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It Only Takes a Spark

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
September 29, 2022 12:00 am

It Only Takes a Spark

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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September 29, 2022 12:00 am

Our tongues are potent. If not kept in check, they can devastate entire homes and churches and leave people we love in ruins. So join Stephen now to discover the Apostle John's remedy for our speech problem.

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The tongue is also not only destructive and depraved, but thirdly, it is defiling.

Notice the middle part of verse 6. The tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body. In other words, if not checked, controlled by the Spirit of God, our entire body gets involved. Defilement is hatched in the heart, touted with the tongue, fulfilled by the flesh.

That's the idea. The rest of the body joins in this conspiracy against the holiness of God. You can probably think of lots of reasons why we should learn to control our tongue. One reason why it's so important, especially for Christians who care about their walk with God, is because the words we speak have the power to defile us. The Apostle James wanted to help us learn to control our tongue and James 3 is filled with practical insight.

This is truth that you can apply to your life today. This is wisdom for the heart and Stephen returns to James 3 in a lesson he's calling, It Only Takes a Spark. A tiny spark can ignite a huge fire and your tiny tongue can cause great damage as well. There's an old praise chorus from the 70s that I can remember singing as a teenager that began with the lyrics, It only takes a spark to get what? A fire going and soon all those around can warm up in its glowing. The fire in that chorus had to do with the love of God. James will use the same idea of fire, only his theme is our tongue and he will warn us of another kind of spark, a different kind of fire, and it isn't going to warm us up to any kind of glowing.

In fact, it just might instead scorch us and torch us and burn our lives to the ground. In the letter from James in chapter 3, we now arrive at his most convicting graphic description of the nature and power of the tongue. You knew it was coming.

I'm surprised to see so many people here today. James has already told us the tongue is as powerful to control our body as the bit is able to control a powerful horse. You take 550 pounds, which is right around the world record for an Olympic heavy weight lifter to hoist overhead, and you set 550 pounds on the back of one of those Clydesdales that my father used to use on the farm for hauling and that horse will barely snort displeasure . That same horse can run a mile under a minute.

It's a magnificent half-ton specimen of raw power, and yet you can take a little girl with a bit in its mouth with the reins in her hand and she can direct that horse wherever she wants to go. The power of that bit is the power of the tongue. James then shifted his analogy to the rudder on a boat, something so small which can direct something so large, in other words, that there's no other part of our body, even the totality of our body, nothing about us and the totality of our being is stronger than that little two-ounce mass of muscle and nerve. Webster defined the tongue as that movable muscular structure attached to the floor of the mouth.

Trouble is, it comes loose, unhinged. So what James will do now is he will describe our tongue with at least eight different descriptive phrases, and the view of many, and I would agree the more and more I study this letter that this is actually a sermon that was transcribed while he preached it because now he just sort of unleashes and one analogy after another, one metaphor after another. Without ever taking a breath, the changing of tenses and verbs, he will describe for us with great passion what is no doubt the greatest challenge, the greatest threat to our spiritual maturity.

It is our tongue. The first thing of eight that James is going to say about the tongue is that it is destructive. James 3, we left off the first part of verse 5. Let's pick it up now with the last part of verse 5.

See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire. He begins by saying, see, literally look. That's an exclamation point following that word. This is another imperative. He don't want anybody sleeping through Bible class.

And James is saying, take careful note of what I'm about to say. See, look how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire. It only takes a spark. Just a little spark of fire and a forest can be consumed. Have you ever thought about the fact that fire has the capacity to effectively reproduce itself? It's unlimited as long as it has something to burn water. You pour it out and that's all you get.

It doesn't create more water after being poured out, but fire will burn indefinitely. It will spread as long as there is enough flammable material and oxygen. Its destructive power is incredible, fearful.

I learned that firsthand. When I was a kid, I poured gasoline in the little cement gutter that sat underneath the downspout on the corner of our house next to that lovely bush. I had no idea what would happen, but I wanted to find out what would happen. So I poured some gasoline into that gutter and threw a match over toward it. And the whole area just seemed to explode into flame. The flame shot up about four feet. It scorched that cement gutter, quickly burned out. But then I looked and there was that bush with every leaf withered and hanging limply. And I stood there thinking, what have I done? And then the next question, and what shall be done to me? That was the bigger question.

My father came home and gave me the answer to that question. I learned not to play with fire. Fortunately, it was contained within that gutter. Fire can spread and so can words. See, the danger of this analogy of a fire was immediately apparent to James' audience. Because uncontrollable fire was more than likely one of the most feared disasters during his day. People were nearly helpless to stop it.

In fact, in my research, I came across one letter translated from Pliny, a Roman historian and naturalist who lived during the time of James. He'd been in a city where a fire had broken out. The city's name was Nicomedia. And he wrote that it consumed one private house after another and buildings. It even consumed the temple of Isis. He wrote, the people were unable to do anything more than stand there and watch.

Even up to 1871, much of the city of Chicago was destroyed by fire. It began at 830. You probably heard the story.

It's true. 830 p.m. when a cow kicked over a lantern as it was being milked. The cow belonged to the O'Leary family. That name became famous as a result. That small lantern started the great Chicago fire, they called it. It burned over three square miles of the city. It burned down over 17,000 buildings. It left over 100,000 people homeless and took the lives of 300. The fire burned for two days until it, for the most part, burned out with nothing more to burn.

And it took the city of Chicago more than $400 million to rebuild. To the reader of James' letter, uncontrollable fire was the most destructive force he could think of. He's reminding us that we've got amazing fire power in our mouths. We all carry around a weapon of mass destruction in our vernacular.

There's plenty of proof of that one. Solomon writes in Proverbs 16, 27, a worthless man's words are a scorching fire. He gives another model and this one we should pursue. He writes, he who restrains his words has knowledge and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.

And we use that same analogy today. Man, did you hear that guy? Was he ever hot under the collar? Did you see that lady?

I watched her as she kept cool. This is the tongue in its reality and he's just getting started. It's destructive. Secondly, the tongue is depraved. Verse 6 again, the tongue is afire. Now note this. The very world of iniquity.

You thought you had to go to Vegas to get to Sin City. You've got one walking around with you inside your mouth, is what he's saying. The original word translated world is cosmos. And you need to understand, James will use it three times in this letter and every time he uses it, he uses it in the sense of a depraved, fallen, sinful world system. You might write system in the margin of your Bible next to world to help you understand that's what he's talking about.

He isn't talking about the planet. He's talking about the world's thinking patterns in its negative sense. The world's values, the world's arrangements, the world's plans, the system of operation by which the world operates in its basest and most evil forms. So in light of that, James is saying the tongue is capable of spewing out that kind of evil plan and thinking and arrangement, that kind of sinful system. It's capable of spewing out everything that vaunts itself against the plans and the values and the systems of righteousness. The tongue has the potential for any and all kinds of human corruption. It is as corrupt as the values of the world system because it's connected to the heart, right? The heart is desperately wicked. And the world system has man as ultimately the idol and the throne of our own plans and thinking as the preeminent throne.

The tongue represents a world of iniquity. And it starts early, doesn't it? You bring a child into the world, you adopt a baby. And while he's growing up, he's learning how to talk. And he's gonna learn how to talk by means of two primary influences, mom and dad. And so after a few years, he's gonna not only say the words, but he's gonna use the same accent.

That's on the outside. But on the inside, there's another tutor and that is his nature, his fallen, depraved nature. And that nature will teach that child far more than an accent. In fact, before he can even mouth the words, he's able to sin with his hands and with his head. Who taught him how to shake his head no in defiance? You didn't say, now sit down, Johnny, and let me teach you how to be defiant by doing this. There you go, try it again. There, now you've got it. No, you never did.

You never had to. Where'd he learn to take his chubby little hands and slam them down on the plastic top of his high chair because he didn't like his food? Your moms are thinking, he learned that from his father.

No, no. His father, Adam, maybe. Where'd he learn how to lie? Mom and dad, you've done nothing but teach him the truth. You've never lied to him. You remember from our last discussion that the tongue is the tattle tale of the heart.

The tongue constantly taddles on the depraved condition of the heart. And when it speaks, it quickly reveals its connection to a world system of iniquity. So you don't have to teach him how to lie. You've got to teach him how to tell the truth. It's interesting, rather humorous, Spiro Zodiadis in his commentary on this verse told the funny story about the little boy who got his verses mixed up but ended up basically revealing the truth of human nature. He was asked in Sunday school to define what a lie was. What is a lie? He said, a lie is an abomination to the Lord and a very present help in time of need. The truth is his depraved heart taught him to lie and his tongue joined in the conspiracy. That's the idea.

James goes further. The tongue is also not only destructive and depraved, but thirdly, it is defiling. Notice the middle part of verse six. The tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body. In other words, if not checked, controlled by the Spirit of God, our entire body gets involved. Defilement is hatched in the heart touted with a tongue fulfilled by the flesh.

That's the idea. The rest of the body joins in this conspiracy against the holiness of God. And James is not writing to unconverted pagans.

He's writing to believing Jews and he's writing to us. This is speech therapy for the saints. And it begins and daily requires the understanding that we all have a speech impediment and it is sin. In fact, James uses the present tense for this verse, defiles. Again, very realistic theology, which we so appreciate. This isn't pie in the sky.

This is defilement you battle over and over and over and over again. Now, he isn't telling us that so that we all get a free pass or an excuse. He's writing that to remind ourselves, to warn ourselves that apart from the surrender of the bit and the rudder into the hand of the Spirit of God, we're walking around with a spark. It's ready to spread. There's going to be a forest fire.

It's waiting to break out and it only takes a spark. Defilement, which will consume us, involve us entirely, James says is just ahead. He goes on to say the tongue is determinative. Notice the next phrase in verse six, it sets on fire the course of our life.

What does he mean? He's using fire again, which is the negative description of all that is evil in its power used by the tongue. But he's saying that that evil potential sets the course. In other words, it influences the direction of our lives. It can happen with someone else's tongue against you. If your father demeaned you and cut you down with his tongue, that affects you to this day.

There are habits you're having to break because that's what you heard in your home. The power of the tongue for good or evil can direct a life. Think about it. You were interviewed for a job. Your resume looked like 50 others. They wanted the same job. They graduated from college. You graduated from perhaps the same college.

And 50 others did too. But you said something in that interview. They hired you. And that has set the course of your life.

You think about it this way. You proposed to your sweetheart. And she said yes.

I mean, is that a shock or what? She said yes. Took a little convincing, maybe a ring or whatever.

It doesn't matter. She said yes. And that one little word, yes, determined the course of your life. And it has been sheer rapture ever since. Amen.

Amen. I know I said the word rapture. You were thinking of prophecy and you missed the opportunity.

Some of you are praying now for the rapture. James says the tongue sets on fire the course of our lives. What you say with your tongue can change the rest of your life. In fact, your tongue is even now setting the course. An evil tongue makes people around you think that you are in your entirety evil. If you have a dirty tongue, everybody around you thinks of you in your entirety as dirty. If you have a lying tongue, those around you think of you as dishonest. And that plumber you know, you heard him tell a lie.

He's not going to get the contract on your home because you consider him a liar. And that's going to affect him a dozen different ways. See, as one author said it this way, he is considered to be no better or different than his tongue. You say, but wait, it's only vocabulary. It's only words. No, our speech, James says, determines our reputation, which dramatically affects our lives. Our speech determines friends and influences and jobs, our spirit, our service. That's what he means. James is speaking categorically.

It sets the course of the entirety of our lives. The tongue is destructive, depraved, defiling, determinative. And now by the time you think James might lighten up just a tad, number five comes along and we'll just say it this way. The tongue is diabolical. Look at the last description of verse six. It, that is the tongue, is set on fire by hell.

You've got to be kidding. It's pretty graphic, isn't it? And here's something else. He uses again the present active tense for this verb. And it would have been so blunt and so shocking and so dramatic without any explanation of the tense of the verb for the Greeks or those knowing Greek, the Jews who would read it. And I need to point it out because it's a continual state. Your tongue is constantly set on fire by hell. And he's writing to the church.

I wanted to come here and be told positive things so I could feel better about myself. Well, James isn't finished yet. Do you wish he was? Well, I'll talk faster. Number six, the tongue is disobedient. James moves now out of the world of animals. Look at verse seven, where every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. James groups animals into general categories.

In fact, he grouped them into pairs, animals that walk and fly and those that crawl and swim. And from within these categories, James is saying, animals have been tamed. The wildest, smartest, fastest, longest animals then have been subjugated for a purpose by the taming hand of mankind.

Then James delivers at the end of that verse the stunning news. Look there. But no one can tame the tongue. This is a one of a kind creature. Because of the fall, mankind has lost dominion over himself. No one can tame the tongue. No one literally of men.

There's the first inclination of hope. Man can't. God is no mere man. See, James is describing the tongue as it is by nature, not what it can be by grace. Every so often as it is subdued for the purposes of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God can hold the reins, control the rudder.

He can and must do that because none of us can. Why can no one tame the tongue? James provides the answer. Yet another description, number seven, the tongue is dangerous. He writes in verse eight, it is a restless evil.

A little bit different nuance here. It's as if the tongue is restless. It's looking for an opportunity to sin.

He's telling us the truth. The tongue resists the subjugation of the Spirit of God. He's already used this word resists or restless I should say. In chapter one where it's translated unstable. The double minded man is unstable in all his ways. The word here is translated restless.

Good translation. It's unreliable in this context. It's ever prone at any minute to break out of its cage where it has been kept behind bars of teeth and double gates of lips. You go to the zoo and you watch that animal as it paces back and forth. It's restless back and forth.

He's not doing that for exercise. You open the gate. He's gone. The tongue, one author said, is like a caged wild animal ever pacing uneasily up and down its den. At the time you think it's going to behave, it slips out and it runs for it. Our tongues are described as destructive, depraved, defiling, determinative, diabolical, disobedient, dangerous.

Let me give you one more. Surprisingly it starts with the letter D. The tongue is deadly. He gets to the end of it and he writes the tongue is full of deadly poison. Literally the tongue is death-bearing. Death-bearing.

Not very optimistic, is he? Within the tongue is a death-bearing poison. He's alluding here at this point to the venom of a poisonous serpent that brings about death. In fact, it's the only time in the Bible, the New Testament that the word poison shows up.

Imagine the potency of this kind of activity is reserved for the tongue. James knew that we would all immediately think of a snake. This is the danger. We're carrying around with us venom as deadly as a cobra.

We're carrying around in our mouths a toxin as lethal as cyanide. No wonder Solomon would write death and life are in the power of the tongue. Proverbs 18 21. So choose life. The battle is worth it.

The stakes are so high so don't give up and don't give in. So daily, sometimes hourly, we run to him with fresh confession, fresh surrender, for fresh control, which is exactly what he wants. It is for our good and our progress in this matter of divine speech therapy, which advances us in spiritual maturity. Martin Luther said that, and I close with this. He said all of life is repentance.

Mark that down. All of life is repentance. Repentance isn't just something you felt or did when you came to faith in Christ. It isn't just an act that you exercise after sinning or failing the Lord.

It is life. All of life is repentance, which means then that all of life is forgiveness. If Jesus Christ will continually cleanse us, then we can continually confess the gas line might reach down to hell.

But the blood line is going to take us to heaven. I hope that today your words will reflect God's truth and bring hope and healing to those who hear you speak. Stephen called this lesson, it only takes a spark. We have one more message to go in this series on the tongue and we'll bring you that next time. This is wisdom for the heart. Our ministry is committed to bringing you Bible teaching that's true to God's word and relevant to your life. If you'd like to know more about us and access the other resources we have available, please visit our website, That site is filled with teaching and resources that will help you follow God more faithfully. Again, it's Join us next time for more wisdom for the heart.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-01 03:23:28 / 2023-01-01 03:32:47 / 9

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