The conference was started with an introduction, and a beautiful dramatic reading of select passages that pertain to the Word. Directly following the reading, the music was started with powerful music. We sang 4-5 songs which most I had not heard of but worshipped wholeheartedly with. It was a time of reflection, rebuke, and praise.
After the music, Piper gave a welcome speech and introduction to Sinclair Ferguson. Ferguson is a pastor in Columbia, SC. He is a member of the Association of Confessing Evangelicals and a professor of Systematic Theology at Dallas Theological Seminary Westminister’s Theological Seminary at the Dallas campus. He has also authored roughly around 20 books.
Prior to the message, a DVD was shown.
The video was a silent film that depicted a young single father who is shown waking up on Sunday morning. Immediately, he is frustrated about petty things as he walks around the house getting ready. He is harsh with his 3 daughters, and leaves all the preparation of the younger girls to the oldest daughter while the father only concerns himself with his own needs.
The father barks orders as he rushes everyone out of the house to take them to school. The demeanor quickly changes as the family pulls into the church parking lot and walks through church doors. All of a sudden, it’s a completely different family with a friendly and warm personality who are shown seemingly to worship with sincerity.
There was a thickness in the air and a silence for a few seconds after the video closed out. Basically, the message of the video was the hypocrisy of many Christians’ lives and how huge a role the tongue plays in that.
Ferguson came on the stage and began his message from James 3:1-10. His proposition was that the practical purpose of Scripture is to make us spiritually mature, and bridling the tongue is a hallmark of spiritual maturity.
His sermon outline was as follows:
Use of the Tongue (1-12)
The difficulty of taming the tongue.
Not all of us are to be teachers – those who’s responsibility it is to talk much.
James states that we all stumble in many ways.
As a mature Christian, one must learn to bridle his tongue
Also, one who can control his tongue, must and will control his body – his actions.
Christians are divided into two categories: 1) those who find it hard to use their tongue or 2) those who speak more than they should
When James speaks about the mastery of the tongue, he’s not talking about how much we say, but learning when it is necessary to speak and when it is best to remain silent, so that we may speak words that are seasoned with salt and full of grace. In order that these words might allow the glory of God and His Gospel to take full affect.
There is also a failure to bridle the tongue.
Bridling the tongue is a moment by moment endeavor, yea a battle.
It’s a bridle in the our mouth that must constantly be pulled on in order to direct our words. We’re also given the picture of a small rudder which guides our whole being. It’s like a smoker who breathes out what is within and it can be smelled, but to the smoker, the smell is non-existent.
There is a disproportionate power to the use of the tongue that permeates everything we do.
The destruction caused by the tongue.
It’s a stain that renders the body unusable as a shirt that is unwearable because of the coffee stain.
The poison of the tongue of the serpent can be referenced here. (Gen. 3)
One of the best ways to work on the tongue is to meditate on the 10 commandments and learn how our tongue leads us to break those commandments.
Jonathan Edwards had a few resolutions about speech.
Resolved, never to speak evil of anyone, so that it shall tend to his dishonor, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.
Resolved, in narrations never to speak any thing but the pure and simple verity.
Resolved, never to speak evil of any, except I have some particular good call for it.
Let there be something of benevolence, in all that I speak.
The deadly inconsistency that plagues the tongue.
Adam and Eve were given perfect dominion in the garden not only of external order but internal order; but now we have lost dominion of the earth and we are now being controlled by a little instrument and curse the image of God.
Context and Practicality of the Tongue
The books of James has at least 20 resolutions about how a Christian will employ his tongue. (I got all but one, it was fast.)
I resolve to ask God for wisdom, to speak out of single minded devotion for him.
I resolve to boast only in the exaltation i receive in Jesus Christ.
I resolve to set a watch over my mouth.
I resolve to constantly be quick to hear and slow to speak.
I resolve to learn the Gospel as a way of speaking to rich and poor.
I resolve to speak in the present conscienceness of my final judgement.
I resolve to never to stand on anyones face with the words I employ.
I resolve to never to claim a reality in my life that I do not have experience in.
I resolve to resist quarrelsome words that must be modified.
I resolve to never speak decided evil out of a heart of antagonism.
I resolve to never boast in a anything I haven’t accomplished.
I resolve to never to grumble.
I resolve to have total integrity in everything i say.
I resolve to speak to God in prayer whenever I suffer.
I resolve to sing praises to God whenever I’m cheerful.
I resolve to ask for the prayers of others when I’m in need.
I resolve to confess it when I fail.
I resolve to pray with others one for another when together with them.
I resolve to speak words of restoration when I see another wander.
Context of the Tongue in the Glory of Christ
We are brought to see the depth of our sin and need.
Isaiah goes through all the woes because of the depravity of the people’s unclean lips and his own. (Is. 5)
Have we been brought to that point because of the depravity of our tongue, or instead have you prided yourself in the fact that you haven’t misused your tongue as others have?
There is a glorious sense of hopefulness that God will bring us forth from what we once were. We become the first fruits of Christ. (1:18)
One day, every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
The use of the tongue is to be transformed by the heart, and the heart is to be transformed by the Word of God.
A transformed heart produces a transformed tongue.
It is imperative to get under the Word as much as we can because it is the only thing that change our tongue, and because the tongue is the rudder of our life, the Word of God in turn changes our life.
Christ is our exemplar.
Before God can become our exemplar, He must become our Savior. We must understand the saving work of Christ that has saved us from the depraved state of our heart. We must not look at Christ as our example, we must look at Him in the right order.
James is saying that he desires that we may one day grow to a maturity that we may so speak as our Lord Jesus.
Sinclair Ferguson is a unique pastor who practices precision in his speech and well chosen words. For those of you who don’t know, Ferguson has a Scottish accent. He made an interesting comment, though, after the sermon that after 15 min. of preaching, we forget about the accent.
On a deeper level, I was overwhelmed by the importance of having a tongue that guards what it says and is very purposeful when it does say something. In turn, I also realize my need for more time in the Word because that will dictate what comes out of my mouth.
This a more personal note, but I just wanted to mention a girl I met tonight. Her name is Olivia, and she approached me because she saw that I was blogging with my Mac during the conference. She is an aspiring blogger who just started this summer, and she gave me her blog address to check out. I read through some of her blog, and I just wanted to recommend it to those of you who read my blog if you’re looking for a fresh and passionate perspective on God. You can check it out at Nobody416.