Becoming Pure from Lying and Sinful Anger (Ephesians Sermon 28 of 54)
February 21, 2016 | Andrew Davis
Unity, Sanctification, Contentment, Indwelling Sin
Well, as we come to this section of Ephesians, we're going to see more and more how intensely practical the Gospel really is, that the Gospel really addresses rubber meets the road issues, practical issues of everyday life, everyday morality, key moral issues. And we're going to look today at two of them, the issues of lying and of anger.
To set this in context, we've already had in the Book of Ephesians the glorious vision of the Church of Jesus Christ. We have two different metaphors given us in the Book of Ephesians. One of a “spiritual temple, a holy house that's rising to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit,” that's the Church. And that's such a glorious picture, isn't it? To bring in that image from Peter of “living stones” being quarried or rescued from Satan's dark kingdom by the power of the Gospel and transferred over and put in the walls of this rising glorious temple. And you, all of you who are brothers and sisters in Christ, you've already come to faith, you're in those walls now. You're already members of the Church. And you will be for all eternity, and you will give praise and glory to God from this day on and forever. So that's that image, an architectural image.
We also have a biological image of the Body of Christ, Christ Himself, the head of the body, we members of it and all of us united together through faith in Christ, united in the Spirit. Growing and developing and becoming more and more mature, as the Church of Jesus Christ. So these two different images and in both cases, the idea of unity is huge, that we must be fit together in the walls, and we must be members together one of another, and as we're going to look at these moral issues, lying and sinful anger or unrighteous anger, they are very divisive in the Body of Christ. They fracture our unity. We're going to talk about that.
So the context of all of this, Ephesians 4:1 it says, "As a prisoner for the Lord then," the apostle Paul says, "I plead with you. I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you've received. Walk in a manner worthy of that calling." And we're wanting to do that. Now right in the middle of Ephesians 4, we have a magnificent three-step process that's going to carry us through the rest of this chapter and then on into the next chapter on these specific moral issues. And then it becomes just a general recipe or mechanism for holiness that God gives us, and we saw it in verses 22 through 24, “that we are to put off the old man, the old nature, which is being corrupted, constantly corrupted. We are to be “made new in the attitude” or “the spirit of our minds,” and we are to” put on the new self,” created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
A Kingdom of Truth vs. a Kingdom of Lies
Old Life as Liars
So we come to the practical issue right away of lying, and isn't it amazing that the Apostle Paul begins with this? Like Paul, if you're going to address a moral issue in the life of the Church, where do you want to start? He starts with lying. He starts with lying, with the issue of deceit. He begins, verse 25, with the word “therefore,” "Therefore, each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, if we are all members of one body." So the essence of the old life was that old corruption we had in lying and deceitful desires, we're told in verse 22, “deceitful desires,” desires that lied to us, and then we lied about them. So the deceitfulness of that, and we are to be transformed, “made new in the spirit of our minds,” primarily by the ministry of the word of God by the power of the Holy Spirit, and we are to put on the new self, and I like the Holman Christian Standard Bible here in verse 24, "To put on the new man, the one created according to God's likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth. Therefore, put off falsehood." Do you see the connection then? So it's in the purity of the truth, on the basis of that. So the Christian life is one of walking in the truth, walking in the truth and Jesus Christ is the king of truth, isn't He?
Prioritize Truth Like Christ
We want to have, as Christians, the same commitment to truth that Jesus has. We want to speak the truth with the same kind of passion that Jesus uses. Jesus has a commitment to the truth that's infinitely greater than any of us, even to the point of dying on the cross, rather than to lie about Himself. Remember when He was on trial before the Jews, "I charge you under oath by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God." He said, "I am." He gave that truthful declaration, knowing it would result in his death, because they wouldn't believe him. I, as a Christian, I want to have that same kind of commitment to truth that Jesus had, that's what sanctification is all about. Jesus, on trial before Pilate then mentioned His kingdom. Pilate seized on that, because He was there as somehow the leader of an insurrection, "You are a King then," and Jesus said, "You are right in saying I'm a king. In fact, for this reason I was born and for this I came into the world to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” Jesus is the king, the king of the kingdom of truth. And in that way, He more than just teaches the truth, preaches the truth, exemplifies the truth. He is the truth. John 14:6, "I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." That's Jesus and Jesus in this way, and we saw that in the scripture, in Hebrews 1, is the perfect display of the character of God. Jesus tells the truth, is the truth, loves the truth because God, His Father is the exact same way in reference to the truth. Actually, Titus 1:2 says, "God cannot lie."
Think about that. It is impossible for Almighty God to lie. He always speaks the truth, and this Almighty God, who cannot lie, is omnipresent. He is omniscient. It is before Him that we will give an account for all of our words and actions on Judgment Day. It says in Hebrews 4, "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight, everything's uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account." For this reason, we Christians should be passionately committed to the truth because on that day, there will be no secrets. On that day everything will be uncovered and laid bare, everything. And so we want to live a life of truthfulness. So David, in confessing his terrible sin with Bathsheba, in Psalm 51:6 said, "Surely you desire truth in the inner parts, you teach me wisdom in the inmost place." We want to be characterized by truth straight through. We want to be light with no mixture of darkness at all, because that's how God is.
The Kingdom of Lies
Now, we have been rescued into this kingdom of truth, that I've been describing, out of a kingdom of lies. Ruled by a king of lies, Satan himself, fundamentally, at his basic nature, Satan is a liar. Fundamentally a liar. Martyn Lloyd-Jones put it this way, "Just as it is true to say that nothing so represents God as truth and truthfulness, it is equally true to say that nothing so represents the devil as lies." The devil and his kingdom are characterized by lies. Jesus said to his enemies in John 8:44, "You belong to your father the devil and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning not holding to the truth for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks of his own nature for he is a liar and the father of lies." So that means his whole kingdom, his whole dark kingdom is based on lies. First and foremost, Satan fell out of holiness into wickedness, because he lied to himself, he deceived himself. He believed that he could take God's place on the throne of glory ruling over the universe, he believed this and he told this to himself. In Isaiah 14:13-14, "You said in your heart, 'I will ascend to Heaven, I will raise my throne above the stars of God. I will sit enthroned on the Mount of Assembly on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain, I will ascend above the tops of the clouds, I will make myself like the most high God.'" I mean, he lied to himself.
God was never going to give up His position of absolute holiness and sovereign rule to a created being, but Satan became entranced by his own power, his own glory, his own beauty, and he looked to himself and he lied to himself, and he was cast down to earth, but when he was cast down to earth, he then commenced to lie to the human race, to Adam and Eve at the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Remember how God had clearly warned Adam, "You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it, you will surely die," but then Satan comes along and says, "You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be open, you'll be like God, knowing good from evil.”
How complex are the lies of Satan. First, a flat-out lie, a denial of something God asserted, "You will die if you sin." The soul who sins will die. The death penalty, linked to sin, he lied about that. He said, "You're not going to die." He keeps on telling that same lie to sinners, "You're not going to die. You're not going to die. There's no death penalty, there's no accountability for our sins." He's telling that lie but then he brings in some elements of the truth for God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be open, and you'll be like God, knowing good from evil. That's true, but it's still a lie because the true statement in the service of an overall overarching lie, that's the essence of cults and false religions, they say a lot of perceptually true statements, but in the overall overarching framework of a lie, of false religion, Satan's whole kingdom is based on lies about God. All the atheistic scientific systems are based on satanic lies, all the godless philosophical systems are based on satanic lies. See, he has a complex system of lies that Satan has crafted, and those that are his subjects, those that are his slaves, they're liars, too. As a matter of fact, Psalm 116:11, the Psalmist says, "And in my dismay, I cried out all men are liars." Every human being, we're all liars. Romans 3:13-14, "Their throats are open graves, their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness." Just the way we use our tongues, the way we speak, we are liars.
Rescued from the Kingdom of Lies
And Satan tempts Christians to act in the old pattern, he tempts us to lie too, though we have been delivered from his dark kingdom of lies, and we have been brought over into the kingdom of the truth, he still tempts us effectively to lie to one another.
Well, you remember the story in Acts 5 of Ananias and Sapphira, you remember that, how they had sold a piece of property, but they kept back some of the money for themselves, debatable whether that was a godly thing to do or not, but one thing that was definitely ungodly is that they lied about it. They lied to Peter. They lied in front of the whole church. "Tell us is this the price you got for the land." "Yes, that's the price." Peter said, "Ananias how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you've lied to the Holy Spirit, you've not lied to men, but to God." And Ananias and Sapphira in turn both dropped down dead for telling a lie. I mean, do you not see the grace of God in your own life that you don't drop dead every time you tell a lie? I mean, think about that, thank God that whenever you're convicted about lying that you're still alive. I mean, we should tremble at the grace of God concerning this, and not be so glib about our lives. Ananias and Sapphira are a permanent warning to the Church. We have been rescued from a dominion of lies, amen. We've been set free from it. And the thing that's beautiful about us is the truth about us is only good news. We are going to end up in Heaven, free from all sin, so we're free from the need to lie. We don't need to lie, we can speak the truth to one another. That's the point of the Gospel here.
Put Away All Lies and Speak Truth
The Basic Command: Put Off Lying and Speak Truth
So we're commanded here to put off all lying, to put off falsehood and speak the truth to one another, put off the lying like a filthy garment that defiles and corrupts you, put it off and resolve to commit yourself to the truth and the pattern of Jesus Christ. Say, "Lord, Holy Spirit, work in me the same love for the truth that Jesus had. I'd rather die than tell a lie, work that in me, Lord. I know I'm not there, but that's what I want. I want to speak only the truth."
Lies and Sin Go Hand in Hand
Now, we know that the problem here is that lying and sinning go hand in hand. They're like partners in the crime. A certain pattern of sin brings on lying to cover it up, so that the pattern can go on unchallenged. It's been going on since Adam ate that fruit. You remember? And God came to him in the garden and he called to him, and Adam was hiding from God, and there's this deception and hiding and a desire to present something other than what we really are. Now think about the scribes and Pharisees who Jesus called out as hypocrites, "Woe to you you scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites, you're like white-washed tombs. You look beautiful on the outside, but on the inside, you're full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way on the outside, you appear to men as righteous, but inside, you're full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” Well, that's what lying does. It puts a white-washed cover on a life of unrepentance in specific areas of sin, and so lying is a major issue. We must commit ourselves to telling the truth.
Lying Flows Through All of Non-Christian Society
Now, as we live in this world we look around, we see lying flowing through just about every aspect of society and culture. It's just we're just used to it. I mean, take a party, for example, get a party of non-Christian people together, office parties, some Christmas party and all of the talking that's going on. How much of it is true, how much of the things that the people are saying about themselves or stories they're telling, or whatever are truth, or how much exaggeration is going, how much flattery is going on? How much of these other things is going on? And there's just so much deception going on in the room, people trying to make themselves look good or powerful or competent, etcetera, and they're hiding their weaknesses by lying, this goes on all the time. People just become experts at shading the truth, stretching the truth, adapting the truth, arranging the truth, etcetera. Like it's some silly putty that we can arrange however we like.
Or take politics, for example. Presidential campaigns. Have you noticed how the networks after these debates will give this truth-o-meter, or something like that? It's just, we assume they're lying, we just want to know how bad the lie is, how egregious, or how obviously false it is, but we know that the politicians must be lying. Why? Because the truth is so unpopular and you need to be popular in order to get elected and so you have to come back from a statement of your full convictions on controversial issues. You have to couch it a little bit, put some slogans, and nuances because if you just simply tell the unvarnished truth, you will not get elected. Would Jesus Christ get elected in the American political process? He would never lie or shade the truth about any controversial issue, and that's just simply unpopular in reference to unbelievers. And so, in politics, we are seeing it.
What about diplomacy? You ever wonder about diplomats sitting at the negotiating table? There's a great verse, one of my favorite verses in the Book of Daniel, it's not as well-known but Daniel 11:27, there in this incredible chapter of prophecy about the kings of the north, kings of the southeast, Greek kings and all these things are going to happen over Palestine, minor details of redemptive history, but God's showing off how much detail he can predict about the future, there's like 108 specific prophecies in the Book of Daniel, but minor Greek kingdoms that are going to follow Alexander the Great. It's an incredible thing, but I love Daniel 11:27, talking about these two pagan kings, "The two kings with their hearts bent on evil, will sit at the same table and lie to each other but to no avail, because the end will still come at the appointed time." I just love that verse. The two evil kings are just lying to each other in diplomacy. You see? And God says, "It doesn't matter because I rule. I rule over the kingdom of lies, and I will achieve what I will achieve when I want to achieve it." That's God's sovereign power.
Or, take law enforcement and the judicial process. We're told the policemen and detectives, they just assume that the people they're talking to, the persons of interest are lying, that somewhere in there there's lies, even lots of lies. And then think about the actual court trial, how much effort is made to get at what actually happened. Cross-examinations, examinations, and objection overruled, and all that. None of that's going to happen on Judgment Day. It won't be needed. God will just say the truth. Do you remember how God called up Sarah on laughing? Remember that? "Why did you laugh?" "Oh, I didn't laugh," she lied. And here's the final word on the matter, "Oh yes, you did laugh." See, that's Judgment Day. There's a clean efficiency to that, it's called omniscience, omnipresence. "You laughed. We're done. I don't need any cross-examinations, I don't need any witnesses. We don't need any material evidence. You laughed." And that's Judgement Day. God tells the truth because He sees it all the time.
Lying Complicates Life
Furthermore, we understand that lying complicates life, as Walter Scott said, "Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive." As you begin to cover up your sins, you weave a cobweb of lies around your lifestyle, and it becomes harder and harder to remember the truth, harder and harder to remember who you really are. Every relationship in life is polluted and made more complex by lying. Biggest problem in the Christian life is that genuine holiness can only come about when people genuinely address the sin problems in their life and they stop lying about it. To me, that's the essence of a really trusted accountability partner, where you can tell each other the truth.
Self and pride is at the root of all lying and we lie to protect a projective false image of ourselves. Think about social media. How much of the image that people put on Facebook or Instagram or other social media is actually the truth. Or are they selectively putting photos, selectively putting things on to create an image. And that's a dangerous thing because you don't want to do that, you don't want to create an image. You want to be the truth. You want to be a man, a woman, a young person of integrity. That's what the Gospel calls us, to. And so we're called in verse 25 to “put off falsehood and speak truthfully to our neighbors, for we are all members of one body.”
It's pointing to the unity that we have, lying destroys that unity. Furthermore, it is by “speaking the truth in love, right doctrine that we build each other up.” “When we heard the word of truth, the Gospel of our salvation, that's when we were included in Christ, and we received the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Lying and the Christian Church
So it is the ministry of the truth of the word of God that builds the Body of Christ, we must speak the truth to one another, we must resolve to speak the truth. If you have a sin problem, be honest about it, and deal with it. Don't make excuses. Conversely, don't exaggerate your good works and achievements and make much about all the good things that you do, don't do that, don't seek to puff up your outward appearance. Now I need to say a couple of things here because we're just messed up.
It's like, "Pastor told me to tell the truth, I got to tell you what I really think about your outfit today. I'm just being honest." Okay, well that's not honesty, that's your own unkind opinion. We must make a distinction between biblical truth and your own unkind opinion. Alright and even if it might be true, you kind of have to earn the right to say some of those hard things to each other. And we see people and we're like, "They need this, they that." We're making these judgments. Is it you, are you the messenger to go say that? So let's be careful and let's be careful about TMI as well, you know what I mean? Too much information. “Yeah, my stomach is just really…” “I had the grossest thing this…” It's like no, really. That's not what I mean by speaking the truth. Okay? Each one needs to bear his own burdens. Alright, so don't need to hear about your toenail fungus. Your doctor needs to hear about it. But I have a need, a physical need, if you'd be praying for me. Good, thank you. I will. I will pray for you.
Fundamentally though, the most important truth we need to say to each other is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to speak the cross to each other consistently. We'll never be done with it. I think as I was thinking this morning about this point in the sermon, I just want to appeal to lost people to come to Christ because all of us are liars, Christians, non-Christians alike, but only Christians have the remedy and the covering and the forgiveness of Almighty God and how do we have that? Through the blood of Christ.
So the verse that came to my mind is 1 Timothy 1:15, which says, "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst." So you could put in there Christ Jesus came into the world to save liars. And I don't know anyone who lies as much as I do, because I know my own lies. Everyone else they might be lying to me, I don't know, but I know when I lie and I need a savior and you do too. So if you're already a Christian, let's speak the cross, the grace of God to one another. It's the only remedy there is to any of these moral problems we're going to be studying. But if you're not a Christian, if you're not a Christian, then trust in Christ, look to Christ crucified. He is the Savior for liars.
Be Righteously Angry
The Next Issue: Human Anger
The second issue that he deals with, the moral issue he deals with here is anger. Look at verses 26 and 27 says, "Be angry and do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your anger and do not give an opportunity to the devil." Human anger, like lying, sinful anger is a powerfully destructive force in human relationships. Now, the issue on anger is complicated. It's complicated. There is something, I think, Paul's making a distinction here between righteous and unrighteous anger. There are some things you should be angry about, and there are many things that you regularly get angry about that you should repent from and not be angry about.
And so we have to make a distinction. Now, the NIV says, I think it kind of smooths it over, but it's not helpful how it smooths it over. It says, "In your anger do not sin." All the other translations just give that imperative. “Be angry. But don't sin.” So that's what he's saying here. So there is an aspect and I want to talk about it briefly, of righteous anger.
Righteous Anger is Right
Some counselors, some people would say it's never appropriate for us to get angry, but when you feel those feelings of, let's say, righteous anger, what do you do? Do you stuff them down? Like a cap volcano. We're living in a world characterized by such egregious unrighteousness. There is such a thing as righteous anger and Jesus gives us a great pattern of it.
In Mark 3, He's about to heal a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath and his enemies are ready to pounce. And He looks around at them and He says, "Which is lawful to do on the Sabbath, to heal or to destroy?" To save life or to kill, but they won't answer because of their hardness of heart and Jesus, it says there, in Mark 3, became angry at them because of their hardness of heart. Or even better, in John 2, Jesus comes to the temple and sees all the temple concessions there, all the animals and the doves and all of that being sold for a huge profit with injustice and unrighteousness going on in a river of profit going to Annas and Caiaphas. And He is righteously angry, enraged. And so what does He do, He sits down and weaves together a whip. That's just a picture of God being slow to anger, deferring judgment while He makes the whip. But when the whip was done, He used it. And he cleaned out that temple. He was filled with the righteous zeal for the glory of God and the purity of his temple. "How dare you turn my Father's house into a marketplace?" There's a sense of righteous anger at the wickedness on display there, so Jesus, displays that and in that again, He's just a picture of Almighty God. God throughout the Scripture, displays holy righteous wrath against wickedness and sin. God in His anger refused to allow the Israelites to enter the Promised Land because of their unbelief, but He commanded that they turn around and for 40 years wander the desert, directly ascribed to the wrath of God.
It says in Psalm 7:11, "God is a righteous judge, who expresses his wrath everyday,” everyday." If you knew what to look for, you would just need to go around to the police precincts, or to the hospitals, or the nursing homes, or just the streets of everyday life. And if you knew what to look for, you could see the wrath of God on display everyday. But we don't, and we just see really hard things happening to people, and God may be doing some things. I'm just saying this verse tells us every day God expresses His righteous wrath. And there is a day of God's wrath coming in the future when e will settle all accounts when his righteous indignation and wrath will be poured out on all the ungodly who have not found refuge in Christ.
Now God has an amazingly long fuse, stunningly long. As a matter of fact, He said to Abraham, "In the future, your descendants will enter and take this Promised Land but not yet because the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure." 400 years later, God's cleaned them out. God cleaned them out by Joshua and the Israelite army. 400 years He waited. That's the patience of God. So it's actually right for Christians to feel anger about the wickedness we see. Every January, we have Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, it is right for us to feel a righteous anger about abortion. We should feel a righteous anger about that. We should feel a righteous anger about the mocking of God and of Christ that goes on in our culture. We should feel a righteous anger about the martyring of Christian brothers and sisters by terrorists in Syria.
Probably the thing that should make you angriest is the stubbornness of your own heart after all of the grace you have received that you still struggle with the same sins again and again. And cry out against yourself and say, "The very thing I hate, I do, and the very thing I want to do, I do not do, what a wretched man I am." And at the end of that encounter with Almighty God Job said, "I despise myself and repent in sackcloth and ashes." So there's a sense in which I hate my own sin more than anything else, and it makes me, it angers me that I still sin, but that's not all. It should bother you to know that hundreds of millions of people around the world have never heard the name of Christ. It should arouse anger inside you, when you hear of East African nations, the governments using food as a weapon in a political war so that their own people who they should be caring for are starving to death, literally. It should make us angry to hear about the graft and corruption of the Haitian government after the earthquake when tens of millions of dollars of aid goes in and government officials, some of them siphon off that money to feather their own nest, that should make us angry. And as a matter of fact, if you don't feel anger about some of these things, something's wrong with you. But we should remember that God is able to save amazingly sinners and separate out the ones who are doing these things from the actions that they're doing. You should say, "I'm yearning for you to repent, I want to see you come to Christ, I want you to know the same forgiveness because I'm guilty of the same kinds of sins." Alright, so that's the issue of righteous anger.
Be Not Sinfully Angry, But Quick to Forgive
Most Human Anger is Not Righteous
What about unrighteous anger? "Well, Pastor, actually, that's not something I ever deal with, honestly." Well, go back to the earlier part of the sermon on lying, okay? There is a problem that we all have with unrighteous anger. “Be angry but do not sin.” Now, we could say, in your righteous anger, deal with it patiently, as Jesus did, but I'm going to just go over to the topic now of unrighteous or sinful anger. So much of our anger is based on the flesh. I mean, if you get angry 100 times in a stretch of period of time, whatever that is. How many of those, 90 or more are tied in some way to your flesh? I was talking to my kids about it this morning, I've got two in particular, two roots, two sources of sinful anger, pride and inconvenience. James says, "Also, you want something covetously and you don't get it and that makes you angry." So that's another one. But I look at these two as huge. Pride. We get angry when our pride is ruffled, when we are publicly embarrassed in some way. When someone isn't dealing with us as we ought to be dealt with. “Don't you know who I am? You can't talk to me like that.” You know that pride that leads to an angry reaction.
Cain got angry at his brother Abel, because God accepted his offering and not his own. Clear indication in the text is that he offered what God told him to offer and Cain didn't. But he got angry, angry enough to murder his brother. Moses became angry at Israel and struck the rock twice, lost his place in the Promised Land. Nebuchadnezzar became angry at Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that they wouldn't bow down to his idol, became so enraged that he, I think just lost his mind. So anger is like a drug, and it makes you irrational. Saul, King Saul was enraged at David because of his pride was ruffled when these women of Israel went out and sang the song, you remember, "Saul has slain his thousands, and David, his tens of thousands," that really bothered Saul. It's like, Saul you're number two, it's okay, don't get discouraged. But he was galled by this, and he wanted to kill David as a result. It was all out of pride.
Alright, so look at your own displays of anger. Let me speak to your parent, you parents, alright. Let's say your kid does something disobedient and does it in the privacy of your home versus at Walmart, or at church, even worse. Okay and you are going to bring down the righteous judgement for that sin. Are you not telling me that there's a little more passion when you have been publicly embarrassed than there is when you're just dealing with it privately at home, and why is it? It's your pride. And so, you might chastise or discipline with more anger than you should, because you've been publicly embarrassed. Or when your kids foolishly break something in the house and it's going to cost time, energy, money to get it repaired and you become angry, because you've been inconvenienced in some way. Or all of us when we go out and you're in line and someone cuts in front of you in line, doesn't even look. They're talking on the cellphone or something like that, and it's like, "Oh, hmm, I'm feeling feelings right now. I'm feeling strong feelings right now. This ought not to be done, this is righteous indignation! I'm a human being, okay." "I deserve to be treated better than this. Excuse me, I know you're taking on the phone, but I have something I need to say to you." What is going on there? Well, your pride and your inconvenience both kicking in and you have unrighteous anger.
Or whenever you might become angry at an inanimate object or an animal. Have you ever been angry? Now, you say animals are different than inanimate objects, they should know better. Well, it's a debatable point but Jonathan Edwards resolved never to show the least motions of anger toward animals or inanimate objects. So that's a resolution. Have you ever wanted that you stood up into something, banged your head, and wanted to hit the thing that just banged you and your hand is stopping and you're saying, "What did I do?" Why compound it? You have a headache. Now you're going to have a broken hand. But what is it that moves inside of us? This is unrighteous anger. So, be suspicious of your own anger, be suspicious of it. I don't know, but one out of 100 times it might be righteous. One out of a 100.
James Calls Human Anger “Moral Filth”
James actually says this to us, "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. For man's anger does not bring about the righteousness of God, therefore get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent," the word therefore means that James is calling human anger moral filth. It's like radioactive toxic waste, get rid of it. And by the way, that's the verb that in the New Testament, always uses for anger. Get rid of it, get rid of it, take it out like the trash.
A Lifestyle of Settled Anger is Great Sin
A settled angry life is inappropriate for Christians. I'm talking about bitter, unforgiving, unhappy people. We should be forgiving, we should be gracious, we should be living for the future world, we should realize that we deserve to be in Hell right now, and whatever has ruffled us or made our life difficult, we should still be overflowing with thankfulness, for the grace of God, and instead of being bitter, unfriendly, unhappy people. Concerning other people's sins, we're told in 1 Corinthians 13, "Love is patient, love is kind, it doesn't envy, it doesn't boast, it's not rude or proud or self-seeking, it is not easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs." So we should not be irritable, irascible, grumpy. That's a choice we make.
The High Cost of Anger
I feel like our nation's getting angrier and angrier. We're angry people. I see a lot more public displays of anger. And I don't just mean road rage, I just mean people that are filled with hatred toward humanity and go down to literally gun down totally innocent people. I just wonder how many people are in prison right now, how many people are in prison right now, because anger like King Nebuchadnezzar, made them irrational, made them insane, and they did something, and for the rest of their lives, they're going to be paying the penalty for it. I wonder about that, it's like a drug, just takes over. How many marriages have been destroyed because of sinful anger and because people did not know how to deal with their anger, or dealing with pet peeves?
I was convicted by this topic of pet peeves. I have too many of them. I want to cut it down by half in the year 2016. It's hard, but things irritate me. I'm not going to tell you what they are, because you'll probably do them to help with my sanctification. But there's actually a website, I'm not going to read them to you, but it's getannoyed.com. There's like 150 pet peeves, you can write in with yours and they'll add them to the list. But we should be characterized by contentment in any and every situation, right? “We've learned the secret of being content and joyful in any and every situation.”
Quick to Forgive
And the verse says, in verse 26, "We should be quick to forgive." If somebody has angered us, somebody has sinned against us, the Bible says, the Scripture says, "Do not let the sun go down on your anger." This is strong advocacy for quick forgiveness. Now, I know a man, I'm not going to say his name, but he said to his wife, from time to time, "The sun has already gone down, so I've got another 23 hours that I can stew on this one." I don't think I've ever said those words. Oh, that was me. Now the idea is quick forgiveness. Be reconciled quickly. Don't let it fester, don't let bitterness come in, don't give the devil a foothold, don't give him a beachhead, like D-Day, to operate in your marriage, or in the Church. Go quickly with your adversary, Jesus said, who's taking you to court, "Do it while you're still with him on the way. Leave your gift there in front of the altar and go be reconciled to your brother” Immediately. There's no delay. Deal with it quickly, address it. Do not let the sun go down on your anger. And if they have sinned against you, Matthew 18 says, "Go show them their fault privately, just between the two of you and win them over.” But deal with it immediately, deal with it.
Do Not Give the Devil a Place to Operate
Anger: A Danger Zone of Demonic Power
And do not give the devil a place to operate. And when Christians settle in or are angry with each other, bitterness grows, and that destroys relationships. And we're going to talk at the end of the chapter on forgiveness. So I'm not going to say much on forgiveness now, we'll talk more about it later, but the Lord wants us to forgive as He has forgiven us, and so we must. So Paul is revealing to us the ramifications of the Gospel. Only faith in Christ can save, only faith in Christ can transform a life that's been immoral and unvirtuous and displeasing to God and make it pleasing to Him.
Preparing for the Lord’s Supper
But now is the time for us to come to the Lord's supper. And we have the joy of fellowship with the Lord around the elements. And to me, this is a feast of grace. I prayed about it in my pastoral prayer. And I don't believe in the real presence, that the bread and the juice are actually the physical body and blood of Jesus, but I don't believe the other end of the spectrum, which many evangelicals say “It's just a mere memorial, it doesn't mean much.” It means a lot! I believe that here by the Spirit, by the ministry of the word, we can have an encounter with the living God. Come to the table expecting to partake in the body and blood of Christ by faith. That's why I say you must be a believer in Christ to partake. It says you're eating and drinking judgment on yourself if you don't recognize in the elements, the body and blood of Christ. So don't partake if you've not come to faith in Christ, and testified to it by water baptism, but if you have, you're welcome to come. And again, we had a time with Rick Lesh earlier to confess our sins, this isn't for perfect people, there's no perfect people here, we have all lied. We have all gotten unrighteously angry. We have all had bitterness and unforgiveness in our lives. This is a good time to repent from all of those things. Wherever the Lord has been convicting you of sin in these areas, confess it and come to the table. So, deacons, if you would please come and serve the table.