Robert Jeffress - Life's Most Dangerous Emotion
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". In moments of extreme anger, we are prepared to go to battle against those who've wounded us, backing down doesn't seem to be an option. And the goal was to inflict some long lasting emotional damage. Well, when someone wrongs us, an angry outburst never ends well. And today I'm going to outline some biblical keys for keeping the destructive power of anger in check. My message is titled, "Life's Most Dangerous Emotion," on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
Numbers of years ago I was trying to unload a rental property, a rent house that I had inherited. I remember my grandfather used to say, if you really hate somebody, give them a rental property. And I was beginning to understand why that was true because on three different times, I had tried to sell the house, we had a contract and then it had fallen through at the last minute. But now finally, the contracts was signed. Hill the realtor called me one morning, she said, "Robert, I'm sorry to report to you, the contract has fallen through again". I said, "Well, what happened"? She said, "Well, in all my years in real estate, I've never had this experience before". Well, that kind of piqued my curiosity. I said, "Well, what do you mean"? She said, "Well, the husband and wife who had signed the contract to purchase your house, got into an argument the other day, the husband bludgeoned his wife to death. And they found her unrecognizable remains in the back bedroom of the home".
The next day in the mail, I received a copy of the contract that husband and wife had signed before her death. And it was an eerie reminder to me of the power, the destructive power of anger. Apparently that husband and wife were getting along well earlier in the day to agree to purchase a home together. But later that same day the husband lost control of his temper, flew into that rage and extinguished the life of his mate. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Anger like fire eventually dies out only after leaving a path of destruction". And that's why I say without reservation that anger is truly life's most dangerous emotion. And today we are going to see how the apostle Paul says, we ought to deal with anger in our life.
If you have your Bibles turn to Colossians chapter three. And now remember, this is the section of Colossians in which Paul is being very applicational and he's telling us how we can become a heavenly minded Christian. He says, "Don't set your mind on the things on earth, but the things in heaven. Keep seeking the things above where Christ is". And we've seen that to be a heavenly minded Christian doesn't mean walking around with your head in the clouds, thinking about heaven. It's very practical to be heavenly minded, means to conform your attitudes, affections and actions to those of Jesus Christ. Simply put, to be heavenly minded means to love what Jesus loves, to think like Jesus thought, to behave like Jesus behaved in every situation. And he says, it's actually possible to do that because we who are Christians have been buried with Christ, our old way of life is gone, we've been raised to a new way of life. And there's a very real payoff that occurs when we try to live like Jesus. One day we'll experience the same rewards that Jesus will experience. But right now in this life, we can also have some real tangible benefits in our life that accrue to us for living like Jesus.
Now to a heavenly minded Christian if you truly want to become like Jesus then it means a change in your life, doesn't it? And Paul begins in verse five by talking about some sins that we have to deal with if we're going to be like Christ. Now the first group of sins as we saw last time, deal with the sensual, sins like immorality and impurity and evil passions and desire and covetousness. Those are sins of sensuality. And although those sins may involve other people, they are basically internal sins. But the next group beginning in verse eight is another group of sins that deal with our treatment of other people. Specifically sins of anger and sins related to our speech. Look at verses eight and nine of Colossians chapter three. "Now you also put them all aside". I want you to underline that phrase, "Put them all aside". I'll tell you why in a minute. And here are the sins we're to put aside, anger, wrath, malice, slander and abusive speech from your mouth. "Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside," underline that, "You laid aside the old self with its evil practices".
These sins, the sins of anger, the sins related to our speech. G. Campbell Morgan once called them, the sins in good standing. That is, these are sins that although not preferable they are acceptable to most of us. I mean, after all, we usually hear sermons against immorality, don't we? Sexual immorality. When is the last time you heard a sermon on anger or sermon on controlling your speech. Somehow in our mind, these are lesser transgressions than the sins of sexual immorality, but not in God's eyes. If you want to become like Jesus Christ you are going to deal with sins of anger that we're going to look at today and the sins of speech we are going to look at next time. Now, remember when it came to the sensual sins that we talked about last time, Paul says the remedy is to crucify those sins in your life. It was a reference to the death of Jesus Christ, just as Jesus was crucified on the cross and our old nature was crucified with him.
So every day we have to make the decision to crucify, to amputate, to cut out of our life, immorality, no matter how painful it is to do so. That's an imagery related to the death of Jesus Christ. But when it comes to the sins of anger and speech, Paul uses a different metaphor. He says, "We are to lay them aside". We are to put them aside. And those phrases lay aside, put aside aren't references to the death of Christ, they are references to the resurrection of Christ. You say, how so? Glad you ask, hold your place here and turn to John chapter 20 for a moment. Lemme show you what Paul is getting at here. Remember, this is Easter Sunday morning, the first Easter and remember the women were the first ones to go to the tomb and they saw that the tomb was empty and they came back and announced to the apostles, "He has risen from the dead". And men who are always a little slower than women, the apostles said we don't believe it, that didn't happen according to Luke 24, he's not risen from the dead and so they had to go to the tomb for themselves to see for themselves.
So they went to the tomb after first getting directions from the women how to get there and notice what happened beginning of verse six of John 20, here are these suspicious apostles led by Peter going to the empty tomb, verse six. "And so Simon Peter also came following him and entered the tomb: and he saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face cloth, which had been laid on his head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. So the other disciples who had come first to the tomb then also entered and he saw and he believed". The apostles didn't believe it when they heard the woman, say that he had been risen, that he had been raised from the dead. They didn't even believe it when they first went into that tomb and saw that it was empty, they reasoned to themselves, perhaps his body was stolen. But then they looked over in the corner and they saw that Jesus's grave clothes, his burial clothes which he had been wrapped in, had been taken off of Jesus's body and laid neatly over to the side.
You see if that happened that means the body could not have been stolen. I mean, if the body had been stolen what thief would have taken time to take off the old grave clothes. And even if he took time to take off the grave clothes he would have left them strewn across the floor of the grave. No thief, especially with a Roman guard outside would have taken time to neatly wrap up the grave clothes and leave them in the corner. This is what proved to Simon Peter that a resurrection had occurred. The fact that those grave clothes had been left behind, they had been laid aside. Now that's the imagery that Paul is using here. He is saying if we have truly died our old way of living with Jesus Christ and been raised to a new way of living we are going to leave behind old behaviors that were a part of our old dying self. We're going to leave those clothes behind, that behavior behind and we're going to put on our new resurrection clothing. Behavior befitting somebody who's been raised up with Jesus Christ.
Now that's what he's talking about here. If you are a genuine Christian you are going to lay aside, anger, wrath and malice. It's the greatest proof that you have been truly raised up with Jesus Christ to a new way of living. Now, let's look at the specific sins were to lay aside. And he talks about three in the beginning phrase here, anger, wrath and malice. Now usually we use these words interchangeably, anger, wrath and malice. But each word is really distinct in it's meaning. Write this down on your outline, the word anger is the Greek word orge. It's a word that refers to a smoldering persistent feeling of ill will toward another person. It's just a general feeling of ill will, negative emotion toward another person. It's distinguished from wrath which is a violent outburst against somebody. Or malice, which is anger turned inward, this is just that smoldering persistent ill will you feel toward somebody every time you see them.
You know, the effects of unresolved anger on our physiological system are well-known, doctors will tell you that unresolved anger decreases the lymphocytes in your body. Which means the antibodies are lessened in your system that allow you to fight off infectious diseases. And Dr. Frank Minirth and Dr. Paul Meier, a renowned Christian psychiatrist write in their book, "Happiness is a choice" that pent-up anger is the leading cause of death in America today. Whether it's manifested in heart disease or other physical problems, pent-up anger is the leading cause of death. Now anger, this smoldering ill will we feel toward other people, always demands an expression. And anger expresses itself in one of two ways. It expresses itself in this next word, wrath, sometimes. That word wrath at time may means, rage.
Have you ever referred to somebody as going into a blind rage? That is that anger keeps building up and building up in them like a water behind the dam and finally it burst through the dam and floods and destroys everything in its path. That's what wrath is. It is a blind rage that unleashes a venom and vile against another person. And usually the damage that is done is irreparable, that is wrath. But sometimes, you know, common sense takes hold of us, we realize it's not good to unload on somebody else. Especially if that someone happens to be our mate or our employer or a policeman. And so we learn how to keep that rage inside but we really haven't dealt with the anger instead we've turned it into malice, and that's the third word he deals with here. Sometimes anger expresses itself outwardly in wrath sometimes in malice.
That word malice is a word that means a feeling of ill will toward another person. It's anger that goes underground, it's anger that engages in passive aggressive behavior. You don't actually attack the other person directly but anytime you are in a conversation about that other person you slice them to bits with your tough. Or sometimes is not what you say, it's what you don't say about the other person. When you feel malice toward somebody, you despair whenever they succeed at anything and you laugh and you rejoice whenever they fail. That is malice, anger turned inward. Rabbi Harold Kushner tells a story about, two shopkeepers who had been bitter rivals for years. Their stores were located right across the street from one another. And every day they would stand out in front of their respective shops and look across at their competitor. And if the competitor got a customer, they cursed and they were so angry. They wish nothing, but ill will toward their respective competitors.
Well, one day an angel came to visit one of the shopkeepers and the angel said, "The Lord has sent me to you to teach you a lesson about loving your neighbor. You can ask God for anything you want and God will give it to you, but he'll give your rival twice as much. If you ask for money God will give it to you but he'll give you a rival twice as much money. If you asked for children God will give them to you but he'll give your competitor twice as many children. If you want long life, God will grant you long life but your neighbor will live twice as long". The shopkeeper frowned and he said, "Okay, strike me blind in one eye". Now that's malice. Whatever it takes, I want something bad to happen to that other person. Paul says, "Those kinds of feelings are to be put aside".
What does the Bible say about anger and wrath and malice? Contrary to popular opinion these are not just nice sins, these sins are as every bit as unacceptable as sins of immorality. I don't have time to look at all the scripture references related to anger. Jolt down a few of these, Psalm 37:8, "Cease from anger and forsake wrath". Of Proverbs 15:18, "A hot tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute". Or James 1:19-20. "But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger, for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God". Now, an obvious question is, was is it always wrong to get angry? Is anger always wrong? Well, to the student of scripture the answer to that question is obvious. No, anger is not always wrong.
Here is a great definition of anger, anger is a natural response to perceived injustice. Anger is a natural response to perceived unjustice. I say it's a natural response because quite frankly the reason you and I get angry is because we were created in the image of a God who gets angry. God reacts negatively to an injustice, to sin. That's in the nature of God. We saw that last time in Colossians 3:6, "For the wrath of God visits those who are engaged in immorality, the sons of disobedience". That word wrath is that same word here, orge. The outpouring of anger. The reason we get angry is because God gets angry over injustice. We're made in the image of God. I mean, think about Jesus Christ. Did Jesus ever get angry? We're called to be like Jesus, that's what this sermon series is about, how we can become like Jesus. Did Jesus ever get angry? Of course he did.
Matthew 21:12. He went into the temple and saw the money changers. What was his reaction? "And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple. And he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves". You've seen those scenes of Jesus with the money changers and the whip hand and chasing them out. It's hardly the turn the other cheek responses, is it? There are times Jesus got angry or listened to what he had to say about the pharisees. Matthew 23:13. "Woe to you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people: for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in".
Jesus was incensed by the teaching of the pharisees. Those hypocrites, who refuse to live by the same standards they insisted others live by, those who shut off God's kingdom from people who are trying to enter. Jesus got angry, but here is the difference between Jesus's anger and our anger. Jesus became angry when other people were mistreated or God's reputation was dishonored. That's what triggered Jesus's anger. Jesus never became angry over his own mistreatment. See that's what righteous indignation is all about. Righteous anger is getting angry about injustices committed against others or the dishonoring of God's reputation. But most of them anger, if we're honest isn't it righteous, it's selfish, isn't it? I mean, most of our anger has to do when other people wrong us, when other people failed to live up to the expectations we have of them. And that's really the root cause of anger in our lives.
I mean, we all have certain expectations of our mate, of our children, of our employer, of our pastor, of our church. And when those expectations are not met, we get angry. Our rights have been violated. When you are driving down the toll way and sailing along and suddenly you get behind somebody going 50 miles an hour and you get angry, don't you? Why? Because your right to go 70 miles an hour is being violated by this other person. Or, you know, unmet expectations are the leading cause of problems in marriage. I mean, we have expectations of our mate, don't we? Sometimes when we bring those expectations into the marriage. There is a woman who has a dad who is Mr. Fix-it around the house.
You know, anytime there was a problem he would spend Saturdays fixing the problem. So she gets married to this guy and she announces, "You know, well, honey, the drain is clogged in the kitchen, you need to fix it". He says, "Do what"? He said, "Why did God create plumbers? You know, I mean, that's, why should I spend my time doing that"? Well, you have an argument. She has this expectation that that's what her husband is supposed to do. He brings a whole different set of expectations into the marriage. You see that at work, you know, employees who believe they have a right to an automatic pay raise every year and when that pay, raise doesn't come they become angry because of an unmet expectation. Probably the best case in the Bible of anger caused by unmet expectations is the story of the prodigal son.
Remember the story when the prodigal comes home the father throws a lavish banquet for his son. It says the older brother got angry and he refused to go in to the celebration. And the father came outside and said, "Son, what is wrong? Why won't you join? In the celebration of your brother's homecoming". What does older brother say? He said, "Dad, I've served you faithfully all of my life you've never done this for me, but that son of yours comes home and look what you do for him". The older brother had an expectation of this is what ought to be done for him and when it wasn't, he became angry. Most anger at its root cause deals with unmet expectations in our life. When we feel like our rights have been violated. Well, how do we handle anger? How should we handle anger when those expectations go unmet? Let's look and see what the Bible says is the way God wants us to deal with anger, not if it comes into your life but when it comes into your life. We're going to look at six very practical but more importantly, biblical steps that will help you control this destructive emotion of anger.