WORD PERFECT by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: Words are important, especially in an election year. Pop quiz. Who said these words? “Fourscore and seven years ago” – Lincoln. “We have nothing to fear but fear itself” – FDR. “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country” – Kennedy. “Read my lips – no new taxes” – Bush Sr. “I didn’t inhale” – Clinton. Last week, we learned from Solomon in the Old Testament that words are incredibly powerful. They can be used to give life or cause death. In today’s message, we will go to James in the New Testament to learn how to have perfect words. Here’s the main point: How we use our words is a direct reflection of what is in our hearts. Hateful words come from a hate-filled heart. Christful words come from a Christ-filled heart. It’s only when we are jostled in life through trials that we reveal what is truly inside our hearts. Today’s message is called “WORD PERFECT” from James 3:1-12.
As you know, James is probably the most practical and down to earth book in the New Testament, if not the whole Bible. In this section, he deals with the incredible power in our words and how to keep them in check.
James 3:1 “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers…”
Apparently, as the infant church was growing, many were seeking to be teachers of the growing Christian tradition. Maybe, it was on such basis as – “I lived next door to someone who knew Peter” or “Jesus came to me in a special dream” or “I have the gift of teaching.” Such self-proclaimed teachers were probably the source of division, infighting, and hateful speech in the early church. Hence, James was warning them not to be so eager to become a rabbi. Why? “…knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.” Did you know that pastors, Sunday school teachers, and Bible study leaders will give a special account on the day of judgment? People ask me “Is it easier for you to preach, now that you have been preaching for all these years?” My answer: “It is actually harder because I know now what is at stake—people’s lives, marriages, and future destinies!”
Now, James addresses everyone, not just teachers, regarding their words. 3 things:
I. Our Words Control Our Actions.
2 “For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.” There are 2 ways to see this statement:
- If you can control your mouth, which is so unruly and uncontrollable, you can definitely control the less unruly members of your body. Think about it – Which is easier to do? Lie or murder. Lie, of course. But, if I can keep myself from lying, then there is a good chance that I can also keep myself from murdering somebody. If you are a liar, you are one step closer to being a murderer.
- Your mouth controls your body. That sounds strange, but think about it—Things don’t just happen. There’s always a progression. We might conceive an action in our minds but the thought is first expressed in our words. Words are the first building blocks to action. Things move from our mind to our words to our actions. I think this may very well be what James had in mind because of the 2 illustrations he gives:
- A horse and its bridle: 3 “Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body.” A Horse can weigh on an average a 1000 pounds or more, but a 100-pound girl can control the horse because she has the reins which control the bit in the horse’s mouth.
- A ship and its rudder: 4 “Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires.”
Here’s the point: If you don’t like where you are headed, change the way you talk. Some people have a self-denigrating and self-deprecating talk. If you say, “I am just a loser. I am so stupid. I am an idiot,” you are living up to your words. We shape our words and then our words shape us. Many of us are speaking our world into existence!
Sometimes, it’s not our own words, we are living up to the words of someone else in our life. Sometime back I was listening to a message by someone who ministers to prisoners. He said: it does not fail when he asks them to raise their hands if they ever heard their father say: “Boy, someday you will end up in prison.” Almost all the hands go up. The direction of their life was set by the words of their father. As a pastor, I have to be careful who I let speak into my life, especially before preaching.
As a pastor, I can predict with a high level of accuracy which way you are headed by the words you use:
- Pitiful words – headed towards depression;
- Angry words – headed towards violence;
- Boastful/prideful words – headed towards a fall;
- Adulterous/flirtatious words – headed towards an affair. Listen to David in Psalms 34 12 “Who is the man who desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good? 13 Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit.”
This is not pop psychology. This is God’s Word. Pop psychology stole this concept from God’s Word!
Application: Which way are you headed? Are you dissatisfied with where your life is going? Better Question: What are you saying? What words are ringing in your ears?
II. Our Words Can Cause a Chain Reaction.
5 “Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.” A better translation: A tongue is small but it boasts of big destructions.
Again, James gives us 2 illustrations to prove his point:
- Forest Fire: 5 “…See how great a forest a little fire kindles!” Thousands of acres are destroyed due to one tiny spark. 6 “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.” The tongue can start a forest fire from hell.
- Deadly Poison: 7 “For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. 8 But no man can tame the tongue…” James takes us to the circus with elephants, horses, lions and tigers. He takes us to Sea World with Dolphins and Killer Whales. All of these can be tamed but not the tongue. “…It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” The King Cobra in India can with one tiny bite send a person into convulsions within minutes and die. Listen to David in Psalm 140 1“Deliver me, O LORD, from evil men; Preserve me from violent men, 2 Who plan evil things in their hearts; They continually gather together for 3 They sharpen their tongues like a serpent; The poison of asps is under their lips.”
What’s the point? Just like a tiny spark can cause a forest fire unexpectedly and one tiny bite can kill a full-grown person, the tongue is small but it can cause big damage.
For e.g. Imagine a Mr. Kindle (Remember – “See how great a forest a little fire kindles!”). One Monday morning, Mr. Kindle was running a little behind for his 9 am meeting. So, he checked his rearview mirror and gently stepped on the gas. “5 miles over is alright.” He looked at his watch again and decided to make it 10 and then 15 miles over the speed limit. Unbeknownst to him, a policeman at the intersection clocked him at 20 miles over the speed limit, pulled him over, and gave him a tongue lashing and a ticket to go with it. Mr. Kindle was furious – “Look at this cop giving me a ticket instead of catching some real criminal out there!” Now Mr. Kindle was really late. He marched into the office, yelling for his secretary Mrs. Henderson – “Where are the files that I told you to have ready for the meeting?” Mrs. Henderson – “You told me not to worry about them and that you would print them yourself.” Mr. Kindle – “Stop making excuses and get me those files. Don’t think that I cannot replace you!” Mrs. Henderson is now furious. She stomps back to her office mumbling, “How dare he talk to me that way!” As she is turning on her computer, she notices the new temp Karen looking at her phone. “Karen!” she yells, “We did not hire you to play on your phone. Get busy or go home.” Karen is now furious – “How dare Mrs. Henderson talk to me like that. I was simply trying to access Google docs to help her out! Fine! She can find it herself!” Karen takes an early lunch, still fuming over the morning’s happenings. Just then, young Nick comes by her window to take her order. This is his first week on the job. He is nervous. He is still learning. He forgets to greet her. Karen says to herself – “Look at the kind of kids they hire these days. When I was working, we had standards.” She gets her order and as she is driving off, she notices that her fries are missing. She’s had enough. She stomps back to the window – “I need to see your manager and I need to seem him now!” The manager comes over – “This young man was extremely rude to me and he purposely messed up my order! If you don’t do something about it, I will call corporate!” Reluctantly, the manager sends Nick home for the day. Nick is now mad – “That is so unfair! I didn’t do anything wrong!” He screeches to a halt in his driveway. Just then his dog Spot comes to greet him, as always, but this time, Nick is in no mood for that – “Leave me alone, you dumb dog!” – and he kicks at him. What he doesn’t see is that as Spot jumps back to avoid the kick, he turns over the charcoal grill from last night. Even though Nick’s dad had checked to make sure that there was no live coal, one smoldering ember rolls into the patch of dry grass behind the house. That evening, hundreds of acres of woods were on fire. Question: Who started the fire? Spot, Nick, or Mr. Kindle? Mr. Kindle!
Do you see how our words can cause a chain reaction? Are you a verbal arsonist? If you think that all this is just pop psychology (the human potential movement), this is where that stops but the Word of God keeps going.
III. Our Words Convey What is Inside.
9 “With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.” Something interesting here: James has shifted the terminology from word to tongue to mouth. Why mouth? Maybe because Jesus used that word. Matthew 12:34 “Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Matthew 15:11 “Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” The point is that this is no secondary injunction. Jesus commanded this!
What is the problem? 11 “Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.” The problem lies in the heart. Our words are a good indicator of what is in our hearts. Both Jesus and James explained the Freudian slip centuries before Freud.
The Content of the Old Well: Sin Nature, Upbringing, Bad Examples, Bad Experiences, Daily Barrage from the World, Flesh, and the Devil.
The Content of the New Well: New Creation through Christ, Feeding on the Word, Godly Fellowship, Rejection of Worldly Values, New Habits.
For e.g. Someone said this:
- Show me a harsh tongue and I will show you an angry heart.
- Show me a negative tongue and I will show you a fearful heart.
- Show me an overactive tongue and I will show you an unsettled heart.
- Show me a boastful tongue and I will show you an insecure heart.
- Show me a filthy tongue and I will show you an impure heart.
- Show me a critical tongue and I will show you a bitter heart.
- Show me someone who says “hell” all the time and I will show you what’s inside.
Invitation: Has your heart been transformed by salvation through Jesus? Are you saved? How much do you care about the words that come from your lips? The work has to begin here (heart) and then here (mouth). It begins with humility, acknowledgment and repentance. Just like Isaiah we need God’s touch on our lips.