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Jack Graham - The Freedom to Let Go

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    Jack Graham - The Freedom to Let Go
TOPICS: Unchained: Breaking Free from the Power of Sin, Freedom, Forgiveness

Today I'm going to talk to you about letting go of anger and laying down our anger in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Well, you know if you are a parent or grandparent of a small child, you probably know by now, can't get it out of your head, the Frozen theme song "Let it go", come on. "Let it go, can't hold it back anymore. Turn around, slam the door"... Alright, let it go. Well maybe not so much. You got to catch up with your kids a little bit on "Let it go". But, let it go. Now we are in a culture, really a generation that is about to lose it and we talk a lot about different categories of anger and even rage. And maybe you wrestle like we all do with how to get a handle on your anger, on your temper and your temperament. We all battle this. It is frustrating, isn't it?

In fact, I'm mad about it! That I keep fighting this thing! Well, the Scripture is clear that anger must be laid aside. Let it go. There are some scriptures that I want to show you. For example, James 1:19 to 20 says, "Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God". If your goal as a follower of Jesus is to reproduce the righteousness of God, then you must be willing to lay aside anger. Psalm 37, verse 8: it's the clear commandment, as we're often commanded in the scriptures not to be angry. "Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath". Forsake, let it go! "Fret not yourself; it only leads to evil". And then the primary passage that I'm going to talk about today is Ephesians 4.

So open your Bibles for sure to Ephesians chapter 4. If you don't have a Bible, look on the screen. But Ephesians 4:26 says: "Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil". And then down to verse 30: "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God". You want to know what saddens the Spirit of God? You want to know what hurts the heart of God? "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you", let it go, "along with all malice". And do what? "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you".

Yes, God cares about our temperaments. God cares about our personalities. When Christ comes to live in our lives, He wants to transform the way we think, and therefore, the way we act. And so we need to let go of any addiction we have to anger. How do you do that? We confront it, we confess it, we control it, and we conquer it. And I want to show you how. First, we must confront our anger. Own it. You can't keep saying, "It's just the way I am", if you're a follower of Jesus. You can't keep saying, "Well, it's genetic", "Well, my dad had a red hot temper" or "I'm just a red-blooded American". "I'm hot headed," or "I'm Irish" or "I'm a type A". You have to see it and say it for what it is; own it. Stop saying, "Well, stuff just makes me angry. People make me angry".

Nobody can make you angry. You are the only one who can make you angry! But you can't kill the giant of anger until you confront it. You can't change it until you confront it. Confront it for not just a weakness, and not just a simple emotional problem, but a real problem for your life, because in losing it you can lose everything. If you are embittered or enslaved you can lose your health, you can lose your wealth, you can lose your family, you can lose your friends, you can lose your job! You'll certainly lose your joy! You'll lose respect. You want your children to honor you as a mom, as a dad, and yet you're running around in a rage, blowing it, losing it! You can lose your testimony because of anger at the office, in the neighborhood. Ask yourself, "Why am I angry"? Stop, the Bible says as I noted a moment ago, "Be slow to anger". Instead of running around like a black cat with a short fuse, ready to explode, take a long fuse. That's what the Holy Spirit gives us, which is patience. Means long fuse. And slow down and stop and think.

Proverbs 14:29 says, "Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding". Proverbs 29:11, here's one from the New English Bible translation, "A stupid man gives free rein to his anger; a wise man waits and lets it grow cool". A wise man, a man of discretion, a woman of distinction is not hot headed, not popping off. That's stupid. I was doing some reading regarding what it takes away. Hostility, physicians talk about the medical world talks about hostility and how it affects particularly the heart and the cardiovascular system. Unresolved anger, silent rage, outbursts of anger put you at risk for heart attacks. So when someone says his blood was boiling, that's real. Adrenaline begins to shoot through your system, your arteries constrict, and an angry spirit, a hostile heart can be fatal.

In fact, research at Duke University has shown that quote: "Anger is a more accurate predictor of dying young than smoking". So if you're an angry smoker, good luck with that! I could keep going talking to you about the danger of this stuff, what it does to you physically, emotionally, and certainly spiritually. Did you know for example that the Bible tells us that we're not even to associate with angry people? That's right. Proverbs 22:24. Look at it: "Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man". It's only going to blow up ultimately. Some people are angry with God. You've got your finger pointed right at God because something happened, you were injured, you were hurt, there was some injustice, some betrayal, some tragedy, and you're blaming God. That's like blaming the fire chief for the fire.

You know, the devil is a bully. He likes to pick fights and walk away, and have you blame somebody else. The world is on fire, for sure. There is suffering and there is evil, but it is the result of rebellion and sin, not by the hand of God. And when you are in trouble, when you are in tragedy for your life, don't blame God. He's the one you need! You need His help. I promise you God is loving, God is good, God is just! He's going to bring out even of tragedies ultimately triumph. You need to hang on and hope and trust in God even when you're having a hard time doing it. Say, like Job, "Lord, even though you slay me, I will trust in You"!

What anger can do to you is ultimately sink in and, one of the words that we haven't used a lot in this series is a stronghold. We're talking about breaking chains. Well, a stronghold is when a certain sin or a kind of behavior becomes addictive or it grips you and will not let you go. That's a satanic stronghold. It can be an emotional bondage in your life. And these strongholds must be torn down and they can be and they will be in Christ. But you have to be willing to confront it, this anger, and confess it. Don't repress it, that's just anger turned inside. Don't express it-maybe you've heard along the way somebody "Well, the best way to get rid of your anger is just let it go, just express it"!

There's not one shred of evidence to demonstrate that that's a good way to deal with anger. Go pound your fist into the wall or whatever. Don't repress it, don't express it, but confess it! God commands us not to be angry! And if God commands us not to do something, He enables us to keep that commandment. God would never ask you to do something that you couldn't do. So, yes, you can confront your anger! Yes, you can confess it! Yes, you can, by God's grace, control it! Lest you hang on to your hate and you become caustic and bitter and an angry old person! You know, there's nothing more disturbing than to see a miserable, angry older adult who just held on through the years to all the stuff; an unforgiving, unrelenting, judgmental, caustic attitude that makes everybody around them miserable. But, hey, teenagers can have that same attitude. You don't want to be that kind of person.

In fact, Ephesians 4:26 says, if you want to control your anger, don't let the sun go down on your wrath, lest you give place or opportunity to the devil. Don't let the sun go down on your wrath. That means, example, husband and wife are having an argument. Tempers are beginning to flare. Voices are beginning to rise. There's anger. It's one of those discussions that's heard several houses down in your neighborhood, right? And you get angry! And instead of dealing with it and deleting it, by asking forgiveness, by saying I'm sorry, you go to bed angry. You go to sleep angry, back to back! And there's something about anger that seethes and boils and grows. A root of bitterness can set in, which produces a fruit of bitterness, and if you keep harboring unresolved conflicts... Why do divorces end up happening? For the most part because of unresolved conflict. Conflict that doesn't get settled. And for Christians we have a way of settling it and it is in the power of Christ as we learn how to love one another. But don't let the sun go down on your wrath.

So before you go to bed, before you go to sleep, if you're angry, you need to settle that with whoever you are angry with, if at all possible, but certainly settle it in your own heart. Because if you don't, husbands, wives, you go to bed angry, bitterness starts to grow, and you give place, the scripture says there, to the devil. That means you invite the devil in! You get angry and you don't resolve it, you're saying "Devil, come and sleep in our bed, sit at our table, hang out with our kids! Welcome here, devil"! You're giving a place, an opportunity for the devil to move in your life. I'm telling you anger is a serious thing! And so when you get angry and you don't settle it, bitterness can begin to grow.

That's why the Bible says, "Don't let any root of bitterness". This is Hebrews 12:15 and 16. "Beware, lest any root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, that it may defile your soul". Bitterness, what is bitterness? It's repressed anger; Someone hurts you, someone disappoints you and you feel justified in your anger. You begin to see that ultimately if you don't deal with it, it can even turn to malice or hate. Oh, you wouldn't call it hate because you're blinded by the bitterness and blinded by the tears. And it begins to impact you every day because now you're in bondage. It impacts your identity and your mentality, your personality, and even your spirituality. And you just keep fanning the flames of this fire. You become profane.

Romans 3:14 says "Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness". You get bitter, you start profaning. Profanity is a clear sign of anger in the heart. Immorality, anger causes immorality? Sure, it does. Hebrews 12:15 says, "Beware, lest you have this root of bitterness that it may defile your soul". And then it speaks of immorality. If you get bitter and angry, finally you just give up and you say I'm going to please myself and do whatever I want to do. Certainly, it can lead to all kinds of defilement. So confront it, confess it, and control it, and conquer it? How? The Gospel! The answer for anger is the Gospel of Jesus Christ which is forgiveness! Forgiving undeserving, but repentant people.

Forgiveness is the key to breaking this chain. When Jesus died on the cross He spoke with bloodly lips these words to the very men who were crucifying, Luke 23:34 "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do". And so, Ephesians 4:32 says that we are to forgive as Christ has forgiven us. You see that there? Verse 32, Ephesians 4. "Be kind, tenderhearted, loving, forgiving, as Christ has forgiven you". To forgive means that you release your right to dwell on the offense. Forgiveness is giving up my right to hate you for hurting me. Let me say that again. Forgiveness is giving up my right to hate you for hurting me.

For some of you, anger and bitterness is the chain hanging around your neck, and with that chain you are dragging around for your life the person who offended you. On the end of that chain, you're dragging around the past or the person that broke your heart, that betrayed you, that hurt you. But when you get free in Jesus, when you let go, let it go and lay it down, you break the chain! You cut it loose along with the offender. Now forgiveness is often misunderstood. Forgiving and letting go does not mean you give up on justice. In fact, you can seek justice, while at the same time seeking forgiveness. You can seek legal action under the law, while at the same time forgiving. Letting go does not mean giving up your rights to justice. But it does mean you leave justice to God.

Romans 12:19, this is a verse that meant so much to me when I was dealing with the anger over the murder of my father in 1970. And this verse challenges me to do what I'm challenging you to do today, and that is to never seek revenge. It never is right to do wrong. You can't undo a wrong by payback. And that's why verse 19 of Romans 12 says, "Beloved, never avenge yourselves but leave it", let it go, "to the wrath of God, for it written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay,' says the Lord". God will do a much better job of repaying an unrepentant offender than you possibly could. Rise above the revenge because revenge only brings you down. It only puts you in a chain.

There's a Chinese proverb which says "He who seeks revenge should dig two graves". So give up on getting even because if you're just getting even, you're bringing yourself down to the level of the person who offended you. You can trust God to make things right. You can! He will! Forgiveness is not the same as forgetting. Forgetting the offense, that's impossible. God would never ask you to do something impossible, would He? No. You say, "Well, what about that verse which says when God forgives, He forgets". Well, that doesn't mean that God has some kind of holy amnesia and totally forgets about it. Of course not! When it says God forgets, that means He chooses not to remember it. He chooses not to hold it against us. And so to forgive is not the same as forgetting. It doesn't mean you enable sin. Forgiveness is not enabling sin or in any way endorsing the sinner. You must always be truthful in confronting sin. That's what God does.

Forgiveness is not denying that a sin or offense has taken place. It doesn't mean, you know, God doesn't say, you know, "Well, it's not big deal. You shouldn't be worried about, well, you know, I, you know, you nearly killed me but that's no big deal". No. That's not forgiveness. Forgiveness is not covering sin that is committed against us. As I said, "It's possible to forgive and then to seek legal action under the laws of God". Forgiveness is letting go! And it's like one person said, "I let the prisoner go free, and when I did, I realized the prisoner was me". You set yourself free when you forgive. Forgiveness, you see, is leaving justice in God's hands. It's walking in love and forgiveness. It's letting go and moving on in your life in the power of Jesus. He will break that chain. Confront it, confess it, and then in the name of Jesus, control it in the power of God's Spirit who will enable you, and ultimately conquer it so that you don't live with an addiction to anger or an embittered heart; that you can live free in the forgiveness of God. Amen?
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