Sticks and Stones

Death and Life Are in the Power of the Tongue: Speak Life!

Spiritual Disciplines: The Tongue
When we think of "spiritual disciplines," what often comes to mind are spiritual activities that are directly tied to God; such as bible study, prayer, fasting, giving, meditation, or personal worship. This year I am being more intentional in how I lead our staff by having a monthly teaching moment in staff meetings. I started last month with fasting and as I made a list of spiritual disciplines to cover, God seemed to expand my list to include a spiritual discipline that may be overlooked; the taming of the tongue.

Jesus spoke of our hearts as the seat of our affections and that it is to be a place that is totally devoted to God! Hear Jesus' words when He was asked to identify the "greatest" commandment.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Mark 12:30 (NIV)
I consider the tongue to be a spiritual discipline because Jesus said that everything we say actually reveals the good and the evil that is "stored up" in our hearts!

43 “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers. 45 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Luke 6:43–45 (NIV)
James wrote some pretty strong words about the importance of the tongue to the point where how we speak can be used as a fair evaluation of our faith!

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. James 1:26 (NIV)

James also wrote this about the importance of controlling the tongue as a spiritual discipline:

3:1Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. 3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. James 3:1–4 (NIV)
7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 
James 3:7–8 (NIV)
9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. James 3:9–12 (NIV)
How we speak says a lot about the presence of God's Spirit in our lives! That sounds like some serious stuff to me!

5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.      James 3:5–6 (NIV)
Here Peter describes how the words we speak are actually a "calling" from God and influences God's blessings in our lives!

8 Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. 
9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. 11 They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”  
1 Peter 3:8–12 (NIV)
The Apostle Paul went even further by emphasizing that it isn't just WHAT we say but HOW we say it, if we want to mature as a church!

. . . speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. Ephesians 4:15 (NIV)

What Shall We Do?

If you have read through all of these scriptures with me, I know you REALLY want to grow in the spiritual discipline of the tongue! What a blessing you will be! Several years ago, God opened my understanding to the importance of words in Ephesians 4:29 (one of my "life verses!")

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come  out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:29–32 (NIV)

I encourage you to spend some time with those verses in "observing" what Paul said about the use of our tongues and highlight or underline those that the Holy Spirit causes to stand out to you.  I will share mine next week!

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