Have Some Good Anger Today!

I am grateful for the work that Ed Welch and others at CCEF has put into the subject of anger. Their counsel is quite possibly the best teaching on this difficult but real emotion that is both a godly reflection of a Holy God, and ungodly in its self-righteousness. May the Lord help you today, and all your days to have some good anger.

There are literally hundreds of passages that show God filled with good anger at sin, the ungodly, those who slander his name, and those who reject his Son. But there are hundreds more that show God is slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and mercy. Here is a text that is helpful for us – Ephesians 4:25-32:

“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”

Keep in mind that the general admonition is “put off the old self/nature” (v. 22). That is, stop acting out what you are not. Put on the new and start acting out what you are. When you are born again you are given a new nature, you become a new creature and Paul says here that your newness will show itself in the way you experience anger.

Verse 26 makes at least two assertions about anger:
1) There is a time to get angry
2) The time to stay angry is short-lived

Paul is saying that there are good grounds for getting angry but no grounds for holding grudges.
“Do not let the sun go down on your anger” means,
“Let the day of your anger be the day of your reconciliation”.
And if reconciliation is impossible, even so, do not stroke your wound, or cherish revenge or hold a grudge for Satan seeks a foothold into your heart, and if he finds it, he will enter and ruin your life with all kinds of prideful bitterness.

Let’s take these two points one at a time:
1) There is a time to get angry!
Clearly, not all anger is sinful for man. Good Anger is:
A. aimed at sin.
What kind of sin is in the immediate context? Deception, lying, deceitful desires of the flesh.
B. rises slowly.
James 1:19-20 says, “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires.” We are to be slow to anger because the anger which rises quickly is very likely to be sinful anger which will not accomplish God’s righteousness. But if we are slow to anger, if we rule our spirit and consider the matter carefully, then our anger, if it comes, may be the very anger of God. That is, our anger may be owing to the fact that God’s character is dishonored. Good anger is based on God not just ourselves. Its target is sin against God, not just assaults on us.
C. tender.
Here is where we fail so often; our tenderness gets burned up in the zeal of our anger against the sin. A person does something wrong and we get angry, but there is no tenderness with the person’s hardness. We express our indignation for his sin, but we show no longing for his softening or reconciliation. Good anger should not only be directed against sin but also be mingled with tenderness for the transgressor.

2) The time to stay angry is short-lived.
“Do not let the sun go down on your anger.” This does not mean that believers in Alaska may hold a grudge for six months while the sun is up or that husbands and wives should hurry up and get to the bottom of the argument before night falls. It means that anger, even legitimate, is a dangerous emotion and should not be nurtured into a grudge that holds on and on. Anger is the moral equivalent of biological adrenaline. It is good and healthy to experience periodic secretions of adrenaline in reaction to dangerous, hostile situations. But a steady flow would damage the physical body. As with anger, not only does it take its toll on the physical body, it has also damaged many lives because it was not put away, but nurtured again and again into a life-destroying grudge.

WARNING!! According to verse 27 this is what Satan is watching for — the extended gap, the opening, the opportunity to destroy. If there is any way that Satan can assist you to hold a grudge, to keep you in a prideful persistent mode of anger he will do it.

What should you do then? Repent of not being more angry at sin against God. Repent of being angry of things that are not sinful, yes – dumb, but not necessarily willful sin against you. Repent of making yourself the highest reason for addressing wrongs. Repent of holding on too long to wounds and not handing over the trespass to God – for him to settle the score with your assailant. Repent over the lack of gentleness in your right to be angry at real offenses.

What else? Close the door on the Devil’s foot until he flees. Call out to Christ, the Doorkeeper to rescue you from yourself. He’ll gladly forgive and sit down with you in your home and comfort your broken spirit. Now, “Be Angry” – it’s a command!

Licensed to Kill

From John Owen (1616-1683), Works, VI:9-14

             Put to death therefore what is earthly in you – Colossians 3:5

“Do you mortify? Do you make it your daily work? Do not take a day off from this work; always be killing sin or it will be killing you. We must strike it as an enemy until it ceases living. Sin is labouring to bring forth the deeds of the flesh. When sin lets us alone, we may let sin alone. Sin is active when it seems to be the most quiet, and its waters are often deep when they are calm. Sin is always acting, conceiving, seducing and tempting. There is not a day but sin foils or is foiled. There is no safety but in a constant warfare from sin’s perplexing rebellion. Sin will not only be striving, acting, rebelling, troubling, and disquieting if not continually mortified, it will also bring forth great, cursed, scandalous, and soul-destroying sins (Gal. 5:19-20). When sin rises to tempt, it always seeks to express itself in the extreme. Every unclean thought would be adultery if it could; every covetous desire would be oppression; and every thought of unbelief would be atheism. It is like the grave that is never satisfied. Sin’s advance blinds the soul from seeing its drift from God. The soul becomes indifferent to sin as it continues to grow. The growth of sin has no boundaries but the utter denial of God and opposition to him. Sin proceeds higher by degrees; it hardens the heart as it advances. Mortification withers the root and strikes at the head of sin every hour. The best saints in the world are in danger of a fall if found negligent in this important duty. Negligence of this duty decays the inner man instead of renewing him. It is our duty to be ‘bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God’ (2 Cor. 7:1), and every day to be growing in grace (1 Peter 2:2), and seeking to be renewed in the inner nature day by day (2 Cor. 4:16).”

When You’re Sick of All the Suffering

My focus on this subject is limited to what we think about God as we observe unrelenting, horrible suffering. Not to mention the eternal separation from God’s divine love in hell. But before I say anything further, I agree with Don Carson that “Evil is not a problem with God as it is with us(see his most helpful book, “How Long O Lord”). Not because God does not care but because we think we know better than him, as if God had no right to create if he knew that this world would be filled with pain and suffering.

When the collision of God’s character (absolutely good and powerful) and my view of suffering hit head-on in my mind, I at least do two things quickly:

First, Run to the Cross. When I see Christ I see what Paul sees – the “wisdom and power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18-24). In the Cross of Christ I see the most despicable and grotesque suffering ever conceived by mortal man. In the Cross of Christ I see and hear vomit-inducing imagery and sounds that would haunt you ’till your old and grey. Others were crucified too along with Christ. But what makes this crucifixion the most wretched of all human suffering is that Jesus was beautiful, innocent, and God’s Son. God did not exclude himself from the suffering of our condition. All of our emotional upheavals and perplexity of soul and mind must factor in the sufferings of Christ. If I can heartily and gladly affirm that the sufferings of Christ is the power and wisdom and holiness and compassion and justice and love of God, then I can believe that God is up to something that is bigger than my ability to understand.

Secondly, and only if you can embrace the first reason, Wait for the Future.

In our resurrected bodies we will be changed to feel, know, and see the full dimensions of God’s personhood. His character and his ways will no longer be hidden from view. John says that one day we will sing with complete and joyful conviction:

“Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name?For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.

” After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” Once more they cried out, “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever” Revelation :15:3, 19:1-3 (psalm 18:30)

Dear saint who is sick of the suffering in this evil world, you and I can believe along with John that all of God’s temporal and eternal ways with his world are true and just.

If John could wait for that day then you can too. If John can believe that the Risen-Lamb-Lion will so illuminate our understanding of this Roman crucifying, abortion supporting, sex/slave trafficking, murdering and raping world that we live in, then we can believe in the gospel and the implications of the gospel. An innocent God/Man voluntarily laid down his life and rose again so that anyone who believes upon him for eternal life may have their sins forgiven and be set free from this sin-cursed world. There is no better alternative than to believe and wait! Even Jesus himself believed in his Father’s ways, and is still waiting for his Father’s consummation of all things (1 Cor. 15:20-28). You’re not alone!

Blessed Warnings!

This Lord’s Day we conclude our expository preaching through 1 Timothy. We’ll use these blessed warnings to pray for ourselves:

How to lose your faith in 13 easy Missteps, from 1 Timothy

1. Believe that the Bible can be used to excuse ungodly living“Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion desiring to be teachers of the law without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions . . .” 1:6-11

2. Twist Scripture to promote your own authority and agenda“by rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.” 1:19b-20
3. Abandon the male and female roles that God instituted in Creation“I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling . . . yet she will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.” 2:8-15
4. Appoint a man to elder who doesn’t know how to sacrifice his life for his family, leading the church away from godliness“He must care for his own household well . . . for if someone does not know how to care for his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” 3:4-5
5. Believe that self-denial of God-ordained pleasure is the same thing as godliness“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” 4:1-5
6. Believe that believing the right things without applying them is godliness – “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” 4:16
7. When your spouse dies, spend more time in Vegas than on your knees“She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives.” 5:5
8. Provide for no one except yourself“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” 5:8
9. For young women, take your role models from the magazine racks rather than from godly women in the church“for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry [an unbeliever] and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not.” 5:11-13
10. Relate to people in competitive, arrogant ways and Believe that being wealthy is proof that you are godly“. . . he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.” 6:4-5
11. Live a restless, busy life pursuing wealth, feeling discontent with what you have and Believe that money is a separate issue from godliness“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” 6:9-10
12. Profess that you have special inside knowledge of people, life, truth, and that you are always right“O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” for by professing it some have swerved from the faith.” 6:20-21
13. Believe that you don’t need grace to you or going with you“To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord . . . Grace be with you.” 1:2; 6:21b

Abortion & The Gospel

I was given a copy of this on dvd at the Desiring God Pastor’s Conference a couple weeks ago. I just watched it with our small group: we’re going to buy 50 dvd copies of this to evangelize the lost. It’s not just about abortion, but the good news of Jesus Christ as Ray Comfort leads his on-the-street interviewees to consider the implications of their own conclusions.

1. You make moral judgements

2. You want justice on those who do evil

3. “It’s ok to kill a baby in the womb, when? . . .”

4. You do the same things that you judge in others

5. God says, “You shall not kill.” He also says . . .

6. If you do not think that Adolf Hitler had the right to murder Jews, then why do you approve abortion, saying, “I wouldn’t do that but that’s her business”? You can’t say that a woman has a right to choose to kill her baby anymore than you can say that Hitler had a right to choose what he did.

7. If you would not vote for Hitler to legally do what he did, why would you vote for anyone to legally murder babies?

8. Jesus can be your Savior (Ray Comfort shares the gospel), or he can be your Judge.

9. Does it concern you that you know you are not ready to die, since you know that you are a sinner?

10. Repent of your sins and by faith in the perfect righteous work of Christ, trust him to forgive you of your sins and receive him as Lord and Savior.

A Hidden Treasure in Arthrogryposis

This past week was a blessing for the guys from our church who went to the Desiring God Pastors Conference in Minneapolis. But for me, there was an added blessing – here it is: I met a spiritual gladiator. A man full of Christ-like courage, humility, faith, and perspective on life. But you would not think so by worldly measures of a man. For privacy reasons, I’ll call him Ron and keep the particulars of the story out (you’ll understand the reason for privacy shortly).

We were walking back to the hotel through the skywalk, coming from the convention center, when I noticed a disabled man walking slowly in front of me, headed in the same direction, who also was attending the conference. In just a few seconds my pace would overtake him. I went past. And not more than 30 ft ahead of him now, I knew the Lord wanted me to speak to him and to know his disease and what it means to him. So, I did a 180 and introduced myself, and he to me. As I was now walking beside him, looking more closely at the effects of his disease, I noticed his curved wrists, ankles, and elbows. His joints were literally bent – all over. I said, “Ron, I don’t know exactly why I turned to speak with you, but only to know your disease and whatever you would like to tell me about your disease and your life in Christ.” He said, “I have arthrogryposis.”

He explained the disease to me. But what came next truly captivated my attention. “Ivan, I own an insurance business and because of my position I travel frequently to a city and meet with powerful men in suits, men with big egos. I have board meetings with these men and men in my company. But because of my disease, they think I’m harmless.” Ron stopped speaking. I was struck wild with amazement. “What do you mean?”, I asked. He boldly replies, “Because of my disease, they let their guard down around me. They don’t see me as a threat.” As Ron shared a real story with me, where he shares the gospel with these power-men who have no idea how helpless and cowardly they live their lives behind their money, their posturing, and their lies, I laughed with awe and said, “You’re a Trojan Horse with the power of the gospel inside of you.”

“Yep,” – Ron replies with a tone and a grin that matches Psalm 2:4. (see, I don’t want to blow his cover, hence the privacy)

Dear suffering saint, is this how you think about your life? In fact, if you know Christ, this is your life if you have eyes to see. All of us have a brokenness, a weakness, an intentionally, designated “thorn in the flesh” given to us by our Lord so that his “power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). This is why Ron could boast of his weakness “so that the power of Christ may rest” upon him (vs. 10).  For all those who are in Christ by faith, your life is like a priceless diamond in a tobacco spittoon:

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that  the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies” (2 Cor. 4:7-10).

As our bodies waste away, we put the life of Jesus on display. How? By the way we put our hope in knowing Christ as gain. The more the body falls down, the more glorious and radiant becomes the priceless gospel – shining brighter and brighter for all to see. This should come as no surprise to those who have put their trust in Christ. Do we not see the “wonderous cross” as Jesus’ body falls down? Do we not see the gospel most clearly when we behold Christ’s crucifixion? Yes! And this is the same for the Church. By faith, as you “let kindreds go, this mortal life also,” the life of Christ becomes so illuminated that we can’t even see you for the blinding, glorious light of Christ.

Oh what amazing grace is available for you?! Christ is your life. Let the stories of your broken and weak life proclaim the gospel – for it is the power of God’s grace.

Don’t Love Your Spouse the Way a Tick Loves a Dog

One of my joyful responsibilities as a young boy was to pry the ticks off Duke when he came in from the woods, having been gone for several days. I loved ol’ Duke – a Norwegian Elkhound, the favorite canine breed of my family in those days. Do you know what a dog looks like after a few days in the woods? Imagine a dozen or so thick and plump Sumo wrestlers on a Brontosaurus with their slick heads firmly imbedded in the massive creature, sucking and sucking like there’s no tomorrow. These blood-gorged ticks were, in one real sense, draining the life out of the dog and if left in that condition, would eventually do the dog in.

Would you say that a blood-sucking gorged tick really loves the dog or is selfishly using the dog? If you asked the tick, a delusional joyful bug-eyed ‘yes I love this dog’ would be the answer. But that’s not love – it’s selfishness to live off the life of another. Parasite’s don’t love – they just drain. They don’t give – they take. They don’t lose their lives –  they keep it at the expense of the host.

We often don’t realize that we love our spouses the way a tick loves a dog. And we do this because we’re empty on the inside. I wonder what it is like to be so full of knowing God the Father in the same way that the Son knew his father, that people will never be my source of sustenance ever again – especially Cheryl? I don’t mean to diminish my needs for affection, respect, friendship, and support. But I also don’t mean to exalt these things as my NEEDS, as if Cheryl is my all in all and Jesus is small. Not even Jesus functions like a dog for my tick-like passions. He will not piggy-back my blood-thirst, allowing my selfishness to swell and swell.

By his Spirit, Jesus does for us what I would do for my dog – gently extract those suckers out of Duke, head and all. Then came the fun part. Ok I’ll skip that! Don’t want this post to get too squishy.

It’s time to just say it: Don’t love your spouse the way a tick loves a dog. Why Not? Because that’s not the way God loves you. He gives, he does not take. He does command you to lose your life, not because he needs your life but because he wants you to keep it – He is the Ultimate Life Giver! And what he supplies is his own life, in you, so that when you approach your spouse, it’s with a giving heart, the heart of Jesus.

Now we see that when Jesus speaks of a cost to living for him (Luke 14:25-33), it is not because he wants us to do without but he wants us to thrive . . . on his life-blood.
The love in marriage as it displays Christ’s sacrificial love for his bride, the church, and the church’s respect and devotion for Christ, her head, is truly a mysterious joy. But it can easily become distorted and what looks like love is actually selfishness and a keeping of ones life. Often in our marriages, we use the other, living off the other in an unhealthy way not only for ourselves but also for them.

Love Jesus more than your spouse. Turn away from loving one another the way a tick loves a dog, sucking the life out of the other. Live on Christ – Jesus is much more satisfying and you’ll be free to love the other the way Jesus loves you – a life-giver and not a life-taker.