kind way to say it. She didn’t like her.
I did a little research and I found out all the reasons why. And she had been through a lot of things that had formed an opinion where she didn’t think she was valuable, worthwhile, or people could ever like her or care about her.
And after we got a little counseling, because it affected our marriage, then I will never forget, for about two years, in fact, I still have the cards and I have them on a little list. My wife began to change her speech and when she changed her speech, see, what happens is, to change your speech you have to renew your mind.
And when you renew your mind, then your heart begins to change. And when your heart begins to change, your speech changes. And things like this, she had about twenty or thirty 3x5 cards. And on one side of the card it would say, “Misbelief,” and something like this: I need other people’s approval in order to be happy. And then there is a big, bold, “STOP,” and she would say it out loud.
And then she would flip it over, “Truth.” I want people’s approval of me, but I don’t need it. With God’s approval I am no longer compelled to earn love and acceptance. I am free to be me.
Second one: If others dislike me, I am bound to be less happy. Well, she had a lot of people take her through some hard times. “STOP.” The truth: I want people to like me but I don’t need for them to do so. I am at this moment loved and accepted by God. His love for me is what I need and I have. And she had about thirty of these.
And it was hard for her and so as we went down this journey I, early in the morning and each night we would sit on the couch and she would say them out loud. And I’m thinking I’m really helping her, except I’m starting to listen to these realizing, I think I need these more than she does! Because since we are all desperately insecure, some people learn to withdraw from the pain and some people learn to be strong and outward and verbose to cover the pain.
When my wife changed her speech by renewing her mind, as your tongue goes, so goes your life. Do you get it? Do you realize what a powerful tool this is?
Now, very carefully, it is a powerful tool for good, but the tongue is not neutral. Jeremiah said, “The heart,” down deep, “the heart is deceitful above all else and desperately wicked.” And so, the tongue is not a neutral tool. It does reveal, it’s the window of our soul. But the tongue, in and of itself, reveals our heart.
And so now James is going to say, in the next section of verses, notice what he says here. He is going to say that the tongue, there is a warning, is not only powerful, but a dangerous and formidable foe.
As I read this, notice that he is going to do a little bit of a shift. And what he is going to do is talk about the tongue but as he talks about the tongue, he is really giving reference to the heart, reference to the heart.
He is saying, “This is the evidence of what is down deep in the human heart.” Follow along. It says, “Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire,” and then notice, it’s an apposition, “a world of evil among the parts of the body.” That’s the tongue, in reference to the heart. “It corrupts the whole person,” in other words, the tongue, it impacts your whole life, “it sets the whole course of his life on fire, and it itself is set on fire by hell.”
This is that New Testament word, Gehenna. And it was a slang word. It was a place where, in the Old Testament times, the god Moloch was the god of fire and people would bring their children and sacrifice their children to the god of Moloch in this fire.
Later on, it became a dump heap outside of Jerusalem and because people were burning stuff, it would smolder and it was burning all the time. And so it was a slang term, even Jesus used Gehenna to talk about, in reference to, the final fire.
And so, it became the word, hell. And what does it say about the tongue here? “It is set on fire by hell,” intrinsically, in our hearts, this evil, born as fallen people. And then he makes the comparison in verse 7. “All kinds of animals, birds, and reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue.” That means, no man, in and of yourself. No person, by your own human strength, self-effort, and power can tame the tongue.
And then notice these last two references, descriptive. “It is a restless evil,” the Greek word means, ready to break out at any time. Have you ever had that experience? Have you ever found yourself, something blurt out of your mouth and as soon as it comes out you wound people and then you go, Oh my gosh. And you just wonder, Where did that come from? It’s a reflection of your heart. It’s a reflection of my heart.
Not only is it a restless evil, “It is full of deadly poison.” And this word, literally, is snake venom. The tongue is a verbal arsonist. The tongue is a murderer. In the recesses of my heart and in the recesses of your heart and it comes out of our tongues, few things in all the world can do more damage.
Notice the little phrase up there, “What a great forest is set on fire by a small spark,” we are back to the power of the tongue. I remember reading in the mid-eighties; a guy had lit a cigarette and threw a match out. Six hundred, six hundred miles of forest – prime, pristine forest – was burned down by one match.
Six hundred miles! Do you get the point? One little word can have devastating effects. Devastating effects.
Few things does the Bible speak more strongly about. Yes, the tongue is the window of our soul. Yes, as the tongue goes, so goes the body. But it is a powerful and formidable foe. Few things does the Scripture warn us as strongly about as our tongues.
The book of Proverbs has an interesting little line. It says there are seven things that God hates. That’s kind of interesting, isn’t it? Just to know the God of the universe, all that He has made, His character, when He lists them in order there are seven things that He hates. The first thing that He hates? Haughty eyes. God is always against arrogance.
You know the next thing He hates? Lying lips. A lack of integrity. When what comes out of our mouth isn’t true. A number of things, the Proverbs tells us, slanderous gossip, deceitful flattery, argumentative words, striving, boasting, verbosity. All of that. Warning, warning, warning.
I want you to know: the tongue can be a tool for good, but your tongue is a reflection of your heart. And even as a believer in Jesus Christ who has been regenerated, who is forgiven, and the Spirit of God dwells in you, you still have that flesh. And your tongue can do more damage, my tongue can do more damage, probably, than any single thing.
I have seen whole churches go down. I have seen family systems totally break apart. I have seen more pain in offices. Why? You know how it works, right? Someone here is fifty, sixty, eighty percent of a situation. They don’t know the whole story. They don’t know the why. But they feel the freedom, in violation of Scripture, to gossip.
And they say, sometimes even in the form of a prayer request, “Well, have you heard about so-and-so? We should really pray about so-and-so because, you know how their marriage is going.” Or, “You know what? I hear so-and-so is going to do this and that and I’m not sure, but I think…”
And they send it and they send it and they send it and they send it. And it goes on, on, on, on, on. And you have been involved in that stuff. Have you ever had someone slander you? Have you ever been in a situation where untrue things about you or your family or your church or your character has been spread among other people? Do you remember how that felt?
Someone in the Reformation said, “Gossip is a lot like taking a bag of feather pillows and going to the top of a church steeple and then shaking it and letting the feathers go everywhere. And then going back to the people and saying, ‘Oh, I’m sorry.’” See, there is no way to retrieve it.
Three areas I think that we ought to at least touch on in this warning about the tongue. Gossip, complaining, and grumbling. I would like you to jot those down, will you? I could talk forever about the power of the tongue and concerns.
I want to talk just a minute about these because I believe they have been baptized under the category, in Evangelical Christianity, as non-sins. Now, someone sleeps with someone, someone is involved in pornography, someone is addicted to something, someone has an outburst of anger and is abusive, well, that’s sin, that’s sin, that’s sin.
I would challenge you, I would challenge you to do a little word study on gossip. Man, I’ll tell you what, the God of the universe is against it. And you have dual responsibility, not only not to do it, but don’t receive it.
How many times has someone come up and started to tell you something inappropriate about another person?
A little rule: If you’re not a part of the solution or a part of the problem, it doesn’t have to do with you. And when they start telling you a story, you say, “Excuse me, I’m not a part of the solution I don’t think, and I’m not a part of the problem. You know, I love you, I don’t think what you are about to share with me is appropriate. Maybe you should go talk to the person you’re talking about.”
I’m amazed at the number of people that really want to help people, but don’t have the courage or the love to go to the person they’re talking about, but say this to this person, this to this person. How often they don’t have the facts right. It’s devastating.
Few places is it more damaging than in a church. Let’s guard that. Let’s not receive it and let’s not do it. And if you have, boy, ask God to forgive you and go back and make it right.
The second baptized sin is complaining. You say, What do you mean, Chip? Complaining? Complaining has to do with circumstances. Complaining is whining about your circumstances without taking specific steps toward correction. Let me give you some examples of complaining and non-complaining.
This is not complaining: I’m on an air flight, my food is cold, and it’s not any good. And I say, “Excuse me, I think this food is very cold,” to the stewardess, “could you heat this up or give me some new food? Because this is not good.” That’s not complaining. That’s an observation of the need.
It’s not complaining to say, “Hey, I think we need to spend more time with our kids.” That’s not complaining. “And let’s come up with a plan.”
This is complaining: The food stinks. I don’t like it. It’s too cold in here. The music was too loud. Our kids are too noisy. You need to be a better wife. You need to be a more sensitive husband. Whine, whine, complain, complain. Complaining is anytime I am articulating negativity about a circumstance that I am not taking steps toward correcting, and I’m not sharing it in order to bring about a positive result done in a positive way. It’s complaining.
And you’re thinking to yourself, But, Chip, everybody complains. I know! When you complain, just try it on this way. When you complain, when I complain, you are saying, let’s flip it around, Dear God, the weather You made today stinks. Dear God, the situation you have brought into my life today stinks. You must not be a good God, You don’t care about me, You’re not sovereign, You don’t bring anything to bear. The adversity and what I am going through in life is unfair so You’re not just, You’re not fair, You’re not good, and You’re not sovereign. And I am going to be whine and be negative and complain.
I want you to know the Scripture is pretty clear. He is a good God, in control. What He has brought into your life is purposeful. And what He wants you to do is give thanks for it, come under the lordship of Christ and ask, What do You want to do in my life?
Open up to Exodus. “And the Lord heard the complaining and the grumbling of the people, and their complaining rose up to the Lord their God.”
He said, “Moses, step aside! I’m going to bring out the royal flamethrower!” Whooooo. “Because these are an ungrateful people with hard, stubborn hearts because no matter what I do for them, they are hard hearted and stiff necked. They whine and they complain.”
Complaining, gossiping, and grumbling. Grumbling is just that negative that’s it’s kind of how the word sounds. [Unintelligible grumbling] It’s that attitude that all of life, the glass is only a quarter full.
When believers go to work with that kind of attitude, when believers come home from work with that kind of attitude, when believers relate to one another around the table, assuming they are around the table, talking to one another, praying for one another, caring for one another, at least a few times a week.
When we grumble, grumble, grumble, complain, complain, complain, gossip, gossip, gossip, you know what it is? It is a tiny spark that sets a great forest on fire. And it destroys relationships.
And God doesn’t take that lightly. But we have grown so accustomed. When was the last time someone said to you, “Hey, you know,” I have heard people say, “Hey, I really think you’re drinking too much and I really care about you.” Or, “I’m really concerned about your marriage.” Or, “I think you really need to address this issue with one of your kids because they’re really going off and we want to help you with that.”
When was the last time you have heard anyone say, “Boy, you know something? Your tongue, you’re always negative and complaining. Is there something unresolved in your heart that you want to talk about? Is there something specific I could pray for you on? Because it’s evidenced from what is coming out of your mouth that your view of God is very low.”
Had anybody share stuff like that? When was the last time anyone, when you shared something, said, “Excuse me, I’m not sure you should be sharing this with me. I think this may be inappropriate.”
See, part of the anemic state of the body of Christ in our world is there are certain sins that we have just gotten so cozy and used to, no one even thinks they are sin anymore but God. But He still treats them that way and there is not the blessing of God.
And where do you see it? Right here. The tongue.
And I am as guilty of allowing negative, complaining things go out. And I am as guilty of, in the name of developing a ministry, beginning to share something about a person. I’ll tell you what, I have to make sure I have said it to him or her face to face, and the reason for sharing this is strategic for the glory of God. And if it’s not, it’s wrong. Let’s up that value, okay?
Notice, now, the reason. The reason for this is that our tongue reveals the true condition of our hearts. Whatever is inside of me, what is really there, will come out eventually in my speech.
I can fool and I can conceal under pressure, but in a crisis especially, what comes out of my mouth will reveal my true character. It’s exactly what he says in verses 9 to 12. Follow along as I read.
“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth comes praise and cursing.” And then notice the compassion here. “My brothers, this shouldn’t be.” I mean, this doesn’t add up! “Can fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?” An emphatic no is implied. “My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives?” No way! “Or a grapevine bear figs?” No! “Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”
In a word, whatever is in the well comes out in the water. That’s really what he is saying. Whatever is really in the well comes out in the water. You want to know what is really in the well of your heart, you want to know where you’re at in terms of character, you want to know where you’re at in terms of the fruit of the Spirit and Christ being formed in you, you want to know where you’re really at? Just look at your speech!
Don’t look at how many times you attend church, how much you’re reading the Bible, how much money you’re giving. You want to know where you’re really at? All those things will get played out. But he says, “You look at what is coming out of your mouth.”
Because you can be faithful in external religious activities and have your heart barely touched.
I have a couple passages I want to read. I want you to know that this isn’t just isolated. Just follow along. I want to read the very words of Christ. Jesus says this, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad. For the tree is known by its fruit.” He is speaking to a religious group here, in fact, the religious leaders.
And he says to them, “You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good?” In other words, it’s impossible! “For the mouth speaks out of” – what? “that which fills the heart. The good man out of his good treasure brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil. And I say to you that every careless word that men shall speak they shall render account for in the Day of Judgment. For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned.”
I hope, I just hope from that right there you say to yourself, God, just in the privacy of your heart as I am… God, I am going to reevaluate how I listen to my words. God, I had no idea that what comes out of my mouth is so evident of what is in me. God, I am going to begin with a carefulness, to be like David, and say, ‘O Lord, put a guard over my mouth. O God, guard my lips. May the meditations of my heart be pure.’ I am going to take, with a level of seriousness like maybe never before, what comes out of my mouth, because I realize now, according to Jesus, it’s the true reflection of my character. And He is going to judge me based on those things.
And if you wonder where it comes from, Jeremiah 17:9, it says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else, and is desperately sick. Who can understand it?” See, part of the struggle with the Christian life is, you know what? How do you know what is going on there?
I think what God is interested in is you identifying, on this list, where He wants to speak to you. Sometimes we are so concerned about, Okay, what if you got them all jotted down just right? Then you are going to stick it in your Bible and if you’re really organized, you’ll stick it in a file folder. And if you’re really organized, you’ll put that in a filing cabinet. And then if you teach somewhere, sometime, you might use it.
What the Bible is very clear about, it’s not storing or gathering information that brings about transformation. It’s acting on the truth that you get. So I am going to go through some characteristics of how people speak and what it reveals down deep in their hearts. And what I would like you to do is just lean back and say, Holy Spirit, as he goes through these, will you help me honestly identify maybe what is going on inside of me so that I could bring that to You and get help?
By the way, God is not down on you. He loves you. He died for you. He cares for you. He wants to change you. He is for you! And so God wants your tongue to be a tool to help you.
And so, uh, if words of harshness come out of your mouth, it usually reveals a heart of anger. So if you find that you speak harshly, say, Lord, what am I angry about? It may not even be related to the issue.
If words of negativity come out, it often means there is a heart of fear. People that are negative, negative, negative, negative, they are trying to protect themselves. They are afraid of what might happen.
If there is an over-activity, like you talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk all the time – it’s a heart that is unsettled. It’s not at rest. You don’t have a sense of peace so when there is silence it makes you nervous and so you fill it in with words.
If there is a heart of criticism, words of criticism, often, it is a heart of bitterness. If you are critical, and by the way, these words, they don’t have to come out of your mouth, do they? You can sit and watch people and, dut, dut, dut, dut, dut, dut, dut, dut, dut, dut, and you’re just critical. That tells you what’s in your heart.
If there is filth that comes out of your mouth, just the gross four-letter words or constant sexual innuendo, it means your heart is impure. God wants to get in there and clean it up. If there is boasting, if you always have to tell people what you have done and how much and how many people report to you and how all your kids are doing and how they are doing great and exaggerate just a little bit, it means you have an insecure heart.
See, all of us are insecure. A quick departure is a little book. It’s out of print now by Paul Tournier, a Swiss psychologist, called, The Strong and the Weak. Thesis of the book, you don’t even have to read it. Everyone in the world is desperately insecure.
Some people express it in strong tendencies, other people in weak tendencies. So when you find someone who is strutting their stuff and really loud and pushy and powers up on people and, “This is what I know,” and makes everyone feel small, what you know is a very insecure person just walked in the room.
And when you find someone who won’t look and is super, super shy and won’t make eye contact – they are insecure. So I’m insecure, you’re insecure. So now I kind of got liberated and thought, Well, now, why don’t we just get that one out on the table? So, then those powerful people don’t intimidate me anymore because I know they are really hurting. And people that don’t want to make eye contact, well, gosh, they’re not rejecting me. They are insecure just like I’m insecure.
So, part of my early conversations is letting people out early and knowing, Yeah, I’m really insecure. I could be intimidated by you. Now that we have that out of the way, how are you doing? What is going on in your life? And I’ll share what’s going on with mine. It’s liberating. Then the masks come off and you get to love each other.
Notice here, if encouraging words are coming out of your mouth, you have a happy heart. You want to build up other people. If gentle words come out of your mouth, you have a tender heart. If truthful words come out of your mouth, you have an honest heart. And if kind words come out of your mouth, you have a loving heart.
So let me ask you, what does your mouth reveal about your heart? And don’t, some of you are just, Oh, I have to…look at the positive as well as the negative, all right? Where do you see God has been at work and encouraging and building and growing you? And where do you see, Hm, I never thought about it that way?
Turn the page. Let me give you some final things just by way of application. First, is you may be here and say to yourself, Hey, what I realize is I need a new heart. I don’t have just a bad heart or a dark heart. I need a new one! I don’t know Christ! The lights are coming on.
2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature, she is a new creature. The old things pass away. Behold, all things become new.” Right now, what you can say is, God’s application, if you’re here and you’re not absolutely sure you’re a part of God’s family, is you can ask God for a new heart.
In fact, Jeremiah promised that when the Messiah came, that’s part of what He would do. And you can say, Oh, all these other people, they don’t have it all together. They don’t all know each other. Their lives aren’t all working out. They’re probably as desperate and insecure and troubled as I am.
That’s why I fit here. That’s why I like it here. It’s a group of people with tons of struggles that are willing to get them out and be open and honest.
When you come to God and say, You know what? I realize my heart is in rebellion against You. I have sinned and I have never been forgiven and I am going to turn away from my sin, that means to repent, and receive the free gift of Jesus. I believe He died on the cross to pay for my sin. I believe He rose from the dead to prove that it’s true. And today He is knocking on the door of your heart and says, “I want to come in.
You can say, That’s what I want. Forgive me. Cleanse me. Come into my life.
He will forgive you, the Spirit of God will come into your life, and then He will start you on a journey of becoming more like Him. Three steps forward, a couple back. Will it be easy? Of course it won’t be easy. You live in a fallen world. But now you’ll go through it with Him and the power of His Word and the power of His Spirit and the community of His people.
Second, by way of application of where we go from here, start listening to your speech and look below the waterline. As you talk and as you hear family members and friends talk, listen to the speech so that you can look below the waterline.
I was in a meeting. And someone asked me a question and I went off on one of these, got real, “Man!” Da, da, da, real passionate
And then I got done, and when I got done it was like the peace of Christ left and I just looked at all those guys and I said, “Guys, I don’t know where that came from. There is something going on down inside of me when you asked a question on that button and I have to deal with it. I don’t know what it is.” But it wasn’t like I was mad at anybody but it was like something really bugged me to the point and how I expressed it, it just wasn’t the way God wanted me to. And so I just had to own it, ask them to forgive me right there in the room, and from studying this, I said, “I don’t know why, I don’t know why that came out that strong. But I need to go talk with the Lord and work that out.”
See, that’s what God wants you to do. Use the tongue as a tool for transformation.
Third, determine to deal with core issues. And as you see here on the bottom, notice the little list I gave you. Just don’t pull out a pen and say, Oh, great! Let’s see, am I complainer? No, I’m a bragger or a liar or a gossiper or a criticizer! Mm-hm! Flippant and sarcastic? Oh yeah! Boy, hey, honey, let’s work on this one! I talk too much! No.
But which one of those apply to you? And then ask yourself, Okay, if I am a complainer, why am I so ungrateful? If I talk abrasively, why am I so angry? Go through there and flip them over and say, Lord, show me.
And the final thing I would say is just commit to bring your speech under the lordship of Christ. Just pray Psalm 141:3, “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; watch over the door of my lips.” Just everyday say, I am going to take seriously my speech. And when you do, God loves you so much, He is going to do some exciting things.