Monday, January 23, 2006

The Control of the Tongue

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on James 3:3-12 on 22 January 2006

The tongue is the channel to express our thinking as it systematically expresses meaning of what is in our heart. True meaning can only be found in the Truth of God, His Revelation. Only when we have His Revelation in our heart, would our heart have the right foundation and direction. The abundance of our heart is expressed by our tongue.

Humans are afraid of natural catastrophes but these disasters are external and harm us externally. James says that we can and have tamed a lot of things but we cannot tame the tongue. Yet, the tongue is more frightening than wild animals, why aren't we afraid? It destroys us not externally, but inwardly, and it is very difficult to control.

If no man can tame the tongue then who can tame it? The strength cannot come from man, but only from God. When we do the wrong thing, it is the result of hearing and receiving the wrong thing into our spirit. When we destroy people, it is by saying the wrong thing into their spirit. So wrong input damages our spirituality and wrong output harms others' spirituality. A lot of things happen because people are not careful in the control of their tongue. They spread what they should not, and do not speak up to rebuke the wrong or to defend the right thing when they should. As a result, what is wrong keeps spreading while what is right is not preserved.

Words spoken out cannot be retrieved, therefore we need to make a covenant with our tongue to speak only words that are in accordance with the Truth, constructive to the faith, glorifying God and helping others. In this way, we will live as a witness to the Truth, where from us people find comfort in their sufferings, hope in adversity. The greatest wealth we can have is to possess the Truth. If the Truth is absorbed into our hearts, we have abundant life within us and hence it will become possible for us to become channels of Life.

The issue is not whether we can speak. Our ability to speak is God's grace. The issue is what meaning can we express with this gift of tongue? Many people express their pride over the grace God has given to them but not the responsibility that comes with those gifts.

The tongue is a powerful tool, yet we keep using such an amazing gift to speak things that are not important. We should reflect how many words we have spoken in our life and how much of our speech each day is unnecessary or not glorifying to God? A businessman who is wise is one who knows how to use the least resources to gain the most return. We all know this common principle in business so we are very intelligent on material things but are so very dumb in spiritual things that matter so much more.

There is so much power in words but we never invest in training our tongue to speak with control. There are so many thoughts that go through our mind every day, but we never learn to manage the kind of input that comes in and is allowed to stay. In million of things said, how many of our words are the result of our relationship with the Truth?

May we never boast in the grace given to us, but tremble in fear for our responsibility because they will become the measure of our accountability before God. How much have we boasted of the things we receive – our beauty, talents, health, wealth, etc.? Do we not tremble for the fact that when more is given, more will be demanded? God has not given us all these things to boost our ego, but requires that we use them as tools to glorify Him and minister to others.

The Bible says that the pure in heart shall see God. When our heart is pure, we will see God's presence with our eyes and we will be confident of our every word and every move. The Danish philosopher Kiekergaard said that purity of heart is to will ONE thing. And that one thing is to please God. When a person wills this one thing, his words will be pure and clean. The purity of heart is related directly to single-mindedness. A person with divided heart will often be confused and fall.

There are three things that will ALWAYS cause a person to make mistakes, and they are in fact the reasons why people fall in their lives:

1. No matter what you do, if you think of money first you will definitely make mistakes and fall.
2. No matter what you do, if you seek your own interests first you will definitely make mistakes and fall.
3. No matter what you do, if you aim to please men first you will definitely make mistakes and fall.

All great servants of God are those that have been released from all these bondages. They are not serving money, themselves or others therefore they are able to please God. When our motive is focused on pleasing God, like that windscreen that has wiped clean the car window to see clearly, we CAN see God.

Only when we hear God's Word, can we speak words constructive to the spirit. A selfish person will speak words to benefit himself. A hateful person will speaks with full of hatred. A person who says good things at one time and speaks bad things at another time is not a reliable person. We should not be like the world that uses words as an instrument of manipulation.

In verse 12, James echoes the Lord Jesus' words that good fruits come from good tree and bad fruits come from bad tree. This brings us to a higher principle that the control of the tongue is not the issue of physical external restrain of the words we speak, but we need to transform our inner life. As our faith is, so is our life. As our relationship with God is, so is our relationship with men. If abundant life is within us, if true hope is in our life, we will light up the life of others. People will see new direction and gain new hope from us.

We need to solemnly ask ourselves what we speak, why we speak and how we speak, and what the relationship between our speech and our life is. Wisdom of living starts with the control of the tongue.


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