Voice Part 2: Purify – Joe Wickman
We’re immersed in an age that is obsessed with being heard.
Today the average person has more ability to project their voice further, to more listeners, than ever before.
We assume this is always a good thing. But to be blunt, it’s not necessarily all that great. I would argue that the value of the distribution of our voices is directly linked to the quality of the content coming from within us.
In Voice Part 1: Watch Your Mouth, we grappled with Jesus’ words. He linked the words that come out of our mouths to the content of our hearts (Luke 6:43-45). If it’s really true that what comes out of our mouths is an overflow of what’s in our hearts, then the next step is to ask some tough questions:
- Is what’s coming out of my mouth God-honoring?
- Are other people being hurt or helped by my words? (More on this in “Voice Part 3″)
- If the product is not good, how can I purify what’s in my heart so that what’s coming out of my mouth is good?
James, the brother of Jesus, discovered firsthand the ability of God to purify a heart.
The man who grew up in the same household as Jesus, and once mocked his brother, the Savior of the world (John 7), along with the rest of his brothers. Their words, flowing out of unbelieving hearts, poked fun at Jesus’ unique identity, as well as his mission to save the world.
However, James eventually had a change of heart. We’re not told in Scripture exactly when or how, but somewhere, somehow, James’ view of Jesus was fully transformed, and so was he. He experienced the power of Jesus’ indwelling presence to purify a heart that once spewed words that seared and cut down his own brother, the Lord.
James’ transformation was so complete and powerful he went on to boldly lead the church in Jerusalem, the epicenter of the Christian faith. Not only was he considered by both Peter and Paul to be a linch pin in the newly-birthed church, James penned a no-nonsense letter to Jewish believers scattered abroad.
In chapter 3 of James we read:
3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
Wow. That’s bleak.
The tongue is a tiny part of our body. But it’s inordinately powerful. That’s kind of scary because I know it’s true. One inflammatory word, placed at exactly the wrong time, can burn up a relationship. It’s as if I’m walking around with a flamethrower attached to my face.
Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, put it this way:
The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit.
No pressure. But we have got to get this right!
So let’s get back to what James said. Don’t worry, it gets worse.
7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
Not helping yet. But I know this is true too. Even though I’m technically “in charge” of my tongue, sometimes it seems as through it’s got a mind of its own! Why is that? Well, it’s because I was born with a sinful nature. And so were you. So we’ve got this incredibly deep-seated problem that we are incapable of dealing with on our own.
- We say things we shouldn’t to the people we love the most.
- We don’t use our voice to build up, but to tear down.
Paul, in his letter to the Christians in Rome, depicted this struggle this way:
21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.24 What a wretched man I am!
So there we are. Without Christ doing a dramatic, game-changing work, we’re left unchanged and frustrated in our efforts to change ourselves. James captures the tension point here:
9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.
Taming the tongue is going to take more than just behavior modification. If we’re really going to see lasting change, we need God to purify us at the heart level. The second part of James 1:10 provides the hinge point:
My brothers and sisters, this should not be.
No, it shouldn’t. I shouldn’t talk out of both sides of my mouth. But how can I stop? What do I need? James provides a hint:
11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
James wisely points to the source of our words. Jesus, James’ brother and our Savior, said our words are tied to our hearts. So let’s ask God to purify our hearts from the inside out. That is our great hope for real change.
Let’s ask God to purify us. Pray with me:
“Father in Heaven, purify my heart. I don’t want to know one thing and say another. I don’t want fresh water and salt water to be mixed together. I want my words to honor you and be used to love others. I know I cannot purify my mouth without you purifying me from the inside out. Please do this in the resurrected power of Jesus. Amen.”
In Voice: Part 3 we’ll see how purified hearts can produce tremendous fruit.