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Take Off Anger - Deal With It

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Picking back up in Ephesians 4.26–27, we read, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”

What angers you?

Not all anger is sinful, of course. God demonstrates righteous wrath. Jesus was angry with the Pharisees in Mark 3.5 because of the hardness of their hearts towards a fellow Jew. I imagine he was angry with those money sellers in the temple when he overturned their tables and ran them out of his Father’s house (Mark 11.15–16).

However, we are told that outbursts of anger are sinful (Gal. 5.20), to put anger away (Eph. 4.31; Col. 3.8), not to provoke our children to anger (Eph. 6.4), and to be slow to anger (James 1.20).

We often trick ourselves into thinking our anger is justified and righteous, but it’s probably rare that we think rightly about our anger.

Again, what angers you?

We will find most of the time our anger comes from hurt pride, unmet expectations, or selfishness. In other words, we don’t have a right to be angry most of the time. Are we right to be angry because someone else got the job we wanted? Is anger justified because the spouse did not put the dishes away (again!) the way we like? Are we right to be angry when traffic is bad and someone swings in front of us at the last minute and slows us down further?

Other times, we justify our anger because another person did something against us. Siblings fight because one called the other a hurtful name. We are angry at a thief who stole a package off our front doorstep. We are angry on behalf of our neighbor whose brother is mistreating them. Those kinds of situations do seem to lean more towards the righteous anger category, don’t they?

But what does Ephesians 4.26 tell us? Anger itself may not be sinful, but letting that anger burn is sinful. God tells us to deal with our anger in godly ways. Be angry and do not sin, because anger gets a hold of us and, if left unchecked, motivates us to lash out in some way towards another. I may be angry at the guy who stole my package off my front doorstep, but if I discovered where he lived and then went and burned his house down, I would sin grievously! I should remember vengeance belongs to the Lord, and God has instituted the government as his arm of justice to wield the sword against evildoers. It’s not my job, I don’t have the authority, and neither is it loving to forge my own path to vengeance.

The second verse gives me another hint at the reality of letting anger burn – it gives the devil an opportunity. It gives Satan a foothold in my heart. Instead of taking every thought captive to the glory of Christ, I give ground to the evil one. It is within my power (with God’s help) to resist the devil.

So be sensitive to yourself this week. Do you get angry often? Why? Figure out what triggers your anger and learn to deal with it. We often need help in this adventure. We need to talk through what troubles us, get it out in the light, and then kill it.

Let us put off anger and learn to deal with it in a godly way.

Put off Falsehood – Put on Truth

Monday, December 19, 2022

Last week we looked at Ephesians 4.17–24 and how we are not to walk like the Gentiles walk in the futility of their minds and the callousness of their hearts. Rather, Christ teaches us to put off the old self and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Paul then proceeds to list a series of evil, worldly practices we should take off. But he does not leave it there; we should not be content with trash removal. We are creatures of habit who must do things, and if we are not doing good, we will resort to evil. Therefore, the old sinful habits must be replaced by new holy habits. The old coat may have been laid aside, but we are getting cold. Will we put that old jacket back on, or will we find a new one?

The first thing Paul says to take off is falsehood:

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. (Eph. 4.25)

What would society look like if everyone spoke the truth as a rule? The joke goes: How do you know if a politician is lying? His lips are moving.

But the fact is we all have a temptation to twist the truth to our own advantage. This is a human issue. Liars can be rich or poor, male or female, pretty or ugly, black or white.

Why do people lie? Sometimes we twist the truth out of fear, to cover up something we said or did that we are embarrassed about or that we think might get us into trouble. Sometimes we lie to gain something. Sometimes we lie to hurt another person who angered or hurt us. Some lie simply because they have become addicted to lying; they cannot even tell you why they did it.

God is the Father of truth, and his word is truth (John 17.17). In comparison, Jesus said of Satan, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8.44).

When we speak falsehood (lies), we demonstrate the character of Satan! We side with the accuser of the brethren, the devil, the dragon of old, who seeks our destruction. When you think about it, you realize falsehoods destroy and damage others. Who wants to make choices based on lies?

conversationThere were many, but there was one big lie told consistently through the recent COVID epidemic. Those in charge told us we had to get the COVID shots because it would protect our families and our neighbors and our coworkers. How does it protect them? They first told us that if we got the shot we would not catch the bug nor would we pass it along to anyone else. It wasn’t long before everyone realized this was not true—even if you have the shot, you can still catch the bug and can pass it along to others. Did they change their story? No—in the past few weeks President Biden and Dr. Fauchi have continued to push the booster shots as a way to protect each other. It obviously does not protect others. You may take the shot because you believe it will help you not get as sick from the virus if you catch it, but it will not keep you from catching COVID, and it will not keep you from passing it along to others. How much better would it have been if we were told the truth? What truth could they have told us? They could have said, “We think this will help, but we don’t have enough data to know for sure what is going to happen.” Instead, folks who had the shots thought they were practically invincible and felt free to go everywhere…unwittingly spreading the virus further. And they tended to treat with contempt those who were skeptical of the main narrative. There were political and financial reasons for the lies to be told, and it ended up crippling our nation’s economy and hurting everyone in the process—especially low-income earners, those who were already hurting. Many families are still divided and reeling.

Our own lies hurt others, too, because it encourages others to make life choices based on an empty foundation. If a woman tells her fiancé that she’s a virgin when she’s not…if a man swears to his wife that nothing untoward happened on his recent business trip when, in fact, he spent a couple of nights watching hotel porn movies…if a mother teaches her children that it doesn’t really matter what religion they choose because all roads lead to heaven…if a son tells his parents he’s going to the library when he’s really headed to a friend’s house to party hard… people get hurt. We lie even to ourselves and tell ourselves we aren’t really hurting anybody. We convince ourselves we are doing something good by protecting our loved ones from things that would hurt them if they knew the truth.

Brethren, that was the OLD man, and we have put off that stuff. We have put on the new man, renewed in the image of God, and the new man does not tell falsehoods. We are now among those who “fear the Lord; who swear to [our] own hurt and do not change” (Psalm 15.4).

Among the things the Lord hates are “a lying tongue” and “a false witness who breathes out lies” (Prov. 6.16–19). He hates lying because it is not in line with his character. If we have been made now in his likeness, we should also hate it and it should not be in line now with our new character.

So, brothers and sisters, let us consistently speak the truth with one another because we are members of one another.

The Renewal of Our Minds and Hearts (Ephesians 4.17–24)

Monday, December 12, 2022

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that
you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do,
in the futility of their minds.
They are darkened in their understanding,
alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them,
due to their hardness of heart.
They have become callous
and have given themselves up to sensuality,
greedy to practice every kind of impurity.

When Paul says Christians should “no longer walk as the Gentiles do,” he reveals a couple of truths. First, we who name the name of Christ used to walk as the Gentiles. We were among the nations of the earth, “following the course of this world” and “carrying out the desires of the body and the mind” (Eph. 2.1–3). Second, the Gentiles continue to walk this way. We are surrounded by men and women who have veils over their hearts, who do not understand spiritual things, who are ignorant of things concerning life, and who have wholeheartedly enslaved themselves to their own senses and pleasures.

We should never wish ourselves back in that situation with the world, and we should pity those trapped by their own passions and lusts. They are bound in absolute slavery. A slave to an earthly master can be free with regard to the Lord—he may own nothing of physical value but own everything in Christ. Likewise, one who has never been a slave to another man may be in a locked box constructed of his fleshly desires, impure thoughts, and sensual passions—he may be the richest man in town yet in abject spiritual poverty.

Notice the state of their minds. Futility. Darkness. Ignorance. Their minds are locked in this futility because their hearts are hard toward the Lord and towards his righteousness.

Notice their way of living. They are callous, having built up hard skin to shield themselves from the pain of guilt and the warning of shame when they break God’s holy law. They give themselves up to whatever makes them feel good at the time and then block out the nagging conscience trying to break through in the background of their minds. They lie to themselves. “She eats and wipes her mouth and says, ‘I have done no wrong’” (Prov. 30.20).

But that is not the way you learned Christ!—
assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him,
as the truth is in Jesus,
to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life
and is corrupt through deceitful desires,
and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,
and to put on the new self,
created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Notice how we have escaped that life of slavery to sin—we learned Christ, we heard about him, and we were taught in him. The truth is in Jesus! Our minds had to change from being focused on pleasing ourselves to being focused on pleasing our Lord. We learned true freedom this way.

We learned to take off that old man, to stop walking in our old ways. We repented of our sins and our old manner of walking.

But simply taking off the old jacket will not suffice—we still get cold. Therefore, we must put on a new self. The old way of walking must be replaced by a new way. It starts with a renewal of our minds in Christ, and then we can put on the new self which is created in the likeness of God himself! We learn what true righteousness and holiness are because the truth is in Jesus.

If the new self is “created after the likeness of God,” is this something we do unilaterally (by ourselves)? We do not create—God reserves that power for himself—so this creation is something God does in us. But we do take off the old self and put on the new, do we not? Yes! This walk with God is something we do together with him. Once God has shone his light of grace into our hearts (2 Cor. 4.3–6) and woken us up from our spiritual stupor, then we joyfully walk beside him in repentance, even as he continues to work on us, creating a new heart and a new mind—renewing us in Christ Jesus.

It happens as we learn, as we hear, as we are taught in Christ.

In the next installment, I plan to consider specific activities we should take off and what we should put on to replace them, as we finish Ephesians 4.

Spiritual Energy for Spiritual Work

Wednesday, December 07, 2022

Newton’s Laws of Motion teach us that objects move only when force is applied to them. We live in a world of many forces, such as gravity and friction, slowing and stopping moving objects. If I throw a frisbee as hard as I can, it may fly a long way, but gravity and wind resistance will slow it down and eventually bring it to the earth where it will come to a state of rest. Someone must pick the frisbee back up and hurl it again to get it to fly once more.

Our three Laws of Thermodynamics teach us the amount of energy in the universe remains constant, but it changes from one form of energy to another. It takes work (powered by some form of energy) to create heat (another form of energy). In my house, it takes work to make dinner, and dinner results in dirty dishes piled up beside the sink. The food we eat gives us energy to do work. Should we spend some of that energy cleaning the dishes? It takes work to keep the kitchen clean.

This world tends towards disorder. It takes a lot of work and energy to keep things organized, dishes cleaned and put away, clothes washed, house repaired, lawn picked up and mowed, garden weeded, car engines oiled, etc.

God started this earth with his own work. His power started everything and now sustains all processes that are going on, which is awesome! At the center of our Solar System he placed a yellow dwarf star we call the Sun to provide the energy (via light and heat) our world uses to survive.

These physical processes astonish and often baffle us, but they also reflect spiritual reality. It takes work to increase in faith and produce the fruit of Christ’s Kingdom.

Paul says we should walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called (Eph. 4.1), and he tells us the Christian walk is a new life in Christ. We once walked like the nations around us, in the futility of our minds. Their minds are dark, they are ignorant of God’s ways, and their hearts are hard (Eph. 4.17–18).

Dirty DishesIndeed, without some form of spiritual energy to raise him up, everyone falls, as spiritual forces of evil pull him downward and stop any forward movement. He finds himself at the bottom of a bottle, in a dark pit, in a depression. It takes work and energy to rise and move forward, but where can he get that energy?

The world says to pull that energy from inside yourself. Be the truest you that you can be. Be authentic. You do you. Love yourself. You are powerful. You are beautiful. You are wise.

Funny thing is, we are none of those things by ourselves and certainly not while under the influence of the spiritual forces of darkness. While we buy the fiction (lie) that we have a well of personal energy deep within our own breast, we will never find the strength to rise and move forward. Our power and energy come from the same source as our Sun. We don’t worship the Sun; we worship the One who lit the Sun on fire. As the Sun powers the earth and everything in it, so our Lord powers our souls and lights the fires of our lives.

“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this [Jesus] said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7.38–39)

The Holy Spirit empowers us to not only have life in ourselves but to have that life flow out from us to affect others around us!

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15.4–5)

The only way to bear spiritual fruit is to be connected securely to the vine, Jesus Christ. He provides the power and energy for us to do any good work.

It takes work to clean up messy lives like ours. It takes energy to walk each day in the Spirit. It takes power to fight against the schemes of the devil. Praise the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit who supply us constantly with the spiritual energy to do God’s work and keep walking in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called!

A People Producing the Fruit of the Kingdom

Monday, November 28, 2022

Jesus told a parable to the Jewish leaders concerning a master of a house who expended a lot of effort to develop a property, cultivate it, and plant a vineyard. He then appointed tenants to take care of his property while he went off into a far country. When fruit season rolled around, the master sent servants to collect the fruit from his vineyard, but the tenants mistreated them and even killed some. The master sent more servants, and they did the same to them. Finally, he sent his son thinking they would surely respect him, but in their evil and twisted minds, they thought they could gain ownership of the vineyard if they killed the son. They dragged the son out of the property and killed him.

Jesus flat-out asked the Jewish leaders what the master would do to those wicked tenants. They answered, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their season.”

Good answer.

But then Jesus brought home the point:

“Have you never read in the Scripture: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore, I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.”

The Jewish leaders, the self-appointed “builders” in charge of God’s people, had rejected this stone (Jesus). It’s as if they said, “This one is no good; we don’t need it.” But that very stone has become the cornerstone (the first and chief building stone from which the whole building is measured). How? The Lord did it; the Lord said so.

The Jews would no longer lead the kingdom of God. God would take it away from them and give it to another people. They would produce fruit for the master, unlike the Jewish people.

What fruit does God expect?

Isaiah 5.1–7 contains another parable about a vineyard. In Isaiah’s parable, “the vineyard of Yahweh of hosts is the house of Israel and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting.” God expected grapes from his vineyard, but it yielded wild grapes, so God decided to make it a wasteland and destroy the entire enterprise. What did the grapes and wild grapes represent? God “looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, and outcry!”

God expects justice and righteousness—those are the good fruit he wants from us.

When a people do not produce justice and righteousness, they provoke God to lay waste their country. Expect judgment, all who are violent, lovers of bloodshed, and arrogant. Many nations have fallen because they trampled the poor and powerless instead of protecting and helping them. Many countries are no more because their leaders accepted bribes and twisted truth.

But this parable is specifically about the people of God. Are we his? Do we produce this fruit in ourselves? Are we concerned for justice, fairness, doing what is right? God’s law can be summed up in this word: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. Said another way: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Let’s live in such a way that, when the Master returns, he will find us working for him.

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