• peterfoxwell


This is the teaching I gave at the Cornerstone Church on Sunday, November 25, 2018.


Relationships are complicated. Words can make them catastrophic. If you're in any doubt, think about this: Say you came to me with a question and I said, "Are you serious? That's the dumbest question I've ever heard." And it doesn't have to be the words themselves. The tone of voice can slice through us like a scalpel: "Right, great idea," said with enthusiasm build us up. "Right, great idea," said with sarcasm tears us down.

According to James (see verses 3-5), the tongue is a small muscle with massive impact - like a bit on a horse, a rudder on a ship, a spark in a dry forest. We've all seen the devastation caused by forest fires in California. The entire town of Paradise (pop. 26,000) was burned to the ground. And it all started with a spark. Words are sparks. Most conflicts start by saying the wrong thing, at the wrong time, with the wrong tone of voice.

With that in mind, I've brought a two-week teaching on words: words that help and heal. We can use our words to restore our relationships and to make them stronger.

First, let's look at the negative power of our words.


Words are powerful, but that power can become very negative and destructive:


(James 3:2) We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

James claims that controlling the tongue is THE hardest thing to do. Basically, if we can get 100% grip on our words, we're perfect, and we're not perfect. Why's it so difficult? Because our hearts are full of negativity. Jesus said:

(Matthew 15:19) For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.

Here's the kicker, whatever's in our hearts inevitably comes out our mouths: Jesus said:

(Matthew 12:34) The mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

So ... controlling our tongue is tough going, close to impossible. James confirms that:

(James 3:7-8) 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.

James is not saying that we cannot control our tongues. James is saying, we cannot tame our tongues. Anytime we open our mouths to speak, it's like letting a venomous snake loose in the house. Alert! Danger! Peter's about to speak.

I found an online article from 2016: Ten Pets That Killed Their Owners. The 500 pound tiger. The black widow spider. The boa constrictor. Surprise! Our tongues are wild and untamable like that. They're waiting for a chance to kill and destroy.

Don't ever think you've conquered your tongue. When I'm stressed, when I'm not getting what I want, when I'm tired, I say stuff that I usually come to regret. I know I'm not the only one - right?


The words we speak can seriously damage us:

(James 3:6) 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.

James is saying that words are weapons. Our words hurt people AND they hurt us too:

  • Words can even hurt us physically and make us sick - corrupts the whole body.

  • Words also wreck our lives - set the whole course of one's life on fire. I've made so many problems for myself by opening my mouth when I should have shut up.

  • Here's the worst part: our words can do the devil's work. James says that the tongue - is itself set on fire by hell. I've seen that, haven't you?

Wow! So much power!!! So much power to do so much damage. It's scary to think about, isn't it? What should we do about it?

Today, I'll give you five steps that will help you get a grip on your tongue. Next week, I'll show you how to speak words that help and heal.



Words are more than breath formed into sounds. Words have spiritual power and they really matter:

(James 3:9-10) 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. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.

Praises and curses are powerful spiritual actions. They either bless or break people; they either honor God or they don't. Our words matter and we should take them seriously and take control of every word we speak.

Today, this week, ask the Lord to give you a positive vision of the power of your words; power to speak blessing, love, confidence or faith into lives. Say, "Lord, help me raise the standard of every word I speak, text, message or post."

(Proverbs 10:19) ... the prudent hold their tongues ... 21 The lips of the righteous nourish many ...

(Proverbs 12:16) 16 Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.


Stop making excuses and stop blaming other people for what comes out of your mouth. When we take responsibility and ask for help, God steps in. James says it this way:

(James 5:16) Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Sometimes, our sinful words make us physically sick. We saw that earlier, in James 3:6. The cure is simple: confess, admit the sin (I'm sorry, I was wrong, forgive me) and ask for prayer. Then watch God work. When we own our negative words, they no longer own us. They lose their power over us.


In chapter 4, James wants to help us stop fighting and quarreling. He writes:

(James 4:1-2) What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.

(James 4:8) Come near to God and he will come near to you.

We use words to get control over people so they'll give us what we want. Our words bully and manipulate. But if we come near to God and find our deepest contentment in knowing him, we'll get free from our unhealthy dependence on others.

(Psalm 16:11) You will fill me with joy in your presence.

(John 6:35) Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.


James writes:

(James 4:7a) Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

The devil wants us to speak for him and do his dirty work in people's lives. The devil never speaks blessing. So, if the words forming on your lips are going to hurt, put down, discourage, or curse someone, you know where they come from.

Before you speak, resist "speaking your mind". Submit your mind and your tongue to God. Ask him to give you helpful, healing, encouraging words. Ask him for wisdom:

(Proverbs 12:18) The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

(Proverbs 16:23). From a wise mind comes wise speech." (NLT)


Nothing changes until we call our negative words what they really are. They are not assertive, not honest, not frank, no, no, no. Call them what they are: sins. They are sinful. Good news! There's a solution for sin: the cross of Christ. Paul describes the power of the cross to set us free:

(Colossians 2:13-15) God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

At the cross, we experience three wonderful freedoms:

  • Freedom of forgiveness. Jesus Christ was condemned in our place.

  • Freedom to live a new life. The Holy Spirit unites us to Jesus at the cross so that the power of negative words is killed and the power to speak blessing, healing, and encouragement fills us.

  • Freedom from the devil. He does not have the final word.

Picture taking all your hurtful, negative, destructive words and nailing them with Christ to the cross. Crucify them there - kill them dead. Now picture forgiveness, and new life, and new words flowing into you from the cross of Christ.


Let's take a moment to get real with God. We all know one thing: we all have room to grow in this area and we all need God's help to do it. Does it really matter how we speak? Yes, according to James, an out of control mouth undermines our claims to follow Jesus:

(James 1:26) Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.

In the presence of the Holy Spirit, surrender your mind and mouth to him now:

Lord, I confess that I have a problem with my words; they do not always help or heal; I've hurt people by what I say.

Lord, there are times when I give Satan control of my words. I resist and reject him now in the name of Jesus. I offer my life to you - every word I say for your glory and plan.

Lord, help me raise the standard for the words I speak. I want to bless and build others up. I want to praise and glorify you. (Psalms 141:3) "Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips."

Lord I draw near to you. I want to find my deepest joy and contentment in you. I'm sorry for bullying and manipulating and controlling people with my words.

Lord, I bring it all to the cross. Because Jesus died in my place, by faith I now receive your forgiveness and I choose to live in the new life that flows from the crucified Christ.


Next week, I'll show you how to use words to help and heal.

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