Life, Death, and the Tongue

Posted on 08/15/2010 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.

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TRANSCRIPT: (does not contain everything found in the audio above)

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I love to be in Your presence
    With Your people singing praises
I love to stand and rejoice
    Lift my hands and raise my voice

You set my feet to dancing
    You fill my heart with song
You give me reason to rejoice!


We bring the sacrifice of praise
    into the house of the Lord
We bring the sacrifice of praise
    into the house of the Lord
And we offer up to You
    the sacrifices of thanksgiving
And we offer up to You
    the sacrifices of joy


Father, I adore you
Lay my life before you
How I love you


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Today, Lord willing, I'm not going to keep you very long. In fact, I should be able to wrap up and give the altar call in less than five hours.

Let's start off today's message by reading from Proverbs chapter 18 and verse 21:

Proverbs 18:21 (KMV)

21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

And the title of today's message is "Life, Death, and the Tongue."

I'm sure you've heard phrases such as "Name it and claim it." "Blab it and grab it." "Confess it and posess it." And because some preachers and teachers go overboard in one direction, we throw out some truths that are VERY important and affect our lives in ways we can't even imagine.

Three weeks ago, we talked about our thoughts, and we were given the challenge to start watching our thoughts and bringing them into obedience to the Word of God and the promises and direction God has revealed to us.

We read from Philippians chapter four, which tells us to meditate upon things that are lovely, pure, good news, and worthy of praise. How does that fit in with the power of the tongue? And how does the power of the tongue fit in with the effects our thoughts have on our bodies, our minds, and our lives?

In James chapter three, the Bible compares the tongue to the rudder, which, although a very small thing, steers the whole ship wherever the pilot wishes.

Starting in verse three, it says this:

James 3:3-5 (NKJV)

3 Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body.
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.
5 Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.

Our lives seem so complex and our issues so large. And yet, like a ship, they are turned by a very small rudder, our tongue, turning wherever the pilot chooses.

And who is the pilot of your tongue? Unless you're demon posessed or you're speaking in tongues, YOU are. And your steer your life the same way a pilot steers a ship -- with your tongue.

We know that "Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks." If you want to know what kinds of thoughts dominate a person's mind, just listen to them for awhile. Eventually, it will come out in something they say, or even just in the way they say things, perhaps even in their tone of voice.

If you accepted the challenge three Sundays ago to start watching your thoughts and bringing them captive to obedience to Christ, then by now, your thoughts have started to change, if only a little. And as your thoughts change, your words change as well.

And who's to say our minds don't have tongues. We say it on the inside, then our physical tongues say it on the outside. The two work together, like the wheel of a ship works together with the rudder. The pilot turns the wheel, the wheel turns the rudder, and the rudder turns the ship.

We accept or reject the current direction of our thoughts, and hopefully turn them in the right direction; our thoughts then control what we speak; and what we speak changes the direction of our lives.

Let's take a look at one of the things Jesus taught his disciples, over in Mark chapter 11.

Mark 11:12-14, 20-23 (NKJV)

12 Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, Jesus was hungry.
13 And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.
14 In response Jesus said to it, "Let no one eat fruit from you ever again." And His disciples heard it.

(down to verse 20...)

20 Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots.
21 And Peter, remembering, said to Him, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away."
22 So Jesus answered and said to them, "Have faith in God.
23 For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says."

Now, dozens of entire Sunday message could come out of this passage. But the point is the power of the tongue. How often do we curse someone or something?

"That stupid idiot driver! Can't even watch where they're going!"

"That atheist is a real moron; he just doesn't want to know the truth."

"Knowing my luck, they'll be sold out by time I get there."

"I'm not getting my hopes up, things always go wrong for me."

We curse the fig tree. And more times than we know, we really believe what we say. That's why we say it. The thoughts have gone over and over in the wheel of our minds, turning the rudder of our tongues. And each one continues to strengthen our belief.

The more we think it, the more we believe it. The more we think it, the more we speak it. The more we speak it, the more we believe it. The more we believe it, the more we think and speak it.

And all too often, the pilot is away from the wheel, letting it turn whichever way it pleases. Then we wonder why we just keep going in circles, passing the same reefs time and time again, or why we keep on crashing into things.

It's because we have not taken charge of the wheel of our minds, and between the wheel and the rudder, our life goes in directions we don't want it to go.

"Well, maybe if the rest of the people on the ship would do things differently..." Nope. You're the pilot. You steer the ship.

"Well, maybe if those rocks and islands and winds and currents would stop getting in my way..." What? And lose your landmarks? If you had nothing but open sea, you wouldn't have anything to tell you you're just going in circles! Thank God for things that keep happening a certain way over and over in our lives. Those things tell us if we've changed course, and can often tell us if we're going in the right direction.

"Maybe if I won the lottery." Oh, and then you would suddenly be at your destination on dry land? Hardly. You'll travel the seas of time until this life comes to an end. And if you won millions of dollars, you'd still be right there on your ship; and then, thinking your money removes your obsticals and steers you in the right direction, you'd crash and burn even more quickly than before.

There's just one way to change the direction of your life. Get behind the wheel and pay attention. Consciously stop the wheel from spinning, and turn it in the direction you want your ship to go. And let the rudder catch the rushing waters, giving voice and agreement to the wheel of your thoughts. And THEN, things will start to change, in their perfect time.

Let's read a little further in James chapter 3.

James 3:3-12

3 Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body.
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.
5 Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!
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.

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. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the image of God.
10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.
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.

Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. Do you curse your life, other people, the past, or the future with the words you speak? Or do you speak life?

The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. It defiles the body, and sets the course of nature on fire. It is set on fire by hell.

Considering it mirrors our minds, that's a bit disturbing, don't you think? That means our minds are worlds of iniquity. They defile us. And they are set on fire by hell.

And thus our tongues turn. Slashing at people. Cursing others. Cursing ourselves. Cursing our lives. Cursing our families, as well as our enemies. Spinning wildly around and around; as our mind turns, so turns our tongue; and as our tongue turns, so turns our life.

That's what the Bible says. And that's the way it is.

How about worry? "What if such and such happens..." These tormented thoughts spin around and around, until they turn our tongues in their direction. "Such and such will probably happen," we say in agreement. And we turn in that direction. And our belief in what we've said is strengthened. And that's the way our life goes.

But do you realize that just as the wheel is connected to the rudder, the rudder is connected to the wheel as well? Yes, watch your thoughts. And watch your words as well. Stop yourself, even if that means literally putting your hand over your mouth. And speak the Word of God instead. It may very well feel as though you're pulling your nails across a chalk board. But that's just because the wheel of your mind is turning in another direction, and probably has been for a very long time.

Notice what it says in verses 7 and 8:

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. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.

Does that mean we're hopeless? If the tongue steers our life and we can't tame it, are we doomed? Consider what some have called the mind, an unruly monkey. Once you manage to lull it into quiet, it jumps to another tree and starts screaming at us once again; and yet, the Bible tells us to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.

Well, think of the tongue as a relative of the mind -- an untamed animal. We cannot expect either to stay where we put them. If we stop watching our thoughts, they will end up somewhere we don't want to go, and will take our tongue with them. If we stop watching our tongue, it will end up cursing something or someone, and setting things on fire, and it will take our thoughts with it.

Until we see Jesus face to face, this unruly, untameable nature of the tongue and the mind will remain. That's why Proverbs 4:23 (KMV) tells us to "Keep watch over your heart with all diligence, for out of it flow the springs of life."

Now, some people keep their mind and tongue in line with a whip. And that's certainly better than letting them do as they please. But that also creates stress, condemnation, guilt, and feelings of failure.

Does a snake charmer lure the snake out of the basket by hitting it, grasping it by the neck, or whipping it? Our minds and tongues are a lot like a wild snake. They go where they please, and strike out against anyone or anything that look as thought they are threatening them -- threatening the way they see things or the comfort of their own perceptions.

If your tongue starts to strike, feel free to grab it by the neck and point it in the right direction. But remember that the other end of that unruly beast is in your mind, and grabbing hold of THAT end is like trying to catch the wind. It is slippery, and delights in proving that you can't tame it.

So charm it. And I'm not talking about anything weird or mystical here. Hold something in front of it that dominates its attention, and point it where you want it to go.

Philippians chapter four tells us to meditate on good things. Not what bad things could happen. Not what others have done to us. Not on our fears of what might be. And not even on our conclusions we've drawn about the nature of things.

Rather, we are to meditate on things that are pure, things that are noble, things that are just, things that are pure, things that are lovely, things that are good news, things that are virtuous, and things that are worthy of praise.

We are to meditate on these things -- that means we are to hold them in front of us and letting nothing else take our attention away -- and when our attention is taken to something else, we just bring it back. Not like a whip used to train a lion, but a jewel of interest to keep our mind and our tongue more still, less unruly, and pointing in the right direction.

And what does Proverbs 10:19 (KMV) say?

19 In the abundance of words, transgression is unavoidable; but he who restrains his lips is wise.

I'm sure you've known someone who just couldn't stop talking. They don't seem to tire themselves, but they sure wear everyone else out. Maybe you ARE that person.

But regardless of how much you talk with your mouth, how unruly is your mind? Do you get a moment's silence? Remember, in the abundance of words, transgression is unavoidable. We sin with our minds all the time. We think things that aren't pleasing to God. We have reactions, jump to conclusions, make assumptions, and pass judgement on others. We polute ourselves with our abundance of words.

If you have a problem with not being able to control your tongue, try setting aside a day during which you don't speak. Let everyone know that you will not under any circumstances talk. Not even by writing or typing. You will be completely silent that day, and will not speak until tomorrow.

After you finish your convultions caused from withdraw from your drug of the tongue, you just might experience a very unfamiliar peace.

Do you think that's hard to do? Well, just try holding the tongue of your mind for even five minutes. If you can do it, then you just might be able to avoid transgressing for that short period of time. You certainly can't avoid it the rest of the time, not according to Proverbs 10:19.

But the person who thinks only when they choose is one in a million. Probably less than that. And my point is not that thinking OR speaking are evil. It's the abundance of words, the uncontrolled flow, that makes transgression unavoidable.

Perhaps you can try just listening. Listen to the wind. Listen intently. If you've been watching your thoughts, you're sure to already be sick of them, so you'll have the desire to just shut your mental mouth for a little while.

So listen. Relax and listen. I'm not going to break the flow here by giving a lesson in relaxation. You instinctively know how to relax. You just have to give it attention and let it happen. And listen. When your monkey mind starts chattering, just realize that what you're hearing is not you. Just like you breath without choosing to, and your heart beats without your choosing it to, so your thoughts keep going and going without your choosing to think. But it's not you. And you don't have to identify with those endless words and feelings. Just let them come and go, and keep on listening.

Now this isn't going to make you any more holy. Some people meditate for hours every day and they don't know God. Many of them think they know God, or that they ARE God, but they are sinful just like everyone else, and they need the blood of Jesus to wash away their sins if they are to ever be reconciled to God.

But working on talking less, both on the inside and on the outside, and carefully watching what we do think and say, can be a very good and important thing for us to do. Start watching, start weeding out the clutter, and start watching your life begin to move in a new direction.

And most of all, spend time every day with God. If you want your mind to be transformed in the right way, you need to get in God's presence. And you need to spend time in his Word. Otherwise, you'll just be trying to steer your thoughts and words in a direction you know with your head. But if you have a living, daily, moment-by-moment realtionship with God and his Holy Word, then it will get into your heart.

That's the difference between knowledge and enlightenment, or relationship. You can know what the Bible says and you can know a lot about God. But when you fellowship with him and, in his presence, read his Word so that his Holy Spirit brings it to life in you, then you go from "knowing" to being truly enlightened. And I'm not using that word in some sort of ethereal sense, but in the sence of having something come alive inside of you that previously was just a series of facts in your head.

THEN, you will be able to much better steer the wheel of your mind and the rudder of your tongue, and set your life in the direction God has lovingly planned for you to live.

Let's go ahead and close today with a time of prayer and ministry. And today, if your sins have not been washed away by the blood of Jesus, and if you are not walking in a daily relationship with him; or if you've allowed your relationship to grow cold, then this invitation is for you:

Come to Jesus. Lay down your worries, your cares, your plans and ideas; and discover the amazing things he has in store for those who love him.

Just speak to him now in your own words. Turn to him, away from your sin, and surrender to him as your Savior and Lord.

If you want to come to Jesus or come back to him today, or if you want to dedicate yourself to watching your tongue, watching your thoughts, and steering your life with purpose and direction instead of letting it go wherever it will, then you're invited to get out of your seat right now and make your way to the front.

Whenever you need to go, you're dismissed, and I pray you have a blessed week. After this time at the altar, you're all invited to gather in the Fellowship Room to your left for a bit of fellowship.

Come, let's all gather at the front and seek after the Lord, surrendering our hearts, minds, and tongues to him and to his service, so we can start moving in a new direction.