Watch Your Mouth

2016 RightNow Conference

Despite its size, the tongue contains incredible power and serves as an important marker in our relationship with God. In this 34-minute session from the 2016 RightNow Conference, Tony Evans offers a brief theology behind the importance of speech and what it can accomplish in our lives, both for good and evil.

Dr. Tony Evans is Founder and Senior Pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, President of The Urban Alternative, and Chaplain of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks. He was the first African-American to graduate with a doctoral degree from Dallas Theological Seminary and has authored over 100 books including Oneness Embraced, The Kingdom Agenda, Raising Kingdom Kids, Victories in Spiritual Warfare, Kingdom Woman, and Kingdom Man.

Proverbs 18:21 says, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue." This verse is one of many throughout Scripture indicating the power of speech. The tongue has profound influence upon our existence, which is why we must consider it biblically.

How has speech influenced your life? In what ways has it built you up? In what ways has it harmed you?
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Turning to the book of James, Tony focused on three critical truths about the tongue: 
1) The tongue has the power to direct.
2) The tongue has the power to destroy.
3) The tongue has the power to determine.

James 3:1-4 (ESV)

Taming the Tongue

1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.2For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.3If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well.4Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

How does James' warning in verse 1 strike you? What does it tell you about the significance of speech in the context of ministry? How have you seen that truth play out in your own experience?
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Much like a bridle in horse's mouth or a rudder on a ship, our tongues have the power to direct our ways. How have you found this to be true in your life? In what was has speech directed you, for good or bad?
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Tony said that when we learn to use our mouths correctly, we can learn to control those "beasts" that seek to lead us astray from maturity. What beasts are you facing? How do they threaten to turn you aside from a deeper walk with Christ? How can your speech play a role in directing them, like a bridle or rudder?
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James 3:5-8 (ESV)

5So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!6And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.7For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind,8but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

In the first three chapters of the Bible, we see speech profoundly affect our world. God created everything through speech, transferred the created power of speech to Adam, and then Satan brought sin into the world through speech.  Since then, Satan has focused much of his efforts on using our tongues to carry out his agenda of destruction.

How have you witnessed the destructiveness of speech? How has it influenced your current ministry context?
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Tony shared that one way to resist hell's influence is through a public testimony of the lordship of Jesus Christ in our lives. In what ways do you speak so as to publicly declare your trust in Christ? In what ways could you improve?
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In what ways have you engaged in destructive speech? What was its effect on others? How have you sought forgiveness for your speech?
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James 3:9-12 (ESV)

9With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.10From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.11Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?12Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 Our tongues have the power to create, or as James writes, to bear fruit. With them, we can both bless and curse. But righteous speech requires consistency, as verse 11 makes clear. Good intentions alone are not enough.

Tony noted the tendency for our speech to boomerang. Often times, we keep ourselves imprisoned by refusing to speak freedom over others. How have you observed this connection between personal freedom and our speech to others? Does the way you speak about others affect your current walk with Christ? If so, how?
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What would a more consistent faithfulness look like in the way you speak? Where are areas that you can improve? What steps will you begin to take towards consistency in the days ahead?
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How can you challenge others to use God-glorifying speech about themselves? How can you encourage them in God-glorifying speech toward others?
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Our tongues have great power. A careless approach to speech can have catastrophic effects on our lives, our relationships, and our ministry. Even more, it has tremendous influence on our maturity with Christ. Spend some time considering the way you speak. Ask God to bring to the surface opportunities for repentance and follow Him in bold obedience.

For more information on the RightNow Conference or to find out how to attend next year's event, visit