Wednesday, April 04, 2007

THE TONGUE IS FIRE



The subject of self-control in the Bible covers many different areas. As believers we are commanded to control our thoughts, emotions, selfish ambitions, appetites, etc. Some of these battles for self-control present a daily struggle. Such is the nature of the Christian life. We all have certain weak areas and besetting sins (Hebrews 12:1). However, I am convinced that there is one area of self-control that is a battleground in every Christian’s life. Satan seems to be unrelenting when it comes to the battle to master our tongues. Why? Because a tongue that is out of control casts doubt on the nature of true Christianity: “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain” (James 1:26). As harsh a statement as this is, it wasn’t the only thing that James wrote about the tongue, it gets worse. In chapter three we find the clearest and perhaps the strongest condemnation of the damage inflicted by wicked speech: “5 Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. 7 For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: 8 But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9 Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be” (James 3:5-10). “Ought not so to be” (v.10) is another way of expressing God’s desire, “may it never be”! But it is! Failure to control the tongue is a sin that we are very familiar with, yet not always in an impartial way. It seems to me that we are quick to take note of it in others, and slow to condemn it when it surfaces in our own lives. The Bible calls this hypocrisy. Surely we would all agree on this one thing, James graphically portrayed the destructive potential that exists in this little member of our body. Its power is disproportionate to its size. Should we not stand up and take notice? “The tongue is a fire that sets on fire the course of nature.” Here in Southern California we know what uncontrollable fire can do. You can take one small match, throw it in dry grass and start a fire that can burn thousands of acres and totally destroy every home in its path, not to mention the loss of human life. “The tongue is a world of iniquity.” King Solomon said: “The mouth of the wicked poureth out evil things” (Proverbs 15:28). It is interesting that all manner of beasts and birds can be tamed, “but the tongue can no man tame.” Not only is it beyond human control, “it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” with no quick antidote to counter its deadly poison. Charles Spurgeon said: “Tongues are more terrible instruments than can be made with hammers and anvils, and the evil which they inflict cuts deeper and spreads wider.” At this point I am inclined to say, “enough said,” but the Scripture has many other things to say about sins of speech. There is hate speech, prideful speech, slander, gossip, filthy communication, threats, flattery, blasphemy, complaining, self-pity, backbiting, sowing discord, swearing, and lying, to name just some. I’m sure you can think of more. Which of these are you guilty of? How about lying? I singled this one out because I recently read from John’s gospel where Satan was described by Jesus as “the Father of lies” (John 8:44). To be the Father of something is to be the origin or source. Do we realize that we fall into one of Satan’s best-laid traps whenever we open our mouths without wisdom? We become pawns of the devil. We play right into his hands to bring about evil that quickly spins out of control embracing everyone in its path who becomes party to it. This thought alone should be sufficient to ask God for the grace necessary to control our tongues at all times. “Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3). “To the chief Musician, even to Jeduthun, A Psalm of David. I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle” (Psalm 39:1). Do you sense the burden of David’s heart in these Psalms? It is evident that he longed to be a man of integrity in speech. As children of God our desire should be the same. Jesus was full of grace and truth (John 1:14). As obedient children, we should always walk in the truth and speak the truth. The sanctifying grace of God must adorn our tongues so that we will be able to deliver “a word fitly spoken” (Proverbs 25:11). Brethren I must confess, many of my words have not been “fitly spoken”, but poorly chosen. I have opened my mouth foolishly on occasions. May the Lord help me and every fellow Christian to tame our tongues. I know He desires to do this for the furtherance of the gospel in this world, and His eternal glory. Here are some closing reflections to consider:

- Speak less and listen more (James 1:19).
- Make sure you know the facts before offering an opinion (Proverbs 18:13).
- Pray without ceasing for words of wisdom (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
- Confess every sin of speech quickly (1 John 1:9).
- Seek forgiveness from those you offend with your tongue (Matthew 18:15).
- Study what the Scripture reveals about our speech (Psalm 119:30).
- Avoid those who cannot control their tongues (Psalm 119:63; Proverbs 13:20).
- Become an encourager (Isaiah 50:4; Acts 4:36; Hebrews 10:24-25).
- Use your tongue often to thank and praise God (read the Psalms every day).

Psalm 19:14 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.

Speak the truth in love,


Pastor Tom

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