Jackie Hill Perry taught a message at TGC’s 2021 Women’s Conference titled “Steadfast Speech: A Mighty Little Tongue.” James chapter 3 formed the backdrop for her admonition to carefully control the tongue by the power of the Spirit. Perry taught that the tongue is accountable, the tongue is powerful, and the tongue is inconsistent.
Creating a better world through our words, she suggested, comes by addressing those realities in three ways. She called her listeners to be honest, to behold, and to be filled.
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Jackie Hill Perry: How are you, Saints? So I just wanted to give you a preface I come from a country called black church. All right. And in that country, what happens is when someone is preaching or teaching the word, they are not the only ones talking a man. And so that means that if I say something that you know, moves your spirit a little bit, or you think is interesting, you have the privilege and the permission to talk back to me, okay? So when I say that God is good, you say, and when I say all the time you say, that’s what we’re gonna do tonight.
One of my favorite poets, once said, that words, make worlds. And what she meant by that is, is that the words have the power to create things, people, experiences, art, etc. her intention wasn’t to appeal to the Christian worldview as the source of her claim, but I will because when I opened up my Bible, on the first page, I am told that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and that he didn’t use his hands as if he had, he didn’t borrow some materials from anyone but himself to make it he did acts in the body for help, all God had to do was speak. God said, Let there be light. And there was light words, make worlds words, even made you. What I don’t mean by that is that your mom and daddy went into a room, sat on a bed and said, Let there be baby and bam, your mama was pregnant. The process was a little more complicated than that.
But what I do mean is that how and who you are, is a consequence of words. Some of you are walking confidently in your ministry, because somebody identified your giftedness spoken to your life and stirred them up and you some of you have insecurities and fears and prejudices that exists because of what was spoken about in your home, either to you about you or around you. Some of you have become a better friend, mother, wife, sister, and Christian simply because somebody told you the truth, all of you, I hope are here today on the God’s good pleasure because you heard the words of the gospel and believed them words made you who you are, and how you are. This tells me that words are a powerful tool.
I bet if I asked you, When was the first time someone made you feel less than your feelings would connect to a memory that involved words. It doesn’t even matter how old you are. Some of our current personal issues are because of an old trauma. When someone told us something that broke our sense of self or our identity, where now we are spending all of this time and prayer or energy with denial or money on therapy to undo the power of a mere sentence truly, the proverb is right. Death and life are in the power of the tongue this afternoon. Our morning, we are going to hear from James on the subject of the tongue As you already know, James is not one to mince his words, and I am eternally grateful that he didn’t. Lord’s brother has given us a hard but helpful perspective on how to use our words that are pray will help us to use our words, to make a better world. Let’s pray.
Father, we need you. I pray that you would speak and I pray that what you say we would believe in Jesus’s name. Amen. Turn or click in your Bibles to James chapter three.
Say a man when you got it. Oh, y’all quick. Not many of you should become teachers my brother’s for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness, who we all stumble in many ways and if anyone does not stumble in what he says he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body if we put bits into the mouths of horses. So that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also though they are so large and are driven by strong winds they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also, the tongue is a small member yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire. And the tongue is a fire a world of unrighteousness the tongue is set among our members staining the whole body setting on fire the entire course of life and set on fire by hell.
For every kind of beast and bird of reptile and sea creature can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. with it. We bless our Lord and father and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing my brothers these things ought not to be so does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and saltwater, kind of fig tree my brothers bear olives or grape vine produce figs, neither can assault palm yield fresh water.
At three simple points today, they are one, the tongue is accountable to the tongue is powerful. Three, the tongue is inconsistent.
Number one, the tongue is accountable. James chapter three begins differently than we might like. Christian culture today is so saturated with you can do in messaging that reading anything’s that says you shouldn’t do it might feel unfamiliar. The beginning of James chapter three, verse one says not many of you should become teachers. Wow. How discouraging.
Wow, would he say something like that? Why would he tell people that they shouldn’t go after the position of teacher? Isn’t it a good and godly thing worth pursuing? Well, the end of the verse answers that question not many of you should become teachers my brother’s for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strict mints.
In Ephesians. Four, Paul has the teacher listed as the individual within the church that has been gifted and graced with the ability to understand, explain and apply the Scriptures for the purpose of equipping the saints for the work of ministry. What is probable is that James is addressing those within the church that are zealous for the position of teacher, not because they want to equip the saints through teaching, but because they want the honor that’s associated with being a teacher. The Christian teacher, in many ways replaced Jewish rabbis who were exalted, a stained and honored in ways that can be utterly detrimental to the human heart if it goes on guard. But then you had folks on the outside looking in who who saw the honor and they coveted it. So they became ambitious for what one commentator calls a dangerous occupation.
Why is it dangerous? You might ask? Well, remember the end of verse one James says that teachers will be judged with greater strictness. In other words, don’t pursue the position. If you’re unwilling to embrace the responsibility. I don’t know if I can do an adequate job of conveying the weight of James warning, but I trust that the Holy Spirit will do what he does. I suspect that it is easier now than it was then to posture yourself as a teacher. Because we have more options outside of the local church that are available to us. All somebody has to do is go on Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook or tik tok into their Gmail or Yahoo, if you throw back like that, fill out their bio, pull out their phone and start recording videos is a kind of self ordination for them to be considered a Bible teacher. And if that is the case, it is easier now to become a teacher than it was then. Then there are also more people that will stand before God and hear a judgment that they were never prepared for.
It is it social media preachers, it’s Bible study leaders, seminary professors, Sunday school teacher each space is is constructed in such a way where somebody will be considered a teacher and James wants you to know that that ain’t what everybody should do.
He didn’t say Ain’t I did. James is warning however, It isn’t to make you fearful of being a teacher. It’s to make you read right? In the context of this passage, you should ask yourself, how does this warning apply to James words about the tongue? The answer is evident when you consider that the primary instrument that a teacher use it is their words. The teacher is a communicator whose words usually hold weight, and influence in their particular context. If, if your words change individual worlds, then what you say is more important than you could ever imagine.
So for the current and aspiring teachers in the room. May the aspired words of Jain stir up greater reverence for you for what you’re doing or what you desire to do. Do not allow the temptation for power, or prestige, to be your motivation. You don’t need to teach so that you can be loved, seen and known you are all ready, loved, seen and known by God. Confess those temptations to him and let him purify your heart so that when you are placed in the position to teach your small group or your seminary students or at a TGC conference, let him purify your motives, so that when you open up your mouth, the only glory that you care about is God. Point number two, the tongue is powerful.
In verses three through eight, James uses a set of metaphors to paint the picture of the tongues controlling influence starting at verse three, it says, if we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we got their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also though they are so large and and driven are driven by strong winds they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire. James points out a horses bit. A ship’s rather a forest fire all three are small things that control large objects. quick story, a month or so ago, me and my husband did some horseback riding on our anniversary trip. The last time I rode a horse up to that point was when I was five so I didn’t remember or recall how frightening it is to sit on top of a whole horse it’s a big thing. I don’t know if you’ve seen them before. It’s a huge animal.
They got legs like they got peloton in their room I don’t understand it. So when I got on top of the thing I started to get anxiety I started to freak out because I could feel the horses power that if that if this thing wanted to throw me off he could that if he wanted to run like we had gone with the wind or something he could that if we just so happened to fall and I went under his body that Jackie’s body wouldn’t be okay so I looked at my husband I told him how I felt because he’s the black Dr. Doolittle if y’all know doc Doolittle, first one, one black, he was white. So I said, I need you to give me some facts. Because you know a lot about animals, I need you to tell me something that’s gonna help me calm down. So what he said was Jackie, the bit that sits inside of a horse’s mouth is next to some very sensitive areas, when you pull the rope, but tell him to stop or go, it would be uncomfortable for the horse if he doesn’t do what the rope is commanding him to do. So even though you’re small, you actually have more control over him than you think. That experience helped me understand what James meant when he compared the tongue in our mouths to the bit and the horses. It is the irony that something so small, can have more control over us than we might think. So in one sense, the tongue has a controlling influence on the behavior of the whole body.
But if that is the case, then it also means that in another sense, having control of the tongue means that you have control of the whole body. This tension is made plain. If you look back up at verse two, when James says, For we all stumble in many ways, and if anyone does not stumble in what he says he is a perfect man able also to bridle his whole body. If the tongue influences the whole body, then a real element of growing and self control and every area is by establishing self control in one sama say it to make it plain like my mama would.
If you can’t control your mouth, then you most likely can’t control nothing else. Who would think that our overall growth in holiness and restraint, and prudence can be linked to our ability to restrain our speech, but it is there, there is an interconnectedness between our words, and how we use them and the body itself. So I would argue that if it is harder to tame the tongue than it is to tame everything else, that once the mouth is mastered, all of the other places where we lack self control may be easier to take. So if we need to have grow and self control in our finances, our thoughts, our wine consumption, our screen time I’m getting to my own business, whatever it is, that we know that we need to rein in getting a hold of our words can actually help us with having self control over the whole body. But that is easier said than done.
And James knows this. Look at verse seven. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed, and has been tamed by mankind. But no human being contained the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. If you listen closely, it sounds as if James is taking us back to Genesis one, when God created every kind of beast, and bird, and reptile and sea creature, and if you remember, when God made the man and the woman in his image, he also gave them dominion over these creatures and a function of this dominion is taming the wild things with a leash, or a bit, OR gate, or Command animals who are much bigger, or stronger, or faster or higher in terms of flight have been tame by mankind.
But this little tongue, no human being contained that James calls it a restless evil, which means the tongue is unsettled, and unstable. It’s like a two year old before bed, it just can’t sit his tail down somewhere they admit, it makes you pick up your phones and tweet before we think it makes us comment before we gather context. It makes us speak harshly to our children and our husbands. It makes us dishonor our friends behind their backs, and even in front of their faces, even when we want to put it in its place. We just can’t tame this thing in our mouths that Jane says is full of poison and set on fire by hail. To say that the tongue is set on fire by hail is to point out that there are times when our mouths literally participate with Satan and do his bidding. We we really don’t have to know what the devil sounds like to recognize his voice.
We just have to listen to how we talk to him about our neighbors. Peter thought he was being a good disciple, but telling Jesus that he shouldn’t die. And Jesus attributed Paul’s were Peters words to the devil by saying, Get behind Me, Satan, which is to say that if what I am saying, goes against what honors God then what I am saying has a dark source, it’s deep. Which brings me to my final point. The tongue is inconsistent. James says in verse nine. With it, we bless our Lord and father. And with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing my brothers these things ought not to be so. If there is any verse in this entire passage that challenges me most. It’s this one. With the tongue. We bless our Lord and father, and with the tongue. We curse people who are made in the likeness of God. There is a huge disconnect between our world worship of God, and the way we speak about the people God has made. I think it’s that we have failed to see, or have forgotten the fact that the way we talk about people says a lot about what we actually believe about God. Perhaps we have forgotten that our speech towards him and each other are both forms of worship.
That it is an inconsistent thing to sing. I love you, Lord, and to say I hate you, neighbor. And of course, most of the time, we don’t see our undue criticism, slander, gossip, and reviling as another of another as hatred, but hate is simply to love someone comparatively less than another. JOHN said in his letter, if anyone says, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar. For he who does not love his brother, who he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. So our issue then, is not only controlling the tongue, but dealing with the content of our hearts. Scripture says that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks our words, reveal what are heart. Hi. James speaks to this. In verses 10 through 12, he says, from the same mouth come blessing and cursing my brothers these things ought not to be so does the spring book pour forth from the same opening with both fresh and saltwater kind of fig tree my brothers bear olives or great fine produce figs, neither can the salt, salt pond yield fresh water, basically, what you say, bears the fruit of who you really are.
By calling to our attention, the inconsistency of a spring that has fresh and saltwater, and a fig tree that grows olives and a grapevine that produces figs, James wants us to see that the plants fruit is supposed to correspond with the plant’s nature. So it isn’t enough to try to tame the tongue by simply refusing to talk, we have to deal with the source of our words, so that our words and our worship match how easy it is to reckon that our Bible knowledge or denomination, or our church affiliation as sufficient proof of our love for God. But what Joseph James shows us is that if you want to know how your heart really is, pay attention to the words your heart produces.
So in closing, I want to suggest to you three simple things that I think will help us to use our words to make better worlds they are, to be honest, to behold, and to be feel, to be honest to say that we need to confess and repent, for the ways that we have used our words, to tear down instead of build the church, meaning the people in this room, sitting in these seats, we have had a whole lot to say, over the last year. And where there has been beautiful, God honoring speech, there has been even more destructive language. We need to repent, for whatever it is that we have said online, to our friends, our family, our co workers that has been death instead of life. But no this in the same way that words can hurt.
Words can also heal. Listen to Proverbs 12:18 it says, There is one whose rash words are like sward thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing your words have the power of life to use them. The second action I suggest for us all to do is to behold to behold, Jesus. A lot has been said about Jesus in the scriptures about how he used his words. As a young boy, Jesus was found by his parents in the temple as he said them
Among the teachers listening and asking them questions, and the tech says that all who heard him were astounded at his and understanding and his answers which shows us that Jesus used wise words, when driven into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted. One of the temptations in particular was for Jesus to use his words to command the stones to become bread, the issue being that Jesus was being tempted to utilize His divine power to serve himself, but Jesus responded to each of Satan’s temptations with the scriptures Jesus used God’s words.
When it when a man possessed by a demon came out of a synagogue, Jesus spoke directly to the demon commanded it to come out to which the spirit obey the onlooker said among themselves what is this word for with authority and power, he commands the unclean spirits and they come out Jesus used liberating words one day, well, while Jesus was asleep inside of a boat, the wind and the waves started to break against it, filling the boat with water while the disciples use their words to accuse Jesus of lacking a compassionate under awareness of their knees. Jesus spoke directly to the sea, saying Peace be still calming the winds and calming the waves, which shows us that Jesus used authoritative words when a rich young ruler came to Jesus axing how he could inherit eternal life. The Bible says that when Jesus looked at the young man, he loved him and said to him, You lack one thing, go and sail all that you have and give it to the poor and come follow me.
The rich young ruler walked away sad because he loved his money more than he loved his maker. And Jesus knew this, but he still spoke hard words that night. When Jesus was in the garden, kneeling on the ground, with sweat, dripping from his face, the tangible awareness that soon and very soon he would carry a cross on it, he would absorb God’s wrath, this righteous wrath didn’t even belong to the sun because it was God’s response to our sins not only the sins of the body, but Sins of the tongue, every harsh and hateful and racist and oppressive and unkind, lustful, manipulative, covetous, jealous, arrogant, self righteous and people pleasing word we have a will ever speak necessitated the holy judgment of God, this holy rage was poured into a cup, and the son knew that he came from heaven to earth, for this moment, he knew that that cup was going to be poured on him. And in that moment, he used his words to speak something to the Father.
He said, Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done. Jesus spoke obedient words when on the cross, after our sins and their judgment were placed on the innocent Son of God before giving up the goals, Jesus spoke the words that saved each of your lives. He said, It is finished, Jesus used redeeming words children of the living God. Behold, Jesus. In Him, we see what it looks like to use our words in a way that shows God as glorious, and honors the glory and the image bearers he has made. My third and last suggestion is to be filled.
Before Jesus ascended to the Father, He promised that the father was send a helper who goes by the name of the Holy Spirit. After the resurrection disciples of Jesus were all gathered together in one place, when the sound of a violent wind came from heaven and what looked like tongue. A fire came and rested on each of them, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit. And do you know what happened after they were feel? They began to speak. From their mouths came another tongue, the Holy Spirit, and powered them to have the languages of other nations so that they could speak the wonders of God, we may or may not need another tongue, seeing that we have enough difficulty with taming the one we have in the language we know.
But we desperately need the Spirit’s power, so that when we open up our mouths, what comes out of it is glory. Remember in verse eight When James told us that no human being contain the tongue, what he said was true. And every one of us can acknowledge that this small member has more power over us than we’d like it to. But I’d like to encourage you that even though our tongue cannot be tamed by human nature, it can be tamed by the Holy goats. So we feel my friends, axe him to do what he does, which is to help you ask him to give you what he has, which is power, so that when you speak, the fruit of it is joyful, and peaceful, and patient and gentle and kind, and good and self controlled and loving, be feel.
Words, make world and each and every one of us we need the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, to make us new, so that our words sound like heaven. Let’s pray. God, we’ve said a lot this year. So I pray that you help us that you will help us to see Jesus to be encouraged by the way he used words, to know that he has paid the penalty for the bad words that we’ve used and he has also sent the spirit to empower us to use good words.
We pray for our hearts, that you wouldn’t make them clean. You have given us a heart of flesh that can feel that is alive, that is tender. So soften our hearts in the place where it’s hard. Give us the grace to be loving, honorable and righteous people so that when we speak, people hear you. We pray all these things in your name. Amen.