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Truth in Palmyra

By Wally Fry

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Christian Living

Faith In Action-We Can’t Tame Our Tongue

faith in action

James 3:7,8

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.

Read all of James Chapter 3 here

Man, in the Garden of Eden, was clearly given dominion over all of the animals of the world. Genesis 1:26.Even today, after the fall, we know that humankind is generally able to control the beasts of the world.

We need to look no further than the nearest circus to see that man is able to bring the largest, and most terrifying of animals under his control. Lion, tigers and the largest of land animals, the elephant can be controlled by one tiny human being.

However, our tongue is an “unruly evil.” In its natural state, our tongue is similar, if not worse, than any wild animal. It is wild, untamed and without discipline. Rather than tromping us or eating us, however, our tongues destroy by lies, gossip, slander and filthy language.

James tells us that no man can tame the tongue. In and of ourselves, we cannot even to the same to our mouths as we can do with a huge elephants; we cannot tame it our bring it under control.

Since James’ Epistle is about Christian living, the solution to our problem seems readily evident. Like any sin, sins of the tongue can be managed by the saved person through the indwelling and filling of the Holy Spirit. We certainly do not have the power to do it, but God does!

David, back in the Old Testament, had something to say about how we actually take advantage of the strength of the Holy Spirit to control our tongues in Psalm 141:3:

Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.

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Faith In Action-The Tongue Is the Fire of Hell

faith in action

James 3:6

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.

Read all of James Chapter 3 here

This is quite likely the strongest statement in the entire Bible concerning the misuse of the tongue in our lives. I this simple sentence, James quite completely and unequivocally lays the dangers of the misuse of it right out.

 “The tongue is a world of iniquity.” One Bible translation words this, “the tongue is the very world of iniquity.” One writer describes this as referring to a system, scheme or arrangement. It is a system of iniquity that represents every other sin of mankind.

The tongue defiles our entire body. We already discussed the comparison of the tongue to a bit in a horse’s mouth or the rudder of a ship. How those two things direct something much larger than themselves, so does our tongue. In this case, the sins of the tongue defile the whole person.  It’s similar to the fire and the smoke damage it causes. The fire itself may not destroy everything, but the smoke permeates and ultimately ruins even what the fire doesn’t touch.

The tongue is “set on fire of hell.” This particular description was simply fascinating. The word for Hell here is from the term gehenna. This was the Valley of Hinnom to the south of Jerusalem. This is the place where the Caananites and idolatrous Israelites had gone for their child sacrifices. Because all that activity had rendered that place unclean, it was finally used as simply a garbage dump. So, this was simply a big, rotting garbage dump, constantly burning and maggot filled. Jesus used the same term to represent Hell, the place which God had prepared for Satan and his demons. This comparison of the tongue with Hell strongly implies that the tongue can be Satan’s tool to pollute and corrupt.

Next: How do we tame our tongue?

Faith In Action-The Destructive Power of the Tongue

faith in action

James 3:5

Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!

Read all of James Chapter 3 here

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

It may be, that a more untrue statement was never written, or said actually since I can remember it vividly from my school days. Think back, when did we normally invoke that phrase way back then? Usually when the exact opposite was true was when we would recite that phrase. In other words, we usually made a point to say that to somebody who had just hurt us with their words.!

Here, James uses a great comparison to discuss the destructive power of our tongues, or our speech. Earlier he compared the small tongue’s ability to control our conduct to a bit in a horses mouth, or the small rudder piloting a giant ship. Here, he compares the destructive power of the small tongue with a tiny spark which ignites a huge fire.

One of the most notable examples of this, of course, is the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Although started by something so small as a lantern in a barn, this great fire eventually burned almost half of the city of Chicago to the ground.

Two of the greatest men in the Old Testament, recognized the power of the tongue and issued guidance about controlling it. David and his son Solomon both wrote about the destructive power of speech. As David was somewhat hot tempered, we should strongly consider his words in this matter.

Psalm 39:1-3 I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me. I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good; and my sorrow was stirred. My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue,

Solomon had the following to say:

Proverbs 17:27 He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit.

Proverbs 14:29 He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.

The tongue and fire have other similarities as well. Few would dispute that a fire under control can have many benefits, and can be used for much good. On the other hand, few would dispute that a fire, like a mouth, out or control can cause massive devastation.

What do we do with our tongues? Do we use them for good, for edifying believers or telling the Gospel to unbelievers? Or do we use them for evil  by teaching untruths, gossiping or pushing the non believing away from Jesus Christ?

Faith In Action-A Controlled Tongue Shows Maturity

faith in action

James 3:2

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.

As I was preparing this Devotional(a long time ago), I received in my Blog feed a wonderful poem written by blogger Gloryteller. Rather than write anything on this issue today, I am including his poem as a powerful illustration of words, the tongue, and their proper role in the lives of mature Christian believers.

A Farmer of Words

I want to be a farmer of words
I want to nurture words
I want to plant them in good soil
Cultivate them
Grow them until mature
Make them fruitful
Pick them and harvest them
Squeeze out their nutritious juices
Prepare them deliciously
Give them to those in need of
A good word

I want to begin a culture of
Word husbandry.

Faith In Action-The Power Of the Tongue

faith in action

James 3:2-4

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.

Read James Chapter 3 here

What I am about to say is simply the thoughts and opinions of one man, but to me, this is simply one of the most vivid and descriptive passages in all of God’s Word. As we have covered, James is teaching the point that one of the ways we illustrate Christian maturity is by learning to control our tongue. He has also made the point earlier that by controlling our tongue, we can control the entirety of our bodies.

This seems rather like the two greatest commandments, the ones given by Jesus to the questioning Scribe in Matthew Chapter 22. When the scribe was attempting to trip Jesus up by pinning Him down to stating one commandment as more weighty than another, Jesus neatly rolled them all up in two simple directives: Love God above all else, and love one’s neighbor as oneself. The reason He did this was to show that by doing these two things, all other requirements would naturally follow as an outflow.

The tongue is like that. We can see in Verse 2 of our passage James stating that if a man can learn to control his tongue, he can control his entire body. James doesn’t seem to mean this in a literal sense, but in a metaphorical sense regarding the whole of our behavior. In other words, if what issues from our mouth tends to be God-honoring and God-exalting, then likely the rest of our behavior will be as well. Then he moves on to show two very clear examples of the smallest of things exercising the greatest of control.

The first example is that of a horse. It’s quite amazing, really that an animal weighing in at over a half a ton can be easily controlled by a 100-pound rider simply through a tiny metal bit in their mouth. Likewise, the direction and course of a large ship can be controlled by no more than a small rudder which is only a fraction of the size of the ship.

Our tongues and our speech are like the bit or the rudder. They are only a small part of us physically, but they can and do turn us in whatever direction they point. If our speech is Christlike, then we will be likewise Christlike. If our speech is the opposite, then our behavior will be as well.

Faith In Action-The Tongues of Teachers

faith in action

James 3:1,2

 My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.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.

 Read James Chapter 3 here

Why does James lead off a passage detailing the misuse of the tongue, and our speech, with an opening sentence about masters, or teachers? That is a good question, so let’s explore it briefly. There are several possible applications of this teaching.

Teachers shall receive the greater condemnation. Teachers should be persons of great Christian maturity, and the ability to speak proper things in a proper way is a sign of that maturity. Anyone who places themselves in that position will be held to a high standard of judgment for the things they say while in that position. Here is a good illustration of this principle.

Luke 12:48 But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.

Why then, this initial mention of the responsibilities of those who teach to bridle the tongue? It seems pretty straightforward. If the tongue in and of itself has great power when used just by one person to another, how much more powerful is a misused tongue in the mouth of a person influencing many?

Does this teaching apply to all of us? Primarily, this is directed to those holding positions of responsibility, such as pastors, evangelists, preachers, and teachers. But, on the other hand, don’t we all teach somebody? Parents teach their children. Believers teach nonbelievers. Mature believers teach newer believers. Every single one of us has a circle of influence, whether large or small. We need to ensure that we mature in Christian behavior in such a way that our use of our tongue causes no harm, but only good.

Faith In Action-Taming the The Tongue

faith in action

James 3:1,2

My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. 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.

Read James Chapter 3 here

James apparently had strong feelings about the role of the tongue, or the words we speak, in the life of the believer.  He actually mentions it in every single chapter of his book, in fact. He mentions it in the following passages: 1:19,26; 2:12; 3:5,6,8; 4:11; and 5:12.

Reading what James has to say about our speech and we can see the idea of the tongue not only being the reflection of what is in our hearts, but also representative of the depravity of our nature.

Also, since James’ primary objective with his Epistle seems to be to teach believers how to behave, it follows  that one of his lessons here is that the ability to control one’s tongue is a mark of a mature believer.

Let’s just take a look at some of the thoughts God shared with us regarding the tongue in His Word for today’s devotional.

When Paul was illustrating to us all our fallen condition, in Romans 3:13-15, he listed 5 organs of the body which are common vehicles for sin: throat, tongue, lips, mouth and feet. It seems very significant that four of the five have to do with our speech!

Some of the most Godly men in the Bible had issues holding their tongues, as well; Moses (Psalms 106:32-33), Isaiah (Isaiah 6:5,7), and Job (Job 40:4) all had tongue issues at some point.

The tongue is described using many words in Scripture: wicked, deceitful, perverse, filthy, corrupt, flattering, slanderous, gossiping, blasphemous, foolish, boasting, and many others.

Jesus even had thoughts about our tongues

Matthew 12:36,37 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

Our words are similar to a sound wave broadcast into the air. Eventually, that sound wave will reach the far parts of space in a never-ending journey; not only that but the trip cannot be canceled. Once that sound wave or our words start their journey, they cannot be brought back to the source and packed away.

What do our words say about our walk with Christ? If our words are a reflection of our heart, then what do we reveal about our heart when we speak?

Faith In Action-What is Dead Faith?

faith in action

James 2:26

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Read all of James Chapter 2 here

We have just completed our study of James Chapter 2. I hope it has been as useful in the reading as it has been in the writing. Several of the commentators I have read have pointed out the James 2:14-26 is  one of the harder passages in Scripture to interpret properly. I would have to agree with that assessment.

But there are some things we can easily take away from the study of James Chapter 2 that certainly do not take a degree in theology to learn.

Salvation is by grace, through faith. James never contradicts this clear teaching of other scripture.

On the other hand, genuine faith produces some sort of product. James does teach that faith without some product might not be genuine faith.

But, beyond that, we are left somewhat in the dark about where certain lines might need to be drawn. We need to always remember that God is the judge of man..not man. We do not know the state of any other persons heart. We may be able to state as fact the evidence, or fruit of a person’s spiritual life, but we can never state as fact the actual existence or non existence of their salvation.

So, what does this mean to us practically? Well, we should always share the Gospel and the path to salvation; we should talk about it and of it even among Christian company. If we are all believers, it will be edifying to the Body of Christ; if one among us is not truly a believer, they will hear truth. We should teach and disciple people. Even though salvation is likely to produce works, there may be those with no clue whatsoever how they should live. The truth is, the knowledge of God’s Word and law it takes to come to salvation is not extensive. The knowledge it takes to live a successful and fruitful Christian life is extensive. We need to teach, train and develop our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Next: James Chapter 3. We will begin with taming that old nemesis, the tongue!

Faith In Action-Justified? By Works?

faith in action

James 2:20-26

But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Read all of James Chapter 2 here

Well, here James gets right into something that might seem quite controversial. Is he really saying that we are justified by works? Well, yes and no. To really understand what is going on here, we just have to understand what the word translated justified means.

Translating one language into another is simply not an exact business sometimes. Often a word in one language doesn’t correlated precisely into an exact match in another. So, let’s just briefly look at what is going on here; understand also not that this is not intended to be a lesson in Greek grammar. I am not, and most of you are not, Greek scholars. Thus, we will keep this very simple.

Justified in the English can have two meanings. The first is the one most of us think about. In this meaning, justification is what happens to us at the moment our our salvation, by God’s grace through our faith. We are justified in the eyes of God by the payment Jesus made for our sins. We are declared to be righteous in God’s eyes. There is, however another use for word translated justified. That one translates “shown to be righteous.”

So, we are declared to be righteous, or justified in God’s eyes. Alternately, we are shown to be righteous in whose eyes? Well, the eyes of others, of course. In fact, some translations translate it that way, saying Abraham and Rahab were considered to be righteous by their actions, and not just their faith.

Note above the order of events in the life of Abraham described by James. Verse 23 refers to Genesis 15:6, and clearly shows us that Abraham had faith and believed God, and at that point righteousness was imputed to him by God. It was by the offering of his son Isaac, much later than the first event, that was the illustration of Abraham’s faith to the world.

Rahab the harlot was likewise saved by her faith and belief and subsequently put her faith in to action as she saved the Israelite spies. Read her story here.

We can summarize the thought by saying their faith made them righteous before God, and their works made them righteous before men. A person may say that they have faith, but only if they can show that they have works can the rest of the world see that claim is valid. Faith without works is dead.

 

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