Sunday Sermon: ‘Little Fox #2 – Anger’

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It was Solomon who warned us to beware of the ‘little foxes which can spoil the vine.’  Henry Ironside interpreted the little foxes as being the things that can ‘hinder the believer’s fellowship with Christ.’ In the devotional, ‘Our Daily Bread’, they were once referred to as – ‘little evils that eat away at the roots of our lives’

A couple of weeks ago we looked at the Little Fox of Lying. Today we examine the Little Fox of Anger.

Ephesians 4:26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.

I. A Reason to Be Angry

Is it ever right to be angry? Most people would say no, yet according to Paul, there is an anger that is right.

A. Anger of God

We need to understand that God has a holy anger against sin. We read from the book of Romans

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness

One day, sinful mankind will have to stand before holy God and receive the outpouring of His wrath against their sin. Yet there is another amazing truth about God. Scripture teaches us that God hates the sin, yet loves the sinner. A little later in the book of Romans we read –

Romans 5:6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8 But God commendeth [demonstrated] his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

God knows that His holiness demands justice and therefore, out of His great love, He provided a way for us to be saved from His day of wrath. We read in John 3

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish , but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved . 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned : but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

God has a holy anger against sin. Because of His great love, Jesus received that wrath in His own body when He died on the cross. If we receive Christ as our Savior, we will be saved from that future day of wrath. If we don’t, we will have to receive the full force of that wrath by spending eternity in hell.

B. Anger of Men

Be ye angry…” Paul commands us. There are times when a Christian should feel a sense of anger. It should cause us to become angry when we hear of a child being abused or an innocent person being victimized. It should cause us to become angry when we hear God’s name and character being blasphemed. Moses became angry when he saw the people dancing around the golden calf.

Yet we can’t let our anger turn into sin. “Be ye angry, and sin not…” A perfect example of this is something that happened in the life of Moses.

II. When Men’s Anger Becomes Sin

A. Righteous Indignation

Paul uses three different words to describe three different types of anger.

Ephesians 4:26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.

  • Angry (vs. 26)           Anger towards the sin.
    This is the word used to describe God’s anger towards sin.
  • Wrath (vs. 26)          Anger towards the sinner.
    It’s an anger that produces a feeling of exasperation
    and embitterment.
    It’s what causes us to hate people.
  • Wrath (vs. 31)          Passionate anger that can consume us and
    cause us to be violent against those we hate.

Ephesians 4:31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:

A perfect example of all of this can be seen in the life of Moses and his dealing with the nation Israel.

Perhaps you will remember the story when he came down from the mountain after having received the Ten Commandments. When he and Joshua neared the camp they could hear the loud sounds of voices. Joshua thought that it was the sound of war, but God had already revealed to Moses that it was the sound of the people as they danced around a golden calf. The Bible says –

Exodus 32:19 “… when he [Moses] saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount.”

Moses was furious and rightly so. His breaking of the tablets was similar to Jesus taking a whip and driving the money-changers out of the temple. It says in John 2:17, And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up. Just a few verses prior to that we read of God’s own anger towards the sinful people.

Exodus 32:9 “… I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people: 10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation.

The Bible says – ‘Be not deceived, God is not mocked.’ (Gal 6:7) It also says that it is a ‘fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.’ (Heb 10:31)

Yet Moses interceded for the people and pleaded with the Lord to turn from His anger. God listened to Moses, yet it was not the last time either of them would become angry with the rebellious people.

B. Unrighteous Indignation

We come to another incident in the book of Numbers.

Numbers 20:1 Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, into the desert of Zin in the first month: and the people abode in Kadesh; and Miriam died there, and was buried there. 2 And there was no water for the congregation: and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. 3 And the people chode with Moses, and spake , saying , Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the LORD! 4 And why have ye brought up the congregation of the LORD into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there? 5 And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place? it is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; neither is there any water to drink .

And you thought that your job was bad. Can you imagine having to put up with this bunch of bellyachers for forty years? I wonder if Moses ever wished that he would have let God wipe out the people.

Numbers 20:7 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying , 8 Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink .

Numbers 20:9 And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him. 10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels ; must we fetch you water out of this rock? 11 And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank , and their beasts also.

Moses’ sin was not so much that he became angry with the people. His sin was that he allowed his anger to get the best of him and to cause him to act in a sinful way:

1. By Striking the Rock (Twice!)

1 Corinthians 10:4 teaches us that this rock was symbol Christ and the sacrifice He would make on Calvary. The Bible says – “cursed in everyone that hangeth on a tree.” (Gal 3:13) According to God’s Word, although Jesus despised the shame, He endured the cross so that He might be made a curse for us.

2. By Speaking Rashly

In a fit of rage, Moses struck the rock, not once but twice! And even worse, he said – “ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?” Warren Wiersbe writes in his commentary that Moses’ words implied that he and Aaron were providing the water.

The Bible says that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. The words that came out of Moses’ mouth revealed what was in his heart. Apparently anger and resentment had festered in his heart to the point to where it all suddenly spilled out that day. He struck the rock not once, but twice! He insinuated by his words that he resented the hardship of always having to bear with this bunch of rebels. Years of deep resentment spilled out and it cost Moses dearly. He was rebuked by the Lord and he was refused the privilege to enter into the Promised Land.

Look once again with me at Ephesians 4 and the ways anger can become sin:

Ephesians 4:31   Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:

1. Through Sinful Actions

a. Wrath – boiling up / over  (fierceness)

Pr 27:4  Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous… Sinful wrath can consume a person and cause them to use excessive and extreme force.

b. Evil speaking and clamour

Some people fight with their fists and others fight with their words. Yet both is sinful if it is done out of anger.

2. Through Sinful Attitude

Some people fight openly with their fists and others with their words. Then there is a third group who fights in stealth through their spirit and attitude. Paul speaks of ‘bitterness’ and ‘malice.’

a. Bitterness – bitter hatred in the heart

b. Malice – ill will (Wiersbe: hatred seething under the surface)

3. Through Satan’s Attack

What part does the devil play in our sinful anger? Perhaps more than we realize.

Ephesians 4:26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27 Neither give place to the devil.

The word place means – opportunity or an occasion. When we allow our anger to turn into sin, it gives the devil a foothold in our lives. A word many often use is ‘Stronghold.’ A stronghold is a fortress or castle. Often angry people don’t realize how much power the devil is exerting over their lives. A part of his work is to deceive them into believing that they have every right to be this angry. Yet note what scripture says –

James 3:14 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. 15 This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.

Moses had a difficult task in life. He had a strong-willed sister, a backward brother, and a nation of outspoken rebels. There’s good reason to believe also that his wife Zipporah wasn’t the most supportive. Apparently the years of having to deal with all of this took their toil on him and over time, he began to build up resentment. Without a doubt he was resentful towards the people and it may have been that he was a bit resentful towards God for giving him such an impossible task.

Yet his anger cost him dearly. He was rebuked by the Lord and he was refused the privilege to enter into the land.

III. What Should We Do With Our Anger?

Next week we will return to this subject and look at it once again, but for today, allow me to give you a couple of steps for dealing with your anger.

A. Listen to the Spirit Instead of the Devil

Most likely there are some of you listening today who have some issues with anger. And most likely much of this anger is deep-seated. The reason it is deep seated is because you have been deceived by the devil into believing that it is the right thing for you to do to hold on to your anger. To borrow some words from Dr. Phil – “How’s that working for you?” Is your anger producing happiness in your life?

Paul tells us –

Ephesians 4:26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27 Neither give place to the devil.

We learn from Galatians 5 that anger is a part of the old sinful nature known as the flesh. When we are sinfully angry it is because we are listening to the devil instead of the Spirit. Galatians 5 also teaches us that the fruit of the Spirit is – love, joy, peace, longsuffering, …etc.

Note something else that Paul teaches us in Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. 30 And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

Sinful anger grieves the Holy Spirit, and if the Spirit is grieved in your life, there is no way that you are going to enjoy His fruitfulness.

B. Let the Spirit Pull the Poison Out of You

Ephesians 4:31   Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you,

‘Let’ is in the passive voice which means that it is action performed upon us that comes from an outside source.

1. Let Go Of It

What makes us hold onto anger? P-R-I-D-E  Pride causes us to hold onto our anger and not let go of it.

As I was preparing for this message, Paul’s letter to the Philippians came to my mind. Perhaps there was no church that Paul loved more than the church at Philippi. Yet in his letter of encouragement, he had to address a few issues. First of all, he encouraged them over and over again to be of one mind. In addition, he also encouraged them to be of a humble spirit. Pride causes division and therefore, if the Spirit is going to pull the poison of bitterness out of us, we have to humble ourselves before Him and let go of our pride.

2. Let the Spirit Replace It

A sister letter to the book of Ephesians is the book of Colossians. I like the way Paul expresses all of this in that letter –

Colossians 3:12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. 14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. 15  And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.

As a child of God, clothe yourself with mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, and most of all love.

Conclusion:

Do you have sinful anger in you? Be honest before the Lord. Is there something that you are holding onto that is causing you to be bitter and revengeful? If so, I encourage you to listen to the Spirit and allow Him to pull the poison out of you and to replace it with the peace of God. Next week we will look at this subject once again and consider what scripture says about forgiveness.

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