The Biggest Troublemaker

This is a continuation of my Bible study class on Sunday mornings. We made it to chapter three. The littlest organ is the biggest troublemaker. Why is it that the mouth gets us into more trouble than anything else? Here is a brief outline of what we find in this section:

  1. The Importance of the Tongue (James 3:1-2) anyone who can control his tongue is perfect, totally mature, able to keep the whole body in check.
  2. The Illustrations of the Tongue (James 3:3-5)
    1. How it can control (James 3:3-4)
      1. A bridle to the horse (James 3:3)
      2. A rudder to the ship (James 3:4)
    2. How it can consume (James 3:5) a spark that can destroy a great forest.
  3. The Iniquity of the Tongue (James 3:6) it is set on fire by hell itself, destroying the owner.
  4. The incorrigibility of the Tongue (James 3:7-8)
    1. People can train wild animals (James 3:7)
    2. People cannot train the tongue (James 3:8)
  5. The Inconsistency of the Tongue (James 3:9-12)
    1. The contradiction (James 3:9-10) it tries to do things simultaneously.
      1. Praise God (James 3:9, 10)
      2. Curse others (James 3:9, 10)
    2. The conclusion (James 3:11-12) it cannot do things simultaneously.
      1. Fresh and salt water (James 3:11, 12)
      2. Figs and olives (James 3:12)
      3. Grapevine and figs (James 3:12)
  6. The Instructions for the Tongue (James 3:13-18)
    1. The path it should follow (James 3:13, 17, 18) control requires wisdom.
    2. The path it should flee (James 3:14-16) don’t allow Satan’s influence.

Let’s get into the beginning of the chapter. James chapter three starts out with a couple of warnings:

  1. Against too many people becoming teachers (James 3:1-2)
  2. About the untamable tongue (James 3:3-12)

I wonder if these teachers engaged other people in verbal abuse, or perhaps these were self-proclaimed teachers who got involved in all sorts of heated religious discussions. Let’s dig into what James writes:

The Warning About Not Becoming Teachers (James 3:1-2)

James does not say, “Let not many of you be teachers” but rather, “Let not many of you become teachers.” I wonder if this future orientation is James’ point. This passage is not just a rebuke of those who try to be teachers before they are ready, but a warning that many should not even become teachers in the future. Wow. I think it is a mistake that everyone should become a teacher at some point in their service to Christ. So, here is the biblical proof.

Paul often illustrated that the body of Christ has many members, and not all members do not have the same
function (Romans 12:3-8, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31). Notice especially 1 Corinthians 12:29, where Paul with a rhetorical question implies that not all are to be teachers.

Peter also taught that God’s grace toward us is multifaceted and that we should exercise our respective abilities accordingly (1 Peter 4:10-11). In view of what Paul, Peter, and James wrote, we should be careful before we apply Hebrews 5:12-14 to mean that everyone should one day be teachers (the author of Hebrews may have been writing to a select audience, whom he knew ought to have been teachers).

So, Why Should Many Not Become Teachers?

Sometimes it is easier to follow the rules when we understand the reasons why the rules are there in the first place. Consider this:

  1. Teachers will be judged more strictly (James 3:1)
    1. There is a serious responsibility involved in teaching others.
    2. Teachers can lead people to truth, but teachers can also lead them to error.
    3. Just as with elders (Hebrews 13:17), those who teach will be held accountable if they mislead others.
  2. Because we all make many mistakes (James 3:2)
    1. Since everyone makes mistakes, the improper use of the tongue is a major issue.
    2. Teaching the truth and living in error is hypocrisy.
    3. Damage will be done when Christians don’t walk the talk.
    4. The relationship between words and deeds? Words can normally lead to actions. Remember that “loose lips sink ships.”

So James cautions against many people trying to become teachers. This should not discourage any from trying to find out if teaching is a gift that they might have if nurtured along, but one should proceed with humility and caution. The point for me is that with responsibility comes great accountability.

The Power of Speech

James lets us know that the person who does not control his mouth is not really religious (James 1:26). Earlier we are told to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger (James 1:19). The power of speech is one of the greatest gifts we have. We can praise God, preach the word, communicate with others, lead someone to Christ; but we can also ruin a reputation, break a heart, tell lies and hurt others with the same mouth.

The Power to Direct (James 3:2-4)

  1. The rudder and the bridle: both illustrations are used to demonstrate that the lesser object can control the greater.
    1. They both overcome contrary forces. (bit controls a horse and a rudder controls the ship).
    2. They both need to be under the control of a strong hand.
    3. They both affect the lives of others.
      1. Sunday School teacher, Edward Kimball, went into a Boston shoe store on April 21, 1855, and lead a young man to Christ, who became one of the greatest evangelists (Dwight L. Moody).
      2. Peter preached at Pentecost and 3000 came to faith in Christ.
  2. Our tongue controls the body:
    1. Biblical support.
      1. Solomon warned that death and life are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21).
      2. David prayed that God would set a watchman over his mouth (Psalm 141:3-4).
      3. Jesus tells us that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34).
    2. Practical support.
      1. If you speak a lie, it won’t be long before you find yourself living a lie.
      2. If you speak suggestively in an immoral manner, it won’t be long before you begin acting immorally.
  3. The power of the tongue to direct is easily applied to the dangers of teaching. The teacher’s words can easily set the mood of the class or congregation, in an uplifting way, or just as easily direct the class in a discouraging way.
  4. This power to direct using the tongue should humble those who teach, and caution the spiritually immature.

The Power to Destroy (James 3:5-8)

  1. A small fire can easily cause great destruction.
    1. Rremember the Great Chicago Fire? It started in the barn at the O’Leary farm, October 8, 1871, killing hundreds of people and destroying four square miles.
    2. How many times do we read about a forest fire in California getting started by a discarded cigarette?
  2. The tongue causes destruction, too. A loose tongue can ruin one’s reputation, and can destroy fellowships, families, friendships.
  3. In describing an uncontrolled tongue, James uses very vivid terms to make his point (James 3:6):
    1. The tongue is a fire.
    2. The tongue is a world of iniquity.
    3. The tongue corrupts the whole body.
    4. The tongue sets your whole life on fire.
    5. The tongue is set on fire by hell.
  4. Should not this power to destroy and defile both ourselves and others caution us in becoming teachers?
    1. As a fire burns, so our words can hurt and burn.
    2. As a fire burns, it spreads the more fuel it gets.
    3. As a fire spreads, it destroys.
    4. When you control fire, you get power rather than destruction.
    5. Despite being able to tame wild animals, man is unable to tame the tongue (James 3:7). It is full of poison, like finding venomous snakes in your path.
      1. With God’s help, we can tame it (as David prayed in Psalm 141:3).
      2. With God’s help, we must tame it (Ephesians 4:29; Colossians 4:6).

The Power to Delight (James 3:9-12)

  1. Blessing God and cursing from the same mouth (James 3:9, 10).
    1. Our words are deep waters (Proverbs 18:4).
    2. The mouth of a righteous man is life (Proverbs 10:11).
    3. Death and life are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21).
    4. Bless and curse: something we are likely to do, especially on Sundays.
      1. We spend time in worship, blessing God.
      2. But in driving home, we might curse men (other drivers who pull out in front of us).
      3. Racists and bigots are often guilty of “blessing God and cursing men.”
  2. The illustrations of a spring, a fig tree and a grapevine, James shows our inconsistency.
    1. Water.
      1. What comes forth is a true indication of what is inside, just as Jesus taught in Mark 7:20-23.
      2. Water gives life: but not when the flood waters rise
      3. Water cleanses: like the basin in the temple, the Bible is like spiritual water (John 15:3, Ephesians 5:26-27).
    2. Tree and vine.
      1. Trees are important to our economy, holding down soil and providing wood and shade.
      2. The most important part of a tree is the root system: they must go down deep for the tree to be healthy (Psalm 1:1-3).
      3. Nature always produces after it’s own kind: we expect a spring to provide good water and we expect a fig tree to produce fruit.
  3. The problem is not really the tongue, but the heart (Matthew 15:18). Warren Weirsbe suggests 12 words that, when from your heart, can transform your life:
    1. Please, and thank you: these allow you to treat others as people ansd not things.
    2. I’m sorry: for breaking down walls and building bridges.
    3. I love you: not the romantic version but the “I love you anyway” type, that even loves our enemies.
    4. I’m praying for you: when you talk to God about people, then you will be able to talk to people about God.

Application:

These examples of the misuse of the tongue should humble and caution all those who would become teachers, but they should also serve as a warning for us all, whether we teach or not, that we need to seek God’s help in controlling the tongue! May David’s prayer be our own:

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)

Marks of Maturity in James

We are in the book of James, still chapter one, and we already looked at the first half of the first chapter. I thought I would give a brief outline and overview of where we are going.

James addresses what a mature Christian looks like:

  1. He is Patient in Testing (James 1)
    1. Trials on the Outside (James 1:1-12)
    2. Testing on the Inside (James 1:13-27)
      1. How to handle temptation (James 1:13-18)
      2. How to handle self-deception (James 1:19-27)
  2. He Practices the Truth (James 2)
    1. Faith and Love (James 2:1-13)
    2. Faith and Works (James 2:14-26)
  3. His has Power over his Tongue (James 3)
    1. Exhortation (James 3:1-2)
    2. Illustration (James 3:3-12)
    3. Application (James 3:13-18)
  4. He is a Peacemaker, not a Troublemaker (James 4)
    1. Three wars (James 4:1-3)
    2. Three enemies (James 4:4-7)
    3. Three admonitions (James 4:8-17)
  5. He is Prayerful in his Troubles (James 5)
    1. Economic troubles ((James 5:1-9)
    2. Physical troubles (James 5:10-16)
    3. National troubles (James 5:17-18)
    4. Church troubles (James 5:19-20)

So far we looked into turning trial into triumphs (James 1:2-12)

When “life gives you lemons” (the saying goes), “make lemonade,” but it is easier said than done. If we are going to turn trial into triumphs, James tells us we must obey four imperatives:

  1. Count (a joyful attitude – James 1:2) outlook determines outcome, and attitude determines action.
    1. Expect trials: James says when, not if (John 16:33, 1 Peter 4:12).
    2. Evaluate troubles: Put what is happening into perspective; joyful people live for the things that matter most (Hebrews 12:2).
    3. Embrace truth: our values determine our evaluations.
      1. If we value comfort over character, trials will bother us.
      2. If we live for the present, trials will make us bitter, not better.
  2. Know (an understanding mind – James 1:3) what do Christians know that make it easier to face trials?
    1. Faith is always tested: like with Abraham. For us, a tested faith means we are of the faith, born again.
    2. Testing works for us and not against us: a different word could be approval (1 Peter 1:7, Romans 8:28, 2 Corinthians 4:17).
    3. Trials rightly used helps us to mature: God wants to produce in us patience and endurance (Romans 5:3-4, Hebrews 6:12, 10:36, Romans 15:4).
  3. Let (a surrendered will – James 1:4, 9-12) God cannot build character without our cooperation; without our consent.
    1. Growth: don’t remain as little babies (1 John 2:12-14)
    2. Goals: there are three works involved in a complete Christian life.
      1. The work God does for us (the cross): salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9, John 3:16).
      2. The work God does in us: sanctification (Ephesians 2:10, Romans 8:29).
      3. The work of God through us: service. God must first work in us before he can work through us.
        1. God spent 25 years with Abraham before he had his promised son.
        2. God spent 13 years with Joseph in prison before he was exalted.
        3. Gos spent 40 years with Moses in the wilderness before he was ready to lead the people.
    3. Gravity: makes us all the same, we are all on a level playing field; we all fall at the same rate.
  4. Ask (a believing heart – James 1:5-8) the Bible has a lot to say about wisdom, here (James 1:5, 3:13-18) and Old Testament literature.
    1. What to ask for: wisdom. Why do we need wisdom more than asking for strength, deliverance or grace? So we will not waste the opportunities God has given us.
    2. How to ask for it: in faith. Be a single-minded person.
      1. Peter on the water (Matthew 14:22-33) faith and doubt.
      2. Paul to the Ephesian church (Ephesians 4:14)
    3. How to receive it:
      1. Growth in Christian character: the cross always comes before the crown.
      2. Growth in Christian love: it is the spiritual motivation behind all these imperatives. If we love God, we will have no problem with counting, knowing, letting or asking.
    4. Why we receive it: weaning. This adds one more word. Weaning is taken from Psalm 131:2. God can use trials to help us leave childish things.

It’s going to be a great few weeks. Wait a minute, did I say, “few” weeks?

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The Secrets of the Vine

The Secrets of the Vine: Bruce Wilkinson has an excellent study of disciples bearing fruit and what that really means.

  1. The Secrets of the Vine Introduction (below)
  2. Authentic Disciples Bear Fruit
  3. From No Fruit to Bearing Fruit
  4. From Bearing Fruit to More Fruit
  5. From Bearing More Fruit to Much Fruit

The Structure of Each Session:

  1. Passage: Study the text and learn of the meaning
  2. Pitfalls: Uncover the common misconceptions
  3. Principles: Become familiar with understanding the teachings
  4. Process: Learn how God works in your life
  5. Precepts: Understand the universal truths that apply to all believers

Why We Need Small Groups

King’s Grant is all about community, but how can we get to know each other if all we do is attend a corporate worship experience. Face it, there’s not much fellowship happening when all we do is look at the back of someone’s head! Being a part of a small group is perhaps the most beneficial things we can do for our spiritual health. Here is a list of six reasons why we need small groups:

It’s the classroom for learning how to get along in God’s family:

It’s a lab for practicing unselfish, sympathetic love. You learn to care about others and share the experiences of others: “If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts suffer with it. Or if one part of our body is honored, all the other parts share its honor” (1 Corinthians 12:26). Only in regular contact with ordinary, imperfect believers can we learn real fellowship and experience the connection God intends for us to have (Ephesians 4:16, Romans 12:4–5, Colossians 2:19, 1 Corinthians 12:25).

REAL fellowship is being as committed to each other as we are to Jesus Christ: “Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” (1 John 3:16). This is the kind of sacrificial love God expects you to show other believers—loving them in the same way Jesus loves you.

A small group helps me develop spiritual muscle:

You’ll never grow to maturity just by attending worship services and being a passive spectator. One of the main tools of spiritual growth is participation in a small group, where your spiritual muscles get a regular workout. “As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (Ephesians 4:16).

Over fifty times in the New Testament the phrase “one another” or “each other” is used. We‘re commanded to love each other, pray for each other, encourage each other, admonish each other, greet each other, serve each other, teach each other, accept each other, honor each other, bear each other’s burdens, forgive each other, submit to each other, be devoted to each other, and many other mutual tasks! These are your “family responsibilities” if you claim to be a part of God’s family.

Who are you doing these with? Isolation breeds self-deception. It’s easy to fool ourselves into thinking we’re mature if there is no one to challenge us. Real maturity shows up in relationships. We need more than the Bible in order to grow; we need other believers. When others share what God is teaching them, I learn and grow too!

A small group confirms my identity as a genuine believer:

I can’t claim to be following Christ if I’m not committed to any specific group of disciples. Jesus said, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:35). When we come together in love as a small group from different backgrounds, ethnicities, and social status, it’s a witness to the world (Galatians 3:28, John 17:21).

You’re not the Body of Christ on your own. You need others to express that. Together, not separated, we are his Body (1 Corinthians 12:27).

A small group is the best way to take my God-given mission into the world:

When Jesus walked the earth, even he had a small group! Today the church is Christ’s Body on earth. We’re not just to love each other; we’re to take that love together to the rest of the world. We are his hands, his feet, his eyes, and his heart. He works through us in the world “He creates each of us to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing” (Ephesians 2:10).

A small group will help keep me from spiritually backsliding:

None of us are immune to temptation. Given the right situation, you and I are capable of any sin. God knows this, so he has assigned us as individuals the responsibility of keeping each other on track. The Bible says, “Encourage one another daily … so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3:13).

“Mind your own business” is NOT a Christian idea when it comes to helping each other! We’re commanded to be involved in each other’s lives. If you know someone who is wavering spiritually right now, it’s your responsibility to go after them and bring them back into the fellowship. “If you know people who have wandered off from God’s truth, don’t write them off. Go after them. Get them back” (James 5:19).

Related to this is the benefit that being connected to a small group provides the spiritual protection of godly leaders. God gives shepherd leaders, the responsibility to guard, protect, defend, and care for the spiritual welfare of his flock (Acts 20:28–29; 1 Peter 5:1–4; Hebrews 13:7, 17). “Their work is to watch over your souls, and they know they are accountable to God” (Hebrews 13:17).

If you’re detached from the King’s Grant body of believers, we cannot be responsible for you. If you are unplugged from the life of the body and isolated from the fellowship of God’s family, Satan knows you’ll be defenseless and powerless against his tactics.

The Body of Christ needs me!

You have a background and experiences that other people can learn from and draw strength from! God has a unique role for you to play in his family. This is called your “ministry,” and God has gifted you for this assignment. “A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church” (1 Corinthians 12:7).

Your small group is the place God designed for you to discover, develop, and use your spiritual gifts and talents.

* Adapted from the original author, Rick Warren.