I have been convicted about the way I talk, the way I use my tongue. Because the solution to committing sins with our tongues is not to simply stop talking, but to begin talking for the glory of God, I wanted to teach a series of lessons on how we can control our tongues. But it’s so hard! I tend to complain, cut people down, talk foolishness….
I contacted a couple of different curriculum distributors for a series of lessons on controlling the tongue for God’s glory. Nobody had anything like this. One rep called me back. He and I had a good discussion and he admitted that there really was no resource out there for what I had envisioned. Then he added, “But you could write one.” I thought, “I would if I wasn’t so busy.” Then the pandemic hit and our church was shut down for 3 months. During that time, I prayed and asked for God to show me how to teach a series of lessons on transforming our tongues from instruments of foolishness to glorifying God. The result was a 12 lesson series titled, “Harnessing the Power of the Tongue for the Glory of God.”
This was a journey. It was also personally quite convicting to teach this to my congregation; well, just to my Sunday School class. Each week, as the teacher, knowing that I’m held to a higher standard, I spoke about how God wants us to use our tongues for His glory, and not for ourselves. I started out with the negative things, like lying, gossiping, complaining, then we moved to areas where we have choices, like blessing or cursing, building people up or cutting people down, speaking wisdom or speaking foolishness, then finally we moved to the higher gifts where we speak completely for God such as teaching/preaching, praising, and evangelizing. Everyone in the class seemed to identify with this struggle, which is very real.
What follows is the outline which can be used by just about anyone. If you teach them, you need some good discussion questions to go with them. I opened this lesson with the question, “What is one animal you would never want loose in your house?” Answers ranged from bull, lion, and other large animals to snake, crocodile, or anything that creeps people out. When I got to the part about the tongue being wilder than any wild animal, I made the salient point that your tongue, loose in your own home is worse than any animal you named. Since the tongue is so deadly, and there is no license required to use it, this is the worst open carry firearm policy ever. Your tongue kills. So, without further ado, here is the first lesson in the series.
Harnessing the Power of the Tongue
For the Glory of God
Key Verses: Proverbs 18:21, Psalm 141:3, Psalm 19:14
Lesson #1 ~ Controlling the Tongue
I. The Fallen Nature of the Tongue ~ Romans 3:9-20. We remember what the Apostle Paul wrote in this section of Romans primarily because of the Romans Road. Romans 3:10, “As it is written, there is none righteous, no not one.” Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” But here in this passage there is so much content about the fallen nature of the tongue. Let’s examine the passage. Paul has demonstrated that the Gentiles are under sin by virtue of their conscience. Now he asks the question, “Are we (Jews) better than they (them there Gentiles)?” The answer is no and Paul starts quoting from the psalms to demonstrate the sinful nature of his own people. The interesting thing is that the majority of what Paul writes condemns our tongue.
A. None righteous. Romans 3:10-12 is a quotation from Psalm 14:1-3 and 53:1-3.
B. Open graves. Romans 3:13a is a quotation from Psalm 5:9. The open grave refers to a type of disposal place for dead bodies. Oftentimes bodies would be placed in tombs, but if there wasn’t enough money or maybe in a time of battle when there were too many bodies to be properly buried, there would be an open pit where bodies would be dumped. It would smell horrible with rotting dead bodies down there. David and Paul compare our mouths to the stench of open graves.
C. Poisonous talk. Romans 3:13b is a quotation from Psalm 140:3. The poison of asps is under our lips. There is no way to make this a good thing. Vitriol is a good word to put here. Poisonous talk is meant to poison.
D. Full of cursing and bitterness. Romans 3:14 is a quotation from Psalm 10:7.
E. Set on destruction. Romans 3:15-17 is a quotation from Isaiah 59:7-8 and maybe Proverbs 1:16. Not just our tongues, but our entire direction is bound to destroy. The tongue is leading the charge with destructive words.
F. No fear of God. Romans 3:18 is a quotation from Psalm 36:1. If there is no fear of God, then we can say whatever we want. The reverse is also true: if there is a fear of God, then we need to watch our tongues.
G. Conclusion: When Paul gets to “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” he has been speaking about our tongues. For all have sinned with their tongue by lying, speaking bitterly, and having poisonous words come out of our mouths. That’s everybody. No one is exempt. Please don’t come to this set of lessons thinking, “I do pretty good with my words.” We need to believe the Bible. This is what the Bible has to say about the way we use our words.
II. Harnessing the Power of the Tongue ~ James 3:1-12. Before we get to our main text, James has had two little tidbits which serve as appetizers to the main course when it comes to controlling our tongues. The first is in James 1:19-21. We must be quick to hear and slow to speak. James 1:26 has a phrase that will be repeated later, bridling our tongue. The Greek word is chalinagogeo which is a compound word meaning to lead with a bridle. If we do not lead our tongue with a bridle then our religion is empty.
A. Verses 1-2 ~ Bridling our bodies begins with the tongue. The word bridle is here again. If we can control our tongue, we will lead our whole body. The example of Psalm 39.
B. Verse 3 ~ The example of the horse. The bit in the mouth of the horse is what allows us to control the entire body of the horse. Once we have control of the mouth of the horse, we can ride that horse great distances. Do you want to accomplish great things with your whole body? It will start by controlling your mouth.
C. Verse 4 ~ The example of the ship. Look at how small that rudder is compared to the whole ship. That rudder is the steering mechanism for the entire ship. Large ship, strong winds, but a very small rudder. If you have control of that rudder, you have control of the entire ship. In the same way, if you have control of your very little tongue, you will control your entire body.
D. Verses 5-6 ~ The example of the forest fire. We all remember Smoky the Bear. “Only you can prevent forest fires.” The idea is that forest fires are started by little campfires left unattended. Thousands of acres are burned because of the carelessness of campers which starts with a very little, seemingly insignificant fire. Those thousands of acres are nothing compared to the damage that the tongue does on a daily basis. The words are used as flaming arrows to attack someone that they think is an enemy. It stains our entire bodies, sets on fire the entire course of life, and is set on fire by hell itself. Our entire world is on fire right now because of words, our words.
E. Verses 7-8 ~ The example of domestication. Every type of animal can be trained in some way, but not the tongue. There will be some horse whisperer, lion tamer, or snake charmer that can tame that wild beast. But there is nothing that can tame the tongue.
F. Verses 9-12 ~ The divided nature of the Christian tongue. With the same tongue we bless God, but curse men (who are created in the image of God). Do you have something to negative to say about another person? Guess what? You are saying something negative about God since that person was created in the image of God. A fountain will always send forth the same type of water. It will always be sweet or bitter. A fig tree will always bring forth figs. In the same way, if we belong to God, we should always have sweet words on our tongues and not bitter. That bitterness comes from the flesh, not from God.
III. Pointing us in the right direction.
A. I Corinthians 13:1-2 ~ Without love, we are nothing. We can speak with great words, even speak God’s messages (prophecy), but if we do not have love, we are nothing.
B. Psalm 45:1 ~ The pen of a ready writer, or the pen of a skilled scribe. Our tongues could be used by God who is the most poetic (the Hebrew word means skilled) writer ever. Do you want for your tongue to bring forth bitter words, or to bring forth the sweet words of God Himself? God could use your tongue to bring forth words to shape this world for His purposes.
IV. We will be judged by our words. Matthew 12:33-37 and parallel passage in Luke 6:43-45. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Our words reveal what is in our hearts. Bitter words reveal a bitter heart. We will be judged for every idle word (the Greek words means lazy or perhaps careless) that we speak. Matthew 15:1-20. Out of the mouths come things that defile us because our hearts are sinful.
V. How can we bridle our tongue?
A. Believe our tongue is a fallen untamed wild beast
B. Stop with the comments that burn
C. Begin to control the tongue
D. Allow God to write our words as they come off our tongue
Have fun and stay busy ~ Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman