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The Power of the Tongue - James 3:1-12

Dear church family,

I have finished my sermon series on James, but I hope we all will continue to let it challenge us and drive us humbly to God and his grace.

We saw that James calls us to live in a way that is consistent with the gospel, a way the reflects and reveals the gospel in how we live among one another and before a watching world. One key way is in how we use our tongues. James gives perhaps the most piercing and humbling commentary on the power of the tongue in all of Scripture (3:1-12).

If we want to reflect the gospel in our lives, we must be willing to bring our tongues in subjection to God and his will. We must be willing to submit our tongues to God for his glory and the good of our call to make disciples.

The book of James contains at least 20 specific ways of how we are to use our tongues as an expression of the gospel taking root in and transforming our lives. I encourage you to slowly read over and pray over this list (maybe even focusing on a few each day) over the next week.

This list was put together as a list of resolutions by Dr. Sinclair Ferguson (bio below) and presented as part of a talk at a Desiring God conference a few years ago.

For God’s glory and kingdom,

Pastor Rich Good
Colossians 1:28-29

20 Resolutions on Speech that Glorifies God from the Book of James

By Dr. Sinclair Ferguson

(1) I resolve to ask God for wisdom to speak out of a single-minded devotion to Him – James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”

(2) I resolve to boast only in the exultation I receive in Jesus Christ and also in the humiliation I receive for Jesus Christ – James 1:9-10, “Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away.”

(3) I resolve to set a watch over my mouth – James 1:13, “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.”

(4) I resolve to be constantly quick to hear and slow to speak – James 1:19, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.”

(5) I resolve to learn the gospel way of speaking to both the rich and the poor – James 2:1-4, “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”

(6) I resolve to speak in the present consciousness of my final judgment – James 2:12, “So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty.”

(7) I resolve never to stand on anyone’s face with the words that demean, despise, or cause despair – James 2:16, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?

(8) I resolve never to claim as reality in my life what I do not truly experience – James 3:14, “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.”

(9) I resolve to resist quarrelsome words as evidences of a bad heart that needs to be mortified – James 4:1, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?”

(10) I resolve never to speak decided evil against another out of a heart of antagonism – James 4:11, “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.”

(11) I resolve never to boast in what I will accomplish – James 4:13, Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”

(12) I resolve to speak as one subject to the providences of God – James 4:15, “Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

(13) I resolve never to grumble because I know that the judge is listening at the door – James 5:9, “Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.”

(14) I resolve never to allow anything but total integrity in everything I say – James 5:12, But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.

(15) I resolve to speak to God in prayer whenever I suffer – James 5:13a, “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray.”

(16) I resolve to sing praises to God whenever I’m cheerful – James 5:14b, “Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.”

(17) I resolve to ask for the prayers of others when I’m in need – James 5:14, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.”

(18) I resolve to confess it whenever I’ve failed – James 5:15-16, “And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

(19) I resolve to pray with others for one another whenever I am together with them – James 5:15-16, “And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

(20) I resolve to speak words of restoration when I see another wander – James 5:19-20, “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”

About the Author: Sinclair Ferguson (born 1948) is a Scottish theologian who earned his Ph.D. from the University of Aberdeen. He is known in Reformed Christian circles for his theologically rich and practical teaching, writing, and editorial work. He is currently a professor at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas, and the Senior Minister of the First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina. He has written numerous books including: In Christ Alone; John Owen: The Man and His Theology; The Christian Life; Heart for God; Discovering God’s Will; Grow in Grace; The Holy Spirit; and The Big Book of Questions and Answers about Jesus.