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Janet's Corner

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Lesson 14: Real Faith Controls the Tongue

Last week we saw that real faith respects the responsibility and accountability of communicating truth as women who have the spiritual gift of teaching as well as those who have the role of teaching.

Today we see James begin to challenge us on the truth that the tongue under control is evidence of real faith.

James 3: 2-7

As James begins to address the tongue in verse two who is he speaking to? He says that "we all" stumble – everyone will stumble. James is not making an excuse for sin in his life or ours, but saying that stumbling is a reality – we all stumble in many ways. That word "stumble" literally means to trip and it is in the present tense which means that we are tripping in many ways. James is an honest man with whom we all can identify with – we know that we are not perfect – yet.

Let’s look at that truth biblically.

In Ecclesiastes 7:20 Solomon states that all stumble

We are called on in the word to not to deceive ourselves

I Corinthians 4:4 teaches us that even when we are not conscious of sin, God will judge our heart. He is the one who examines our heart. Sometimes we are not aware of our sin.

I John 1:8 states we can deceive ourselves if we say that we never sin. Sometimes we can deceive ourselves.

So James sets out the truth - we all will stumble.

Then he zeroes in on a specific area of our lives….the tongue. As James leads into this example he is saying let’s not deceive ourselves we all sin with our tongue. Who is the perfect man? The complete man? The one who is never at fault in what he says.

James raises the bar here by stating the truth that it is possible to control the tongue and grow to completion, wholeness. The fact is that when you are not at fault in what you say, you complete and ale to keep the whole body in check. As we remember that it is possible and a process and a discipline to keep the tongue under control, the effect is that our whole body will be under control. So the tongue can and needs to be under control to bring us to completion and to bring control to our lives. We are Christ-like women, if we are able to control our tongue – not be at fault in what we say – becoming mature, complete in Christ. (Philippians 1:6)

Again James calls us to grow - to become whole - as he has in previous scripture. He has called us to accept the word as truth. The word is that which cam make you complete as you receive and do it. In 1:26 he states that our religion is worthless if we do not bridle our tongue. So the truth is clearly stated. Control of our tongue brings direction to our life.

James continues to use the same principles of communication here – statement of the fact and then illustrations of that fact. He also contrasts a tongue under control and a tongue not under control.

The controlled tongue is illustrated in verses 3-5a

In verse three he uses the bridled horse as an illustration. Have you ever ridden a horse? How are horses controlled? By bits in their mouths that cause the horses to obey. Just as a bridled horse allows the rider to control the whole horse, so it is with us. When our tongue is under control, our whole life will be bridled, controlled. I had an experience in North Carolina when the horse I was on was bridled, but I wasn’t strong enough to control the reins. Some of it was because I did not know how. That’s how it is with our tongues as well. We feel unable to make it obey or don’t know how or don’t have the strength. When we have our tongue bridled (controlled), the whole direction of our life can be different.

Verse 4 Gives us the illustration of a ship and its rudder. The ship is big and the rudder small. So is our tongue, compared to our body. Even though ships are driven by forces from outside, they are controlled by a small rudder. And who directs the rudder? The pilot! The pilot directs the direction of the ship. My father and husband and I had a harrowing experience trying to control our small boat in a very strong current. My Dad had a hard time controlling the direction of the boat because there was no power. We were just being swept along by the currents. Isn’t that how it is for us with our tongues. The currents around us - maybe others talking, gossiping, complaining – and as we get caught up in the talk, we feel unable to control our tongue and even loose control of the whole situation?

The pilot who is controlling the ship bust have the ability and power to control and direct it.

The tongue needs to be bridled and the directed. So if we are sensing a loss of control because of our weaknesses, how is control possible? How does it happen?

The use of our tongue depends and the direction of our life depends on who is in control of the rudder or reins.

There has to be someone else than me – I don’t do such a good job.

I desire to obey and like the Psalmist, cry out to God…

Look at Psalm 15. Who will dwell in your presence, O God?

Watch the references to the tongue…speak the truth, no slander, no complaint against another, keeps his word even when it hurts, The promise – do these things and you will not be shaken! The control of our tongue brings stability to our lives.

Doesn’t this create in you a desire to obey the word of the Lord and keep your tongue under control?

Galatians 5:19 shows us the works of the flesh when we take control, not the Spirit. Many of them refer to the tongue (hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy.) Does your tongue heal or hurt? Make peace or divide? When our flesh is at the controls, our tongue will bring hurt and division. Hurt and division are works of the flesh not the Spirit of God within you.

Only the man who is a child of God and who has received the promises of the New Covenant will be able to control the tongue.

Ezekiel 36:26-27 – God has given us a new heart and a new spirit which will cause us to obey. He’s the power – the Spirit needs to be the pilot.

Jeremiah 31;33 – The law is written on our hearts by the Spirit of God. Have you ever had the experience the Spirit of God reminding you or writing a new truth of His Word on your heart in a time of need. It’s just what you need to encourage you, to equip you, or to strengthen you?

A life that gives evidence to a faith that is real, allows the Holy Spirit to control its tongue, rather than the flesh.

A faith that is real relies on the Holy Spirit to control the tongue. Because of the New Covenant established through Jesus, it is possible to live by the control of the Spirit. You can’t do it on your own. You must yield to the Holy Spirit.

Now James makes the contrast of the controlled tongue and the uncontrolled tongue:

The uncontrolled tongue is like a fire! It’s like a fire! Look how a small spark sets a whole forest on fire. Last year out west, a small spark from a man’s campfire, burned thousands of acres. And now he is paying for the damage. A small spark that rolls off our tongue can light a fire which is hard to contain and very costly. Those sparks could be the sparks of gossip or complaints or hurtful words. Look at the description of the tongue - it’s a fire, a world of evil, it corrupts the whole person; sets the course of your life on fire and is set on fire by hell! Not a very trustworthy part of our body, if not under control! The result of an unbridled tongue is destruction. How our words can do that. They can burn and even destroy someone else. Your whole life can take a wrong turn by the words that someone else says to us or the words you say.

If you go back to the truth that communicating truth brings great responsibility, think of the words you say to your family that can direct their lives as you speak and model the truth to them.

But in contrast, the tongue which is under control, brings us to maturity, completion. To control our tongue is to control the whole direction of our lives.

An uncontrolled tongue can bring great destruction. A controlled tongue keeps your whole body in check - setting the course of your life!

Who is controlling the reins of your life?

Who is steering your ship?