The mouth is probably the truest indicator of the spiritual condition of a person, without a question.
This is what the Bible says, essentially. You see, the unredeemed mouth is the gate through which depravity exits. Welcome to Grace To You with John MacArthur.
I'm your host, Phil Johnson. You use it for eating, breathing, or just whistling a tune. But the most important characteristics of the mouth, at least where your spiritual condition is concerned, are the words that come out of it. So today on Grace To You, John MacArthur starts a series on how you can honor the Lord with every word you speak.
It's simply titled, Taming the Tongue. Now John, this idea of watching your words, managing your mouth, the Bible says a Christian is a new creation. We have a new nature, so it ought to be pretty easy, almost automatic, to say the right things all the time, right? It doesn't seem to work out that way. No, not for me.
No. And you know, I always think about Isaiah 6, where Isaiah said, woe is me, for I'm a man of unclean lips. And I always wanted to say to Isaiah, wait a minute, Isaiah, you've got the best mouth in the nation. I mean, you're the guy who speaks for God. You're the one who proclaims the word of God, the message of God. And you think about Isaiah, 66 chapters were revealed to him from God, and he wrote, and certainly he spoke on all those things. And yet he was very much aware of his sinful heart and how often it showed up in his speech. That's why the Bible says, if you don't offend with your speech, you're a perfect person. We have to tame the tongue.
And this is a really important series. We all know and we all suffer the, I guess, the damage we do or the damage that is done to relationships by what people say. The tongue, James says, can start the world on fire. The tongue can do massive damage. I don't know a better way to manifest virtue and godliness and Christian character than through a tongue that speaks wisdom and righteousness. So we're going to do a series on taming the tongue, the speech of the new man, a subtitle, the user's guide to wise word management.
And by the way, just as a footnote, it's not just how you speak with your mouth, but how you speak with your social media that needs to be addressed as well. So we're looking at the power of our words to do good and the power of our words to do damage. Guarding our words is a great and persistent challenge to the Christian. We want to help you to be able to do that for the honor of our Lord. Stay with us, and it'll be a practical week and a half study.
Yes, friend, every relationship you have from your spouse to your co-workers will benefit from the principles you're going to see in this study. So let's get to those principles now. Here's John looking at the speech of the new man. Christianity should have a profound effect on the mouth. A person's speech should be greatly altered by the fact that he has been saved, that he has been redeemed.
Now the Bible really makes a tremendous emphasis at this point. The mouth is vital. It isn't easy to control the mouth, and so it's the one thing the Bible seems to emphasize above every other human organism or human faculty. The tongue is the best and the worst of you.
It is the best and the worst of me in so many, many ways. And I would have to say, and I think you would agree with me, certainly the Bible does, that the mouth is probably the truest indicator of the spiritual condition of a person, without a question. This is what the Bible says essentially. You see, the unredeemed mouth is the gate through which depravity exits. Now in our text, Paul picks out four distinct elements related to the mouth, or the Christian lifestyle, the speech of prayer, the speech of proclamation, the speech of performance, and the speech of perfection. And we'll take them one at a time. First, the speech of prayer.
A new lifestyle with a new man will mean a new mouth filled with a new kind of conversation. Look at verse 2. Colossians 4 to 2, continue in prayer and watch in the same with thanksgiving. Now in talking about prayer, I realize that we have probably hit on one of the most common chords in the life of any Christian. We're all very much aware of this. We've all pretty well organized our theology, so we've got a little idea of prayer and pretty well worked it out as to how we pray.
But let me see if I can broaden your horizons a little bit. Prayer is the most important speech that your mouth will ever utter. Prayer is the most important conversation that you will ever hold, the most important expression of the new life. You see, prayer is the divinely appointed weapon against the sinister attack of the devil and his angels.
Prayer is the vehicle for confession of sin. Prayer is the means by which the grateful soul pours out its spontaneous praise before the throne of God. Prayer is the voice of the weeping soul calling on the sympathetic high priest in the time of need. Prayer is the intercession of the concerned Christian who calls on divine resources in behalf of another's trouble. Prayer is the simple conversation of the beloved child with the caring father as they talk of love. Prayer is toward God. Prayer is to be in line with the Holy Spirit. We are to pray in the Spirit consistent with His mind and His will. We are to pray always according to the will of God.
But I want to catch what Paul is saying here in a little different angle and expand it into a dimension that's rarely been touched. Notice the first part of verse 2, continue in prayer. I think that if there's anywhere that I fail and there's anywhere that you fail, it's going to be in the area that he hits right there. He doesn't say pray, he says stay at it.
Continue in it. Now the thrust here is perseverance. And, of course, immediately you think of Ephesians 6 18, praying always, where he says, pray without...what?...ceasing in 1 Thessalonians 5. So whether it's praying always, Ephesians 6, or pray without ceasing, 1 Thessalonians 5, or if you like Luke 21 36, Jesus said, pray always. Or the early apostles who in Acts 6 gave themselves continually to prayer. Or Cornelius who prayed always to God. Or Romans 12 12 where it says, continue diligently in prayer. Or Philippians 4, be anxious for nothing but in everything by...what?...prayer and supplication. But the idea in all of those is the same.
Continue, stay at it. And what does it mean? We're comfortable with the truism that it basically means have a God consciousness. It doesn't mean be praying verbalizing all the time, but basically what it's saying here is to have a general God consciousness so that you see everything that happens in reference to God. God consciousness means if I see something bad, I pray for those involved. If I see something good, I praise for Him who has brought it about.
You see, it's that conscious flow of God consciousness. But you know, as I thought about it, that's great, and I understand that, but that can be a cop-out for really bailing out of the whole idea of continuing in prayer. And just saying, well, it's obvious you can't just keep praying forever, and God isn't deaf, and God doesn't forget things.
You just tell Him and go about your business. And we don't feel...you know, we feel, well, God's got the info, and God's sovereign, and God's going to call the shots, so we'll just bail out from that one and go on to something else. The idea of this sort of God conscious explanation to continuance in prayer can become a cop-out.
It isn't wrong, but you see, what happens is it's going a little too heavy on one side and it's not allowing for a little tension on the other side, and I want to talk about the other side that's going to create a little tension for you tonight. And I got into this and found some interesting things. I started chasing around that word continue in prayer. And the root word here, one word, kartareo is a very interesting word. It basically comes from a noun that means strong...strong. The verb means to be steadfast, to endure, to hang in there. That's kartareo. But the word used here is proskartareo.
And any time you add a preposition to the front of a verb in Greek, you intensify the Greek verb. So he's saying if the word kartareo means to be strong and steadfast, this means to be super strong and super steadfast and really hang in there. It's the idea of perseverance. In Hebrews 11, 27, the word is used and it is used of Moses. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king for he endured as seeing him who is invisible, for he hung in there, for he stuck with it.
It's a strong commitment to something where you're steadfast and you endure and you don't bail out and you don't give up and you don't quit. You can see illustrations of that same term and that same concept throughout the book of Acts. Cornelius prayed continually.
That's what it means. In Acts chapter 1 you have it. In the upper room they all continued with one accord in prayer. And here you had, remember, those disciples gathered, the 120 in the upper room, and they continued.
I mean, they didn't come and go and it wasn't a general God consciousness. They were actually involved in constant supplication for many hours and many days until the Spirit of God came. You find it in chapter 2 verse 42, the same term, and they continued steadfastly, the apostles' doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer. And here again, it doesn't necessarily mean a general God consciousness, but it means the constancy in prayer over and over and over and over, beseeching God relative to their needs. So you see, when you get into the term, the idea that you find here is not an easygoing God consciousness, but it's a strong, it's a steadfast, it's an enduring, it's a persevering struggling with deeply felt issues. McLaren says the word implies not just continuity but earnestness.
Kittel, who probably has the classic work and definition of Greek words, says that kartareo means to be strong and to be courageous, and proskartareo means to be courageously persistent, to hold fast, he says, not to let go. Now that's an exciting dimension of prayer. Well, let me give you some illustrations, say, MacArthur. I don't know whether this fits in my theology.
Well, let me do that for you. I'll slide it right in there, Luke 18. This is the great joy that a Bible teacher has, is just the freedom not to get locked in a box because the Bible isn't.
You just get everything organized in one little corner and all of a sudden something explodes at the very opposite end, and you've got to release a little bit there. He spoke a parable unto them to this end. Well, what was your purpose, Lord? Why this parable? That men ought always to pray and not faint. The whole purpose of the parable people is to do exactly what Paul said.
It's so that you'll keep praying and not fall asleep and not quit and not just hold your list up before God. He said there wasn't a city, a judge, and he feared not God nor man. And there was a widow in the city and she came to him saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. Somebody did something wrong to me. I want to bring it into court and get a just disposition of this and I want to be avenged for the wrong. And he wouldn't for a while.
The judge wouldn't do it. But afterward he said within himself, though I fear not God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me, I will avenge her lest by her continual coming she wears me out. Okay, okay. I've had it. Now you say, Wait a minute. Wait a minute. You mean that has a divine application?
Sure. Verse 6, the Lord said, hear what the unjust judge said. You listen. Shall not God avenge His own elect who cry day and night unto Him though He bear long with them? I tell you He will avenge them speedily. God is going to do things, to make things right, to gain His own honor and to give you the place of blessing when you cry out to Him day and night. Listen to the Apostle Paul, I have not ceased to pray for you day and night with tears for the space of three years. Acts 20, Luke 11, 5, another story illustrating the same truth.
And this is what he said. Which of you shall have a friend and shall go to him at midnight and say to him, Friend, lend me three loaves? I'm hungry, friend.
Stores are closed. And I've got a friend who's coming over and I'd like to give him something too. Friend of mine is in a journey to come to me and I have nothing to set before him. And he from within...there's the guy in his house and you're yelling in his window. There's no glass in those days, so they heard him. And he says, Go away.
Quit bugging me. The door is shut. The children are with me in bed. That's, of course, the way they always slept in those days, no heaters, the whole family in one bed. I'm not going to get up. I can't even rise. And I say to you, though he will not rise and give him because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as much as he needed.
You know what importunity is? The guy just kept yelling at him until finally he got out of bed because he didn't have any choice if he wanted to get any sleep. He kept banging and banging and he says, Ask, it shall be given. Seek and you shall find. Knock and it shall be opened. In other words, God is saying, Be persistent.
Bang away. Don't give up. I don't know if you think about it like that, but you know sometimes when you believe something will honor God and you believe it can be to the glory of Jesus Christ, you've got to kind of storm the gates of heaven.
I mean, you've got to kind of put yourself up there a little bit and struggle. We must struggle with him just like Jacob did at Peniel where he earned his name Israel. And Israel means he who strives with God. We too must be prepared to say, I will not let you go till you bless me. Consider Moses again and again intervening between the Israelites and God's wrath and pouring out his heart. Hear Abraham praying for Sodom, going down all the line, if I can find this many. Well, what about this many? Well, what about this many? Well, what about this many? Finally God says, Okay, okay. If you can find that many, I'll spare it.
And of course he couldn't. Prayer is a matter of struggling and grappling with God. Prayer is a matter of proving to God the deepest concern of your heart. Prayer is a matter of pouring out to God what you believe is that which would honor him. You hear David in the Psalms and you hear him right from the very deepest part of his inner being pouring out his heart over and over and over and over and crying to God to do something.
You don't answer. Prayer is to be a persistent, courageous struggle. There's a tension, I know, between claiming and persisting on God's power and God's grace and at the same time waiting on His will.
But listen to this. It is resolved not by holding your persistence. It is resolved by accepting His answer. That's important. It's a lot for continuing prayer, but that's what He's saying. Back to Colossians 4, 2. Continue in prayer, and I like this, watch in the same. You know, one thing you can't do is pray without watching.
Now, you know what this simply means? Just, I mean, the basic thing that it means, stay awake. You can't pray in your sleep.
Very difficult. Matthew 26 is a good illustration of that. The disciples fell asleep in prayer meeting. Matthew 26, it tells the story, Jesus came into the garden, took with Him Peter, two sons of Zebedee, James and John, and they were there.
Jesus was praying. Verse 40, He came to the disciples and He found them asleep. And He said, Peter, you couldn't stay awake for one hour? The word watch here means stay awake.
You couldn't stay awake one hour? Stay awake and pray. Stay awake and pray that you enter not into temptation.
The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Don't go to sleep during prayer. Stay awake. You know, it's one good reason for a Christian to get some rest. Pray when you're awake.
Pray when you're alert. But the thought here is broader than that. It isn't just that.
That's very obvious. But when He says watch in the same, I think He's carrying it over to what Peter said in 1 Peter chapter 4 and verse 7. But the end of all things is at hand, be sober-minded and watch under prayer.
And what Peter means there is basically sober-minded is the idea of knowing the priorities. And when he says watch under prayer, he means look for the things that you ought to be praying about. And I'm guilty of this, we all are, guilty of praying those sort of useless generalities all the time.
Lord, bless the church and bless the missionaries. Bless this, you know, it's just a generality. But what he's saying here is watch. If you're going to be consistent and if you're going to pour out your heart and you're going to really pray for something, then you ought to know something to pray for. You'll never be persistent with God about something you're not concerned about. And you'll never get concerned about something until you know what something needs to be concerned about.
And we've got to watch. Well, he adds a last thought. Continue in prayer and watch in the same with thanksgiving.
Now that's important. You know, here's the right attitude. Even when you're wrestling with God, you're thankful that He's going to do what's best. Now this is the fifth time in the book of Colossians that gratitude has been mentioned. Look at 1 John 12, giving thanks unto the Father who hath made us fit to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light, who has delivered us from the power of darkness. He's saying there, be thankful for salvation. Be thankful for salvation. Look at chapter 2 verse 6, as you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding with thanksgiving. Be thankful for your salvation. Be thankful for your growth.
Well, chapter 3 verse 15, let the peace of Christ rule in your heart, to which also you are called in one body and be thankful. Be thankful for your fellowship with Christ and with the body of Christ. Be thankful for your salvation. Be thankful for your growth. Be thankful for your fellowship with Christ and His body.
Verse 17, whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him. Be thankful that you have the privilege to serve Him, that whatever you do could be done in His name. Be thankful for your salvation. Be thankful for your growth. Be thankful for your fellowship.
Be thankful for your service. And here He says in verse 2 of chapter 4, be thankful. Be thankful that when you pray, you have the guarantee that God is going to answer in accord with what's best for you. Be thankful. You know, no matter what happens in a prayer, you can be thankful. When you're praying, you know, I thought I was trying to think, now what am I thankful for as I pray? The first thing I'm thankful for as I pray is God's presence, because if He wasn't there, it wouldn't do me any good to pray. So I thought, no matter what He says or does, yes, no, maybe, wait, whatever, I'm thankful that He's listening. I'm thankful for His presence. The psalmist understood that. Psalm 75 one, unto Thee, O God, do we give thanks.
Why? That Thy name is near. I'm just thankful you're there.
Whatever your answer is, it's just great to talk to you. Second thing I thought of, I'm thankful not only for God's presence, but I'm thankful for God's provision. You know, there is no such thing as a prayer that doesn't get answered. He always provides an answer. Always, always, always. And I'm thankful for that. He always provides my bread. He always provides a place to stay. He always provides the needs of life, and that's His promise. And I'm always thankful.
And maybe I'm asking for things beyond the needs, and I can be at the same time thankful that the needs I know are going to be met. And as I pray, I'm not only thankful for His presence and His provision, but I'm thankful for His pardon. Romans 6 17, thanks be unto God that whereas we used to be the servants of sin, we've become the servants of righteousness. I'm thankful that He saved me.
And then I thought of a thing that kind of sums it all up. I'm thankful for His promise. It excites me when I read 1 Corinthians 15 57, thanks be to God who always gives us what? The victory.
Man, that's exciting. I can pray and no matter what the answer, no matter how God works, no matter whether I come away like Jacob limping, no matter whether it costs me my life or the life of somebody around me, I can come away and say the victory is mine always because all things are working together for what? Good. That's God's purpose for me. 2 Corinthians 2 14, thanks be unto God who always causes us to triumph. You can't lose in prayer. You may not get what you asked for, but you won't lose because God knows that what He got you was better than what you asked for. So no matter what happens, we're thankful.
That never changes. So Paul is telling us something very important about prayer. He's saying, look, pray. And when I mean pray, I mean pray. Get in there and wrestle with it.
Get in there and persist in it and keep banging until He gives you the bread. Hold on till you're blessed. If an ungenerous, selfish, heartless neighbor for whom a little fleshly repose outweighs a friend's need for bread could be induced to grant a sorely needed favor by sheer persistence, if a defenseless widow's persistent appeal can ring from a hard-hearted unscrupulous judge her heart's desire, how much more will our petitions, if likewise faithful and persistent, secure the thing we ask from God who in character is the very opposite of the indifferent neighbor and the opposite of the godless judge. The plain teaching of the parable is that the difficulty will be resolved because God hears His faithful servant. The new man has a new mouth. And the new mouth of the new man has a new speech. And the new speech is the language of prayer.
That's John MacArthur, chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary, explaining how, when you pray, you demonstrate the speech of the new man. That's the title of John's lesson today, and it's the first in his series, Taming the Tongue, here on Grace to You. Now, as John pointed out today, controlling what you say isn't easy. It's not easy. It's not easy. It's not easy.
It's not easy. But controlling your words is crucial to your testimony and your growth in Christ. To help put godly principles for speech to work in your life, download John's study called Taming the Tongue, or you can order the four-CD album when you contact us today. The audio and transcripts of all John's sermons are free to download at gty.org.
That's over 3,500 messages covering every verse in the New Testament and much of the Old. Or to put these lessons in a friend's hands, order the CD when you call 800-55-GRACE, or go to our website, gty.org. And thanks for remembering that Grace to You is supported by listeners like you, people who love the word of God, have been changed by the gospel of Christ, and want to help us take God's word and his gospel to people in countries like Singapore, the United Kingdom, South Africa, and many more. To help us unleash God's truth across the globe, mail your tax-deductible donation to Grace to You, Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412. You can also express your support when you call us at 800-55-GRACE or visit our website, gty.org. Once more, that's gty.org. And now for John McArthur, I'm Phil Johnson. Thanks for starting your week off with Grace to You, and be here tomorrow when John continues his study, Taming the Tongue, with another 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time, on Grace to You.
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