Greg Laurie - Talk This Way
Our words really matter, what we say impacts people. What others say to us affects us in a great way. It's been said, "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me". Actually, that's not true. Words really can hurt you. You can be deeply wounded by words, can't you? Some of us remember maybe in our childhood that something was said to us. It could have been by a parent, it could have been a teacher or somebody else. They told you, "You're unattractive, you're overweight, you're a failure, you'll never amount to anything" and we sort of carried that with us even into our adult years. Then again, someone might have said to us, "I see potential in you, I think you're special, I believe in you," and then those words of encouragement carried us on. Maybe they were words from a parent and grandparent, a teacher, a coach, a pastor.
Words matter. Proverbs 18:21 says, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof". Proverbs 25 verse 11 says, "The right word at the right time is like precious gold set in silver". And I would add to that fact the wrong word at the wrong time can be devastating. We've all heard stories of young people who've literally taken their own lives because they were bullied online. Or people said horrible and cruel things to them after they posted a picture or something else. Let me just say young people, if you post something and people hate on you, "These people don't matter. Who cares? They live in their mother's basement," okay? They don't even use a real names. Who cares with some random person says about you. But anyway, but it shows the power of words. Don't listen to their words, listen to the words of God who loves you and not the words of people who don't.
By the way, one of my greatest pleasures in life, I've told you this before, is to block people. Not just delete comments, block people. I love it. You know, they come in with this hateful vitriol in their posts, I say, "Goodbye". I wish I could do it in real life. Wouldn't that be cool? Just block and they disappear. I don't know, okay. More people have died by words than any weapon ever devised by man. I mean, think about this. Dedicated to God our words can be a powerful force for good, left unchecked and especially when yielded to the enemy, the devil, our words can do great harm. So let's see what the Bible says about our words in our tongue.
James chapter 3 verse 1. I'm reading down to verse seven. This is the New Living Translation. "Dear brothers and sisters". I would underline that, I'll come back to it. "Dear brothers and sisters". Or another way to translate it. Dear fellow Christians, so these words are addressed to believers. He goes on, "Not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly. Indeed, we all make mistakes for if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and we could also control ourselves in every other way. We can make large horses go wherever they want by means of a small bit in their mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way," writes James, "The tongue is a small thing and it makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness corrupting your entire body. It can be set on fire or set your whole life on fire, and it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It's restless and evil, full of deadly poison".
We'll stop there. So what do we learn about the tongue? Point number one if you're taking notes, what you say reveals who you are. What you say reveals who you are. Verse 2, "If we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and control ourselves in every other way". In many ways, the tongue or your words is a barometer of your spiritual maturity. Socrates once said to a young student, quote, "Speak friend, so I might see you," end quote. Effectively, Socrates are saying, "Speak and I'll be able to evaluate you". If your life is transformed as a follower of Jesus and your words will be transformed as well. The reality of your faith is demonstrated in what you say and also in what you don't say. Jesus says, "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".
So whatever is in your heart will ultimately come out in your words. And the fact of the matter is, is one day we will be judged by what we said according to the Scripture. Matthew 15:19, Jesus says, "Every careless word that people speak, they'll give an accounting of it for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned". In fact, the first sin committed after the fall was a sin of the tongue. When questioned about eating the forbidden fruit, Adam quickly blames God and says, "Well, it's the woman you gave me". Effectively slandering God.
Now I asked you to underline this first. Let me return to it. Notice that James is directing these words to Christians, "Dear brothers and sisters". You know, Christians may pride themselves in the fact that they don't do certain things anymore. "Oh, I don't do those sins any longer, I'm a Christian now". Fantastic, you would never think of assassinating somebody now that you're a Christian, but would you assassinate their character over Sunday brunch? You would never think of putting a knife in someone but would you put a knife into someone to the blade of slander as you stab them in the back, see, this is a problem with Christians. We like to talk and we like to make it sound spiritual when it isn't spiritual at all.
Bring me to point number two; we need to control what we say. The Bible says that, "Let every man be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger". But the reality is we're often quick to speak and slow to listen and quick to anger as well. But we need to be quick to listen and slow to speak. By the way, there are inside and outside thoughts, did you know that? Some things are best left unsaid? You think them, but that doesn't mean you should say them. And other things need to be said as well. Verse 6, "A tongue is set on fire by hell". James is telling us the uncontrolled tongue has a direct pipeline to hell. We all know that a single spark from a match or a cigarette or a campfire can destroy a forest. One word foolishly spoken can be set fire by the devil. One rumor, one lie. Mountain climbers say that "The vibration of one whisper can bring down an avalanche".
Number three; our words used right can do so much good. Just one word said can alter the course of your life. A judge with one word or one statement can decide your guilt or your innocence.
Point number four; our words used wrongly can do so much damage. They can do so much damage. Look at verse 5, "The tongue is a small thing". Think about this. This mere two ounce slab of mucus membrane can do so much evil or good depending on who it's controlled by. As an example for evil, think of Adolf Hitler. This man through his demonic rhetoric sent a nation to ruin. His words were responsible for the death of 6 million Jewish people in the Holocaust and many Christians were sent to those concentration camps as well. Truly as James says in verse 6, Hitler's tongue was set on fire by hell itself.
But now contrast him with another person who used his words well, Billy Graham, a farm boy born in Charlotte, North Carolina. He aspired to be a baseball player one day and God put his hand on Billy and through his preaching around the world, millions of people changed their eternal destiny. Indeed, death and life are in the power of the tongue. And I ask you, who is your tongue dedicated to? There are many ways we can use our words to hurt others. One is through gossip and back biting. Gossip, the very word hisses. Gossip like a snake, right? So sneaky. We can make it sound like it is important but it's so destructive.
Proverbs 20 verse 19 says that "Gossip betrays the confidence. Avoid a man who talks too much". How practical is that? Gossip is like junk food. You know it's bad but you eat it anyway. In fact, a translation of Proverbs 26:22 that's modern, puts it this way; "Listening to gossip is like eating cheap candy. Do you want junk like that in your belly"? What a great translation. So when I go to the movie, I like to get Milk Duds and popcorn and I don't know what's going on and I don't know if you've noticed this, but a lot of movie theaters, if not most, are not carrying Milk Duds anymore. What is going on? I love Milk Duds. That's the only time I eat candy. I don't really eat candy at all but when I get that popcorn, I want some Milk Duds.
I think maybe 'cause they stick to everything, I'm not really sure but the other day I was at the drugstore and I saw they had Milk Duds. I haven't seen Milk Duds anywhere and I bought like four boxes of 'em. And they're really big boxes too. I came home, Kathy said, "Well, why did you buy all those Milk Duds"? I said, "'Cause I can't find them anywhere". She said, "You shouldn't have bought them, you're gonna eat them". "No, I won't, I won't eat that many". And then that night, who's making popcorn and Milk Duds? Kathy. She's the one eating them. But I had some too. But you don't feel good after you eat candy, do you? It's good going down and that's what gossip is like. Gossip will often veil itself in acceptable ways with phrases like, "have you heard" or "did you know"? Or how about this? "I don't know if this is true but," okay, hold on.
If any statement you make begins with the words, "I don't know if this is true" stop and don't make that statement because you don't know how devastating that could be. But we rationalize it and say spiritual things like this. "I'm only telling you this so you can pray". Oh, shut up. You're gossiping. Don't give me this "So you can pray" business. "No, I just, that's the only reason I'm sharing it". No, here's another way we can gossip through innuendo, innuendo. A cousin of gossip is innuendo. That's where you don't say it exactly but you imply it.
Then there is a subtle misuse of our words in flattery, flattering. Flattery is really lying, why? Because when I flatter somebody, I'm basically telling them a lie. Gossip is saying behind a person's back what they would never say to their face, flattery is saying to a person's face what they would never say behind their back. Does that make sense? So gossip, I say it behind your back. I would never say it to your face or ask you if it's even true. Flattery, oh, I'll say it to your face but if someone ask me about you, I would never say that behind your back.
Number five; if you can control your tongues, it's a sign of spiritual maturity. Look at verse 2. "If we control our tongues, we would be perfect and control ourselves in every other way". The word perfect here means full grown. So it's not meaning flawlessly perfect, but what it means is you're mature. If you can control your words, it's a sign of maturity. I heard about a little boy that went to a pastor's house who was doing some carpentry. Little guy just standing there staring at the pastors. He was working away finally the minister turned and said, "Sonny, you're trying to pick up some tips on carpentry". The little guy said, "No, I just wanna see what a preacher says when he hits his thumb with a hammer".
And I think there are people who are not believers who are watching us maybe in some ways hoping that we will do something wrong, so we wanna be very careful. And by the way, some of the greatest saints in the Bible had trouble with what they said. Job is a good example. God himself said, "If job's a perfect and upright man, and he fears God and shuns evil". But yet at the end of Job's book he writes in chapter 40 verse 4 to the Lord, he says, "I'm unworthy. How can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth". I wish more people would put their hand over their mouth.
One of the greatest uses of our words is to proclaim the Word of God. But with that comes great responsibility. Look at verse 3, "Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly". Now, James is not wanting to discourage us from sharing our biblical insights. Fact of the matter is you should share the things you discover in the Word with others. 1 Corinthians 14:26 says, "Hey, brothers and sisters, when you come together, each one of you has a song or a word of instruction". So it's awesome to say, "I just read this in the Word today and this verse really spoke to me". Great, do that.
James is not discouraging that. But what he is saying is, when you share, when you speak for God, you know, be prepared. There's responsibility that comes with that. I remember the first time I shared in a public setting, it was a small group of believers. I was still in high school. They were in high school and different people were sharing things they read in the Bible and I'd read something that morning and I was thinking, "Should I share this? My heart is beating". You know that feeling? Finally I said, "Hey, I read something in the Bible today". My voice was all shaking. After I was done, then people went, "Oh, that's great". And then the Lord started opening doors for me to speak. I never aspired to be a speaker, or a preacher, or a communicator like that, I was a more behind the scenes kind of a person but as I began to do that more I realized there's a responsibility that comes with this.
1 Timothy 3:1 says, "It's a trustworthy statement if a man aspires to the role of overseer (or a preacher/ teacher). It's a fine work he desires to do". So it's a good thing. If God has called you to do this sort of thing, that's great. Make sure you're prepared. And when I stand up, I wanna be prepared and be able to back up what I say by the Scripture. That's why the Bible says, "Study to show yourself approved unto God. A workman that does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth".
You know, people have asked me, what is it like to stand up in a stadium and speak to a huge group of people? Is it fun? I wouldn't use the word fun, I would use the word pressure and responsibility 'cause I feel when I get up there, I'm speaking for God, I take that very seriously. I don't wanna say the wrong thing, I wanna say the right thing because God has not called me to be some kind of a political pundit, he's not called me to be a social commentator, he's not called me to be a life coach or a standup comic though I'm incredibly funny at times. Not today so much, and I'm joking. But the fact is, I'm called to declare the Word of God and the Scripture says, "When we stand to speak", in 1 Peter 4:11, "We should do so as one who speaks the very words of God". It's a sacred responsibility and I take it very seriously and we all should. Bringing me to my next point.
Number seven; use your words to build up, not to tear down. Use your words to build up, not to tear down. Verse 8 of James 3. The tongue is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, sometimes it curses those who've been made in the image of God. How important encouragement is. Have you ever had a word of encouragement just change things for you? Maybe you're feeling down, "Oh, no one appreciates what I do. No one notices, no one cares". And then maybe a letter arrives that was written, you know, three days ago and you open it up, someone encourages you. Or they shoot you a text, or someone says something to you, say, "Thank you, I really needed that".
Proverbs 25:25 says, "Good news from far away as like cold water to the thirsty". I think one of the greatest needs in the church today and in the world today, is for us to encourage one another. Not discourage one another, not biding and devouring one another. In fact, Hebrews tells us that "We should not forsake the assembling of ourselves together as a manner of some is, but instead exhorting or encouraging one another so much more as we see the day of the Lord approaching".
The problem is some people don't know how to pay a compliment. They insult you while they complement you. Do you know what I'm talking about? It's called a compla-salt. It's meant to encourage but actually it discourages you. Example, you know, you show up at their house and they say, "Whoa, you're on time". "Okay, so you're basically saying, I'm late the rest of the time". Or how about this one? "You're a great driver for a woman". What? How about this one? "You look so good when you wear makeup". "What? What are you saying"? You basically look bad most of the time, but yeah. "Oh, you sure clean up good". That's a variation of it. "You're so pretty. Why are you still single"? What? Is that really helpful? Or how about this one? "You look good for your age".
I've heard that a few times. Recently I went to the tailor. I was wearing a suit and I needed to have some alterations done. I would like to say to take it in, it was the opposite. And so we're chitchatting and I've known this guy for a while and he says, "Well, what's new"? "Well, I turned 70". He said, "What? You turned 70"? And like, "Well, I didn't say I died". I mean, and then he said, "Well, you look good for your age". I mean, I'd call you at like 68 or something. All right, whatever. Compla-salts, we don't mean them. I think some people think they have the gift of criticism, it's not a gift.
Number eight; we should use our words to praise God. Why did God give us this tongue? Why did God give us the ability to verbally communicate? One of the reasons is so we could use it to bring glory to the Lord. I love the words of David when he says, "My lips shall praise thee thus will I bless thee. I'll lift up my hands and to your name". You need to express your praise to God verbally. Just as you need to express your affirmation of people. Guys, it's not enough to look at your wife and think, "I sure love her and she looks beautiful today". She's not a mind reader. Tell her, same for you girls too. Tell your husband you appreciate them. Tell your parents you appreciate them. Tell your children how much you love them, encourage them. Verbalize these things and we need to verbalize our praise to God.
Hebrews 13:15 says, "Let us offer continually the sacrifice of praise to God". Now some people say, "I can't do that". You know, during worship, you've got your hands in your pockets or your arms are folded. You're not singing even though we put lyrics on screens and we encourage you to worship and look at someone with their hands lifted up. You say, "Fanatic". And then you go to the football game and you paint your face in the colors of your team. And when your team scores a touchdown, you flip out, screaming, yelling, setting yourself on fire, everything. And then you look at someone who lifts one hand to the Lord and you call him a fanatic? Come on now. You have passion for other things, right? You should not have equal passion for Christ, you should have greater passion for Christ than your team, right? So use your words to praise God.
Number nine; use your tongue, use your words to preach the gospel. The primary way God has chosen to bring non-believers to faith is through the verbal articulation of the gospel. We all know the great commission. It's go into all the world and be a good example, right? That's not what it is. You know what it is? Go into all the world and do what? Thank you. And by the way, to preach doesn't mean you have to yell. It can be soft. You can speak softly, you can tweet it, you can type it, you can post it, you can text it, you can share it conversationally but it's verbal articulation of the gospel.
Now, I'm not saying we should not go be a good example because the fact of the matter is, is when I'm a good example, it in effect earns me the right to verbally articulate what I believe and help a person to believe as well. But in Romans 10:14, Paul writes, "How can they call on him unless they believe in him? How can they believe in him if they've never heard about him? And how could they hear about him unless someone tells them"? You wanna use your words in your tongue for the ultimate good...? Use it to praise God and use it to tell others about Jesus.
And number 10 and lastly; use your words to confess your sin. Use your words to confess your sin. The Bible says, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us, but if we will confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness".