Why is the first step of Alcoholics Anonymous the admission that one is powerless over alcohol and that his or her life has become unmanageable? Because admission is necessary before the alcoholic can take the second step, which is to believe that a Power greater than oneself can restore sanity.
The awareness and admission of our powerlessness is rooted in the wisdom of God and revealed in the book of James. In James, the issue is our words. “No human being can tame the tongue, it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8).
Have you become perfect in what you say? Have you gone any significant length of time (a few days or a week) without being rude, crude, insensitive or sarcastic in what you say? Can you point to a situation in which you said exactly what was needed to give grace and wisdom? Are your words always true, helpful, and necessary…always?
We all know that we stumble in many ways, with our words being the main way. But we loathe the admission that we are actually powerless to become perfect in our speech. We think that stringing together the right words in a given situation is all it takes to show mastery over the tongue. But we fail to see that the motivation behind our words can be selfish ambition in the heart (James 3:14). Can we not see that the right words spoken for the wrong reason still carry the stain of sin?
Let’s admit it, the tongue simply cannot be controlled for good. We are powerless over it. It is unmanageable, making our lives and relationships go in directions that are not good.
That’s because apart from the saving and transforming power of God, we speak from the wisdom that is below, not above. The wisdom from below is to live for self and all the hyphenations that come with it (self- pity, self-protection, self-glory). When the wisdom from below governs our words there will be disorder and vile practices (James 3:16).
But the wisdom from above is God’s purity, peace, gentleness, and mercy ruling in our hearts (James 3:17). This, and only this, is the power that controls the tongue for good. God’s grace comes to us, from outside of us, to change our hearts, return us to sanity, and give us the power to speak and act as those who are free (James 2:12).
Have you admitted that you are powerless over your speech and your heart? Are you aware that you need someone other than yourself to bring grace and change to your life? Today, repent and believe. Turn to Christ to cleanse your heart. Humble yourself before the Lord. Let him search your heart and expose its sinfulness. Then repent some more. Believe and take joy in the forgiveness he gives. He gives a greater grace. Live in this state of humility and grace, forgiveness and freedom. Live humbly in the presence of the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-forgiving God. Take up his wisdom and be at peace. Then you will find your words reflecting a heart made new.
See you Sunday.