If yesterday was about faith in action, then today is about faith in words. The human tongue – our speech – speaks volumes about our faith. James ranks it as the most accurate and sensitive indicator of our spiritual condition: “Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check” (v2). In other words, if you can control your tongue, you can control your entire life!
By use of a variety of examples, James proves that our tongue / our speech is the steering mechanism for our lives and the pointer to our eternal destiny. In its natural state, it is evil and corrupt and lands us in great trouble. Even as believers in Christ, our immaturity shows in the mixed messages that we give; one minute, cursing and the next minute, blessing. Part of the maturing process of the believer – also known as ‘sanctification’ – is the disciplining of our speech to curb that language born of envy and selfish ambition. Only as we work with the Holy Spirit can we obtain the strength to ‘tame that tongue’.
The real goal is to have our hearts filled with God’s own wisdom, which is…
PURE (consistently good),
PEACE-LOVING (promoting unity rather than independence or division),
CONSIDERATE (thinking first of others),
SUBMISSIVE (prioritising both legitimate authority and the requests of others),
FULL of MERCY (making the same allowances for others’ weaknesses that we want God to make for ours),
GOOD FRUIT (it really works!),
IMPARTIAL (doing what is right rather than favouring those we like), and
SINCERE (genuinely godly all the way down to the heart).
If you are truly wise, you will make peace wherever you go – between mankind and God, and between mankind and mankind – and the result will be an immense harvest of huge numbers of people being saved! Start by taming that tongue! Of course, that includes what you post online too!
EZEKIEL 35, 36 and 37
Seeing at first hand the dismantled Berlin Wall and the decaying remains of Communism, now replaced by full-blown Western market forces, modern architecture, and a new-found freedom, it raises big questions about what makes a free, fair, and compassionate society. Our tour guide, a graduate in philosophy and political history, cleverly wove these kinds of thoughts into a fascinating walking tour around the city. And it started me thinking more about these issues.
What makes a free, fair, and compassionate society is people, not a system. Communism and Fascism didn’t do it, nor does Socialism, Capitalism, Environmentalism, political correctness nor ‘anti-offence’ legislation. No system can force a person to be ‘nice’ – even though some systems do make clumsy attempts at it. The majority of politicians sincerely desire to make a better world and a better society – whatever their party persuasion – and we insult them by cynically alleging that they are always acting out of selfish or corrupt motives. Instinctively, in the heart of mankind, is the desire to be part of the Kingdom of Heaven – God’s new society – and politicians struggle and strive for those values to come to life (despite not acknowledging where those values have their roots). We may debate the methods but generally their motives are good.
The problem with ‘society’, then, is people. And the problem with people is their innermost being – what the Bible calls the ‘heart’ or the ‘spirit’, which has been corrupt and warped since the day the first man sinned. We will never have a ‘right’ society until mankind has a ‘heart’ transplant! And the good news is that we can! In Ezekiel 36, today’s’ reading, The Lord promises us: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” What wonderful promises! The only way we can live out God’s standards of behaviour is by being changed and renewed from the inside out. Uncaring stony hearts are removed, and sensitive caring ones transplanted. The Spirit of God himself comes to live inside us. A changed heart makes a changed person who makes a changed society. The hope of the world is resting on invisible transformations that occur in you and in me.
Ezekiel 37 is all about ‘Resurrection’. When God chooses to speak, even dead, dry bones will come to life. More than that: they become a powerful united purposeful army for goodness and righteousness. We are talking literal physical resurrection here – but also a revival of faith and vision that leads to co-ordinated passionate action amongst God’s people, who have at last entered into their destiny. God is saying these things to his local churches today. Our immediate response should be to seek Him together in prayer and to work tirelessly together for good, as a unified people.
“My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord. I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms. My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. Then the nations will know that I the Lord make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever” (Ezekiel 37:12-14,22,27-28).
That’s the way to create a fair, free, and compassionate society without walls!