by Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
(Chapter 29 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, Justice)

'My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is afire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be." James 3:1-10

I believe with all of my heart that this chapter could literally transform your life. Character is the subconscious doing of right. It is in your reflexes. It is doing right by reflex which is the safest way for a Christian to be. I am going to give you the way for your entire body to be self-disciplined. The Bible gives us a way to develop character and self-discipline quickly.

The Bible tells us in James 3 that we can bridle the whole body. That is what character really is. When you say, "No!" to temptation and "Yes!" to doing right, you have bridled your whole body. The Bible tells us in James 3 how we can do that. Let me give you several observations from this passage.

1. You can be mature. That is what the word "perfect" means. The Bible tells us that it is possible for us to be mature.

2. You can have character to control all of your body's passions.

3. If you lose control of the tongue, you will lose control of the entire body. It's like a wall being broken down in order for a city to be conquered. Your tongue is that wall. If you can conquer your tongue, you can conquer all of the other enemies you have. The tongue is the hardest part to conquer. There is no passion that you cannot conquer if you conquer the tongue. If you can keep yourself from saying what you should not say, you can keep yourself from doing what you should not do.

4. The key to discipline is not speaking wrong. Acts 4:19,20, "But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard."

The Bible says we cannot help ourselves from speaking those things which we both see and hear. It is humanly impossible not to do so. That is the method whereby you gather the things that you are going to say. What you see and hear will always come out of the mouth.

If we are to control our bodies, we must control our tongues, but we first must get the character to control our tongues. The tongue will not be controlled if we do not control what we see and hear.

5. It is impossible not to speak wrong if you know wrong. You cannot help but speak what you know. We must, therefore, find a way to avoid knowing wrong.

6. The entire key to character is the discipline not to hear wrong. If you will follow that logic, it will change your life. If you want the discipline to control your bodily passions, you must have the discipline not to hear that which is wrong. Since you cannot restrain talking, you must restrain hearing! If you get control of your tongue, you will have the power to overcome every passion you have. Your problem is not your passions; your problem is your tongue! Our nation has no character because our nation has not learned to control our tongues. You cannot control what you say, but you can control what you hear! As a result, you will control what you say.

7. When you tell me wrong, you are tempting me to destroy my entire character. Do not make me the custodian of the poison that could destroy my entire character. The hardest thing to do in life is to keep quiet a juicy morsel of gossip, for we will speak what we hear. In so doing, we lose control of our bodily passions.

The person who calls you on the phone to tell you some gossip is trying to destroy your character, for he is making you the custodian of something bad which you cannot help but speak. You must not allow that gossip to enter into your ears. If you do, you will speak it! If you can get the character to control it, you will have the character to control your tongue and then your passions!

8. You offend me, if you tell me. When you speak bad to me, you offend me because you are trying to damage my character. The word "offend" in James 3:2 means "to cause someone to stumble and fall." That is exactly what we do when we tell someone something wrong. We are causing them to hear, which will cause them to speak, which will tear down their ability to control their passions.

Most of us are more careful about what we eat or drink than we are about what we hear. A juicy bit of evil is more dangerous than a bottle of beer. Restrain the hearing if you want to restrain the speaking!

9. You are not destroying my character, but you are handing me something that will. When you tell me some juicy gossip, you give me the poison with which I can destroy my entire character. That is why I always say that I do not want to hear it. I refuse to hear poison, just like I refuse to drink liquor. I will not drink your liquor, even if it offends you; and I will not hear your gossip, even if it offends you. I would rather offend you than to allow the poison that could destroy my character to enter my mind. You are offending me by daring to offer me that destructive poison!

The tongue defiles the whole body. If you do not want your body defiled, do not allow yourself to hear that which you cannot help but speak. Most people have no character because they are being destroyed by what they see and hear.

10. Bad talk comes out of Hell. The Bible says so. Evil talk does not hurt the person being slandered. It hurts the talker because it breaks down his character. The way not to be the talker is not to be the hearer. Whatever evil you bring to tell me came from Hell.

Do you want to be a delivery person for Hell?

11. The greatest character is not to hear or see what you should not hear or see. If you want character, control your tongue. If you want to control your tongue, control what you hear and see.

Every character weakness you have comes from an uncontrolled tongue. If you get the steering wheel messed up, you will not be able to control the car. Get the tongue fixed, and you will fix all the rest of your problems. Let it be defiled, and it will defile everything else!

The great secret to character is for you to control your tongue, but you cannot control your tongue if you do not control your ears and your eyes!


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