Lasting Change: Building Below the Surface (Part 3)

A subsequent CAT scan and PET scan revealed a mass the size of a baseball. Startled, doctors grabbed his chest X-rays from 14 months earlier, when he had been drafted in the fourth round by the Cardinals, and saw nothing. The tumor had metastasized at an alarming rate in just more than a year.
Kenny Iwebema was confused. How, he wondered, could he have something that large in his chest and not feel it? Other than occasional heartburn, nothing seemed different.
He didn't share the news with his parents. The recent death of an uncle and close friend "had left a lot of sadness around my house." He didn't want to upset them.
The mass was lodged between his heart and sternum. Had it not been discovered, a sharp hit to the chest could have caused his heart to stop.
Doctors had good news for Iwebema. He had a non-malignant Teratoma, a type of germ-cell tumor that often is the product of a genetic anomaly.
The chest X-ray, long a part of the NFL physical, likely saved Iwebema's life. Most non-athletic physicals don't include them. Because Iwebema's mass grew so rapidly, it would have been fatal.
A routine look “below the surface” saved Kenny Iwebema’s life.
Can you imagine what it would do for you spiritually, emotionally, and relationally if God would allow you some sort of tool to do a spiritual x-ray, and instead of seeing through your skin and looking at a tumor or a blood clot or a broken bone, you could see into your heart and know your motives, know your values, know your beliefs, know you attitudes, know what is really going on in your soul and in your heart.  And then instead of constantly trying to change by treating symptoms of an outburst of anger and patience here and an addiction there and a troubled relationship here and an inability to get your finances under control here, symptoms above the water line, what would happen if you could see the root or the cause?

The tongue is the window of our soul.  Your tongue can act like an x-ray or an MRI. It has the ability to let you know what’s going on under the surface.  If you want to know what’s in your heart, your true motives, how you really feel, where the your anger issues are or any of the other things you are wrestling with you only have to pay attention to what comes out of your mouth.   
According to Jesus in Luke 6:45:  A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.”
Pay attention to the last sentence. What we say flows from what is in your heart.

In week one we said integrity is the prerequisite to life change; you look deeply, and we invited you to go on a journey.  In week two we said we’re going to look at our motives, and we said that peace and fear and hope are good motivators to prompt us to change.

An average American has thirty conversations a day.  If you’re a man, you speak about twenty thousand words a day.  If you’re a woman, about thirty thousand words.  I don’t know why the difference there, but it’s just research.  About one-fifth, or 20% of your entire life will be spent talking.  In any given year you’re going to fill 66 books of 800 pages by just your words.  All those words are a reflection of what’s inside.

Today we are looking at the tongue and what a powerful tool it is. We are going to learn to use our tongue and what is coming off our tongues to look deep inside of us and allow God to do a work from the inside out that will bring lasting change.

1. The Principle – If you can control your tongue, you can control your life.

Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way. James 3:2 NLT

The word “perfect” here is the idea of integrity.  Perfect means complete, reaching your full potential.  It’s translated other places in the scripture as “mature.”  You know you are a mature, Godly, believer, not when all your friends think that, not even when you think that.  He says the acid test is when you can control what comes out of your mouth.  It honors God and it builds up people.

The ultimate mark of maturity in Godliness is the restraint and the positive use of your tongue.  Why?  Put simply, because it takes such submission to the Spirit of God, that if your tongue is controlled, it’s evidence that your lust, passions, disciplines, and character issues have been controlled by and surrendered to the Holy Spirit.  

One of the themes of my preaching I suppose would have to be the idea of full surrender. From the time I was in my late teens and turning my life over to Christ this thought has captured my attention. Sometimes I have been more successful at it than others. There have been seasons in my life where it was easier or harder to be fully surrendered. What I mean is surrendering is not a onetime deal. Serving Christ and surrendering to Christ is a daily journey and has James says in this verse we all make mistakes.

The problem is too many people settle in and embrace the mistake filled life instead of the surrendered life. It is a whole lot easier to give our self permission to fail then to work at surrendering daily and allowing God to work in every area of our life and relationships.

A controlled tongue is a sign that the Holy Spirit is doing major work in your life.

2. The Proof – Our tongue is a small, but powerful instrument to institute major changes in our lives.

 3 We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. 4 And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. 5 In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches.

James 3:3-5a NLT

Bits and rudders:

When I was growing up horses were a part of my life. There are a lot of pictures out there of me riding but here are a couple of pictures; one at five and one at about 16. What allowed me to ride for hours as a very little kid was something referenced in this scripture by James. He said, “We can make a horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth.”  This small piece of metal is what allows a person to control a big animal.

He also mentions the rudder of a ship.  Underneath a boat is a relatively small rudder yet it turns a massive boat and provides guidance and change of course.

The point is really simple. By means of our tongue we can institute major changes in our lives. We can use it for good or for bad. We have to realize the power that is found in this little muscle in our mouth.

5 In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches.

Grand speeches:  Famous people make grand speeches that are recorded for history but the speeches that may be the grandest of all is when someone speaks something personal into our lives that is life changing. We remember those words forever. I don’t have time to develop this but please hear it. We remember the life changing words someone spoke into our life. (Youth pastor, teacher, parent, friend) but we also remember the words that cut and destroy.  

Most of us that are parents feel like real failures in this area. All the more reason to have Christ in control of your heart and soul. You and I have the power in our mouth to build up a child or destroy them for life.

As adults we can speak health into our marriages and relationships or we can speak death by continually putting the other person down.

3. The Warning – Our tongue is not only powerful, but a dangerous and formidablefoe.
But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. 6 And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.
 7 People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, 8 but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. James 3:5b-8 NLT

In 1899 four newspaper reporters from Denver, Colorado, set out to tear down the Great Wall of China. They almost succeeded. Literally. The four met by chance one Saturday night, in a Denver railway depot. Al Stevens, Jack Tournay, John Lewis, Hal Wilshire. They represented the four Denver papers: the POST, the TIMES, the REPUBLICAN, the ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS.

Each had been sent by his respective newspaper to dig up a story—any story—for the Sunday editions; so the reporters were in the railroad station, hoping to snag a visiting celebrity should one happen to arrive that evening by train.

None arrived that evening, by train or otherwise. The reporters started commiserating. For them, no news was bad news; all were facing empty-handed return trips to their city desks.
Al declared he was going to make up a story and hand it in. The other three laughed. Someone suggested they all walk over to the Oxford Hotel and have a beer. They did.

Jack said he liked Al's idea about faking a story. Why didn't each of them fake a story and get off the hook? John said Jack was thinking too small. Four half-baked fakes didn't cut it. What they needed was one real whopper they could all use. Another round of beers. A phony domestic story would be too easy to check on, so they began discussing foreign angles that would be difficult to verify.

China was distant enough, it was agreed. They would write about China. John leaned forward, gesturing dramatically in the dim light of the barroom. Try THIS one on, he said: Group of American engineers, stopping over in Denver en route to China. The Chinese government is making plans to demolish the Great Wall; our engineers are bidding on the job. Harold was skeptical. Why would the Chinese want to destroy the Great Wall of China? John thought for a moment. They're tearing down the ancient boundary to symbolize international goodwill, to welcome foreign trade!    Another round of beers.

By 11:00 p.m. the four reporters had worked out the details of their preposterous story. After leaving the Oxford Bar, they would go over to the Windsor Hotel. They would sign four fictitious names to the hotel register. They would instruct the desk clerk to tell anyone who asked that four New Yorkers had arrived that evening, had been interviewed by reporters, had left early the next morning for California.

The Denver newspapers carried the story. All four of them. Front page. In fact, the TIMES headline that Sunday read: GREAT CHINESE WALL DOOMED! PEKING SEEKS WORLD TRADE! Of course, the story was a phony, a ludicrous fabrication concocted by four capricious newsmen in a hotel bar.

But their story was taken seriously, was picked up and expanded by newspapers in the Eastern U.S. and then by newspapers abroad. When the Chinese themselves learned that the Americans were sending a demolition crew to tear down their national monument, most were indignant; some were enraged. Particularly incensed were the members of a secret society, a volatile group of Chinese patriots who were already wary of foreign intervention. They, inspired by the story, exploded, rampaged against the foreign embassies in Peking, slaughtered hundreds of missionaries. In two months, twelve thousand troops from six countries joined forces, invaded China with the purpose of protecting their own countrymen.

The bloodshed which followed, sparked by a journalistic hoax invented in a barroom in Denver, became the white-hot international conflagration known to every high school history student as the BOXER REBELLION.
But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. 6 And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.
 7 People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, 8 but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. James 3:5b-8 NLT

The Book of Proverbs has an interesting little line:  it says there are seven things that God hates. It is a fascinating and interesting study to learn the things that God can’t stand in human beings.

The first thing he hates:  haughty eyes.  God is always against arrogance.  You know the next thing he hates? He hates lying lips or a lack of integrity; when what comes out of our mouth isn’t true.  Number of things that Proverbs tells us about our speech:  slanderous gossip, deceitful flattery, argumentative words, striving, boasting, verbosity.  We are warned against all these things.

I want you to know that the tongue can be a tool for good, but your tongue is a reflection of your heart.  Even as a believer in Jesus Christ, who has been regenerated, who has been forgiven, you still have to surrender your whole self to God through the power of the Holy Spirit.  We invite the Spirit to dwell within us.

We cannot tame our own tongue but if we allow God to cleanse our hearts and fill us with His Spirit what comes out of our mouths will be life-giving instead of deadly. It will be holy instead of unholy. It will be helpful instead of hurtful.

Let me give you three areas that the Bible talks about in great detail and warns us against.  

Gossip: You need to do a word study on the word gossip in the Bible. God hates gossip. I mean He is against it and includes in with some pretty big sins. Do you know that in Romans 1, where the writer is talking about lust and wickedness that will prevail in humanity, he writes about homosexuality and the fact that it is unnatural and that is what most often gets everybody’s attention. But listen to the rest of the descriptions of evil.
28 Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. 29 Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip.30 They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents