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James 3:1-12


"My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation [margin: judgment].  For in many things we offend all.  If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.  Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.  Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth.  Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things.  Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!  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 coarse of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.  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.  But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.  Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.  Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing.  My brethren, these things ought not so to be.  Doth a fountain send forth at the same place [margin: hole] sweet water and bitter?  Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh."



James' Teaching About The Tongue


Background, The Power Of The Tongue


"James, probably giving us the most definitive, pointed teaching on the tongue.  James, sensitive to that himself.  We know that in Mark chapter 3, verse 21, it says Jesus' kinsmen, his brethren, had accused him of being beside himself, out of his mind.  Now imagine this, James telling his older brother Jesus, who he finds out later is God, that he's out of his mind.  Now the Scripture never humiliates anybody, so I tend to think there was probably more than that in his lifetime that James said that he remembers that we don't know about.  But he's very sensitive to the tongue.  In chapter 1 he had talked to us about the tongue saying, "Wherefore my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath." He had said "If any man among you" in verse 26, "seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain."  In chapter 2, in verse 12, he said, "So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty."  You should talk that way, you should live that way.  In chapter 4 he said, "From whence come wars and fightings among you?  come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?" of your own attitudes, your own flesh.  Down in verses 11 and 12 he said, "Speak not evil one of another, brethren.  He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law:  but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.  There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy:  who art thou that judgest another?"  And over in chapter 5, verse 12, "But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath:  but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation."  Again, the mouth.  Sounds like his older brother, doesn't he?  So he's very aware of the tongue.  You know today we're concerned with, and rightly so as we look around the world, weapons of mass destruction, we've got one right here, gun control.  Not concerned about tongue control, are we?  We're concerned about gun control, Homeland Security, and rightly so.  But the tongue has caused more death through the history of man than any of these other things.  Just imagine the promotion of abortion itself, Roe vs. Wade.  A human mouth, human thought.  And look, if you've had an abortion, and you've come to Christ, that's forgiven, and you have a reunion waiting for you in heaven [the kingdom of heaven].  It's under the blood of Jesus, and there's no condemnation.  But it's infected our culture, they're saying now almost 4,000 abortions per day in this country.  And people say, 'Well that's not an issue,' imagine on 9/11 between the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, there were a little over 3,000 Americans killed.  Imagine a 9/11 every day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, that's what it is, promoted this way.  Marxism, Communism, hatred, variance, strife, the Scripture tells us, the tongue.  James is going to say it's set on fire of hell itself.  Satan finds his way into our world to destroy by promoting his agenda, and speech is the main way that he does that.  So when it says the tongue is evil, it's not just this thing.  It's a wonderful, really, remarkable thing, if we're just talking about physiology, the way the muscles are layered, the three strands, the way they're anchored if you've studied them, over ten-thousand taste buds.  It moves in all directions, so when you're eating something, you don't chew it to shreds, it knows how to stay out of the way, and it stays out of the way and keeps pushing the food to your molars, to your cutters, knows which ones need, 'this one's too big, get it back to the front,' it knows what to do with all of that.  It pushes against the epiglottis and closes your windpipe so the food can go down into your stomach, I mean, it's very remarkable.  It senses sweet, sour, bitter, hot, cold, sends all these messages to your brain.  And then it flaps in the wind and causes all kinds of trouble everywhere.  [he laughs]  And James is very sensitive to that.  It's where the philosophies of man are promoted, communication, ethics, morals, deception, hatred.  And when he begins to talk about it, he begins by saying "My brethren," he's talking to Christians, he's talking to us, because he knows that we need to be attentive to these things.


'Be Not Many Teachers'---James Addressing Something Going On In The Local Congregations


"My brethren, be not many masters," King James, it's "teachers," "knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation [judgment]." i.e. we'll be judged more stringently, "we," James just gives us an autobiographical thing, telling us that he is in fact a teacher.  Ah, "be not many teachers," now look, he's writing to the Diaspora, the brethren that had been scattered throughout the Roman Empire.  They largely met in small congregations like our home-fellowships, and those small congregations were much like the synagogue services they had been used to.  And in the synagogue, no doubt there were those who were recognized as a rabbi or a teacher that would get the main text of the day [and read it to the congregation, called "Torah Portions"].  But others who came had the prerogative to stand up and to say something.  [Comment:  btw, that is exactly how the apostle Paul would evangelize across the Roman Empire, he would always go into the local Jewish synagogue wherever he would go, and as this custom allowed a visiting Jew from somewhere else to get up and speak, he had the prerogative to speak.  He would then speak, proving that Jesus, Yeshua of Nazareth was the promised Messiah, proving this out through all the Old Testament prophecies that proved who the Messiah would be.  This tactic of Paul, utilizing a longstanding tradition within the synagogue system, resulted in the loss of members within that synagogue, going over to their becoming new Christian believers in Yeshua, and always resulting in Paul being thrown out on his ear by the remaining Jews within that synagogue.  Paul would repeat this tactic of his over and over again.  The supposed "Gentile" churches under him were anything but Gentile, as they were made up of many Jewish and Gentile "God-fearer" synagogue attendees.  For a good research article explaining this, see]  And evidently that was happening in the Church, James felt, more than it should [i.e. people within the Christian synagogues letting anyone that desired, to get up and speak].  He knew that there were those who were ordained of God to teach, you should  always pray for myself and for the pastors here, because it says here, "they shall" it's future tense, when we stand before Christ, "receive the greater condemnation [judgment]."  If I come here, and my heart is not prepared, and I haven't been before the Lord, and I haven't studied his Word, and I come here on a Wednesday night, and there's 2,000 of you here [the normal amount in Pastor Joe's Bible studies, btw], I just wasted 2,000 hours of God's time.  And if I say something wrong or say something stupid, I do that sometimes, I can offend someone, hurt someone's feelings.  So it says there's the greater condemnation for the teacher, because there's a gift functioning, hopefully, and you're in a position of instruction, and you know that if you preach, I preach something on Wednesday night, and it happens to me Thursday, now I have to live by my own teaching.  You preach a sermon on Sunday [or Saturday] on patience, and I'm stuck in traffic Monday morning, and the Lord's saying, 'Did you hear that guy yesterday, what he said about patience?' so there's the more stringent judgment for the teacher.  And evidently the problem was, there was a lot of people just standing up, people like that, they get saved this week, and next week they want to take the church over, because they know what should be happening.  [This happens a lot in house-churches, where there is not an ordained pastor to teach, teaching tends to be informal, with everybody throwing their spiritual "two-cents" into the mix, not the best format for spiritual nurturing that tiny body of believers meeting under these circumstances.  House-churches can be terribly warm and friendly, becoming more like a spiritual family, especially in the Sabbath-keeping Churches of God, often spending the whole Sabbath at someone's house, pot-lucking meals, and reading through the Bible and fellowshipping.  But this informality can lead to confusion in teaching as well, there are pluses and minuses in every different church setting.  Pastor Joe's Calvary Chapel in Philly, counting all the satellite churches that sprang off of him must number 30,000 now that have come to Christ because of his teaching-ministry at Calvary Chapel Philadelphia.  I have been in tiny Sabbath-keeping Church of God house-churches, and I have been in large Calvary Chapels, I've seen both extremes and am fully well aware of the strengths and weaknesses in each format.  In the larger churches, they suffer from member-disconnect, Pastor Joe doesn't even remember everybody's name in his congregation.]  You know, they're a week old in the Lord, you know, when you're a week old in nature, you're not doing much.  When you're a month old in nature you're not doing much.  When you're two years old, you're still messing in your diaper.  But somehow we get saved, and the next week we want to run the church sometimes, you know.  He's giving them an exhortation, because if you make a mistake in math, or you make a mistake in biology, that's one thing, but if you make a mistake spiritually [especially in what you teach others], the impact is ongoing, eternal sometimes.  So he challenges them, as he begins he says 'Be not many teachers, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation, we're going to be more accountable.'  And he says the reason he's encouraging in regards to that is "For in many things we offend all." (verse 2a)  "we" including himself.  "Offend" King James, "we stumble" we all offend, or we all stumble others, is the idea, we all make mistakes in many things, all of us, he says, no one here is excluded.  We do things that offend other people sometimes. [So putting James' advice in context for today, allowing this condition of multiple unqualified 'teachers' to get up and speak can stumble other believers within the house-church or home fellowship setting.] 


What Proverbs Says About The Tongue


"If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body." (verse 2b)  "in word," with his mouth, if he doesn't offend someone, "the same is perfect,"  now that's not perfect perfection, it's here as "mature."  'The same one is a mature man, able also to bridle the whole body.'  He said if you can bridle your tongue, you can bridle everything else.  If you can actually think before you talk, because we don't have to, you ever notice that?  I was with somebody's baby the other day, and there's a lot of them around here, and having a great time, because the baby was just looking at me babbling away, he was talking, and talking, and he wasn't saying anything [intelligible anyway, I know, my grandson is 9 months old right now.  He knew what he was saying, we didn't J].  Wasn't thinking, I don't know in his brain what he was communicating, what was attached to all of that [babbling], but he had this dialect, I didn't have an interpretation, and he was just going on.  We say, "put your brain in gear, before you put your mouth in motion."  Because once it's gone [words out of our mouths], it's out there.  I don't know how many times I wish I could have reeled something back in.  And you can't.  As long as you control it, and you've kept it in, then it's between you and God.  'This guy's really bugging me, why doesn'tÉdon't you say that, don't put gas on the fire, Lord if I wasn't a Christian, LordÉ' then it's between you and God.  But once you let it out, it's fair game for the enemy, Satan's got a hold of it then, and he's gonna get as many miles out of it as he can.  Anybody who is here this evening whose married knows exactly what I'm talking about.  There are times with my wife, when I know I'm supposed to say something, she's made a statement, there's some tension attached to it, she's waiting for me to respond, and I really want to say the right thing, because I know, there could be days attached to the way I do this.  I'm praying 'Lord, give me wisdom, Lord,' maybe if I just start choking and falling on the floor, and get a glass of water and we'll change the whole subject.  Because you know, once you let it out, it's hard to reel it back in at that point in time.  And especially if you let it out with great emotion, the Scripture tells us not to do that.  Solomon, the wisest man that ever lived [until he married 1,000 wives J] said, "Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin.  Neither say thou before the presence of the Lord, 'it was an error.'  Wherefore should God be angry at thy voice and destroy the work of thy hand?"  You know, don't just shoot your mouth off and then get yourself in trouble, cause your flesh to sin, and then just say to the Lord, 'Oh, it was just a mistake.'  No, the presence of the Lord was there, don't do that.  We're told in the Book of Psalms, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD my strength and my redeemer."  Again, David said, "I said I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue.  I will keep my mouth with a bridle," that's where we're coming here, "while the wicked is before me."  Let me tell you something, that's hard to do, to keep your mouth with a bridle while the wicked are standing in front of you, when you want to shoot it off and say something that you shouldn't say.  Solomon again, the wisest man that ever lived says, "A soft answer turneth away wrath," that's good bumper-sticker stuff folks.  That's good plaque material that should be in every home, should be in every bedroom, should be in every kitchen, "A soft answer turneth away wrath," because when I get something that comes at me that's filled with barbs, my natural inclination is to respond in kind.  If somebody gives me a 'Gnah! YA! ya!' I want to say 'Gnah, YA, YA!'  "A soft answer," Solomon says, "turns away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger."  "The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright, but the mouth of fools pours out foolishness."  I've been on the wrong side of that equation too many times.  "An ungodly man diggeth up evil, and his lips they are like a burning fire."  We're going to read that the tongue is like a fire.  "A proud man soweth strife, and a whisperer separates chief friends."  Ah, again, chapter 17 of Proverbs, I'll just read through a few of these and we'll go back to James.  "Even a fool when he holds his peace is counted as wise, and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding."  So it's better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you're wise, then to open it and remove all doubt [that you're a fool], that's what he basically says there.  Proverbs again, "The words of a talebearer are as wounds, they go down into the inmost part of the being."  How important of course is Proverbs 31, as he talks about the virtuous woman, "she openeth her mouth with wisdom, and in her tongue is the law of kindness."  Wish we could buy that by the bottle, don't we?  "in her tongue is the law of kindness."  And sometimes opening our mouths in wisdom is keeping them closed, because that's the kindest thing we can do in some circumstances is not say anything.  That's for sure.  [My father always used to say "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."  He was a very quiet man.  There must have been a lot of idiots around him, including myself.] 


If A Man Can Control His Tongue, He Can Control His Life


James is saying, 'Look, we all offend,' including himself, 'if any man can control his tongue, he can control everything in his life.'  And the tongue is ready, to let loose, it's loaded, it's ready to go, in an instant.  It doesn't even have a bone in it, it wouldn't be bad once in a while if you broke your tongue, and had to put it in cast for six weeks.  [laughter]  Then at least you'd, you know, you'd probably learn something.  Doesn't even have a skeleton there.  James says "Behold" consider this, "Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body." (verse 3)  The horse, you know, in that day was, you know, a one-horse-power engine was as good as it got.  And the horse was a symbol of power and strength.  James says by putting a bit in that animal's mouth, even against its will, you can steer it, you can control it.  A small thing in the mouth of this huge, powerful animal, can control it.  He says in verse 4, "Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds," when they are in a storm, "yet are they turned about with a very small helm," a rudder, "whithersoever the governor listeth." (verse 4)  Even a ship, he said, which is great, in a storm, when it's being driven by adversity, that whole ship is steered just by a rudder, a little thing that flaps and gives it direction.  And in verse 5 he says, "Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things.  Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!"  If we can control a horse, which is a huge, powerful creature, by having a bit in its mouth, if we can steer a ship in a storm, when the winds are adverse, you know, with a little rudder, even so the tongue can control like the horse is controlled, when you're in a storm and there's adversity and the wind is blowing in your face, and you just want to scream and choke somebody, it says, even in adversity, the rudder steers the ship, even so the tongue, just a few words control our life.  You stand at the altar, and you say "I do," that's the rest of your life.  "Do you take this woman?"  "I do."  You said two words, you are on your way.  Little things steering.  You stand in front of the judge, and the jury, and they say "Guilty."  That can steer your life for a long time.  You say "no," one word, "no," "no" to adultery, "no" to drugs, a word, the tongue, how many people I know wish they could back up the clock 24 hours, and give their right arm to say "no," the tongue.  Or what about when the tongue says "Lord Jesus, come into my heart," and we get saved, and ask forgiveness, believe with our heart, confess with our tongue.  Two inches long, it takes two years to learn to use it, and fifty years to learn to keep it quiet.  Must take longer, because I got to fifty years and I haven't got it yet, so. 


'Behold How Big A Forest A Little Fire Kindles'


"Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things.  Behold how great a matter a little fire kindleth!" (verse 5)  "a little member that boasts great things," love to be around a person that does that, don't you?  You know it says in heaven no flesh is going to boast in his presence.  That's just one of the wonderful things about heaven [being in the kingdom of heaven] to me, because how'd you like to be next to somebody forever that talked about themselves.  'Ahhh, I want to move my mansion, I need a new address, I need to get relocated here.  I want to go to the witness protection program here.  Get me outa here.' [laughter]  "even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things."  "Behold," James says, "how great a matter a little fire kindleth!"  "Consider how great a matter a little fire kindleth!"  Now we need to note something interesting here.  A great "matter," the "matter" is a pile of lumber or a forest, and a little spark, a little fire, kindles.  You know, Smokey the Bear, "Only you can prevent forest fires."  Just consider what a little spark kindles.  Now he says before this, 'Like a bit in the mouth of a horse, or a rudder on a ship, the tongue can be very, very constructive in aiming a life and steering it.'  [I think of my daughter-in-law, investing hours upon hours, days upon days, months upon months, of gentle instructions and teaching she's giving my grand-daughter (whose 3 right now) and my grandson (whose 10 months old right now), steering, aiming their little lives, which will aim them for life in their character.  Just had to add that, because it fits so well with what's being said here.]  But he says the other thing that can happen, it can be, it can let something loose that ignites, and it burns out of control, it can be destructive also.  'Consider how great a forest fire just a little spark gets going, and the destruction, things burn out of control.'  Slander, you say one thing.  Somebody came up to me last week said they heard up in Calvary Chapel New York that I was getting a kidney transplant.  I said "I ain't going to the doctor then, I didn't know that.  I'm going to stay away from him."  You know, last year somebody said "We all heard you had cancer."  Ah, I could go down the list of things that I hear about me, some good, some bad, gossip, slander.  You know, we're Christians, we would just never think of killing someone, most of the time.  But somehow we don't hesitate to use our tongue like a knife in somebody's back sometimes.  Now, as we mature we graduate from slander to gossip to innuendo.  'Well, don't make you tell you everything about them, I've actually told you more than I've actually heard, so don't make me tell you everything else that I've imagined, according to what I've heard.'  You know, 'You think that person's in sin?'  'Well, I'd rather not say, you know what I mean.' [loud laughter]  You know, there's innuendo.  It's like this language without really saying it, it's just as carnal.  Maybe what's worse is flattery.  How about when someone's being nice to your face, and you know that's as far as their niceness goes.  And you're thinking 'You sneak.'  [loud laughter]  But James says, "Brethren", but we think, 'You snake, you slimeÉ' and you know it's interesting, see the difference between gossip and flattery is this, gossip is when you say something behind somebody's back that you would never say to their face.  And flattery is when you say something to someone's face that you would never say behind their back.  If you need to hear that again, get the tape.  [loud laughter] 


"And Setteth On Fire The Course Of Nature,"---'The Round Of Existence,' What's That Mean?


"Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!" (verse 5b), a fire, a forest fire, a little spark can kindle.  "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." (verse 6)  These are strong ideas, James is not cutting us any slack here.  You know, it defiles the whole body.  I'll tell you this, there's no bigger troublemaker in this church than the one between our teeth.  I've been here a long time, and I guarantee you, there is no bigger troublemaker in this church than that right there [obviously pointing to his tongue].  And even kids now, even if they don't want to say anything, just go [he's sticking his tongue out].  It means the same thing.  You don't even want somebody sticking it at you, whipping you behind your back with it.  The tongue is a fire, it burns, it's a world of iniquity, so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body,' you can see somebody dressed up, you know, just beautiful, you see a beautiful young woman, immaculate, and if she opens her mouth and something foul comes out, all of that dress-up just melts away, because you think, 'ohh crude, aye, yi, yi.'  It defiles the whole body, it's able to do that.  'and it sets on fire,' now this is interesting, 'the course of nature,' is the wheel or round of existence, and is set on fire of hell, and James uses the word Gehenna there,  ah, 'sets on fire the round of existence,' in the sense of it is, look, there's this round of existence.  Everybody in this room, most people have one, two, three maybe four really good friends [what the Aussie's call "a cobber"].  You're a rich man, or a rich woman, if you have four or five extremely good friends, trusted, can be vulnerable around them, takes years to find them.  We have a larger circle of friends, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, psychologists say that the most interaction takes place between twelve to fifteen people in a lifetime.  I mean, that's why Jesus took twelve disciples.  I'm sure they learned it from him, he didn't learn it from them.  One report I read years ago said the average human being in their lifetime, will dramatically affect the lives of 150 other people.  You will have a dramatic affect, if you live an average lifetime, on the lives of 150 other individuals.  And that's mostly by what you say, and how you act, and your attitude, what comes out of your mouth.  And we set on fire this round of existence, the four friends, the twelve friends, the larger circle, and we're able to do that.  And you know, of course now, Satan went and invented the telephone, used to be just in the church.  We're the best dysfunctional family going.  And the church is faster than AT&T.  You say something around here, 'Promise me you won't tell this to anybody, because the person that told me, I promised them, soÉ' you know, a secret is something you tell one person at a time, in the church.  And pretty soon everybody knows, 'Did you hear?'  'Yes, we all heard.'  'I must have been the last one to hear that.'  And now of course there's the telephone, cell-phones, cell-phones, you can be anywhere and get in trouble now, beepers, text-messaging, the whole world, the Worldwide Web, we are goner's.  [And on the Worldwide Web it's gotten worse, emails, and now facebook, gossip can go around the world depending on what you post on your facebook wall, at the speed of light.] You know, I don't mean to disillusion you, I don't even have a computer on my desk.  Please don't walk out.  I'm living in denial, I'm hoping the Rapture comes before I really have to enter that world.  It's job security for my secretary.  When the computers crash around here, people walk around like zombies, 'what do I do now?'  And I'm still reading, my books, my Bible's still talking to me, I just move right along at warp speed.  Last time everything crashed somebody said, "Do you think we should go home?"  I said, "What a minute, Imagine Peter, James and John leaving because the computers crashed, what do you mean, there's ministry, call people, visit people, humans, get away from this machine and spend time with human beings!"  But it's trouble.  Oh it's a blessing [the communications technology] and it's a curse.  But there's so many avenues for that to take place, and the enemy knows that too.  Think of what's happened through the tongue.  Think of what Adolph Hitler did to this world [and he was a superb orator], through the tongue.  Think of the millions, millions, four million Americans in that war.  Over six million Jews died in concentration camps, and as many Gentiles. The tongue.  Karl Marx, do you know that there's been more martyrs in Russia this century than all of the preceding centuries combined, including the Roman persecution?  Christian martyrs in Russia.  One man.  The tongue is set on fire of hell.  This is Karl Marx, this is a short poem that he wrote called "The Fiddler,"  "The hellish vapours rise, they till the brain, till I go mad, and my heart is utterly changed.  See this sword?  The prince of darkness sold it to me."  Karl Marx.  [Don't forget, 5 million Soviet Russian military service men and women and 10 million Soviet Russian civilians died stopping 200 crack German Divisions cold on the eastern or Russian front, culminating in the Battle of Stalingrad and the encirclement and surrender of General Paulas' army.  We'd be speaking German in America had it not been for that sacrifice.  The Russian people are not evil for being deceived and following an ideology conceived by a madman, any more than the German people are.  As a matter of fact, we owe the Russian people a debt of gratitude for their sacrifice.  Sorry, I'm a history nut, if you hadn't gathered J]  Here's one of his famous poems called  O Leunamme, which is Emmanuel backwards, because he hated Christ, O Leunamme, For he beats the time, and he gives the signs, even more boldly I play the dance of death, they are also O Leunamme, O Leunamme the name rings forth like death, rings forth until it dies away in a wretched crawl, like death, rings forth until it dies away in a wretched crawl, Stop, I got it now, it rises from my soul as clear as air, as strong as my own bones, yet I have power in my useful arms, to clench and to crush you with tempestuous force, while for us both, the abyss yawns in darkness.  You will sink down, and I shall follow laughing, whispering in your ears, descend, come with me my friend.  Again if there is something which devours, I'll leap within in it, though I bring the world to ruins, the world which balks between me and the abyss.  I will smash it to pieces with my enduring curses.  I will throw my arms around its harsh reality.  Embrace me, the world will dumbly pass away, and then sink down to utter nothingness, perished, with no existence that would be called really living, thus heaven I have fortified, I know it full well, my soul once true to God, is chosen for hell."  Karl Marx.  [Comment:  Now realize, Karl Marx was just a puppet for Satan.  That was Satan writing that through Karl Marx.  I don't think Karl could have thought that one up all on his own.  That's pretty easy to see, for anyone whose been in the Word of God for awhile.]  Is it any wonder, that James says the tongue itself is set on fire of hell. 


'Out Of The Same Mouth Comes Good And Evil'


And we can all make mistakes.  We can all do great things.  Think of what Billy Graham has accomplished in the other direction [and now his son Franklin is accomplishing in the same other direction], with the same thing.  The millions that have come to know Christ, eternities that have been changed.  And James says we need to take heed, because we all do offend.  Every single person in this room that loves Christ with all of their heart, can get into a situation where something flies out of your mouth that you wish you could real back in.  Now that shouldn't be our lifestyle, it shouldn't be the norm for us.  We believe in the life-changing power of the Lord Jesus Christ.  But still if you get us in hot water in the wrong position, we might say something that we wish we hadn't said.  James says we all do that, all of us.  Job, and God says he was the most righteous man on the earth, faultless, blameless, and yet we hear him go on and on till finally at the end he confesses, 'Lord, I've said so many foolish things with my mouth, I've spoken the wrong way.'  Moses, the meekest man that ever lived, and yet he didn't enter into the Promised Land because God said 'You go, Moses, and you talk to that rock,' and Moses was fed-up by then, and he took that staff, Aarons rod with the almonds and the buds all over it, I guess, and started whacking that rock, and flowers and almonds are flying everywhere, and he said 'You rebels!...' and God said, 'YOU, buster!'  and the water came forth  And God didn't punish his people because his servant had the wrong attitude.  But he said 'Because you haven't sanctified me in the hearts of the people, you're not going to enter in,' Moses, foolishly, with his mouth, spoke in a way that he should not have spoken.  Paul, in the Book of Acts, and I love Paul.  The high priest hits him and he turns and says 'God will hit you, you whitewashed tomb.  God's gonna hit you in the mouth, you whitewashed tomb.'  And I kind of like that, it gives me hope.  [laughter]  Jesus said, 'Bless those who curse you, give them the other cheek,' Paul gave them the business, I'll tell you that.  And Peter of course, should get the foot-in-mouth award, the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus in his glory, the Shekinah of God shining out of the cloud, Moses and Elijah standing there, Peter wakes up and says 'It's a good thing we're here.'  God [the Father] said 'Be quiet, this is my beloved Son, hear ye him.'  Peter's the only human being that God spoke directly from heaven I know about and told him to be quiet [i.e. 'shut up, Peter,'].  And he remembers that as he writes his Epistles to us.  'We heard that voice that spoke from the holy mount,' he said.  And then Mark tells us, 'He said that because he didn't know what to say.'  And the general rule is, if you're ever in the presence of God, and Moses and Elijah and Jesus are standing there with you, and you don't know what to say, don't say anything, just take it from me.  The chapter before that, 'Whom do men say that I am,'  Peter said, 'You're the Christ, the Son of God,'  'Blessed art thou Simon bar Jonah, flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto you, but my Father which is in heaven.  God is talking through you, Peter.'  Five minutes later, 'I'm going up to Jerusalem now, to be offered up, the Son of man is going to be crucified, rise on the third day,'  'Far be it from you Lord,'  'Get thee behind me Satan,' same guy, five minutes apart.  One minute he's a conduit from heaven, the next minute the enemy's speaking through him.  And he's an a-postle, not even a b-postle.  So it happens to us, James says it happens to all of us.  And he's telling us to take heed because when we let it out, it's like a forest fire, it can burn, and it's hard to fix.  That's why love, forgiveness, long-patience, longsuffering, all of those things are so important to the Body of Christ.  You know there probably isn't a person that I work with here on the staff, the guys that I work with that are closest to me that hasn't hurt my feelings at some point.  But I know this, every one of them would take a bullet for me.  And if any of them knew that they had hurt my feelings, they would have never done it, because I know they love me.  And the mouth and the tongue are a funny thing, they are a funny thing.  And James says 'set on fire of hell.'  Evolution, Sex-Ed in the high schools, without moral consequences, bigotry, hatred, division, all promoted through the mouth.  That's the way the enemy comes into our world, by in large, through the mouth.  And then we say we can't control it.  I think James, he anticipates that, he says 'Look,' verse 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:  but the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly; evil,  full of deadly poison."  'we've tamed everything else,' he says, beasts, you go to the zoo and you can get a camel ride, get an elephant ride, get our dog to sit up, and roll over, and speak.  [I'll wait till after the 2nd coming to get a tiger-ride though J]  Birds, you can teach your parrot to talk.  You know, the shame of it is, some people teach their parrot to say things we should never teach, we should never say, parrot with a foul mouth.  Serpents, play the flute, make them come up out of the basket, we've tamed everything.  Things that are in the sea, Shamu.  But even then, like you know the magicians with the tiger or Shamu last year had a bad day one year, I think it was in, I was disheartened when I found it was Shamu in Miami, you know I thought there was only one Shamu, they're everywhere there's Shamu's, but the one in San Diego, Sea World, I don't know whether Mrs. Shamu gave him a hard time that morning or what, but he was having a bad day, and just decided he didn't want his trainer jumping on him doing all that stuff, and he didn't want a little sardine to do all those tricks, I don't know if you saw it, he grabbed his trainer, shaking him around, throwing him up in the air, and they had to get him out of there real fast.  But you know, basically we're able to tame all of these things, but we can't tame the tongue, it seems.  That's no excuse because we do that.  If you get in an argument with your wife, or you're yelling at your kids, 'I couldn't help it, they provoked me.  I'm not normally like that.  Last time I lost my tempter was a year ago, I have it on the calendar.  I never do that.  It's unlike me.'  And you're there, you know, 'But I couldn't control it, they pushed me over the edge,' you're in the middle of a fight, 'I'm gonna get you, I'm gonna kill ya,' and the phone goes 'RING,' and you pick it up and say 'Helloooo,' [laughter].  You don't pick it up and say 'You called me in the middle of a fight, what's you're name, what's your name, I'm gonna kill you after I kill my wife, I'm coming over there!'  We can control it, can't we.  You fight all the way to church with your kids and you walk in the door, somebody says 'How you doing?'  'Oh, praise the Lord,' [loud laughter] your kid's crying, 'whimper, whimperÉ' for the sake of pride we can control it.  "But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison." (verse 8) restless is the idea.  The words used twice for poison in the New Testament, in chapter 5, verse 3 it says "your gold and silver is cankered, and the rust of them shall be witnessed against you," is the same word "rust" there.  So it's unruly evil, it's a poison, it's a "rust", the tongue, it can corrode, it can destroy, it can corrode a marriage, it can poison a marriage, it can poison a relationship, friendships.  Cruel words can poison and corrode the self-worth of your children.  You know, you try to convince them one day how much God loves them, and use your tongue the wrong way the next day, they think 'No, that can't be true.'  It's an unruly evil, restless, full of deadly poison.  "Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God." (verse 9)  "We", James again including himself.  We bless God, and we curse men, with the same tongue, who are made in God's image and likeness.  Something wrong with that, James says.  There's an inconsistency there.  You know, great thing to do with our tongue, to praise his name, to bless him, the Psalms are full of that, that we should bless his name, sing his praises, great thing to do.  Praise God with your tongue.  Some people, 'I don't like to do that publicly.'  I have a Bible class, and it's funny, I say 'Who wants to pray today?' everybody sits there looking at each other, 'err,' you know.  'OK, I don't like to pray in front of people.'  But you watch the same kid at a football game, 'YAEEE!'  screaming.  You know, I kind of understand that, I mean it's the same way if we got one of you up to sing a solo here, you'd be like 'I'm not singing thatÉ' it's fine singing in a crowd, because you only sing to the volume that your voice doesn't get on top of everybody else's.  Now some people don't care.  'OH PRAISE THE LORD!'  You think, in heaven man, they don't care what an ear is, just blessing God.  That's what it's for, to bless God, to bless God.  Speech, what a remarkable power.  "Therewith we bless God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God" made in his image and likeness.  James says there's something wrong with that.  Isaiah would say this, "The LORD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary.  He [speaking of the Lord] wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth my ear to hear as the learned."  'The Lord,' he says, 'taught me to speak a word in season to the person whose weary.'  What a wonderful thing.  There have been people who have said things to me, at the right time and at the right moment, many of them haven't even known it, and it has changed the coarse of my day or my week, or even a whole season of my life, a difficult summer, a difficult autumn.  I think of the times the Lord has spoken something to my heart, that have changed months of agonizing over something.  What a great way to use our tongue.  "Out of the same mouth," he said, "proceedeth blessing and cursing.  My brethren, these things ought not so to be." (verse 10)  It shouldn't be happening that way.  And the interesting thing is, and James doesn't mention it, even if we can't tame it, it comes in its own cage.  If you can keep the cage shut [he's holding his hand tightly over his mouth] it can't get out.  You just grit your teeth and keep the cage closed, it comes in its own cage.  I know sometimes you wish somebody's whole head came in its own cage, and you could just close that up.  But the tongue does.  'It ought not to be so,' there's a way for us not to do that. 


'Does A Spring Produce Both Fresh And Salt Water?'---It's Important To Be Led By God's Holy Spirit


"Doth a fountain send forth at the same place [margin: hole] sweet water and bitter?" (verse 11)  He tells us the tongue's like a bit, the tongue is like a rudder on a ship, the tongue like a fire, the tongue is like a poisonous beast that can't be tamed, now he's going to say the tongue is like a fountain, and it's like a fruit bearing tree.  I mean, we could spend a lot of time on any one of these.  "Doth a fountain" he says, "send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?"  It's an impossibility.  There's a source there, it's either bitter or brackish, or it's sweet.  And how they appreciated in that part of the world a spring.  It says because of the Holy Ghost out of our inmost being shall come rivers of Living Water. This shouldn't be happening to us, if we're filled with the Spirit [i.e. verse 11].  Of course the problem is, when I do something like that, or I blow off steam, I'm not filled with the Spirit when I do that.  I get refills, and I'm glad they're free.  But if we're filled with the Spirit, that shouldn't be coming out of us, what should be coming should be refreshing, it should be sweet, it should be endearing to those who hear it, seasoned with salt, always filled with grace as it were.  What a powerful opportunity we have to do good with our mouths.  'Does a fountain send forth at the same time, the same place, sweet water and bitter?'  It doesn't happen.  "Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs?  so can no fountain yield salt water and fresh." (verse 12)  'Can fruit bearing trees, my brethren, bear olives?'  Everything is after its kind.  'either a vine in the vineyard do you find figs?'  No, grapes are in the vineyard.  'So can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh water, they both won't come forth.'  You know, isn't it interesting, when we talk about the Holy Ghost, you know there's a big emphasis on speaking in tongues and spiritual gifts.  I'll tell you this, it takes more Holy Ghost to do the dishes than it does to speak in tongues.  It takes more Holy Ghost for me when my wife to says to me 'Honey, I need help with the dishes,' or "Honey, would you take the trash out?' or "Honey, could you vacuum?' 'YeaahÉ'   That's why the Scripture throughout is replete, telling us that the Holy Spirit, the steam is in the engine not just to blow the whistle, but to move the train.  'Those that are led of the Spirit are the children of God.' (Romans 8:16)  The Holy Spirit's not there just so we can speak in tongues, it's there so we can be led of the Spirit, those that are led of the Spirit are the children of God.  And I pray in tongues.  But that's not a mark of spirituality.  The Corinthians were terrible witnesses, speaking in tongues, prophesying, drunk at the Communion Table, suing one another, famous for fornication, it was not a mark of spirituality.  But our profession should match our behavior.  The problem is, that there's so often a contradiction.  6 percent of what you communicate is content.  Over 30 percent is tone, or attitude.  And over 50 percent of what you communicate in life are your actions.  If my wife and I are in an argument, and we never do, I just say this for your benefit [right, Joe, right J, chuckles in the audience], and I start heading out the door, and she says 'Where are you going!?' her content was 'where are you going?', her attitude was 'Grumble, growl, growl, grumble,', and it was WAY LOUDER than her content.  And it was so loud, I couldn't even really hear her question.  So I say, 'I'm going for a walk!', and my content was, 'I'm going for a walk.' [spoken softly]  My attitude was, 'You make me sick!'  [loud laughter]  And if I walk out the door and slam the door when I leave, that spoke louder than anything, that was my action, and that says 'You'll be lucky if I come back.'  [loud laughter] and she wouldn't be, but that's what it says anyhow.  Again, Paul says 'You're known and read of all men,' our lives, more people are going to read you than are ever going to read the Bible.  You see if I say to my wife, 'You know honey, I'm going for a walk, just, my attitude is bad, I need to cool off.  I just need to talk to the Lord, pray for me, it bums my out that I'm so selfish,' and I just leave.  Everything's fine.  Everything was consistent.  Content, attitude, actions, everything was in line.  And the truth is, the most of what we're going to communicate through our entire lives is through our actions, through what we do.  It's so important to be filled and led of the Spirit.  It's so easy just to wag this [sticking his tongue out].  It's easy to wag it in the positive direction, and then not have actions that follow it up [be ye warmed and filled, but doing nothing for the body].  It's really easy to wag it in a negative direction.  The truth is, the things I do.  My wife enjoys cards and flowers.  I have no idea why, but I know she does.  I could live the rest of my life without getting a card, and so many of you have sent cards, please don't ever stop.  But the point is, if she never gave me a card, now she gets cards, Valentines Day cards, Thanksgiving cards, Christmas cards, Easter cards, Birthday cards, cards for everything, and it's nice.  But it's different to her.  I get her cards.  I'm in.  [loud laughter]  It wasn't because I said something, it was because I did something.  Again, if I come home and grab a rose off the bush out front, and say 'Here honey, this is for you.' she looks at it, and she knows I just pulled it off outside, and she says "Oh thanks honey,' and keeps right on going.  Because that's how I got it, like that, and I kept right on going, because that's what she does.  If I stop on the corner where they're five bucks, and the guy on the corner is selling them, and I bring one of those home, it's "Oh Honey, thank you, that was nice, I'll put them in water later."  If I go to the Florist, and I get just a single rose, with some of those ferns and that green paper with staples on the bottom, little baby's breathes, whatever they are, and I bring that home.  'Ooooh, [loud laughter] Honeeey'  because I went out of my way, I went to the Florist, I paid MONEY,' it talks to her, 'He was THINKING of you.'  I'm IN for a week.  [laughter] because she puts it on the table and it talks to her the next day.  And even if I do something stupid, it says 'Yeah he's a jerk, BUT HE'S REALLY TRYING.' [loud laughter] and it just softens everything.  My encouragement to you, the tongue, this is written to "brethren."  It grieves me when it's damaging in the Body of Christ, it's easy to be a critic and tear things down.  The Body of Christ is not perfect, only those who are immature think that it's perfect, it's not.  [If you find the perfect church to attend, leave, because you'll wreck it J]  It's only perfect by the accomplished work of Christ, the completed work.  Paul says of that Corinthian church with all of its problems, 'I want to present you one day as a chaste virgin to Christ,' that's why the Church is perfect, because of what Jesus did.  If you don't think this church is perfect, and it bugs you, and you leave, if you find a perfect church, don't go to it, because you'll ruin it when you get there.  [laughter]  You won't find one.  The Bride of Christ is beautiful to him, he sees us justified, sanctified and glorified again.  Balaam, hired by Balak to curse the children of Israel, who had turned away at Kedesh Barnea, who had given themselves at the graves of lust, Kibrath Hatava, Numbers 11, they had sinned, they had done things wrong.  And it says when Balaam went to open his mouth to curse the children of Israel, he said "How lovely are thy tents O Jacob, there is no iniquity found in thee."  And God has that to reprove me, and say 'This man was an adversary, and when he was filled with the Holy Spirit, he saw the beauty of my Bride.  And you're a pastor, and you'd better stop grumbling and take another step backwards, because when you're filled with the Holy Spirit, you'll see the beauty of my Bride.'  And when you're filled with that Spirit, because it is the Spirit of Christ, you will too.  Imagine the things that Jesus could say about us.  Now if we want to talk about gossip, imagine what Jesus could say about us.  But he doesn't, because of the cross, because it is finished.  [Chesty Puller always corrected his men and officers in private, and praised them in public.  Jesus Christ is no different.]  James knows that.  It's the same reason that we shouldn't.  Same tongue, we bless God, and curse men that are created in his image and likeness, it shouldn't happen.  This is not right, James says, shouldn't be happening.  Because the Body of Christ is beautiful, washed in the blood, justified, sanctified, glorified.  What a remarkable, remarkable collection of people.  Look around this room, every person in this room was the most expensive person in the universe.  The amount of grace represented in this room is immeasurable, immeasurable.  Let's extend that grace to one another.  Let's walk in the light, let's speak the truth in love, let's control this [our tongues] in our marriages, in our homes, and our ministries, and let's let our actions, as James says, brethren, always speak louder than our words.  [transcript of a connective expository sermon on James 3:1-12, given by Pastor Joe Focht, Calvary Chapel of Philadelphia, 13500 Philmont Avenue, Philadelphia  PA  19116]


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