Text: James 4:6
Summary: Humble yourself before King Jesus and ask for grace, specifically in the area of your speech.
Let me read one verse from James 4 and then we’ll pray.
6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Father, we humble ourselves before you, Lord. And specifically, we kneel before King Jesus. We want to learn from you today, for you are the humblest person who ever lived. You are someone who was full of grace and truth. We don’t want to be proud because you oppose the proud. We want to be humble. I pray that you would teach us how to be pleasing in your sight in terms of our thoughts, our actions, and most specifically today, our tongue. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus Name, Amen
I want to give an overview of James today and just highlight some verses and I encourage you to read James on your own. It’s been a blessing to me the last couple of weeks.
2 Count it all joy, my brothers,[b] when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
We go through various trials and the trial has a very specific aim. And the first thing it does is if you endure the trials, if you persevere under the trial, there is a steadfastness that is produced in us. But that is not the end. The steadfastness, when it has its full effect, allows us to become perfect and complete.
Did you know that God is not happy, He is not content until all of us have reached perfection, which assumes that all of us will go through various trials? And if we persevere, if we’re steadfast under that trial, that thing, when God has completed his work through the trial, the end result is perfection.
We know Job is a steadfast man. He was attacked by Satan. God allowed Satan to attack him, and he persevered the loss of his family and the loss of his own health, but was he perfect? Was Job perfect when he was attacked by his friends and they were attacking his integrity? And God agreed with Job that he is a man of integrity. He is a righteous man. But was job sinless in how he handled his trial? No, he isn’t.
And how did he sin specifically? Through his tongue by assuming that he was a judge and that he needed to vindicate himself by speaking out against his friends. And what do we see at the end of Job? Job comes into contact with The Judge.
Before the Judge, he silences his mouth and God asks, where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? So God puts Job in his place, that you are not the judge, Job. And what we see at the end is that God has mercy not only on Job, but He has mercy on his friends. That’s why it ends with the purpose of the Lord when you look at the steadfastness of Job, you should see how compassionate and gracious God is.
19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
Why does God say, be slow to speak? It is because we sin primarily through our lips. If we just paused before speaking, we would sin far less. And certainly, if we’re angry and we’re speaking, we’re definitely sinning.
And then there is a shocking verse, James 1:26.
26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.
That’s a shocking verse. Remember God is after perfection. And he says, If you cannot bridle your tongue, what does he think of your religion? And this is religion, not in a negative sense, but your faith and your life before God. What does he think about your life when you cannot bridle your tongue? It says it’s worthless.
So if this is a math test, this means it’s a zero. That means if you and I do not learn how to bridle our tongue in God’s sight, we may be great people, we may do tons of service, we may plant churches, go on mission trips, and give to the poor. But if we cannot bridal our tongue in God’s sight, our religion, our faith equals zero. That’s a shocking verse.
Then in James 2, it talks about the sin of partiality. A rich man walks into a church and a poor man walks into the church. And who gets all the attention? Obviously, the rich man. And pastors are guilty of this. They see somebody who is well dressed, who is a doctor, a businessman. And that person gets so much attention because that person could potentially be a big donor in the church. But the poor man, he’s got no money. I’m not going to pay attention to him. This is the sin of partiality.
Another set of shocking verses in James 2:8-12.
8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
A shocking set of verses. God’s point is, if there’s an adulterer in our midst, clearly that person is a lawbreaker and we would be praying for this person. We would be praying for God’s grace over that person. If someone is a murderer in our midst, of course, all of us will be alarmed. We would be praying for God to forgive this person. We would praying for repentance for this person, for God’s grace over this person.
But something slight, like favoring one person over another and being judgmental toward one and not to another. God says, you are guilty of breaking all of the law. You are no different from a murderer. You’re no different from the adulterer. We don’t take the sins of our lips that serious. It’s so slight, our judgment, our favoritism, our treatment of one versus another. How gracious we are with our words toward one, yet how harsh we are with our words to another. We don’t even think twice.
But God says, if you sin in this way and you judge, then you are speaking evil, and you’re acting as a judge toward a fellow brother or sister. God says you’ve broken all of the law. You’re no different from the murderer. The one who does not bridle his tongue, his religion is worthless. It counts for zero.
Then in James 3:1.
1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.
This verse makes me tremble with fear to be a teacher because I am responsible for my teaching. I don’t want to misrepresent the Lord. It’s a weighty verse. To be one who is using his mouth to speak the words of God.
2 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.
See, if we gain control over our tongue by God’s grace, did you know that person is a man who is in control of his whole body. That’s what the verses say, you are a perfect man. You’ve reached perfection. Remember James 1? You go through trials, it produces steadfastness. And then James 1:3-4.
3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
So God wants perfection. And where the war is, a litmus test of whether we reach perfection, it’s our tongue, because if you can control your tongue, that means you can control every other part of your body. You can control your thoughts. You can control your emotions and your actions. That is the proof that you’re moving toward and maybe even reached perfection in God’s eyes. Controlling the tongue is that important, because if you cannot control it, God says your religion is a zero.
10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.
The verses prior talks about the fire of hell that comes over a person’s tongue, and the whole course of that person’s life is on fire. There’s a different fire that comes from the Lord, if you remember in Acts 2, the tongues of fire came upon people who were gathered in the upper room at Pentecost. There’s a fire that comes into a believer’s life that purifies specifically our tongue. Before we go out and preach and do missions, there’s a purification of our tongue.
Even Isaiah, before he was a prophet, how did God prepare him for that assignment? God put a hot coal on his lips. There’s a tongue of fire. We have to ask for the purification of our tongue. If you do not get purified, by default, your tongue is already on fire. But it is the wrong fire. It is a hellfire, and it will stain your whole body.
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. 12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?
So when we speak out against a brother or sister, God says you are becoming the judge through your words. You are becoming a judge. And so I have to ask the Lord because there’s a discernment that we have to have. So how do we not judge in the wrong way while trying to discern a situation?
Jesus is our example. Because there is no humbler person than Jesus, there’s no more gracious person than Jesus. But Jesus did judge on occasion specifically to Pharisees. Why is he able to judge in that scenario? And here are some verses that the Lord gave to me.
30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.
So there are cases, there are times when Jesus did judge. But did he do it casually? Did he do it without thinking? Was he just quick to speak in those moments when the Pharisees were there? No, he waited to hear from his father. And when he heard the judgment from the Father against the Pharisees, then he uttered those words.
And the reason why we can’t do that is because we’re not Jesus. We can’t declare final judgment because Jesus was declaring final judgment upon these Pharisees. Otherwise Jesus would have been gracious to them. Otherwise he would have tried to woo them to repentance. But he already saw because he heard from the Father. He already knew these Pharisees would never repent. And so that’s why in the moment, even before they die, He could declare final judgment. He heard from the Father.
We can’t declare final judgment like Jesus, but we can discern. We can see the fruit of a person because you know a tree by its fruit. We can see the teaching of a person and say, okay, that’s a little questionable. When it comes to teachers, we have to discern their teaching and so we can warn people, you better be careful about that teacher. That friend who has your ear, you’ve got to be careful about that person who is influencing you. We can discern and we can give warnings, but we can never give final judgment. Only Jesus can do that.
But getting back to James. When we speak out in judgment so casually without even consulting the Lord, it says in James that you’re committing evil. You’re speaking evil and you are becoming the judge. And even Jesus did not assume to be judge while he walked this earth. Later on, God did appoint Jesus (Acts 10) to be the judge of the living and the dead.
But while Jesus was a man, He was not the judge. He listened. He heard from the Father and then Jesus spoke. And when we speak out in judgment against another brother or sister, we are acting like a judge when there’s only one Judge.
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”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
So why do we judge? It is because of our pride. We think we know better than other people, and that’s why we stand over them in judgment. We so casually and easily declare words over them, and it is evil in God’s sight. And we’ve become the judge, and The Judge is standing at the door.
9 Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!
And this Judge is Jesus. He will be standing at the door at the end of the age. And how fearful that will be if at that moment, when The Judge is at the door, we are judging one another.
6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Why do we sin through our lips so easily? It is because we don’t have grace. And why don’t we ask for grace? Because we’re proud. We don’t think we need grace. And if you’re proud and you don’t think you need grace, what is God’s stance towards you? It says he opposes you. He is far from you. But if you’re the kind of person who kneels before King Jesus and you ask for grace, guess what he gives you? More grace.
And Jesus is always the takeaway. Whenever you read Scripture, Jesus is always the takeaway. Why do we kneel before King Jesus? Because we humble ourselves before all kinds of people and situations. Why do we have to humble ourselves before King Jesus? Because Jesus is the most humblest person who ever lived. Why was he full of grace? Because he was the humblest person who ever lived.
Why was Jesus in such control of his tongue? He was perfect. Not just sinless. He was perfect, the way that God expects us to be perfect in our speech. Why was Jesus like that? Because He did not speak on his own. So when you look back on your day and you look specifically at your speech and you say, how come I sinned here and there? I was angry. I grumbled. I judged. And we commit all these sins and the whole day was ablaze with the wrong kind of fire.
The conclusion is simple. Either I didn’t ask for grace. Or if I asked for grace, then you can ask the Lord, how come, Lord, you didn’t give me grace? I asked for grace in the beginning of the day, but I didn’t get grace because I look at my speech. How come you didn’t give me grace because you promise that you’ll give grace to the humble? Was I proud?
But If you start your day and you don’t ask for grace and you look back and it’s filled with fire and sin and you didn’t bridle your tongue, that’s not a surprise. If you don’t ask for grace, chances are, you’ll sin so many times and not even realize that you’ve sinned.
Jesus is the perfect example. We have to learn from him. And that’s why we humble ourselves before King Jesus. Job was a righteous man. Yes, he was steadfast. But he sinned through his lips. God had to show Job compassion and grace. But Jesus, to the very end, He never sinned with his lips.
So if we’re going to say something that’s of a discernment/judgment nature, what do we have to do before we speak? We have to ask the Lord. This is what I want to say, Lord. Here’s the eraser. You can erase whatever is not pleasing in your sight. And I will only say what you permit me to say, when you permit me to say it.
If you are humble and you have your judgment, your warning, your discernment, whatever you want to call it, into a situation, you bring your words before the Lord. Before speaking, you ask him, is this permissible? You erase it. And maybe you’ll say it but not now. Maybe I’ll say it a year from now, when the time is right.
That is someone who is careful, someone who has learned to bridle his tongue, someone who has asked for grace for every word that comes out of his mouth. If you and I do that, we will be reaching perfection. And how do we get there? We will have to go through various trials. It will be painful to learn how to bridle our tongue. The smallest member of your body, but the part of your body that you have least control over.
We need grace for our speech. We need grace not to be angry and not to be irritated. We need grace not to grumble against people. We need grace to discern/judge without evil intention. We need grace to judge and to discern and to speak the right words at the right time, in the right amount. That takes grace. Someone whose speech is seasoned with salt, someone who has learned to bring his speech before the Lord.
It’s like you have a speech that you’re going to give at some important event. You pour over every word. You’re careful. You do revisions. That’s what God wants with our speech. It’s not just our words. God is after the heart, because out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. So if you have angry words coming out of your mouth, you have an angry heart. If you have judgment coming out of your mouth, you have a judgmental heart.
God is after the heart. It’s one thing if somebody is slamming you for being a Christian and you’re able to bridle your tongue, but you just hold it in, that’s way better than lashing out. That’s way better. But God is not happy with someone who just bites his tongue but inside is raging. Is God happy with that? It’s better than fighting back and lashing out. But is that better?
No, God wants us to be so transformed on the inside that when the words come, it just rolls off and we’re able to even speak a word that is gentle in response. Then you know you have reached perfection, when somebody is lashing out and you’re not even angry, and you’re able to be gentle in the same way that Jesus, while being nailed to a cross, he says, Father forgive. See, that is perfection in speech.
Jesus is our example when we read James. And when we are reminded of Job, we’re not focusing on Job. Job is is not the goal. Yes, he is steadfast. And by the end of Job’s life when he comes face to face with The Judge, you better believe he learned to bridle his tongue. And if he went through a similar trial and his friends attacked him again, you better believe that Job would be different after coming face to face with The Judge.
But Jesus shows us from beginning to end someone who is steadfast under trial, steadfast in suffering, someone who was perfect in his speech, someone who judged but only when he heard the Father say, okay, you’re permitted to say this to the Pharisees. Someone who brought his speech before the Lord. His teaching was the Father’s teaching. Someone who is so submitted as a teacher and as a speaker. You see it in his speech, why Jesus is perfect in every way.
And because Jesus was perfect in his speech, you know that internally, emotionally, in his actions he was perfect in every way. Because if you can control your tongue by God’s grace, you can control every part of your body because you’ve reached perfection. If you are a proud person, you will never get close to perfection. If you’re a proud, judgmental person, you’ll never, ever get close to learning how to control your tongue because you can’t do it on your own. You need Christ.
So I’ve been doing this every morning starting this past week, and it is amazing if you pray in the morning and you look back on your day in the evening, you will see that if you ask for grace specifically in your speech, you will see that there will be a huge change. There will be huge victories because now you’re aware of it and God in the moment is giving you grace.
And there will be some days when you ask for grace in the morning and you look back on your day and you say, well, I sinned in my speech. God, why didn’t you give me grace? Because if you gave me grace, I would not have sinned in my speech. And the Lord will show you your pride or some other issue because there’s always a reason.
If we’re humble and we ask for grace, God says he will give it to you. In your speech you will notice a change, and in your actions and your thoughts, whatever you’re asking for grace. For if as long as you’re genuinely humble and you ask for grace, God’s promise in James 4 is that he will give it to you. And you’ll see grace overflowing through your speech.
Okay, let’s pray.
Father, forgive us for sinning through our mouth. We don’t realize that when we sin through our mouth because our tongue has not been tamed, Lord, it’s like we’re murderers. It’s like we’re adulterers. And if we committed those kinds of sins, we would be so sober and so remorseful and so shocked and humbled and broken before you, because if we break one law, we’re guilty of all of it.
And yet, through the sins of our lips, we don’t realize that we’re lawbreakers, that we’ve broken all of the law, that we’re no different from a murderer or an adulterer.
Lord, now that you’ve taught us the truth of your word,we want to ask for grace for our speech. We’re asking for grace to tame our tongue, that we will not speak angry words from an angry heart, or judgmental words from a judgmental heart, or a grumbling word from a grumbling heart. I want to speak words of mercy because mercy triumphs over judgment. We will be judged by the measure that we judge other people. And that is a fearful thing.
For those of us who have been good at judging, it is a fearful thing that we will be held to that same standard when that is not how you want to treat us. You want to give us a law of liberty. Mercy triumphs over judgment. Our sins have been forgiven. That is the kind of judgment you want to declare toward us. But if we are judgmental, you will judge us in exactly the same way. And that is a fearful thing.
Lord, we ask for grace. We humble ourselves before King Jesus, the humblest person who ever lived. And because he is humble and full of grace because Father, you gave him grace day by day, he is our example of someone who was perfect in his speech and perfect in every way. As a result, Father, each morning we want to begin with humility, asking humbly for grace, specifically over our tongue.
And when we look back at our day and we see the sins of our tongue, we’re going to ask, why didn’t you give us grace? How are we proud? Because that’s the only explanation. Because if we’re humble and we ask, you promise to give us grace. If we sin Lord, it’s because we’re proud. Forgive us of our pride. We want to humble ourselves before King Jesus.
Sanctify our tongue. We pray for tongues of fire before we teach, before we evangelize, before we testify, before we witness to the world, we pray for a tongue of fire to come over every believer here that we would bring all of our speech before you and you have the eraser and the white out. You can remove everything that is not pleasing or everything that is not for now to say.
Please, Lord, help us to learn from Jesus who did not speak any judgment until he heard from the Father. Jesus the Judge, you are coming upon the earth and you’re standing at the door. And we so foolishly act as if we’re the judge when the judge is right there. Lord, help us to live in constant awareness of Jesus that he is right there watching us. He’s listening to our words.
Sanctify us, Lord. As we come to the table, we want to commit that we want to give you our whole bodies, including our lips. And we want to learn from the humblest person who ever lived and who was full of grace.
We want to learn from you, Lord Jesus. No wonder you’re obedient to death on a cross and you ushered in a new covenant by your blood. Your body was broken. Your blood was shed so that we can be new creation, sanctified body, soul and spirit. And specifically we’re asking for your blood to sanctify our tongue. Wash over us, Lord. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus Name, Amen