Chapter 6 - THE TONGUE
Our tongue is a small member, but is very important in our spiritual life and growth. In Creation God released His Spirit and His Power by SPEAKING WORDS, creating by releasing the breath of His mouth. We are created in the IMAGE OF GOD and through our mouth have the power to bring forth good things or to destroy our life by bringing forth evil. “Life and death are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:12).
Jesus said: “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart BRINGS FORTH GOOD THINGS, and an evil man out of the evil treasure BRINGS FORTH EVIL THINGS...for every idle word men speak they will give account of it in the day of judgement. For by your words you will be justified and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:34-37).
Every word has consequences. A bad thought dies unborn if not spoken or acted upon and you will not be judged for it. A good man (1) by his MEDITATION in the WORD stores up GOOD TREASURE abundantly in his heart, and then (2) SPEAKS it out, thus bringing forth and creating good things in his life. A bad (foolish) man meditates on evil things (fear, worry, what satan is doing) and it fills his heart and comes out of his mouth creating the evil he was afraid of (e.g. creating rejection by saying - 'no one likes me or wants to be with me.')
So the GROWTH OF OUR SPIRITUAL LIFE is greatly determined by our use of our TONGUE. Our spiritual growth is the increase of how much our reborn spirit-nature controls our life. It is by our WORDS and actions that this life is expressed, released and developed in us. Our tongue is hooked up to our heart and so it has a unique ability to express our spirit. Actions do also, but words are our primary actions. As we speak out from our spirit, God's life and love is released and thus it is developed (perfected) in us.
“With the heart one believes unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:10).
There are 2 Stages: (1) At salvation, when you believed you received eternal life, your spirit was made righteous, you were reborn and received the LIFE of God in your inner man.
Then (2) As you confess (act and speak out) what God has done on the inside, the result is salvation (wholeness) - the outward experiential manifestation of what God has worked within.
This process applies to all our receiving from God (e.g. healing).
First ‘believe you receive’ by faith the answer (the word) into your spirit (Mark 11:24), and then by speaking it (the word) out, you declare you have it and you call forth it into your life. Thus you bring it forth into manifestation, for ‘you will have what you say’ if you believe what you say will come to pass (Mark 11:23). Thus in Genesis 1, God brought (called) forth into manifestation what He already had in His Spirit by saying: “LIGHT BE..” When we know we have received something from God, we can then bring it forth by our corresponding words and actions.
In the BAPTISM IN HOLY SPIRIT we (1) receive the fullness of the Spirit within, and then (2) release the power that is now in our spirit by speaking with tongues: “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4).
Speaking in tongues is a God-given way we can yield our tongues to God everyday to speak and pray out His will. If we consistently pray in tongues it will greatly enhance our spiritual growth: “He who speaks in a tongue EDIFIES himself (BUILDS himself up spiritually)” (1Corinthians 14:4). “But you, beloved, BUILDING yourselves UP on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 20).
JAMES is a book of practical Christianity written to Christians (1:2) with the aim of bringing SPIRITUAL GROWTH (1:4).
“Receive with meekness the implanted word which is able to SAVE your souls” (1:21). All spiritual growth comes through the WORD. Our spirit was saved (reborn) by the Word planted in us and as we keep receiving the Word, that new life grows and fills us, saving our souls (bringing all of God's fullness into our lives). “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourself (that you are growing)” (v22). The Word has the ability to save (make whole) the life (character), but it must be acted on (this means first of all 'confessed' verbally).
James is thinking of Jesus' Parable of the 2 house-builders in Matthew 7. One heard the Word only, but did not act on it. He produced no character, strength or real spiritual growth as the storm later revealed. He looked at his house and was deceived into thinking it was something when it was not.
The other heard and acted on the Word - he based his life on the word. As he heard and did the Word (spoke it and applied it) he was building his spiritual life and character with the Word of God as the material. Every time he believed and acted on the Word (LOVE) another brick was established in his character. His house grew and was perfected and stood the test because it was built of the indestructible eternal Word of God.
Another illustration of these 2 kinds of believers is in James 1:23-25: “If anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a Mirror (the WORD) - he observes himself (who he is in Christ, who Christ is in him, his relationship to God) goes away and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks (intently) into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it (see also John 8:31,32) and is not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in his doing (as he does it).”
One of them does not store good treasure up and so does not bring it forth. The other looks diligently (meditates) in the Word and so builds it up in his heart. Then he brings it forth by saying and doing it, and so he is blessed, saved, perfected (Joshua 1:8).
Spiritual Growth comes by hearing and doing the Word!
What kind of actions bring forth true spiritual growth ?
(1) “If anyone among you thinks he is religious (a good Christian) and does not bridle (take strong control of) his TONGUE but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is useless (unproductive)” (v26). The tongue is the primary way we act on the Word. Not only speaking in line with the Word, but refusing to contradict it. Often it wants to speak evil and to be doers of word we must bridle it like we would a wild horse. If we don’t, we are deceived if we think we are growing or mature.
(2) “Pure and undefiled religion before God is to visit orphans and widows in their trouble and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (v27). Walking in LOVE (loving and showing mercy to the needy) is also a key action. Be careful not to pick up the world's apathy toward them (James 2:1-13 gives specific examples of this).
James 2:14-26 argues that although we are saved by faith alone, we only grow spiritually when we put our faith into action. “Faith by itself, if it does not have works is dead (unfruitful, inactive)” (v17,21). “Faith without works is dead (useless)” (v20,26). When Abraham offered up Isaac (v21) his “faith was working together with his works and by works (acting on the word) his faith was made perfect (developed, grew)” (v22).
James 3 now focuses on the primary action producing (or hindering) growth - THE TONGUE: “Let few become teachers, knowing we will receive stricter judgement” (v1).
If we give account for every word we speak, how much more will teachers be judged strictly. “We all stumble in many things. If any one does not stumble in word he is a perfect (mature) man, able also to bridle the whole body” (v2).
Notice: (1) A mark of maturity is tongue-control and so our growth is measured by how much we bring our tongue under the control of our spirit.
(2) The tongue is the control centre of the body. Putting the Word on our tongue is the first step to doing the Word in our actions. By bringing the tongue under control we bring our whole body (actions, life) under the control of the spirit.
So bringing our tongue under the control of the Word and Spirit of God is a major key to our spiritual growth.
ILLUSTRATIONS of how our tongue controls our body,our life, our spiritual growth and destiny (James 3):
1. “We put BITS in HORSES' mouths so they may obey us, and we turn their whole body” (v3). It is hard to believe our small tongue has the power to control our direction in life. A bit is small and weak compared to a horse but because it is at the control centre (mouth), you can control a big restless horse with a bit. Likewise although the tongue is small it is so positioned that you can use it to control your life.
2. “Look at SHIPS, though so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small RUDDER wherever the pilot desires” (v4). Our life is like a big ship with winds (wrong ideas and pressures) that blow on us to try and get us off-course and shipwreck. The Pilot (our inner-man) can control it with a small rudder (tongue). Our tongue controls the direction and destiny of our life. You can keep it on course by speaking God's promises over your life (confess Psalm 23).
3. “Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire (spark) kindles! 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 (disrupting the orderly cycles of life) and is set on fire by hell” (v5,6). The tongue's power is seen in its power to destroy. It is small but has great power. Uncontrolled it will run rampant destroying your relationships, everything you have built, your body (evil and bitter words bring sickness) Evil words release hell-fire into your life and in others.
Thus we must learn to tame it (bring it under control). It is like a wild animal. It is not easy. It takes a QUALITY DECISION. In fact it is impossible in the natural:
4. “Every kind of beast ...has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (v7,8). Willpower alone can not do it. We must trust in the supernatural power of God, by speaking the Word and speaking in tongues. Only then it can be done.
5. A PUZZLE: “With it we bless our God and with it we curse men made in the image of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. Brethren this ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?' (v9,10,11).
“Can a fig tree (dead religion), bear olives (the oil of the Spirit), or a grapevine (grapes/wine of the Spirit) bear figs (death)? neither can a salt spring produce fresh water” (NIV) (v12).
We do not see this in nature, so what is going on? From the same opening (mouth) we see sometimes the fresh water of the spirit released (v17,18) and at other times bitter waters (v14-16).
v12 has the answer - there are actually 2 Fountains (sources of life or spiritual water) in us that want to be expressed, through the same opening or fountainhead (our tongue).
(1) The Fountain of our flesh wants to be expressed through the mouth (we all feel its build up of pressure at times).
If we yield to it we will speak wisdom from below (v14-16).
(2) The Fountain of our reborn spirit has waters of love, joy, peace bubbling up, the wisdom from above (v17,18).
One fountain cannot produce two waters - there must be two fountains. Both fountains push for control. There may be water pressure in your hose pipe, but you control the nozzle! We control which waters come out (life or death). No good (life) can come by yielding to the fountain of the flesh.
James 3:13-18. We need to recognise (taste) what kind of water is wanting to flow: “If bitter envy and self-seeking is in your heart...this wisdom (WORD) is not descended from above, but is earthly, sensual, and demonic, producing confusion and every evil thing.” If it tastes bad then turn off the nozzle - if you stop meditating on it, it will subside.
Instead start speaking and praying: “wisdom (WORDS) from above-pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and hypocrisy” producing 'the fruit of righteousness and peace' by 'peaceful sowing' of WORDS. Thus speaking from this fountain (in peace not strife and anxiety) results in good fruit (outward growth produced from an inward life). This is character growth in our life and in others. If it tastes good open your mouth and let living waters flow out. You feel good after praising God, because you have let waters of life and joy flow out of your mouth from the good fountain in you (see also Isaiah 12, John 7:37-39).
The Tongue in TRIALS (James 1:1-20). In trials the greatest pressure comes on us to yield to the wrong fountain! James starts with what we should say when things go wrong.
“REJOICE when you fall into various trials (do not just say nothing but start yielding to God's fountain in you to resist evil) Knowing that the testing of your faith (the test is to see what you yield your tongue to) produces (develops) patience (if you keep confessing the Word).” Trials give us a unique opportunity to grow for they put a demand on our patience (an important character quality in our spirit). “Let patience have its perfect work (do not quit speaking from the spirit) that you may be perfect (mature) and complete (in character), lacking nothing” (1:2-4). By continuing to yield our tongue to God's Word we exercise patience and it then grows in us with the result that we become mature and as we let living water flow the blessing (answer) to our trial comes through and we 'lack nothing' (c.f. v12)
Giving up and yielding our tongue to the negative brings more trouble to us and we do not grow. Speaking from the wrong fountain hinders our growth.
One way we do this is by blaming God: “Let no man say when he is tempted (tested, tried) - 'I am tested by God' - for God can not be tested by evil neither does He test anyone” (v13). Here we are clearly forbidden to say that God brought the test, trial, trouble, sickness or tribulation upon us. Yet under the pressure of the tribulation many believers fall for the devil’s deception, that this is really from God. They are trying to find some peace that somehow this curse is God’s Sovereign Will, and so in the trial they disregard God’s Word (James 1:13) and yield their tongue to evil, slandering God’s good character and so handing satan the victory in the trial. As a result of yielding their tongue in this way to the pressure of the trial and to the lie of satan, rather than to God’s Word, they will remain passive and defeated in the trial and their spiritual growth will be hindered. But had they dug deeper in prayer, confessed God’s goodness and rejoiced in the trial, thanking God for working it all together for good, then their spiritual growth would be accelerated in the trial and they would come through it victorious.