If you’ve missed any of the messages in this series, I invite you to go to our church website—www.pleasantgrove.cc—and scroll down toward the bottom of the page where you will see links to all our past sermons. You can listen to them on our podcast or read them on our blog.
Throughout this series, I’ve been telling you that our words matter. We were made in the image of the God who created the entire universe with words. God said, “Let there be light.” And there was light. “Let there be land and water and plants and animals.” And there was land and water and plants and animals.” And God made us in His image—to be like Him. That means our words are powerful too.
But a terrible thing happened. Humanity turned their backs on God. We walked away from the One who is the source of life and love and goodness. We chose our own path—and it has become a path of darkness and death and selfishness and hate. And so everything in our life has become rotten and corrupt. Even the good things in our life—like love and joy and pleasure—have soured until they taste like a grape that looks and smells good in your hand but is rotten and sour when your put it in your mouth to chew.
And so, the words we speak—which should bring blessings and life—often brings curses and death instead.
6 And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.
7 People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, 8 but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. 9 Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. 10 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! 11 Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? 12 Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.
The Powerful But Uncontrollably Tongue
As a kid, I loved to read my older brothers collection of X-Men comic books. One of the X-Men was a character named Cyclops. Cyclops shoots a concussive force that looks like lasers from his eyes. The force is about two Gigawatts of power (or the energy of a large nuclear powerplant). The drawback is, Cyclops can’t control his optic blast. He must wear special glasses to contain his power vision. (In the picture, you can see Cyclops touching his visor to release his optic blast against a villain.)
I saw an X-Men movie once where all the heroes were fighting the villains and one of the bad guys knocked Cyclops' visor off. His optic blast began spraying out, indiscriminately destroying everything in its path. Cyclops had to close his eyes to turn it off, but then of course he couldn't see, which was a terrible handicap in the fight.
What do comic book heroes have to do with Christianity? Well, Cyclops’ uncontrollable optic blast is an image of the uncontrollable human tongue. Our words are incredibly powerful, but also so hard to control. Sometimes I feel like the only way I can keep my tongue from destroying is to keep my mouth shut!
The Apostle James says people can tame all kinds of animals, but who can tame the tongue? And it’s true. People are amazing. We’ve figured out ways to tame and train horses, lions, tigers, and elephants. You can even go to Sea World and watch trainers directing Killer Whales. (Now think about that. They’re not just whales; they’re killer whales! And people have them jumping through hoops and riding on their backs through the water!)
But when it comes to the human tongue, people can’t keep their own words under control.
I was never one to use a lot of foul language while I was growing up. My mother taught me better. However, when I was in college, I worked the graveyard shift stocking shelves at a grocery store for a time. There were few customers in the store during those hours and guys on the stock crew had a habit of using terrible language. Though I wasn't given to cussin', I found their language was rubbing off on me. Soon, I was cussin' too. Even after I left the store, I had developed a habit that took effort to curtail that bad habit.
Cussin' is quite common in America in 2021. Think for a minute what we are doing. In the south, we call it cussin’ when people use foul language. Cussin’ is slang for cursing. What is a curse? According to the dictionary, a curse is “a solemn utterance intended to invoke a supernatural power to inflict harm or punishment on someone or something.” Cursing is what witches do, using black magic to invoke evil power to hurt people.
People often think about all the evil and darkness in our world and wonder, "Why is there so much suffering and death? Why do little kids get cancer and die before they've even have a chance to live? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why is our world so screwed up?" When I stop and listen to the careless curses flying freely people’s mouths all day long, I can’t help but think it must have a very negative effect on our world.
Words are powerful. God created the world with words and we are created in God’s image—patterned after Him. Our words matter too. They can create or they can destroy. So many times we are uttering curses, without even paying attention to the words we say. I know these negative words have a tangible effect on people’s attitudes. Offensive words and profanities are strong language designed to pack a verbal punch. They get people’s attention and put them on edge. I also wonder how all these curses invite dark spiritual forces into our world and into our lives—even if unintentionally.
We know air pollution and water pollution can have ill effects on our spiritual health. What about spiritual pollution? We can't study it with science like we can study other physical forms of pollution, but could polluting the spiritual realm with so many curses have ill effects our our spiritual health? I can't help think it must.
Meanwhile, prayer and blessings are on the decline. How many people still pray every day? How many say a blessing before their meal? And we are so quick to criticize and slow to offer encouragment. Our words tear down and curse when they ought build up and bless.
Christians have a saying, “Jesus saves.” He saves us from sin and death. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” But Jesus saves us for more than just heaven. Jesus saves us for this life too. Jesus can change the way you act and even how you speak. He can make you a blessing instead of a curse.
The Xman, Cyclops, wears a visor to control and contain his incredibly powerful optic blast. Christians welcome Jesus in their heart to tame their uncontrollable behavior and their tongue.
Jesus said in Mark 7:20-22, “20 And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. 21 For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness.”
The human heart is full of disgusting wickedness and from the human heart flows all kinds of filthy behavior and language. When Jesus comes to live in our heart, he begins cleaning us up from the inside out. If we will allow him, Jesus will throw out all the evil desires and thoughts. He will disinfect all the filth that coats the walls of our heart. It’s a process that takes time—maybe even a whole lifetime. Eventually, what flows out from our hearts becomes more and more godly—like Jesus. Since he is living in us, our actions become more Christlike.
But we have to cooperate. Jesus won’t force us to change. We have to be willing. We have to take our spiritual medicine and do the spiritual exercise that nurtures the change Jesus brings.
Tips to Quite Cussin’
Many of our spiritual habits that need to change are centered around our language. We cannot control our tongues, but Jesus can.
1. Ask Jesus to help you. We can't fix our own problem, but Jesus can and he wants to . If you ask Him, Jesus will help you control your tonge.
2. Ask a friend to hold you accountable. There few things more effective in helping change yhour behavior than having a good friend hold you to your commitments. If you are tryien to clean up your language, tell a friend and ask them to hold you accountable. Of course, sometimes our friends also use bad language. Be honest with your friends and tel them you are trying to change the way you speak. Ask them to honor your choice by refraining from bad language as well. In doing so , you may bring new life to them as well. If they refuse to honor your decision, it may be time to change your friends. Do you really need friends who don't respect your choices or wish to help you grow as a person? Are they really good friends?
3. Find some replacement words. I know this sounds silly, but say "shoot", "dagnabit", of "frick" instead of those curse words you shouldn't say. Yes, you’ll sound ridiculous. But better to sound ridiculous than to spray out curses. And the fact you sound ridiculous may help you with the next tip, because our ultimate goal is to change the whole way we think and speak.
4. Think differently. The goal is for curses to not even come to mind. There will always be times when you pinch a finger in a door or stub your toe. But those don't have to be times when you spew curses. Wouldn't it be great if a curse didn't even come to mind in those moments. Ask Jesus to help you change the whole way you think so you're more and more like Him.
The ungodly bring curses and death. But 1 Peter 2:9 reminds us, “But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.”
Christians have the incredible power to bring goodness and light. We are blessed to be a blessing. All the families of the earth will be blessed through us. And God’s Kingdom will come upon the earth. Therefore, let us surrender control of our hearts and our tongues to the Lord Jesus Christ that He may use them to speak life into our world.
Prayer of Confession and Pardon (adapted from the Prayer of Confession UMH 890)
I invite you to use this prayer (or your own) to confess your sins to the Lord and make a commitment to let Him lead you to be more and more like Christ.
Most merciful God, I confess that I have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed, by what I have done, and by what I have left undone. I have not loved You with my whole heart; I have not loved my neighbors as myself. I am truly sorry and I humbly repent. For the sake of Your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on me and forgive me; that I may delight in Your will, and walk in Your ways, to the glory of Your name. Amen
And now, I would like to offer God's pardon with my own prayer for you.
Almighty God have mercy on you, forgive all your sins through our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen you in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep you in eternal life. Amen.