Dec 5 2013
“Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 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 … no human being can tame the tongue” (James 3:5-8).
At Pentecost the church experienced a different fire; it came from heaven and rested upon believers causing their tongues to praise God in various languages by the power of the Holy Spirit. James is right, human beings can’t tame the tongue, but God can. He sanctifies this small part of the body with holy fire so that it can steer the life of the believer in a godly direction. In the scripture above James has told a positive story through a negative picture – and what a wonderful job he did!
♦ But James doesn’t stop here. He tells us that there is still a battle for the tongue that rages within the believer. He says, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be” (James 3:9-10).
It seems that even after God pours his Spirit into us we can still choose to use our tongues for the wrong things. We kindle the fire of hell instead of the fire of heaven. And as James says, “This should not be.”
When early believers were filled with the Holy Spirit their tongues did three things; they praised God in languages they had not learnt, they praised God in languages they had learnt, and they prophesied. At times they may have done one of these things and at other times they may have done all of them. The important thing to note is that their tongues expressed the Spirit and the fire that was within them. And scripture seems to indicate that all believers carry some responsibility to maintain this fire, and to also make it grow. Paul said to Timothy, “I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (2Timothy 1:6). The gifts of the Spirit need to be kindled, maintained and grown by continual use. When the fire of the Holy Spirit is in our mouths we become prophetic in prayer, in preaching and in praise. The prophetic tongue is important regardless of whether you are holding a microphone or guitar in church, or are speaking to a friend in a grocery store. And the more you speak for God the more he will give you to say.
If we listen to the world around us; the gossip, the slander, the hate for one another and the mockery of God, we see that the fire of hell is raging, and it’s up to the church to make sure that the fire of heaven has a greater influence. But how can we do this? Well, the negative picture painted by James, and the positive picture we see at Pentecost, tells us. It involves the tongue. Our tongues must be used to express the fire of the Spirit that God has put within us. We can do this by prophesying and preaching when the Spirit inspires us, but we can also do it by simply giving God praise when we see something amazing that he has done. If you are with an unbeliever and see a beautiful sunset, say “Wow! God is good with colours, hey!” or use it as an opportunity to start a conversation by asking “It’s beautiful, but why? I mean it could have been ugly, right?” And if you experience the provision of God say “Hey, look what happened, I prayed and I got what I asked for, God heard me!” We need to speak up. If we see a natural and unforced way to bring God to a conversation, then we should do so. This is for our benefit as well as the benefit of those around us. When we express our faith we fan it into flame, and when others who don’t know Jesus hear us, their faith is kindled. One word spoken for God can set a whole community ablaze. As James said, “Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.”
The fire within us is powerful, but it can remain small and hidden. If your faith is low, if your passion for God is missing; I would encourage you to use your tongue to feed the fire.
Other Illustrations used: Loose lips sink ships – poster | The Fire album – Samuel Lane | Firing up a Romance | Propagating a personality – Mandela | Expression in Sermons & Worship
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