Jack Graham - God's Answer for Anger
So many angry people in our world. The world is a violent place now. A dangerous place. You shouldn't be surprised because the Scripture say says in the last days perilous, dangerous, scary times will come, and it's getting pretty scary, isn't it? So much anger. Our nation seems to be so angry, so violent. And people are mad; many are mad all the time, just filled with either an eternal rage that seethes and burns within or the outbursts of anger that we see displayed.
The other day Deb and I were just out for a nice breakfast on a Saturday morning and we were rolling down the street, came to a stoplight nearby here and we noticed that two guys were getting out of their truck, one in front, one in back. Clearly they were shouting at each other. And the next thing you know, these guys are doubling up and squaring off, and they're going to fight in the middle of the intersection. Now when is the last time you actually saw a fist fight? This was a fist fight. It didn't last long. The one guy took the other guy down and began kicking him in the head. And then they both just jumped back in their trucks and drove off like nothing happened. And I'm thinking to myself, "What just happened"? Deb is saying, "Call the police; call the police". I said, "I'm not calling anybody". Maybe we should have. I don't know but, I thought, "On a Saturday morning? Two guys driving their trucks and they're duking it out in the middle of an intersection"!
There's so much rage. And, for so many people it's something down deep inside of them. And you have become a different person because of it. There's no peace; there's constant striving and strife and there's just anger that boils over when someone pushes you or shoves you in some way emotionally or with their words. And then it happens. You don't know why but it's because you've not received God's anger answer, answer for anger. And we find this answer in many places in Scripture, but in Ephesians chapter 4, beginning verse 26 it says: "Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger (or wrath)", and watch this, verse 27, "and give no opportunity to the devil". Key verse, coming back to that in just a moment. But scan down to verse 30: "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice".
And here's God's answer for anger, verse 32: "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you". So this sermon in one sentence is this: God's answers for your anger is forgiveness. Now there are two kinds of anger. There is ungodly anger and there is godly anger. You say, what could be a godly anger? There must be some kind of anger that is not sinful anger, that is a kind of sanctified anger, if you will, a righteous anger. Not an unrighteous anger, because verse 26 says, "Be angry and do not sin". So what is a healthy anger? Did you know the Bible tells us that "God is angry with the wicked every day"?
Do you know that the Bible says that the wrath of God, God's burning anger is executed in judgment over unbelieving and unrepentant people? You know if you read your Bible that God who is love will judge all sin, and all sinful people who do not repent of their sin. This is why God sent his only son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for your sins, to rise on the third day. This good news of the Gospel, because "God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance". And yet, yes, God will judge with holy wrath sinful people who do not come to find forgiveness and healing and hope in Christ. That is a fact.
So, if it is a fact that God Himself is angry with sin and sinful behavior, then it's possible to be angry, to even have a godly anger towards sin and towards sinful behavior. It reminds me that in our generation as in every generation there are some things that ought to make us angry! Racial prejudice, racial hate ought to make us angry! It ought to stir righteous indignation in the soul of a believer! Enough that we would respond and speak truth in love, and act and fight for what is right! So, you say, "Pastor, you're getting all worked up"! Exactly! We should get worked up and respond and speak the truth and bring the Gospel, Romans 12:21 "to overcome evil with good". That's what God has called us to do. But there's another kind of anger. It is an unresolved anger and bitterness that is seen often in the hearts of people, unregenerate, unbelieving people, but unfortunately, it's also seen in the hearts of believers, in the lives of believers.
Because, remember, this passage in Ephesians 4 was written to believers. So, anger's a problem! One study indicates that anger shows up in the average person's life 8 to 10 times a day in some way. If you say you never get angry, then you need to repent of falsehood because you do get angry! And so do I; I admit it! And I'm not talking about righteous anger here, but unrighteous anger. And verse 26, again, if you look at it, says: "Do not let the sun go down on your anger". In other words, don't go to bed with your anger. Don't allow your anger to live in your house because if you do, do you know what's happening if you are living with anger? - And I've discovered as a pastor through the years that many people live year after year after year with some kind of anger and resentment and bitterness in their life.
I think it's the number one problem in the church in America today. There are so many angry people and that constitutes angry churches. Anger, it's what's breaking our homes, ripping our homes apart, marriages, families. And this anger that so many people feel on a constant basis ultimately is devastating in peoples' lives. Because, you know why? Look at verse 27. It says "give no opportunity to the devil". Anger opens the door of your heart, your life, your home, your family to the power of the enemy and to the bondage of Satan himself. There are satanic strongholds in peoples' lives because of anger.
Notice what happens when the devil gets a foothold, when the devil gets in. Verse 31. It starts with bitterness. Unresolved anger becomes bitterness, and bitterness is rage within. It's resentment. I've known many people who are embittered about circumstances in their lives, problems they're facing, someone in their life, someone who hurt them, someone who said something and people are bitter. I've known people who are angry with God, bitter with God, bitter with the church. Angry with themselves, bitter! They're bitter people.
And according to Hebrews, it's described as a root of bitterness. A root goes down deep; it's unseen, but the bitter fruit of bitterness is all this anger and outrageous behavior that you can see in a person's life. We'll get to that in just a moment, but it's down deep within. That's the anger. That's why it doesn't have to be outward; it can be inward; it can be very, very strong on the inside. That's bitterness. It's resentment. It's an inside job. And some of you know it because the Holy Spirit right now is speaking to you, and like a Great Physician, is moving around and showing you some area of bitterness in your life, unresolved, unrepentant, sinful, anger.
But then, notice what happens beyond bitterness. He talks about wrath. Now bitterness turns to burning! This is the burning, the agitation, the aggravation, constantly churning in a person's life. And it doesn't take but a spark to get a fire going. This past week I was wanting to burn some wood. So, I have a fire pit and I was trying to get rid of some wood because my wood has become a pile for rats and other kinds of varmints, so I'm burning up the wood. Now I failed Boy Scouts because I couldn't do this stuff very well. So, I got the fire going, and I had a really good fire going. So, I decide I'm going to throw another log on. Get this done quickly, get rid of this wood. So, I threw a log on the fire. And because I just threw it in there, sparks went everywhere. And the next thing you know, my yards on fire! I mean, I got a fire! I got a grass fire going! Thankfully, there was a garden hose right next to it and I get that thing out.
Now I'm a fireman, I put the fire out and it all goes away. And I'm thinking there's a parable in this for the people because you got a fire going on the inside! Somebody throws a log on it; somebody does the wrong thing, says the wrong thing, next thing you know the sparks are flying, and then you've got a fire in your yard that can burn the house down! Unless you put it out! It speaks of anger. There's bitterness, there's wrath, there's anger. Now it's beginning to show up on your face, on your countenance. There's no signs of joy, evidence of peace. There's a scowl. And the interesting thing that happens with anger is the flight, fight or flight syndrome kicks in and it begins to affect you physically. You may clench your fists, your body may shake, your face may get red, your eyes narrow, and while in problems like anxiety, depression, those kinds of things, it drains you emotionally and physically.
What happens in anger is the adrenaline kicks in and it actually adrenalizes you and energizes you at some level. You're ready to get after it now; you're ready to fight somebody! And that's anger, and now the devil's in deeper. The next thing the devil does is this clamor. Now, that's a word you probably haven't used in your vocabulary this week. Clamor. He was clamoring. What is that? It actually means loud speaking. To shout! It's what happens when you get in an argument and the voices get raised, and now somebody says stop shouting at me. "I'M NOT SHOUTING AT YOU"! "Don't raise your voice"! "I'M NOT RAISING MY VOICE"! That's clamoring, that's shouting. And it's generally accompanied by profanity and cursing. Do you not think this stuff grieves the Holy Spirit? Of course, it does.
Earlier in verse 29 in Ephesians 4, it says, "Let no corrupt talk come out of your mouth, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear it". You say, "I'll just give people a piece of my mind. I'll tell them off". And the next thing you know, the shouting turns to outbursts; it means outbursts of anger, laced often with profanity and blasphemy. And remember, many people have grown up in this kind of environment. The shouting, the arguing, the hatefulness, the spitefulness. Maybe you, some of you grew up in that kind of environment and you need to break that chain in your own life. Your little kids are hearing this stuff. If you're going to have an argument with your wife and you're going to have arguments with your wife or your husband. If you haven't had an argument...
You say, "I've never had an argument with my spouse", then I really doubt you've really been married. Of course, you have. Deb and I have had some arguments. At least discussions that you can hear several blocks away some times. It's like Mrs. Ruth Graham said, "You know, I've never considered divorce. I've never considered divorcing my husband Billy Graham". She said, "Murder a few times, yes, but not divorce"! But if you're going to have... I'm not talking about disagreements. The kids know you're not perfect. You're going to have disagreements. But this kind of outrage and anger and abusiveness. Don't let your little kids, you solve this. Don't let the sun go down on your wrath. Settle it, solve it. Don't expose your family to filthy talk. You know what the word corrupt there in verse 29 means? It means rotten, filthy rotten words.
Now the devil's really in it. That's all spewing out. But he's not finished. And slander, put it away from you. I've noticed that people who are angry all the time in particularly, they like to tell other people about it. You ever noticed that? Angry people like to tell every body else how angry they are. And it typically comes with slander or lies or gossip. You're never more like the devil than when you're slandering people, because the devil whose very name means the accuser, the slanderer. So your angry about something, somebody said something, somebody did something so you just want to talk, talk, talk, talk, talk and slander people because of it. That grieves the Holy Spirit. That invites the devil in. Now the anger turns to words. Words like, "I hate you," "I wish I'd never married you". "Go to hell". Or worse. That's slander.
You'd think that would be enough but the devil's not done yet. There's something else, end of verse 31. It's malice. And now you're actually ready, Malice means mad, turns from mad to mad men and women. Malice. You're ready to fight somebody. You're ready to hit somebody. You're ready to jump out of a truck and duke it out! Or bully someone with your words. Or actually hit your wife or abuse a child. God help you because now you're in bondage to the power of Satan in your life. And you know why? It's all because you didn't start back up here and start dealing with your anger a long time ago when the sun was coming up and down. It's been many suns up and down and many moons for some of you since you've dealt with your anger. And if you don't, it's going to turn into this, I'm telling you, because you don't know what Satan can do with a life.
Again, think of the spark; think of my fire; it can burn everything down. Anger! No way to live. It can actually kill you, by the way. I wonder if your anger is worth dying for? So what is the answer? Verse 32. Thank God, it's in the Bible: "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you". How has God in Christ forgiven us? Totally and completely. The word forgiveness, you know what it means? It means to pay a debt. We owed a debt we could not pay and Jesus paid a debt He did not owe, our debt. That's forgiveness. You say, "You don't know what that person said to me. You don't know what they did to me. It was terrible. It was awful. I can't stop thinking about it. I can't stop obsessing over it. I know it's wrong, but I cannot forgive. You don't know, pastor, what that person did to me".
No, I don't. But I know what they did to Jesus. They stripped Him bare, whipped Him, mocked Him, cursed Him, blasphemed Him. He voluntarily laid down His life into the hands of sinful men for you sins and mine, but they beat Him within an inch of His life, they nailed Him to a cross, they spit on Him, God's pure and perfect Lamb of God! And Jesus on the cross among the first words that He said, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do". "Forgive one another as God in Christ has forgiven you". Now, listen up. You say, "I can't get this; does that mean I'm endorsing the behavior? Am I saying it was okay"? No. In fact, if someone had done something to you that is criminal, let the authorities handle it.
The Bible teaches that. When my dad was brutally murdered in 1970, I wanted the authorities to bring justice. I refused to take justice into my own hands. I could have if I had wanted to, but I didn't want to live with bitterness and anger toward someone! So what does the Bible say? The Bible says let God judge the sinner. Let God judge that person who broke your heart! Let God judge that person who abused you! Let God be God! "Vengeance is Mine, says the Lord". Let God be God, because here's what happens. Forgiveness is not about the other person; it's about you. It's you, and when you forgive someone, you set the captive free. And the captive you set free is you. You're no longer living in the chains of the past and the pain of the abuse or the anger of whatever happened.
You can live free when you forgive as God in Christ has forgiven you. When we are obsessing about what happened on a person who hurt us, because most anger comes because we're hurt in some way. It can be a minor offense but some people are so easily offended. Try to live so that you're not easily offended. But so many people are always on edge and always ready to be angry, ready to react rather than to respond in love and kindness. But God is saying I want to exchange My love, forgiveness and the loving kindness of God for your anger, for your rage, for your bitterness, for your pain.
You can break free of the bondage. How? Repentance which means to change the way you think and admit, own it. You can't repent for somebody else, but you can repent for yourself. So confess it; don't nurse, don't rehearse it, don't converse it by talking about it all the time. Because any moment you're focused on the hurt, the pain, that's another day, another day that you go to bed angry and you don't get your eyes on Jesus. Get your eyes off your anger and off the person who angers you, and get your eyes on Jesus! Obsess over Him the forgiveness of God has given you. And the same God who has forgiven you will free you and the anger by the power of the Holy Spirit. You say, "That's unnatural". Absolutely, this is supernatural. It's the supernatural work of God in your life. Don't you want that?