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Christian Living

Be Careful What You Say

Control Your Tongue and Watch Your Words

There’s a saying of disputed authorship, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” As such, we need to be careful what we say. The Bible has much to share about our words and our tongue.

Tame the Tongue

James tells us that we verify our religion—our faith—by what we say, good or bad. We must keep a tight rein on our tongue, or our beliefs mean nothing (James 1:26).

Later, he writes that we are to tame our tongue. Just as we can control a horse by putting a bit in its mouth or steer a ship with a rudder, our tongue—though small—can do much. With our mouth we can praise God. But from the same mouth can flow forth curses.

Our words can do good. They can also cause much damage. In this way, what we say can corrupt our entire body. But with God’s help we can control what we say. In doing so we can keep our whole body in check (James 3:1-12).

Keep Your Tongue from Speaking Evil

Peter adds to the discussion, saying that if we love life and want to experience good, we must keep our tongue from speaking evil and uttering deceitful lies (1 Peter 3:10). In writing this, he quotes the words of King David as found in Psalm 34:12-13.

God wants us to be careful in what we say and control our words. Click To Tweet

Be Careful What You Say

The Pharisees confront Jesus because his disciples aren’t following their tradition of ceremonial handwashing before a meal. He launches into a teaching to remind them what matters more.

He concludes by saying that what we put into our mouth—that is what we eat—doesn’t matter to God nearly as much as what comes out of it. Our words matter. And when wrong words come out, it defiles us more than the foods we eat.

Our words come from our heart and reveal evil thoughts, thoughts of murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and slander (Matthew 15:11-20).

Yet when we speak positive words, we reveal our good heart. Proverbs reminds us that the wise person chooses words carefully and is even-tempered (Proverbs 17:27).

Keep Our Words in Check

God wants us to be careful of what we say and keep our words in check. When we do so, we honor him and provide a positive example to others, building them up and pointing them to Jesus.

[Discover some practical, biblical steps to do so.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Faith Is an Action

We Demonstrate That We Follow Jesus through the Things That We Do

I’ve written that we should treat love like a verb. I also suggested that we’ll do well to view Christian as a verb and not so much a noun (and certainly not an adjective). We should do the same thing with faith. Yes, faith is a noun, but we will do well to consider it as a verb, to behave as though faith is an action.

If we move forward and treat faith as a verb, we put our faith into action, actions that speak louder than words. If our faith fails to produce an outward expression that impacts others, what good is it? James writes that faith apart from action is dead (James 2:17).

Faith is Not an Intellectual Assent

Some people claim that faith is a personal thing, something they keep to themselves. And other people act that way.

Yet what good is a faith that we don’t share with others? Jesus says that if we acknowledge him to other people, he’ll acknowledge us to Father God in heaven (Matthew 10:32). The implication is that if we deny him, he might deny us. That’s an eternally monumental risk to take.

Belief is not enough. James confirms that even the demons believe God exists (James 2:19).

Faith Is About What We Do

James continues discussing the subject in his letter when he challenges people to figure out a way to demonstrate their faith without any action. They can’t. For his part, James shows his faith through his deeds, by virtuous actions (James 2:18).

He gives an example to drive home his point. Imagine meeting someone lacking food or clothes, and we give them a blessing and send them on their way. If we don’t attend to their physical needs, what good is that? What does our faith accomplish (James 2:15-16).

If we aren’t willing to tell others about our faith and demonstrate it through our actions, it accomplishes nothing. Click To Tweet

Faith Without Works Is Dead

James wraps up his teaching on the subject by saying that just as a body without its spirit is dead, so too is faith without any deeds (James 2:26).

If we aren’t willing to tell others about our faith and demonstrate it through our deeds, it accomplishes nothing. It is dead.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Tame the Tongue

Be Careful What You Say

Many people today—too many—feel they have a right to say whatever they want to say, whenever they want to say it. What they forget is that this privilege also comes with a responsibility to not say some things, to at times keep quiet. Just because we can say something, doesn’t mean we should. Sometimes silence should prevail over our speaking. We must tame the tongue.

Though this unfiltered spew of unrestrained rhetoric is most pronounced online, especially social media, it carries over from cyberspace into our physical space, tainting our in-person interactions.

This must stop.

Though the world may not know any better, Christians should.

In the Bible, we see that James agrees. He has a whole passage warning about the dangers of an uncontrolled tongue, one that both praises God and harms others with its words (James 3:1-12).

James uses the analogy of people taming animals, but no one can tame the tongue. He says it’s full of “restless evil” and “deadly poison” (James 3:7-8, NIV).

Does this mean that we have no chance of controlling our words? Of course not.

Though people may not be able to tame the tongue of others, we can—through God’s help—tame our own tongue. We can restrain what we say with Holy Spirit help.

Paul writes to the church in Ephesus telling them that when they speak truth in love it will help them grow into maturity (Ephesians 4:15). This is an ideal place to start. We say what is true, but we do so in love.

In his letter to the church in Corinth, Paul lists the characteristics of love. Love is patient and kind. It’s not envious, boastful, or proud. It doesn’t dishonor other people, isn’t selfish, and doesn’t yield to anger. It doesn’t remember the wrongs of others. It mourns evil and celebrates truth. Love always protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Tame the Tongue

May these traits of love guide our speech, knowing that in some cases the best thing to say is nothing. In this way, we can tame the tongue.

The tongue is a dangerous tool that must be tamed. Click To Tweet

The tongue is a dangerous tool that we must control.

We have a responsibility to God and to others to be careful what we say. Sometimes saying nothing is the best solution.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Balance Freedom of Speech with Being Careful in What We Say

The Tongue Is a Dangerous Tool that We Must Tame

In one of his Psalms, David writes that he will be careful in what he says so that he doesn’t sin. He talks about putting a muzzle on his mouth (Psalms 39:1). He says nothing about having freedom of speech.

James is clear about the dangers of an uncensored tongue. A small part of our body, the tongue can do great harm, setting a whole forest on fire from the single spark of a careless word. What we say can corrupt our whole being, setting our life on fire, a fire born from hell (James 3:3-6).

Jude likewise warns about us saying too much. He writes about people who slander what they don’t understand, operating on instinct like irrational animals. In doing so we destroy ourselves (Jude 1:10).

Freedom of Speech

Today too many people assume that freedom of speech gives them the unfettered right to say whatever they want. In the process they often hurt others and risk making themselves look foolish. Or worse yet, their tongue causes them to sin.

They—and us along with them—will do well to put a muzzle on our mouth, to tame our tongue. We should use our words to praise God (Psalm 40:3) but never to cause harm to another. Watching our words with care will keep us from sin and setting our souls on fire.

Responsibility of Speech

As a society we will do well to follow David’s example, as well as James’s and Jude’s wise counsel. Instead, too many people grasp the concept of free speech that we can say whatever we want, however we want, whenever we want without a thought given to the consequences. Yet freedom of speech carries a responsibility. Our freedom of speech is not without limit. As followers of Jesus, we have a duty to speak truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), to muzzle our mouth so that we do not sin, and to not say things that may harm others.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Psalms 36-40, and today’s post is on Psalms 39:1.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Can You Be a ____ and Still Be a Christian?

We Must Be Careful Not to Judge Others Based on Who We Are or What We Do

Over the years I’ve heard many people wonder out loud about the validity of another Christian’s faith based on what they do or some aspect of their life. Often this takes the form of, “Can you be a ______ and still be a Christian?” What goes in the blank is both varied and wide-ranging.

Can You Be a Christian?

Lately, here in the United States, I’ve heard political party affiliations inserted into the blank, namely Republican or Democrat. Other times it’s economic philosophies, such as socialist, communist, or capitalist.

For those with a legalistic perspective, various personal activities and lifestyle choices are apt to find themselves inserted into this question. And in other instances, assorted occupations end up in this blank.

And I’ve even heard specific theological perspectives used with this question. Such as, “Can you embrace predestination and still be a Christian?” Of course, the alternate query is, “Can you embrace free will and still be a Christian?” (Check out this example about free will and predestination.)

Come on. Give me a break. Yet I’ve heard these types of questions asked, along with many more, some of which are even more ridiculous.

Wrongly Judging Others

In each instance there is a similar underlying concern. The person asking the question finds living a Christian life—that is, being a follower of Jesus—incompatible with a specific philosophy, lifestyle, action, or vocation—which others espouse, and they avoid.

From their perspective, from their worldview, they see a disconnect they can’t reconcile. Yet they are judging others with wrong motives. James warns against this (James 4:11-12).

Therefore we should not concern ourselves with others, but focus on our own behaviors, placing our trust in God. Only he should judge us. Only he can save us.

Jesus Wants Us to Follow Him

Jesus calls everyone to follow him. He doesn’t care about our politics, philosophy, or occupation. He gives us love and offers acceptance. He embraces those who have a sincere interest in pursuing a relationship with him. Even those who remain undecided receive a gentle answer.

A Personal Decision

Yes, there are certain types of work I would not do and certain lifestyle choices I avoid, but these are personal decisions based on how I determine to best pursue my faith in God and what it means to me to be a follower of Jesus.

It would be wrong for me to apply my ideals to other people who may make other decisions about how to best pursue their faith.

We will all fall short and miss the mark. But Jesus offers us mercy and grace when we do. Click To Tweet

The key point is that we have Jesus in common. The essential consideration is that we’re doing our best to follow him on our journey of life. Along the way, we will all fall short and miss the mark. But Jesus offers us mercy and grace when we do.

Through Jesus we will spend our afterlife with him—regardless of some of the secondary decisions we may have made along the way as we navigated our journey.

Thank you, Jesus!

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is James 4-5, and today’s post is on James 4:11-12.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Do You Hold an Unexamined Theology?

Accepting What We’re Taught Without Scrutiny May Cause Us to Believe Things That Aren’t True

In the book of Acts, Dr. Luke writes about the Jews that lived in the town of Berea. He called them people with a “more noble character.” What did they do to deserve this label of respect? This was due to their reaction to Paul’s teaching.

Each day they listened attentively to what Paul said, and then they studied their scriptures to see if Paul’s teaching aligned with it. They checked to see if Paul spoke truth (Acts 17:11).

We should follow their example.

Seriously.

If we don’t we’re likely to hold an unexamined theology. In fact, we’re likely to hold many of them. Sometimes an unexamined theology will turn out to be sound, but other times it’s incorrect.

That’s why we need to carefully examine everything we’re taught about spiritual matters and make sure we only accept what the Bible backs.

Consider these three examples.

Unexamined Theology about Prayer

My parents and my church taught me three key requisites to prayer. We must close our eyes, fold our hands, and bow our heads before we pray. When young me asked why, I received a logical explanation. By closing my eyes, I shut myself off from distraction.

By folding my hands, I kept them from wayward movement. And by bowing my head, I showed reverence to God. It made sense. I accepted this is truth and obeyed.

Yet I don’t find any of these praying requirements supported in Scripture. I’ve not found a biblical command to do these things or even a verse that describes people doing them. But I have found verses of people gazing upward into heaven when they pray (such as Jesus in Mark 7:34).

Even though this isn’t a command, it’s more biblical than the three things I was taught.

Closing our eyes, folding our hands, and bowing our head as part of prayer isn’t in the Bible. It’s an unexamined part of our theology.

Unexamined Theology about Christian Life

Have you ever heard someone say that when you become a Christian, all your problems will go away and life will become easy? I have. I’ve heard it many times over the years, from well-meaning preachers and earnest proselytizers. But this isn’t in the Bible either.

Instead, Jesus tells us to count the cost and be willing to give up everything to follow him (Luke 14:33). This doesn’t sound like an easy life but a hard one.

Another time Jesus says that we should expect trouble (John 16:33). And James talks about us facing trials, as if it were normal. He tells us to accept these with joy and to persevere (James 1:2-4, 12).

Believing that following Jesus will erase our problems and produce an easy life is another unexamined theology.

How much of our theology do we blindly accept as fact when there is no biblical basis for it? Click To Tweet

Unexamined Theology about God’s Provision

Have you ever heard the phrase, “God helps those who help themselves” or perhaps stated a bit differently, as “the Good Lord helps them who helps themselves.”? Though it sounds biblical and even offers comfort, it’s not in the Bible either. Yet many people, perhaps most people, think it is.

Though this message of self-sufficiency may play well with the “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” culture of the United States, it’s not a biblically sound concept. Instead we’re supposed to seek God first (Matthew 6:33).

Unexamined Theology about Becoming a Christian

Having an unexamined theology about the proper way to pray is of no damaging consequence. However, holding unexamined theologies about Christian living and God’s provision is more significant.

But the most damaging—perhaps damning—is what people teach about how to become a Christian. Many things loudly proclaimed from the pulpit aren’t in the Bible. These include asking Jesus into our heart or saying the sinner’s prayer.

True, these things may be loosely based on biblical teaching, but they aren’t the requirement many people make them out to be. Jesus never said these things, but what he did often say is “follow me.” (I cover this in detail in my book How Big is Your Tent?).

Yet I never heard a preacher teach that all we need to do to become a Christian is to follow Jesus.

How much of our theology do we blindly accept as fact when there is no biblical basis for it? We will do well to follow the example of the Bereans who accepted what they were taught with eagerness but then studied the Scriptures to make sure it was true.

When we do this, it will help us from embracing an unexamined theology that is in error.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.