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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
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...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 and the Spirit of God dwells in you, you still have that flesh.
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 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. 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.