Sunday, September 8, 2019

12th Sunday After Trinity

Sermon Series: Live a Life Worthy of a Child of God

Sermon Theme: Learn to Love like Our Father in the way We Deal with Anger.

Sermon Text: Ephesians 4:26-27 & 31- 5:2 

Trinity 12 Ephesians 4:26-27 & 31- 5:2 9/8/19

Living a Life Worthy of a Child of God - that is our goal and desire.  To do that we are to “Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us.”  We want to Learn to Love like our Father.  Last week we examined how God teaches us to love like our Father in the way we speak.  Today we return to Ephesians 4 and will zero in on verses 26-27, and 31 - 5:2 which shows us  How to Love Like Our Father in the Way We Deal with Anger.  

“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. … 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.

5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Dear Fellow Redeemed, 

So what makes you angry?  ––––  (Injustices done to you or to someone you love?  Unkind words or careless actions?  It can be as little as someone cutting in front of you, or anything we don’t like. It can be someone you are very close to or it can be a complete stranger.)

Anger is an emotion that we are seldom able to control.  When we feel wronged, whether it was done intentionally or carelessly, we get angry.  A few months ago the Reader’s Digest had an article about “Why getting angry is good.”  Is Paul suggesting that getting angry is good when he tells us to “be angry and do not sin?”  There is a righteous anger – anger toward anything that blasphemes God and His word.  God says, “You who love the Lord, hate evil!”  Psalm 97:10. But I don’t think that is what Paul is talking about.  Just a few verses later, he says, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” Anger is something we are to put away from us.  

So why does Paul say, “Be angry and do not sin?”  I think he is saying “Ok, so you get angry.”  We may not be able to help that, but what you do about your anger is what’s important.  Paul lists three things that we should not do when we get angry.  

-I-

First of all he says, “Do not sin.”  There are two common responses that anger triggers in us.  The first is to blow up and act out in rage, either by snapping back with our tongues or striking back in some physical way.  That is always sin.  If someone wrongs us, that is their sin.  They will have to answer to God for that.  But if we retaliate in words or in actions, that is our sin.  That makes us guilty before God.  And that will never help the situation.  So when you get angry don’t act out in anger.  Learn to control yourself.  

The other common response to anger is to let it seethe and boil within. To hold on to it.  That’s why Paul adds, “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.”  Don’t hold on to your anger, let it go.  When we hold on to anger, it turns into Bitterness, one of the things Paul says to put away from you.  “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger … be put away from you.”  

Everyone recognizes that bitterness is bad, but we may not always recognize bitterness in our own lives.  How do you know if you have bitterness in your heart?  The simplest way to tell is if you remember some wrong that was done to you.  If you keep going over it in your mind that is a sure sign of bitterness in your heart. Perhaps it happened years ago, but it is still as clear in your mind as if it happened yesterday.  If you can recall all the details, then you are harboring bitterness.   

Another tell tale sign of bitterness is if you change the way you feel about the person who wronged you and treat them differently.  If you don’t want to be around them anymore or if you can’t say anything good about them, you are harboring bitterness in your heart.  

Bitterness means that you have not forgiven that person.  If you truly forgive someone, you don’t keep rehearsing the wrong in your mind. You have no reason to remember it, and so, in time, you forget what happened.  

Finally Paul adds, “And give no opportunity to the devil.”  If you are holding on to your anger and letting bitterness have a place in your heart, it makes your own life miserable for you relive the hurt done to you over and over again.  Pent up anger and resentment can even cause physical illness.   But worse than that, as we hold on to anger and harbor bitterness, that is giving the devil an opportunity to take control of our heart and lead us into even greater sins.  He can fill our heart with malice. That’s another of the things Paul tells us to put away from us.  

Malice is the desire for someones harm.  It can lead you to plot your revenge and how you will get even.  But Malice can also be seen in something as seemingly innocent as talking to others about what someone did to you.  Isn’t talking about what someone did to you really just another way to get even with them?  You’re going to let others know what they did so they know what kind of person this is and think evil of them too.  That is another form of malice, trying to ruin their reputation.  That is slander, another thing God says to put away from you.  

Remember what God says in Rom. 12:17-21 “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.  If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.  Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  Instead of giving in to our anger and seeking revenge or letting it fester in our heart and cause bitterness, Paul says, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”  In place of those evil intentions, God says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”  Paul is not talking about being kind to those who are kind to you.  That’s easy, as Jesus points out “even the unbelievers do that.”   Since this comes right after the admonition to put away all bitterness, wrath and anger with all malice, it means to be kind and tenderhearted to those who made you angry in the first place.  

How can you actually do that?  How can you be kind and tenderhearted to someone who has hurt you and upset you?  The solution is in the last phrase of verse 32, “Forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”  

When you truly forgive one another as God in Christ forgave you, then that removes bitterness from your heart, and that removes any desire to get even.  But to actually be kind and tenderhearted to that person is a whole different level of love.  But that too, comes from the Love of God in forgiving us.  

Remember the last verses, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”  We are to imitate God and love each other the way Christ loved us.  This is not just a command.  God is giving us the power to do what we can’t do on our own.  He is teaching us and enabling us to 

Love like our Father.  

To do that we need to keep our eye on Christ.  Jesus endured all the same kind of hostility against Himself as we do, and way worse.  If we are going to be imitators of God, think about how Jesus handled these situations.  

Did Jesus’ friends ever thoughtlessly or ignorantly do anything against Jesus?  Absolutely, Peter contradicted Jesus about His mission to save us.  He denied knowing Jesus. He fought against Jesus’ will in the Garden.  All the disciples forsook Jesus and fled.  

What did Jesus do?  He loved them and forgave them.  He specifically restored Peter as an apostle.  Even called Judas “Friend” when he was betraying him and handing Him over to His enemies.

Did Jesus have enemies?  Did He ever!  The Priests and Pharisees, the religious leaders who should have been pointing the people to Him, were attacking Him publicly, trying to discredit Him before the people.  They accused him of being a drunkard and a glutton.  They accused Him of not keeping the Sabbath law.  They said He was working with the power of Satan.  They falsely accused Him and demanded His death. 

What did Jesus do?  He didn’t think of their attacks as something that hurt Him, but as a sign of their own great need of salvation.  In His love He tried to teach them, show them God’s truth.  He even prayed for them when they were crucifying Him.  

Jesus is more than just an example to us.  If He was only an example for us to follow, we still wouldn’t be able to follow that example.  Jesus is our Savior from all our anger and bitterness and slander and evil speaking.  That makes us look at our anger and bitterness and slander and malice very differently.  Those are not just natural reactions we can’t help. They are not just hurting ourselves, they are sinning against God.  When we harbour bitterness and resentment or seek to get even or slander, we are despising God who loves all people and desires their salvation.  You are in direct defiance of God when you hold on to anger and bitterness and seek revenge.  

There is a reason Jesus says, “If you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”  Matt. 6:15  That should fill us with fear when we see an unforgiving spirit within us.  Turn to God in repentance and seek His grace and forgiveness.  

Then remember what Jesus did about it.  He loved you and “gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” That was a sacrifice to pay for our sins. He suffered and died for you on the cross to pay for those sins.  It is that love and forgiveness of God that saves us from our wretchedness and the same love and forgiveness will fill us with the love of God to be able to truly forgive one another from our heart, and then we will “be kind to one another, tender hearted.”  

Talk about giving glory to God! Being angry, harboring bitterness, seeking to get even, everyone can do that. That is easy and human, but being kind and tenderhearted to the people who hurt you, that is loving like your Father. That really stands out as remarkable. People will take notice of that and want to know about the power of such love.  

May we all give glory to our Father in that way.  

Amen.

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