Where does the stuff we say really come from? Jesus identified the problem as coming from inside each one of us. There may be bitterness, resentment, unbelief, impurity, or pride in our heart, but what is inside will eventually come out, even to our own surprise. That is why we are exhorted to guard our hearts.
It’s good to be with you again, sharing with you precious truths out of Scripture that have made the difference between success and failure in my life and can do the same in yours.
This week I’m continuing with the theme that I commenced last week: Does Your Tongue Need Healing?
In my talk yesterday we studied the story of the twelve spies whom Moses sent into the Promised Land, from the wilderness, to explore the land and to bring back a report of the people. From this story, we learned the solemn lesson that men determine their own destiny by the way they use their tongues. All the twelve spies heard the same promises of God. All the twelve spies saw the same things in the Promised Land. They saw the fruit. They saw the abundance. They saw the walled cities. They saw the giants. But, ten of those twelve spies added their own “nevertheless.” They focused on the problems, not on the promises. And when they came back, they gave a negative report. They said, “Because of the giants, because of the walled cities, we are not able to take the land.” Two of the twelve spies, Joshua and Caleb, focused on the promises, not on the problems. They came back with a positive report. They said, “We are well able to take the land.” We noted that the two groups said exactly the opposite. Joshua and Caleb said, “We are well able.” The other spies said, “We are not able.” And the lesson: each got exactly what they said. The ones who said they were not able, were not able. The ones who said they were able, were able. They all settled their own destiny by the way they used their tongues. Death and life, we’ve said, are in the power of the tongue. Those that spoke words of death died in the wilderness. Those that spoke words of life, lived and entered the Promised Land.
And then we see in the New Testament, in the Epistle to Hebrews and elsewhere, that the same lessons that Israel learned in the Old Testament, entering the Promised Land, apply to us who’ve heard the gospel and the promise of entering into God’s rest, through the gospel. We to, settle our destiny by the words we speak.
Today, and for the rest of this week, we’re going to study the provision that God has made in Scripture for the healing of our tongues.
The first step to healing in this, just as in any ordinary physical sickness, is to identify the root of the problem. Concerning this, the testimony of Scripture is clear and unequivocal: the root of every problem affecting our tongues is in our hearts.
We’ll go back to words of Jesus that we’ve already looked at in Matthew 12: 33 and 34:
“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. [And Jesus goes on to say:] A good man out of the good treasure in his heart, brings forth good things. An evil man, out of the evil treasure, brings forth evil things.” (NIV)
It’s either good all the way through, or it’s evil all the way through. In that language of Jesus there, the heart is the tree, the words of the fruit. The words that come out of the mouth indicate the condition of the heart. If the heart is good, the words will be good. If the heart is evil, the words will be evil. And He speaks to those religious persons. He says, “You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good, you’ve got evil hearts, there’s no way you can say that which is good.”
Notice, incidentally, that Jesus used the word, “viper,” and one of the significant things about a viper is that it strikes with its tongue. He chose that word very carefully. Then He sums it up, “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Whatever flows out of your mouth indicates the contents of your heart. If you’re carrying a pail of water across the kitchen, and you stumble, and the water spills—if the water that spills on the floor is dirty and greasy, you don’t need to examine the water that’s left in the bucket. You know it’s dirty and greasy. And so it is, if evil, impure, unbelieving, corrupt words come out of our mouth, then that indicates that the same condition prevails in our hearts.
We can compare the words of James in chapter 3 of his Epistle, verses 9 through 12. He’s speaking about the inconsistencies of religious people.
“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise or blessing and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. [That’s inconsistent. Then He asks some questions:] Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” (NIV)
James combines two pictures there. The one is of a spring of water the other is of a tree. He says, “If a tree is an olive tree, it will never bear another kind of fruit; it will never bear figs.” The kind of tree indicates the kind of fruit. He’s using the same picture as Jesus, the tree is the heart, the fruit is the words that come out of the mouth. He uses also another picture, a spring of water, and he says, “If brackish salty water comes out of a spring, then you know the water that’s in the spring is brackish and salty.” I believe those two pictures are parallel but not identical. I believe the two trees represent two natures. The corrupt tree is the old man, the old person. The good tree is the new man in Jesus Christ. And the old man is a corrupt tree. He cannot bring forth good fruit. Jesus said that clearly many times. So, out of that old, carnal nature will always come, through our mouths, words, fruit that correspond to the nature. But I believe the fountain or the spring represents rather something spiritual. A pure spring is the Holy Spirit. But a corrupt, brackish, salty, impure spring is another spirit. So we have two potential problems indicated by the mouth, first the old, corrupt nature which has not been changed goes on producing corrupt fruit; second, some kind of spirit which is not the Holy Spirit, which brings forth impure, brackish water. But the essence of the teaching is the same in both that it’s what’s inside us. It’s the condition of our heart that determines what comes out of our mouth. So the problem of the tongue takes us back inevitably to the problem of the heart.
We’re confronted by the truth that Solomon spoke in Proverbs 4:23:
“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (NIV)
See the word “wellspring” agrees with the picture that James used of a fountain or a spring that brings forth the kind of water that is characteristic of the nature of the fountain.
Another translation of Proverbs 4:23 says:
“Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” (NASB)
So, whatever flows out in your life, whatever flows out through your mouth originates in your heart. If the source is pure, that which comes out will be pure. If the source is corrupt, that which comes out will be corrupt. With this we can compare the words of Hebrews 12, verses 15 and 16.
“See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal.” (NASB)
There was Esau who was entitled to the birthright but he sold it and lost it. You see, the lesson again is the same, that we can have a birthright. We can have a promise from God but if we don’t conduct ourselves rightly, just like the ten spies who came with the negative report, we’ll lose our birthright. We’ll lose our inheritance. And the reason why Esau acted like that in Scripture is traced back to a root in his heart. The word here used is a root of bitterness. He was bitter against his brother, Jacob, and this root of bitterness in his heart brought forth bitter fruit in his life which corrupted his life and caused him to lose his birthright. So we see, the root of the problem is in the heart. One evil root that’s spoken of there in that passage is a root of bitterness. And the Scripture warns us that if there’s a root of bitterness in the heart of anyone of us, others may be defiled by it. I’ve seen this true. You see, the corrupt, negative use of the tongue is infectious. The ten spies came back with a negative report. They corrupted the whole nation. The whole nation was infected with that negative disease. So that’s one reason why God treats it so seriously. It’s an infectious disease.
There are other examples of roots in our heart which are evil, which express themselves through our tongues and which cause problems which rob us of the blessings that God desires us to have. Let me give you just a few examples quickly. We can have a root of resentment. We can have a root of unbelief, a root of impurity, a root of pride. Whatever the nature of the root in our heart, it will manifest itself in the way we speak. We may want to be kind and gracious, but a root of resentment will poison our words with a kind of resentful spirit. We’ll try to say nice things, but they won’t come outright. Or we may claim to be Believers, but a root of unbelief will cause us to do as the ten spies did, to add our “Nevertheless” to God’s promises, and so on with impurity and pride.
Let me remind you, as I close today, of that story I told you about the doctor in the desert checking his dysentery patients. The first question was, “Good morning, how are you?” But he didn’t really care much about the answer because the second question was, “Show me your tongue.” How would you respond if God said to you just now like that doctor, “Show me your tongue.”
Well our time is up for today. I’ll be back with you again tomorrow at this time. Tomorrow I’ll be explaining the first steps to the healing of our tongues.