Sooner or later it had to get to this – that uncomfortable topic of Self-Control.
The Bible describes it as a “fruit of the Spirit” though we prefer to dwell on other traits in that list, such as joy, peace, etc. But surely one of the distinguishing characteristics of one who loves God and desires to follow Him is the evidence that we are no longer enslaved to sinful or inappropriate habits; i.e., we have developed self-control.
James writes: If anyone can control his tongue, it proves that he has perfect control over himself in every other way. Jam. 3:2 TLB If we read this verse carefully it’s pretty powerful.
Are we prone to excessive eating? Excessive sleeping? Addicted to certain TV programs that we can’t bear to miss? Driven to check Facebook before prayer in the morning and every fifteen minutes thereafter? Enslaved – yes, enslaved – to our cell phones?
The Bible says: If anyone [that means you…and me] can control his tongue, it proves that he has perfect control over himself in EVERY OTHER way!
That’s a pretty daunting statement! The evidence that you and I possess self-control is determined by how we speak. Whoa!
Look at how the Passion Translation renders this verse: If we’re able to bridle the words we say, we are powerful enough to control ourselves in every way and that means our character is mature and fully developed. Jam. 3:2 TPT
The Scripture is challenging us to overcome unguarded, impulsive and offensive language and comments.
Strength of character is refusing to say what you know in your heart will make things worse or offend those around you.
Strength of character is restraining ourselves from speaking in ways that can damage not only those around us, but also our own testimony of belonging to Christ.
Strength of character is refusing to say what the devil wants you to say and instead speaking what the Lord would say if he were right there in your place. As a matter of fact, He is! If you are born again, He lives within you by His Spirit. One of the best deterrents to ungodly or coarse language is remembering Who lives inside of you. Would He speak like that? And, if you could see Him with your naked eye, would you say ‘that’ in His presence? I doubt it! Then just don’t say it!
How we speak reveals the condition of our hearts. ‘Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.’ Matthew 12:35 NKJV So if we really want to know what’s in our heart, we need to listen to how we talk. Do it for a day and we’ll find lots of reason to repent.
Keep in mind that there is a difference between temptation and sin. It is not a sin to have the thought of saying something nasty or vulgar. That’s precisely where the self-control comes into play. It’s when the thought of doing so comes out our mouths in words that do not reflect the indwelling Christ that we sin….and prove that we have yet to gain self-control. At that point the only reasonable reaction is to repent, ask forgiveness and pray that the Holy Spirit will convict you quickly so you avoid making that mistake again.
If ungodly speaking is a habit, we need to take these scriptures very seriously and pray for the Lord’s help to break the habit of unkind, sarcastic, hurtful or inappropriate speaking. Are we willing to make that commitment and see it through to victory?
The Father’s call on every one of us is that we be conformed into the image and likeness of His dear Son, the Lord Jesus. A great proof that we are progressing in that pursuit is displayed in how we speak; what kind of words we use and our tone of voice. The ‘perfect’ man or woman is the one who can ‘bridle’ his tongue and thereby ‘bridle’ his entire personality so that the light of Christ can be spread abroad through each of us.
I do believe that praying in the Spirit is a great help towards our goal of controlling our tongues. I encourage you to make it a regular practice.
This is a journey we’ll be on for the rest of our lives but every day counts. So let’s get on with it, shall we? Today…let’s watch our words. Today – it’s all we have right now – so today…let’s watch our tongues. One day at a time.