July 2010

The tongue is powerful, vicious, untamable, and inconsistent. That was the outline from this past Sunday’s sermon on James 3:1-12 from Pastor Tom, and it was very true to the text. What I find so interesting about this passage from James is the lack of practical application. I keep expecting the text to give me one, two, or three steps to taming the tongue. Instead, James tells me that no one can tame the tongue. He relentlessly lists all of the evils of the tongue, and even when he talks about the good words that can come from my mouth, he only uses that as a means of showing the duplicity of the tongue. The closest things to application are verse 1, which says you shouldn’t become a teacher too quickly because you will incur a stricter judgment, specifically in relation to what you say, and verse 10, which simply states that the way we praise God and curse men in the same breath should not be so. But even these applications seem to just highlight the poisonous nature of our speech.

In part, I believe the reason James doesn’t give me “7 Steps to Taming Your Tongue” is because the issue is much deeper than my mouth; it’s in my heart. Jesus very clearly says that “it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks” (Mark 12:34). So the words that come out of my mouth are a spill over of my heart. Biting sarcasm, crude speech, gossip, and other sinful uses of words have nothing to do with my tongue; they have everything to do with the state of my heart.

As I consider the consistent evil of my speech and its true source, I am challenged to truly confess the sins of my tongue to others as sins of my heart. It is easy to blame sin, especially sins of the tongue, on something besides myself; to say that a person or circumstance drove me to say something I normally would not. But James 3 calls me to be honest with myself, with my wife and kids, and with others, not glossing over the evil in my heart by saying that I let something slip off my tongue, but confessing the sin in my heart towards them that my words have revealed. And the constant destruction that my tongue can cause, coupled with its untamable nature, will give me ample opportunity to see into the depths of my heart, feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit, confess my sin, and grow in Christlikeness. I can be thankful for that.


Some students from our youth group and I have been going through a small book over the past few weeks called, What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert. We’re over halfway through it now, and it has been focus on the central message of Christianity, to identify the sharp edges of the gospel, and to gain confidence in sharing God’s plan of redemption with those who have yet to hear and respond.

As I read them last week, I found the closing two paragraphs of chapter 5, “Response – Faith and Repentance”, to be poignant in a couple of ways. First, they pose a question that gets at the heart of the message of the gospel: How do I secure “a righteous verdict from God the Judge, rather than a guilty one?” (75). Such is the greatest need of all humanity and the need God has met through Jesus.

And, second, these words exalt in the glory of God in the salvation of sinners. They point to God’s work in Christ as the sole means of being justified before God. They rejoice in the beauty of the gospel.

When you stand before God at the judgment, I wonder what you plan to do or say in order to convince him to count you righteous and admit you to all the blessings of his kingdom? What good deed or godly attitude will you pull out of your pocket to impress him? Will you pull out your church attendance? Your family life? Your spotless thought life? The fact that you haven’t done anything really heinous in your own eyes? I wonder what you’ll hold up before him while saying, “God, on account of this, justify me!”

I’ll tell you what every Christian whose faith is in Christ alone will do, by God’s grace. They will simply and quietly point to Jesus. And this will be their plea: “O God, do not look for any righteousness in my own life. Look at your Son. Count me righteous not because of anything I’ve done or anything I am, but because of him. He lived the life I should have lived. He died the death that I deserve. I have renounced all other trusts, and my plea is him alone. Justify me, O God, because of Jesus.”