************ Sermon on Ephesians 4:26-27 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on July 21, 2002
Today, we look at the sin of anger. As I said a couple of weeks ago, anger is one of the seven deadly sins identified by the medieval church. The seven deadly sins are those attitudes which, if unchecked, lead us to sin and destructive behavior and, ultimately, to hell's destruction.
I Two Kinds of Anger
A There are two kinds of anger. One is good – up to a point – and the other is bad. "In your anger," says our text, "do not sin." It is possible to be angry and not sin, and it is possible to be angry and sin.
The first anger is a righteous anger, a righteous indignation, at sin and evil and injustice. This is the kind of wrath that God showed when He destroyed the world with the Flood (Gen 6:5f), and Sodom and Gomorrah with fire (Gen 18 & 19). But God also became angry with His people. God became angry when Israel made and worshiped the golden calf (Ex 32). He became angry when 10 of the spies gave a bad report on the Promised Land and the people rebelled (Num 13 & 14). He became angry when Balaam went with Balak in order to curse Israel (Num 22:22). He became angry when Israel joined the Moabite women in worshiping the Baal of Peor (Num 25:3). He became angry when the Reubenites and Gadites and half the tribe of Manasseh decided they wanted to stay with their flocks on the east side of the Jordan rather than settle in the Promised Land (Num 32).
I am sure you realize that God is also angry with you and me and all of mankind for our sins. However, the Good News of the Gospel is that for those who believe the wrath of God against sin is borne by Christ when He suffered and died upon the cross. God hates sin and, in His anger, He punishes it. Either we bear the punishment or Christ bears the punishment for us.
We also see righteous anger and indignation in Jesus. One day Jesus went into the synagogue and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of the Pharisees were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched Him closely to see if He would heal the crippled man on the Sabbath. Scripture tells us that Jesus was angry and deeply distressed at their stubborn, loveless hearts (Mk 3:1-6). Or, who can forget the time Jesus chased the money changers and cattle dealers out of the temple? Jesus was filled with a righteous wrath and indignation that the Temple of God was turned into a market (Jn 2:12-25). Christ was angry, but His anger never led to sin, because His emotions were always kept under perfect control.
God's servant Moses was also filled with a righteous wrath and indignation. Remember the time he came down the mountain with the two tables of the Law? As he approached the camp of Israel he saw the golden calf and dancing. Moses was angry that the children of Israel sinned against God by making and worshiping an idol. In his anger, Moses threw the tablets to the ground and destroyed the calf (Ex 32:19-20).
Now, as Scripture tells us, you and I are to "be imitators of God" (Eph 5:1). So, like God – and Christ and Moses – we are to be filled with a righteous wrath and anger at sin, evil, and injustice. When we watch the news or read the newspaper we see many things to be angry about as Christians:
-We should be angry about the white policeman in Inglewood, CA who recently lifted a 136-pound black teenager off the pavement and slammed him face first onto the trunk of a patrol car and then punched him in the face.
-We should be angry about corruption in business that led companies like Enron and Worldcom to lie about profits.
-We should be angry that as companies lay-off or fire workers their CEOs build $15,000,000 mansions in Florida.
-We should be angry that our Governor and the California Department of Education push the homosexual agenda down our throats.
-We should be indignant that the laws of our land permit abortion.
-We should be angry that so many girls and boys are victims of sexual, physical, mental, and emotional abuse.
-We should be angry that young girls are kidnaped from their homes and either disappear or are killed.
-We should be angry that there is hunger in our land, the richest country on earth.
-We should be angry about cults and sects that lead so many people astray.
-We should be angry about the lies of our culture that there is no ultimate truth, no right or wrong, that all religions and value systems are equal.
-More than one parent has shared with me their anger about a school bully who picks on their son or daughter.
All of this, and more, is cause for a righteous anger and indignation on our part.
B However, a word of caution is necessary. In out text Paul says, "In your anger do not sin." The Christian must always make sure that his or her anger is that of a righteous indignation, and not just an expression of personal gripes or wounded pride. For our anger to be right and proper, it must have no sinful motives and must not be allowed to lead to sin in any way.
"In your anger do not sin." You see, it is so very easy for our anger to become wrong and sinful, to become a consuming fire that destroys ourselves and all those around us. Far too easily what begins as righteous anger against sins becomes perverted and soured and is turned against our brothers and sisters in the Lord. That's the second kind of anger, an anger that is wrong, an anger that is sinful. This is an anger in which the emotions are not under control, in which the angry person lashes out at those around him. This is an anger caused not by righteous indignation but by personal resentment, by malice, by bitterness, by a desire for revenge.
Topic: AngerThis kind of anger is part of that old man of sin that Christians are to put off (Eph 4:22; Gal 5:19f). In its place we are to put on the new Spirit-filled man that we are in Christ, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph 4:24) and having self-control (Gal 5:23).
Subtopic: Of Man
A couple of years ago there was a news story from Philadelphia. A man killed a driver who cut in front of him on the expressway. The murderer explained that traffic had slowed as it was funneled into a single lane. He claimed that he had waited in line for more than a quarter of a hour until he could begin to enter into the flow of traffic. Just as he was about to do so, another car passed him on the shoulder of the highway and cut in front of his automobile. As though that were not enough, the driver laughed and made an obscene gesture at him. It was too much for him to handle, and when traffic later stopped because of congestion, he removed a gun from his glove compartment, got out of his car, walked up to the side of the car of the man who had taunted him and shot him to death. The injustice of what had happened was bad enough, but being laughed at and taunted was more humiliation than he could tolerate.
C The Bible encourages the first kind of anger – up to a point. We should get angry and upset about sin and evil. We should never sit back and calmly accept injustice as part of life. We should always fight and resist what is wrong.
The Bible condemns the second kind of anger. Listen to these verses:
(Mt 5:22) But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.
(James 1:19-20) My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, (20) for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.
(Eph 4:31) Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. (cf Col 3:8)
D "In your anger do not sin." Yet, too often our anger is sinful. And, most ironic of all, it is especially in the area of faith and religion that we see an unholy anger. I was talking with someone who said, "Life would be a lot easier without the church and school." I have to sympathize with him. He was getting sick and tired of the constant struggles that go on in the church and Christian school about issues, money, music, salaries, quality, expansion, etc. And yes, when it comes to church and school, too often people get angry, blow their tempers, and say and do things that should never be said or done. In fact, many times it is utterly shameful.
It is bad, shamefully bad, to have a sinful anger in and about the Christian church and Christian school. But even worse is this anger in the home, with the people who are closest to us. Most of us seem to think that it's okay to do things at home which we would never do outside.
You know the scenario: dad comes home from the office, factory, dairy, or shop; he's had a frustrating day; and he explodes unnecessarily at the wife or kids over some petty little thing. Or, mom has had it with the noise, the messy room, or the tracked-in dirt; she loses it and screams at the children. Theirs is an unholy anger.
The number one argument in 97% of all homes is about money. Dad and mom not only dredge up the past but they also call each other names. Theirs is an unholy anger.
Parents have to be careful they don't cause this unholy anger in their children. In fact, the Bible warns against this:
(Eph 6:4) Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Parents "exasperate" their children, they cause an angry resentment, if they inflict public punishment on a child, or are overharsh in punishment, or belittle their children and call them names. Parents, be careful you don't cause your children to fall into the sin of an unholy anger.
Of course, there are also children who do a good job of exasperating their parents, of causing their parents to have an unholy anger. Teenagers who talk disrespectfully, who break curfew, who use drugs and alcohol, who abuse their parents' trust and car, cause an angry resentment in their parents. Children and teenagers who constantly lie and steal produce resentment in their parents.
Few things today are more painful than a divorce. And very little is more painful than a divorce involving children. Even after the divorce, the marriage partners are angry at each other and use the children as innocent pawns to strike back at each other. In such situations, the children are being mentally and emotionally abused because of their's parents unholy anger. No child should ever have to be torn apart emotionally because of a divorced couple's anger toward each other.
II Overcome Anger so Devil has no Foothold
A We all become angry. Sometimes it is the right kind of anger. Too often it is the wrong kind. So, how do we handle anger, what do we do with it? Let me tell you 3 approaches Christians should NOT use. The first approach is summed up by the motto, "Don't get mad, get even." A prime example of this sort of approach is what happened to Rudolf Eichmann, the Nazi war criminal. When he was captured, he was put on public display in a cage and his Jewish victims were free to spit at him and to hurl insults upon him. To be honest, at times I found myself wishing for a similar fate for Osama Bin Laden or Saddam Hussein. But this is not a proper Christian response.
A second approach we should NOT use is to suppress and deny our anger. This is the coping method often used by those who are part of a church. We try to pretend that we have forgotten and forgiven what people have done to us, that we have risen above becoming angry. Who are we trying to fool? Nothing is ever really forgotten. Nothing is put out of our minds completely. In actual fact, all that we have done is suppress our anger and hidden our desire for revenge. Someday it will come out of our subconscious to haunt us.
A third approach we should NOT use is to displace anger, to take it out on innocent others. The newspapers are filled with case after case of men who physically, verbally, emotionally and mentally abuse their wives and children because of displaced anger. They are angry because of pressures at work, or money problems, or because of feelings of helplessness or uselessness, and they strike out at wives, children, elderly parents, and fellow church members.
B In our text, Paul tells us that unholy anger gives Satan a foothold. Satan's message to us: "Be angry and sin." Nurse your anger. Get even. Strike out. Blow your top. Pretend you are not angry and let it eat away at your insides. I have met people filled with an unholy anger, with a burning desire for revenge. They don't realize it, but their anger has given Satan the entrance he wants into their hearts. It is frightening to see what twisted, distorted, almost inhuman persons they become when they nurse their wrath day and night, for weeks, months, and even years on end.
Take the matter of revenge. It almost never is enough, is it?
Topic: RevengeDying isn't enough? This father has got to be kidding! How sad, his desire for revenge. But that's what the Devil wants, to make him desire more and more.
Title: Dying Isn't Enough
Recently a man who had raped, robbed, and murdered a 16 year old girl was put to death in the electric chair. The dead girl's father demanded and got the right to be present for the execution. When the ordeal was over, the father was interviewed by a reporter and simply said, "I want him to suffer more for what he did. Dying isn't enough!"
C In our text Paul says, "Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry." Or, don't go to bed if you are angry. Paul knows that if anger is nursed along for a couple of days or weeks or months, it becomes a poison gnawing away at our insides. So it must be dealt with in a healthy and constructive way as soon as possible, before it has a chance to work its cancer in us.
The Biblical message is that we are to deal with our unholy anger by overcoming it. Now, how do we do that? First and foremost, the solution to anger is love and forgiveness. Paul says, "Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry." When they have a fight, every husband and wife knows what these words mean, or they should. Before they go to bed, one or both of them must say, "Honey, I'm sorry. Please forgive me." And the only response should be, "Darling, I do forgive you."
Topic: AngerThis mother had the right and only approach to anger. She was living out what Paul says a few verses after our text:
Subtopic: Of Man
Perhaps you heard of the 26 year old Korean graduate student who was studying political science at the University of Pennsylvania. He went out to mail a letter. Before he could get back to his apartment, he was attacked by a gang of violent teenagers looking for money to go to a dance. They robbed and killed him. This young man had been a model son and an exemplary Christian.
Those who committed the crime were the most contemptible of people. They sneered at the authorities who arrested them, and they remained arrogant as they were brought to trial. The widowed mother of their victim had every right to be filled with anger against them, but she was not. The members of her church in Korea took up an offering to provide funds for her to come to the United States so that she could help those who had committed the crime that had hurt her so deeply.
When the young criminals who murdered her son were tried and found guilty, she got down on her knees before the judge to plead that their lives be spared. What she did brought the first positive response from the murderers. They began to weep and express their sorrow. Tears came to the eyes of the policemen who held the young offenders in chains.
(Eph 4:31-32) Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. (32) Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
D The second answer to anger concerns faith in the justice of God. When someone hurts us, rather than get angry or get even we have to leave it in the hands of God. You know, I am sure, what Paul says:
(Rom 12:19) Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. Yet, very few of us are willing to accept this arrangement.
After a 10 year old boy had been pushed in the mud by a nasty classmate, he was told that it was unnecessary to try to get even because God punishes evildoers. He responded, "Okay, I'll give God till Saturday."
In the final analysis, I am to trust that God is a better justice maker than I am. I am to leave issues of fairness for God to work out. I am to defer to Him the scales of justice.
There are two kinds of anger. One is good – up to a point – and the other is bad.
(Eph 4:26-27) "In your anger do not sin" : Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, (27) and do not give the devil a foothold.
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