Text: Eph 4:26-32
Summary: Anger comes in many forms. Anger often leads to sin. And when you sin, you give Satan a legal right to wreak havoc in your life and those around you. Put away anger and ask for a divine exchange. In exchange for your sinful nature, ask for the kindness, the tender heart, and the forgiving heart of Jesus.
26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Father, we’re going to be talking about spiritual battle in this sermon. We know that the evil one is not pleased so we come in the power and authority of Jesus Christ. We bind and rebuke Satan and all of his minions. We cast them into the abyss. We pray, Lord, to awaken our spirits. Give us ears that can hear, eyes that can see, hearts that can understand. Lord, this message has the potential to radically change our lives. Lord, we submit to you. We avail ourselves to you. We lay our hearts before you. We ask that you would speak, Lord. Encourage us to fight spiritually against the evil one. We need to learn how to fight in prayer. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus Name, Amen
Ephesians 6 is an important and famous passage about the spiritual armor and putting the whole armor of God on. Today is kind of like the prerequisite to putting on the whole armor of God. It is making sure there are no glaring holes in the armor. Today we’re going to be specifically talking about anger. Growing up I was very angry. Although people who knew me may not have known I was angry, inside there was a lot of anger. If my anger was fully able to express itself, I would be probably locked up in prison. That’s the level of anger I had in my heart.
The Lord has been pressing hard this week to fully put it away. Because there’s still residual, even if you overcome some level of anger, and even maybe the murderous hatred kind of anger, the residual damage is there. Out of all the sins that God could have highlighted in this chapter, He chose to highlight anger as a doorway to many sins. God wants us to fully put it away. It’s like closing the door on Satan. It is making sure there are no holes in your armor. It is shutting the door in Satan’s face so that he has no more legal rights in your life. Because anger leads to sin.
Anger leads to sin. This chapter and set of verses speak about so many forms of anger. In v.26 it says, be angry but do not sin. Angry there means irritated or provoked. In v.31, another form of anger is bitterness, which is harsh and embittered. Also in v.31 is wrath, which is rage or outbursts of intense emotion. Anger is a different word from v.26, it is seeking to punish and wanting vengeance. Clamor is shouting and screaming at another. Slander is abusive speech. Malice is an evil and wicked desire to injure. These are all variations of anger.
How does anger spread? V.29 says through corrupting talk. The word corrupting is bad, as in Matthew 7, a bad tree bears bad fruit. It is that type of bad. It is worthless, it’s rotten, it’s useless, it is depraved. How does the anger spread? Through our talk. It is through our bitterness. It is through the wrath and the outbursts. It’s through seeking to punish through our words. It is a clamor, it’s screaming at somebody. It is abusive talk or slander. It is malice, or evil desire to injure. These are the ways that if you do not deal with anger properly, it will lead you to sin through your speech and through your actions.
Sexual immorality is a personal sin, that is a sin to yourself and your body. But when your anger lead leads to sin, it hurts and destroys everybody around you. That’s why this is something the Lord wants to deal with first and foremost because He wants to protect His people.
Ephesians 4:26 is odd. It says be angry and do not sin. After saying at the end of this chapter, put away anger in all of its forms, why does He begin with be angry and do not sin? Why does he give a little bit of room for some kind of anger? Because there is a difference between righteous anger, the way that God is angry towards sin. And there is our kind of anger, which 99.9% of the time is unrighteous anger.
When Jonah was angry toward the Ninevites, he hated the Ninevites. His anger led to sin. He was fine pronouncing eternal judgment. If the Ninevites ended up in hell, he would sleep soundly at night. It would not cause him any type of grief or sorrow. That is his anger that led to sin. When Moses at age 40 was angry towards the Egyptian because the Egyptian was beating his fellow countryman, a Hebrew man, in anger he strikes him. That anger lead to sin. He murdered someone. God saw that Moses at age 40 was not ready to lead His people out of Egypt. He also recognized that people were not ready to be delivered. So what does God do? He sets Moses aside quietly to train him for 40 years to deal with his anger.
When God is angry, it is nothing like human anger. When we’re angry, where do you feel it? What do you feel in your chest? Do you feel a tightening? Don’t you feel a rising in your chest that comes out of your mouth, and it destroys anything in your path. When God is angry, there is not that type of carnal emotion. God has total self-control. He’s not lashing out in anger. When God is angry, it is a different thing altogether. It is a righteous anger.
When God is angry, I think the best way to describe it is in v.30. It says, do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God. W know that God is one, and so we can also say, do not grieve the heart of God. Do not grieve the Son of God. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit. When God sees sin, He is not angry and emotional in a carnal kind of a way. He is grieving. This is the heart of God that we need to receive.
Probably the best way that I’ve seen it described was what Spurgeon said. I’m thankful that full transcripts of his sermons are available to us. He describes grief as anger mixed with love. It’s an anger that’s been tempered by the love that the person has for the other. The love has sweetened the anger. It’s no longer angry in an emotional, carnal, lashing out kind of way. It’s sweetened. It’s tempered. There is total self-control. It is not an emotion, it’s a choice.
Like a grieving parent, you don’t hate your kid when they’re wayward, you love your kid. You hate the sin. You hate the drug abuse. You hate the addiction. You hate the alcoholism. You hate the problem that they’re in. You hate that sin. You hate Satan who’s behind that sin. You don’t hate your child. You love your child. You’re grieving, you’re vexed. The word for grieving here is vexed, you’re confused, and there is deep sorrow. It is someone who has the heart of God.
So God’s heart is that He hates the sin. He hates it. But He loves the sinner. That is another way to say God grieves over us when we sin. He loves us. He’s not angry and ready to beat you with a stick. His love has tempered it. He hates the sin that you’re falling into. He loves you too much and He wants you to turn away from that sin. That is the heart of God. He grieves over our sin, He hates sin and He loves the sinner.
Malachi 1 describes God’s heart. I want to unpack it a little bit more. It says He loves Jacob. God loved Jacob, but He hated Esau. I want to reiterate that this is not emotion. There is no emotional hatred towards Esau. This is more of a choice. That God chose to favor Jacob because Jacob loved God. God chose to remove His favor from Esau. He did not show favor to Esau. He didn’t bless Esau, this is what it means that He hated Esau. It’s not emotional. It’s not lashing out. Esau had a comfortable life, he was still blessed in many physical ways, but spiritually all of that blessing was removed.
The same way that Genesis 29 describes Jacob who loved Rachel, and it says Leah was hated. Jacob did not emotionally hate Leah, but his favor was not there for Leah. It was all on Rachel. When God hates somebody, it is not emotional. It’s not, I want to punish you. You’re a worm. I’m going to beat you down. I’m going to make you go through all of these hardships and trials. No, the heart of God is He hates the sin that you’re going through but He loves you. He grieves over the situation that you’re in. And so for a time, He may remove His favor from you. He may remove blessing from you and He may put you through some period of discipline where you feel the weight of the sin that you’re under so that you wake up and say, I have to go back to my Father. That’s the idea.
God out of His love for you may remove His favor and His presence. And you may feel like God hates you. God is awakening you to His love. There may still be some confusion about what that means for us. That’s God but what about us. Are we allowed to hate people? How are we supposed to love people? There may be some confusion. I want to read some passages with you.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? 22 I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.
This is King David. This seems altogether different from God’s love versus God’s hatred. When David is speaking, it seems like he’s speaking directly at people and I think that’s the only way to read it. He actually does hate the enemies of God. But I want to remind you that this is Old Covenant. If prior to Jesus, if you hated the enemies of God, then that was how much you understood. But as New Covenant believers, God raises the standard.
In Matthew 5 in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, you’re not even allowed to call your own brother a fool. If you call your brother a fool, you’re liable to the fires of hell. Old Covenant King David as great a man as he was, he hated people. Unlike God. God doesn’t hate in the way that King David hated the people themselves. Old Covenant. But as New Covenant believers, we can’t even call our own brother or sister a fool. There’s a higher standard because we’ve been given access by the Holy Spirit to the very presence of God in heavenly places.
6 Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
Notice God doesn’t commend them for hating the Nicolaitans. He says they hate the works. As New Covenant believers, we can never hate anybody. We can hate the sin, but we have to love the sinner. That is the heart of God. God wants all people, all men, all women, to repent and to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. He wants everyone to be in heaven with Him.
Going back to our main text Ephesians 4:26-27. Be angry and do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your anger and give no opportunity to the devil. That last v.27 really struck me this week. Remember I said earlier that when you’re angry, there’s a little bit of room that God gives where you haven’t sinned yet. When you’re angry, when you’re irritated, when you’re provoked, because in this fallen life dealing with fallen people, there are many ways people will sin against you. People cut you off on the road. People will cheat you, steal from you, slander you, or whatever. All of this is part of living in a fallen world among fallen people. There will be many times in a day when you will be tempted to be irritated and provoked.
God gives a little bit of room there. But He says in that moment while you’re provoked, do not sin. After you’ve been provoked, after you’re irritated, what you do the very next split-second will make all the difference. Many times, after we are irritated or provoked, we just react back. And when we react back, we’ve sinned. It comes out through our mouth, through our mood, through harshness, through outbursts, through vengeance, through punishment. Everything that comes out is sin.
That split-second is critical. And if you do not choose to make the right choice in that split-second, you’ve sinned and then what happens? Satan has a legal right into your life. It says do not give the devil an opportunity. When you sin, it’s like the full, whole armor that you were supposed to have to be fully geared up for battle, what you’re doing is allowing a hole to be in your breastplate. You’re dropping your shield, you’re creating an open door and Satan has a legal right after you’ve sinned to come into your life and wreck it.
That’s why we have to be convinced that we must put away this main sin of anger, because it will not only destroy you, it will destroy everybody around you. As I look at our country we are captured and possessed by this spirit of anger. Satan is having a field day in our country because of this anger. Christians do not realize that we’ve had these open doors in our hearts, in our homes, and in our country.
Satan has the legal right to ruin us because of our anger. We’ve seen anger when it comes, you feel it in your chest. And there are different manifestations of anger. There’s a microwave. If somebody has a short fuse, in two seconds you’re already responding. There’s no pause in your spirit. There’s no prayer, Lord, I want to deal with this anger. I give you this irritation. There’s none of that. There’s no pause in your spirit.
It’s like a microwave, within two seconds you’re already responding, and anger begets anger. You’re angry because somebody else did something to you. You respond back. They’re angry. Anybody who’s witnessing this becomes collateral damage. They get angry because you say something to them. It just spreads and it destroys households and nations. You’re giving Satan a legal right into your life. And if you want victory, we have to close all the doors. You have to close all the doors. You have to say, from this day forward, Satan, I’m closing the door in your face.
I used to live with anger. I used to say, okay, it’s not that big of a deal. I’ll say sorry once a week. Well, you know, six days out of a week, I’m still angry. I’m still irritable. I’m still provoked. I still lash out with my words. I still show punishment through my actions. Satan has legal rights into your life and in your household. So we need to resolve this day that we will not tolerate even an iota, even a trace, even a residual amount of anger in our lives.
There’s the microwave and then there’s the crockpot, a slow simmer. You don’t blow up often but it’s cooking in the background, and when it’s heated, it goes off. Then you have the meat cleaver. I’m just using kitchen terms. The meat cleaver is if somebody wrongs you, you just cut them off. You don’t want to deal with that anger. You don’t want to deal with that person. You will cut them off and it is as if that person never existed. Even your own family members, you will cut them off as if they never existed. You don’t grieve over the brokenness in the relationship. You don’t grieve over that person and your own sin and hope for reconciliation because you’re angry. You just cut them off.
Or there’s a judge’s gavel. That’s not a kitchen utensil. You just pronounce judgment. Somebody annoys you, so you’re going to punish them. You put an end to it and silence them. You put them away in another room. That’s how you deal, by not dealing with the core issue. You want to control the circumstance. You want a quiet home and so you will lay down the gavel because you want order in your house. You don’t deal with what’s in your heart.
Instead of grieving the Spirit of God, let’s please the Spirit by not allowing anger to pervade and permeate our lives and our houses. Look at the list in Ephesians 4. Anger, bitterness, wrath, clamor, slander, malice, or the synonyms, harshness, outbursts, shouting, screaming, abusive speech, desiring to injure, corrupting speech. You can repent of each of these and ask for the complete opposite. Instead of being irritated easily, ask for patience. Instead of being harsh, ask for gentleness. This is the divine exchange. This is a continuation of last Sunday. Instead of seeking to punish, seek to show grace and forgive. Instead of shouting, use words to edify. Instead of abusive speech, ask for gracious words. Instead of desiring to injure, desire to heal and to build up.
Go through the list and look at the synonyms, the different definitions of these words. Pray for the divine exchange. After you’ve asked for forgiveness and the exact opposite of what you repented of, that’s the divine nature. That’s Jesus’s nature. In v.32, as we close, be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you. Be kind. This is a good heart. This is someone who is very useful to God, somebody who is gentle and pleasant. When we say, Lord, why don’t you use me? Like Moses at age forty, he wanted it to be used. And you wonder, why was he put on the shelf for forty years? Could it be that we are still not useful yet because of anger? If you do not deal with this, then what’s the point of God giving you a bigger platform and bringing more people into your life if you do not teach them the heart of God?
Be kind. Be gentle, pleasant, useful, good. Not a bad tree that yields bad fruit but a good tree that yields good fruit. Be tenderhearted. This is gut level, bowel level sympathy, somebody who’s empathetic, somebody who can get into somebody else’s shoes and feel their pain, and thereby learn how God sees that person and grows in being able to grieve over that person. That is the heart of God. You may hate the sin but you love the sinner.
You can get into the shoes of that person. You can show sympathy and you can have empathy. You’re in that person’s shoes. You see their background. You see their wounds. And it changes your perspective. You’re not angry anymore at the person. You start loving the person. You’re gaining the tender heart of God. And lastly, you’re forgiving. As God has shown you grace and mercy and He’s given you forgiveness, you’re able to forgive others. You’re freely able to show favor. You don’t hate the person but you show favor to the person. You show grace. Let’s pray.
Father, we repent of anger in all of its forms. Forgive us for being angry. Forgive us for being bitter or harsh. Forgive us for being wrathful, for having outbursts of emotion. Forgive us for the clamor, shouting, and screaming. Forgive us for so easily slandering others, for being abusive in our speech to others, for showing the malice in our hearts, or desire to injure and punish other people.
Father Lord, now we want to catch ourselves because while we’re provoked or irritated, and that will happen many times in a day, but what we do the next second will make all the difference. And so in those moments, help us to pause, no longer lashing out but responding, bringing our irritation before you, Lord Jesus. Bringing our provocations before you, Lord Jesus. Bringing our anger before you, Lord Jesus. So that while we’re provoked and irritated, we don’t sin anymore.
Father, from this day forward we are putting away anger in all of its forms. We’re closing the door on the face of Satan. Satan, you have no more legal right in our lives, in our families, in our nation. We bind and rebuke you, we cast you into the abyss. Lord, help us to be more watchful over the ways that we sin in our actions, and in particular, our speech and our emotions and attitudes.
We cancel all legal rights of the enemy. He has no more room. We are closing up all the holes in our armor. We ask for a divine exchange. We ask for your tender heart. We ask for your kindness and your gentleness. We ask for your presence to wash over us and fill us. We ask that your forgiving heart can come over us. We pray that you would give us the heart of God that can grieve over the sins of this world, hating the sin while still loving the sinner. No longer are we permitted as people in the Old Covenant were permitted to hate people. No longer, Lord. You’ve raised the bar.
Lord, we want to learn how to grieve like you do. Lord, during the partaking of the Lord’s Supper, we pray that you would communicate your tender heart toward us. Your heart that grieves toward our sin and embraces us as sinners. Thank you for dying on a cross, shedding your blood. Thank you for your body that was broken for us symbolized by the bread, and your blood that was shed symbolized by the cup. We pray that as we partake, you may meet us and nourish us and give us your divine nature. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus Name, Amen