Tim Keller Sermon Notes — Series: James – The Gospel in Community — Sermon # 5: A Community of Peace-Making

Sermon preached on January 3, 2010, at the Ethical Culture Society location.

Teaching is based on James 3:1-18.

Please note that these sermon notes are provided only to encourage, and that any or all parts of the notes may contain errors or omissions, due entirely to the note-taker. Full audio of the sermon may be found at the Redeemer Sermon Store.


I. The Power of Words

II. The Poison of Words

III. Healing the Poison of Words

I. The Power of Words

v. 1: The people who use more words (teachers, preachers) will be judged more strictly because words are important to God.

  • Jesus: You’ll have to account for your most careless words
  • Proverbs 18: Life and death are in the tongue
  • James: Speaks of the tongue as a bridle, a rudder, a spark
  • Words have an underestimated yet enormous power

Genesis 1: God’s words are deeds; they create reality

  • as image bearers, ours do, too
    • Example 1: Words make or break identity. Call a child close to you “stupid” and it will take years for them to wash it away.
      • Your self-image is the sum of the verdicts spoken over you.
    • Example 2: Words make or break community.
    • Example 3: Words make or break a marriage. Once they’re out there, you can’t take them back, like thrusting a sword into someone.
    • Example 4: Words make or break a society. A small town had a great doctor, and 1 disgruntled patient destroyed his reputation.
    • Proverbs 18:21 says that words have the power of life and death. How many murders, suicides, and wars have been started by careless words?
      • The Bible would never say, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

II. What are poisonous words?

James 5:12, from Jesus: Everything you say is as if under oath (therefore, non-poisonous words will be TRUTHFUL)

James 5:9 Don’t grumble against each other (therefore, non-poisonous words will be LOVING)

UNTRUTHFUL WORDS: lies and cowardly silence, and how they all create an alternate reality

  • direct lies: Joy Davidman on lies: they create an alternate reality
  • indirect lies: exaggeration, spin, strategic omission
  • cowardly silence: keeping your mouth shut when you really ought to tell them something, when you owe them the truth, you’re creating an alternate reality for them

UNLOVING WORDS: harsh, cutting words and poorly timed, uncareful words

  • harsh cutting words: these are unkind, even if they are the truth. Proverbs talks about gentle words. Gentle words may break a bone (Proverbs 25:15). There’s nothing more persuasive than gentleness.
  • poorly timed, uncareful words: “a ripe answer is like a kiss on the lips” (Proverbs 24:26). Even if you’re gentle and loving, if your timing or diction is off, that’s your fault!

III. How do we heal these kinds of words?

You must control your tongue in order to affect your heart

  • If you clothe a thought with words, you make it stronger
  • If you’re mad and you gossip, you feel more angry

Counsel each other: When we express our thoughts to a counselor, we begin to understand our hearts more

Promising: (I’m not sure what this meant) It creates an identity for you that is above the events and fluctuations of life

Praising God: What you worship fills your heart; whatever the most over-the-top thing in the heart is shapes what you’ll say

  • Genesis 11 and Acts 2: At Babel, humans filled their hearts with reputation, and their words became confused; at Pentecost, the wisdom of God–Christ on the cross–finally comes to them. All along they’d been confused about Jesus’ talk about death.
  • Jesus got the silence of God because we deserve it for how we’ve abused our tongues.

About davestuartjr
Dave Stuart Jr. is a full-time teacher who writes about becoming better, saner teachers at He is a follower of Jesus Christ, a husband to Crystal, and a father to Hadassah, Laura, and Marlena.

One Response to Tim Keller Sermon Notes — Series: James – The Gospel in Community — Sermon # 5: A Community of Peace-Making

  1. @DrBradCole says:

    Thanks for the notes. Will download the podcast.

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