Jennifer Speer Notes: Week Three
James 3:1-12 / Real Self-Control
What we believe cannot be separated from how we behave. Our behavior includes our words. “Words” encompass both spoken and written words. Evidently, the tongue has been a problem through the centuries because there are hundreds of Scripture verses about our speech, the words we choose to use and the way in which we say things. James is addressing the problem in the church among believers in Christ.
James has touched on the subject of the tongue previously (James 1:26 and 2:12) but James 3:1-12 digs deeper. WE are faced with the question of “who is in control of our lives?”. The answer lies in who is in control of the tongue. Our speech is simply an indicator of Lordship.
James is great about giving us illustrations. In verses 2-4, he gives us two pictures; the rudder of a ship and a bit in the horse’s mouth. Both are tiny in comparison to the object they direct. But more importantly, the tiny rudder allows the captain to direct the ship. The rubber is the connection between the mighty ship and the captain at the helm. If the rudder is not under the control of the Captain, the ship is destined for destruction.
The same is true for the horse, the bit, and the rider. The bit is what gives the rider control of the horse. Without the small bit, the rider cannot direct the horse.
James is saying our tongue (speech, communication, written words) must be under the control of the Captain or the rider. That control makes all the difference in the direction of life. So the question begs to be asked, who is control of your tongue? Who has control of that tiny body part that has the potential to cause great harm?
James continues to show us through two more illustrations the destructive power of the tongue when it is not controlled (James 3:5-8). He uses the illustration of a fire and poison.
A fire can be useful when it is contained and controlled. It can heat, cook, or generate power. But a fire uncontrolled is destructive and even though you may put the fire out, you cannot undo the devastation it has caused. Also, it only takes a small spark to ignite a mighty fire. It only takes a small match to ignite a destructive flame. The tongue is the small spark or the small match and the damage it does is irreversible. James says the fire is set by hell itself. In other words, a careless uncontrolled tongue is sinful.
James also uses the illustration from the animal world( James 3:7-8). He submits all creatures are under the dominion of man (not domesticated but under the dominion). Yet man cannot seem to tame the tiny tongue. He likens it to the deadly poison of a viper. Poison works slowly, on the inside. You may not feel the effects of the poison right away but as it seeps into the blood stream, it kills. Words may be flung carelessly, thinking they are harmless. But over time, they seep into the soul of others and cause devastation.
What types of speech cause destruction?
Critical, harsh, biting, negative, impatient, irritated, gossip, discouraging, crushing, selfish, complaining, self-pity, defensive, myopic, grumbling, whining, perverted, suggestive, course, cruel, cursing, swearing, condescending, judgmental, sarcastic.
This is not an exhaustive list. But it is enough to ponder. Only the Word of God and the Holy Spirit can convict you of your particular place of need. Remember!!! Other people are not your standard of measure. God’s Word is your standard.
James 3:9-10 gives us yet another set of illustrations. James asserts the source of our words is what makes the difference. What kind of fountain is spilling forth the water? What kind of tree is producing the fruit? A tree cannot produce two kinds of fruit. It is one or the other. Likewise, a believer in Christ cannot talk out of both sides of her mouth. She either honors the Lord with her speech—or she does not. She cannot spew forth bitter words and refreshing words from the same mouth.
Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue and those who love it will eat of its fruit.”
I asked myself, what does the word “it” refer to—what is the antecedent? “It” seems to stand for the word “power” or the phrase “power of the tongue”. If your words bring death and destruction to others, YOU will eat that fruit too. It (the power of your words) will come back to bite you. You will reap what you sow. The opposite is true as well. If your words bring life and healing, if your words are redemptive in nature, YOU will eat that fruit too. The hallmark of your words and your life will be redemptive and a blessing. Whichever kind of power you love (go after, delight in), you get in return.
CAN YOU SEE IT? The entire passage is about Lordship. Yes, the indicator is our speech but the overall message is Lordship. Is Christ in charge of everything—even our words? It is seemingly such a small matter but it is a problem even for the most seasoned believers.
So what is the solution?
James 3:1 speaks directly to teachers. Ouch! But he has addressed everyone throughout the passage. He wants us to be aware a judgment is coming for believers.
Remember! This is not the Great White Throne judgement of Revelation. This is NOT an accounting or sin-sin has been paid for. It is NOT weighing out your good deeds and bad deeds to see if you go to heaven or hell.
This judgement is about reward and accountability for what we have done with our salvation.
I don t understand everything about this judgement. It will take place in heaven where there is no shame or sorrow. We will be given rewards which we will then lay at Jesus’ feet. The motivation for living right here on earth is love for the Savior not the reward we will receive. So, see? I do not understand this judgement completely. I just know James has warned us about it previously and in Chapter 3. You will be held accountable is some way for the WORDS YOU SPEAK and THE WAY YOU BEHAVE.
2. The Holy Spirit
We must allow the Holy Spirit to in control of our lives. He lives in us. He will never leave. BUT we have the choice to live under His control-or not. Galatians 5:19-23 gives us a clear picture of a life controlled by the Holy Spirit and one that is not. Read it.
Ephesians 5:18 urges us to be controlled by the Holy Spirit. The verses immediately after, tell us the evidence of Holy Spirit control is our words.
How can we be filled with Holy Spirit on a daily basis? These five owrds are not a recipe. They are just a tool to help us remember.
Acknowledge. Acknowledge your need for His filling. Admit you cannot live this Christian life in your own power.
Abandon. Abandon sin. Give it up. Confess it and then turn away from it. The Word of God will show you what you need to confess and forsake.
Abdicate. Abdicate means give up rule. We must surrender our will, give up our agenda, our desires, our plans, and let allow the Lord Jesus to have control.
Ask. Verbally, out loud, ask the Holy Spirit to fill your life and be in control of you.
Accept. Now get up and live, accepting the fact that God will o what he has promised. He will help you, strengthen you, direct you, and guide you. Yes, you will stumble and fail. Simply repeat the process—as often as needed. Living Spirit filled is not a onetime thing; it is sometimes a minute by minute thing.
3. Live by the ROYAL LAW
We discussed the Royal Law last week (James 2:8). It is “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Agape love always manifests itself in two ways. Grace and Mercy.
Colossians 4:16 says to let our speech be seasoned with grace—like with salt. Salt in that day was not a sprinkle. It was a marinade, a preservative. It covered the food, got into every pore of the food. Even when the food was cooked the juices from the food would be salty.
We should be so marinated in grace, that when the heat of life sizzles, the only thing that comes out of us is grace. When people irritate us and rub us the wrong way, grace is the outpouring from our lives and our lips. If that is to happen, we must have already been soaking in grace-- BEFORE we are able to respond rightly to people. Soak yourself in Grace—from the Word of God and His Holy Spirit—every day—so that your words will be seasoned with grace.
What are some kinds of grace filled speech?
Affirming, encouraging, joyful, witty, humorous, patient, kind, wise, discerning, gentle, peaceful, truth with love, unselfish, problem solving, guiding, self-controlled,
Again, this is not an exhaustive list.
A good rule of thumb about our words I learned from one of my favorite authors, Jerry Bridges :
Ask yourself before you speak:
a. It is true? (Is it THE truth base on God’s Word)
b. Is it kind?
c. Is it necessary?
(That third question gets me every time) Ecclesiastes 3:7 says there is a time to speak and a time to stay quietJ I’m learning. How about you?
Andy Stanley quote, “In every dealing with someone, before every statement or response to anyone, a follower of Jesus, a disciple, should ask themselves first: What does love require of me?”