That Which Defiles

by Mike Ratliff

But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. (Matthew 15:18-19 ESV)

I never thought I would see the day when professing Christians and their pastors would be offended by a teaching that is a call to repentance from the use of profanity or coarse language. Their response is that we are being legalistic for teaching this because it is culture that defines what profanity or coarse language is. Since the Bible doesn’t list certain words as bad words to use then it is judgmental and hypocritical to teach that it is wrong to use that form of language by Christians, especially preachers in the pulpit.

However, the Bible most definitely teaches that Christians are called to be holy and pure. They are to deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow Jesus. They are to not be legalistic about following rules, but instead are to become Spirit-filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit. They are to not be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of their minds. They have freedom from legalism, but are challenged to not take lightly the shedding of Christ’s blood.

I find that the Phony “Tolerance” of the New Evangelicalism and of the Emerging Church, which demands that they not be called sinful for using profanity and coarse language, is actually an attempt to cling to a favorite sin while demanding that that what is evil be called good and any rebuke coming their way calling for repentance be called evil. Is there any teaching in the Bible concerning the tongue and word usage? Yes! Here is one from the book of James.

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For 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. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look 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. So 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! And 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. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. (James 3:1-13 ESV)

The two loudest complainers in my last post that was a call for repentance from using foul language, profanity, and coarse language by Christians are both in the Emergent or New Evangelism camp. One is Nathan Neighbors who has claimed that his pastor is Erwin McManus. The other is Tim Reed who is a pastor. He is well known for using profanity in his sermons for effect. They have called me arrogant and ignorant. If I have been arrogant then show me where and when so I can confess it and repent of it. I may be ignorant of these men’s motives, but I am not ignorant of what Christian’s are called to be by the grace of God and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

These are both so-called Christian leaders. What does James tell us in this passage about that? Not many of us should become teachers. Why? There is a greater judgment coming for teachers and preachers. Why is it that we must be very strict and careful about what we teach? First, we are supposedly prophesying from God’s Word. Second, we are fallible if we become self-focused and fleshly. We may stumble in this area in many ways. James tells us that it is by what we speak that will either be make us stumble or not. What would not make us stumble? If we teach what the Word says in the power of the Holy Spirit for God’s glory and the edification of those hearing or reading what we say then we will not stumble. However, any other motive will cause us to stumble because what comes from the mouth in the name of preaching or teaching will be defiled and it will defile us. Why? It will be of the flesh not of the Spirit.

James says that it is the tongue that defiles or stains the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. That’s pretty strong language. The Greek word that James used for stain or defile here means to pollute. What sort of things can we speak that would cause us to become polluted? James says that the tongue is full of deadly poison. From the same mouth comes blessing and cursing. Then he makes a statement that the mouth is like a spring. Good springs bring forth good water, but bad springs bring forth bad water. Fig trees bear figs not olives. Grapevines bear grapes not figs. Neither can a regenerate heart spew forth cursings and profanity and coarse language and call it preaching or teaching. Instead, a regenerate heart will bring forth the fruit of its new nature and show good works in meekness of wisdom. James told us at the beginning of this passage that in many things we offend so he isn’t teaching perfectionism. The believer is in process and will eventually, by God’s Grace through their sanctification learn to be Spirit-filled and not flesh driven.

Lastly, I would like to make an observation. This controversy or disagreement or whatever it is, is an indictment against how fleshly the Church has become. When a call to be holy and pure through godly sorrow that leads to repentance is labeled as legalism, ignorance, and arrogance by leaders in the Church then we must take a long hard look at our spiritual bankruptcy. Isn’t this a parallel of the apostasy of Israel that caused God to destroy their nation and send the people into captivity? Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel prophesied against their apostasy and rebellion and they were all persecuted. If this erosion of God’s Truth in the heart of the Church continues then can judgment be far behind?

Soli Deo Gloria

23 thoughts on “That Which Defiles

  1. Mike, You are right in what you are writing on genuine repentance. We need to pray for the ‘other two’ who even dare to call themselves Christians. They will answer to God Himself for this one. It should be a no brainer on the corse, vulgar, cussing, fleshly talk. If you are really regenerated, HE takes AWAY the DESIRE to even think that way. Yes we still will fight this flesh-war till the day we are to be with Him, but here’s the clencher…….if you are regenerated, you won’t WANT to do anything to hurt your Lord who saved your sorry self when you didn’t deserve it in the first place! And for those who do make excuses or want to continue that sort of practice and it doesn’t affect them, they need to check and see if they are really saved. I know what my Bible tells me about people like that.


  2. Mike:
    I read your commments on CRN.Info. I admire you for trying. I used to read their blog on a pretty regular basis, but gave up about a month ago. It’s amazing to me that they exist mainly to basically critique and demean two people-Ingrid and Ken. Pretty sad use of their time if you ask me.

    Tim Reed seems to be more angry today than a few months ago.


  3. Well, that explains it! It is the Nathan and Tim of the emergent camp! Since when has God said that the unclean (foul language) can touch the clean (His Word) and make the unclean thing clean? No, the clean thing becomes unclean to the hearers when the unclean touches it! It makes a mockery to preach the Word in such a manner. You can be relevent without being foul in speech. Why sink down to the base level of the world when Christ has provided for us to be lifted up above the world and its ways? Perhaps a bar of Ivory might help since they have no desire to be repentant and are obviously not hearing from the Holy Spirit! Unholy words of flesh preaching the holy Word of God…only in the emergent scheme of things. BTW, I thought they were being arrogant and ignorant but realized that there seems to be the missing person of the Spirit (or He is being quenched).


  4. Hi Mike. I’ve read your posts for awhile on CRN and here and have enjoyed them. I saw the latest scuffle you posted about on CRN and I find myself just sickened by those so-called christians (not CRN, the other bunch. I like Ken, etal). Like Keith, I admire you for trying to get through to them.
    I just have to wonder why they censored that one post by the supposed soldier. If culture defines the crude language, why were the censored words not allowed? The F word is almost universal, now. No one blinks an eye anymore, so why do they have a problem with it? Why do they apparently have a problem with some vulgar terms for genitals, etc., yet will use some terms? It’s only a matter of degree. If they have a problem with some words-admitting that there are in fact some words that shouldn’t be used, where is the line? They’re being legalists themselves if they say some words are OK, but not others.
    Anyway, God sees it all. He knows and will winnow the wheat and chaff at the right time. God bless you and your efforts.


  5. Mt 15
    18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.
    19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
    20 These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.


    Mt 7
    6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

    Jesus has already called some people for what they really are and He did not use foul nor coarse language. His message indicates that there are times when some persons should be completely ignored.

    We all will stand before the Lord one day to give an accounting of our lives and our words.

    36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
    37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.
    Mt 12

    This is a good time for all “brothers” to review Romans 14 for true brothers will not flaunt offenses before others.


  6. Eph. 5:4 and Col. 3:8 also teach that Christians aren’t to swear.
    These leaders also maintain that just because certain words aren’t mentioned in the Bible, then it’s o.k. to use them. A lot of things aren’t mentioned in the Bible: arson isn’t mentioned in the Bible. Does that make it o.k.? Cockfighting isn’t mentioned in the Bible. Does that make it o.k.?


  7. It is sickening that people who call themselves Christians would endorse the use of coarse language. The Bible uses strong language, but it does not use profane language. The failure to discern between the two is the error those Emerging folks fall into. Besides, if they think that the Bible endorses using foul language, I don’t see them using such language against heretics and heresies! Oh wait, they use them in support of ….. heresies. I wouldn’t be holding my breath in anticipation that anyone of them would use this to castigate people like Brian McLaren.


  8. I just went over to CRN.Info and they have a post on this article about Mike’s legalistic ways concerning foul language. It was the weakest argument I have ever seen. They even imply that Mike goes by an FCC rule. Then they have a link to go to to prove that foul language can be used in a godly way. My, oh my, I went there. Boar’s Head Tavern! That is a New Age christian site. I know a little bit about new age christianity and I am coming to believe that CRN.Info is new age. And the language was perverse. It did not glorify God but it glorified man-especially those who think themselves of higher ground than the legalists. They think they are spitting in the face of those they deem hypocrits and legalists, but they go right to the edge of spitting in God’s face. I have to quit giving in to the temptation to go over there when they are mentioned! Mike, you gotta lot of catchin’ up to do to get as many posts under your name as Ingrid and Ken! Keep up the good work for God’s glory and it won’t be too long until you are honored with the faithful over there.


  9. Say a husband doesn’t love his wife. Wouldn’t he complain that a law that required him to hug his wife a least once a day was legalism?

    But if a husband loves his wife deeply, wouldn’t he consider such a law to not even be relevant to him? He is not under that law, for he eagerly and gladly obeys the law of love.

    So if a legalist confronts the loving husband and questions him as to whether he is obeying the law, the husband, a little perplexed, replies, “That law must be for people who don’t love their wives, so they know that there is no love in them. As for me, I love my wife!”


  10. Anyone who states that the Bible doesn’t say anything about foul language should try reading it. Here are only a few scriptures that are very direct. I pray that people will be genuine and admit their sin and rebellion and follow the “real” Jesus.

    Proverbs 10:31-31:
    “The mouth of the just bringeth forth wisdom: but the froward tongue shall be cut out.
    The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable: but the mouth of the wicked speaketh frowardness.”

    Matthew 12:35-36:
    “A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.
    But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.”

    Matthew 15:11:
    “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.”

    Colossians 3:8:
    “But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.”

    Ephesians 4:29-30:
    “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
    And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.”

    James 3:5-6:
    “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 a fire, 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.”

    Romans 8:7:
    “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”

    James 4:4:
    “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”

    Psalms 141:3-4:
    “Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.
    Incline not my heart to any evil thing, to practise wicked works with men that work iniquity: and let me not eat of their dainties.”

    1st Peter 1:14-16:
    “As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:
    But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;
    Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

    Philippians 1:27:
    “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;”

    Galatians 5:16-17:
    “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
    For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”


  11. Let them just keep jabbing at Mike and us…….HE is taking all of this down in the ‘other books’ and they WILL give an account to Him for ever careless word they said. They are just piling up more of Gods wrath that they will get. Can we say ‘Lord Lord did WE not’……….. First was said a bar of Ivory, then I said no, a bar of Lava raked across the teeth, but lets change that Lava to the kind that comes from a volcano, that’d be more like it. They have no fear of God period. That ought to tell us something. They need major prayer for their souls.


  12. 2 Tim 4:3
    3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound [1] teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,

    It looks like people have found teachers who will scratch their itchy ears. So we have arrived.


  13. The thing is, if any of them practice contemplative prayer/spiritual formation they are practicing silencing the mind. When the mind is emptied the demons see it and come in posing as Christ Jesus. Perhaps that is why they say things don’t mean what they say in God’s Word. It is like they have utterly different minds in their reasonings.I have yet been to any of their postings where they rightly divide the Word in their arguments. And they do love to cut others down with presumptions when they get pressed for scriptures! Something is not right spiritually over there! Scary!


  14. Sherry,
    I think it’s called spiritual blindness, hard hearted, and in rebellion. Don’t they remind you of our word/faith brothers? We should pray for them.


  15. Pingback: Holy, Holy , Holy « Possessing the Treasure

  16. Yeah, it could be. But I have been reading of some testimonies of those who have had demonic experiences in practicing the silence ,”be still”, mantra type prayers. This is becoming prevalent in the seeker/creeker/emerging churches. It is mysticism from the Dark Ages and eastern religions. It does alter the personalities when satan has a doorway in, which is given to the demons by the practitioner. At first they really believe they are coming into a closer relationship with God. But soon enough the fruit of it is revealed. Thankfully, these brothers and sisters were able to know that the practice was not of God. It makes me shudder to think that those who say they are christians are falling for it. Zeal without knowledge. I am so grateful to our Father for getting me out of charismania! I might very well be defending such a practice if He hadn’t. Yes, we do have our prayers for God to be merciful and deliver them from their delusions. He did it for me and I am grateful for whoever it was that prayed for it. And most grateful that God listened. Thankfully, no one is hopeless and nothing is impossible with our wonderful Father.


  17. Mike you are so right on the issue of profanity. I say that as one who struggles with it. Before I was saved, I had a real potty mouth. It has cleaned up a lot, but sometimes, when I’m alone and get frustrated or angry, some words come out that shouldn’t. I KNOW it is wrong and I struggle against it. I would ask all who read this to say a prayer for me to help me defeat this sin by God’s grace. Thanks.


  18. I just prayed for you, frank, and all of “us” who stumble in this area. Even those who haven’t said any filthy speech in years slip up. I have heard it said that one can know how much they have grown in Christ after having stubbed one’s toe on the bedpost in the dark of night going after a glass of water. 🙂 Just a note: the person who said that was a pastor of ours who hobbled to the pulpit one Sunday morning. I think he spoke from experience! God bless.


  19. I guess that reaction tells you who the true pastors are. Even Dog the Bounty Hunter is softer in this area than our so-called pastors. He at least admits it is wrong and that he is trying with *his* pastor to get his tongue under control.

    Our evangelical so-called pastors who use vulgarity and coarse jesting in their sermons ought to be ashamed, but they aren’t.

    Proverbs 29:1 “A man who hardens his neck after much reproof Will suddenly be broken beyond remedy.”


  20. Mike, what a great post!

    I simply am amazed at the blindness of it all. I feel like we are dealing with rebellious teens. Although, I have been blinded by my “self” over issues as well – but I praise God, for He does lift the veil when you are seeking Him with a true heart – seeking to magnify Him and not yourself.

    May we never be ashamed to be called to repentance – and may we never feel as if we are in no need of it.

    May we all stay humble, but yet bold for Christ!


  21. I sort of skimmed over this ‘series’. I seem to have missed a lot!

    I’m not sure how someone who loves the Lord would be looking for the lowest common denominator in terms of determining what is foul and coarse language. Yes; we offend in many ways, but we should be running as far as possible from anything that causes the offence.

    May the Lord keep opening our eyes to areas we each need working on. May we seek to glorify Him in our thoughts, words, and actions.


Comments are closed.