Anger: One Behavior that Can be Stopped
Temptation or Sin?
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
I think in these days more than maybe even any others, many of us are genuinely uncertain about the kind of behavior that we should practice in this life. Or the kind of perfection in personal behavior that is possible in this life. I think we all are clear on the fact that our minds aren’t perfect. They’re not like God’s mind and so we’re all going to make mistakes, mistakes of judgment, mistakes in what we say to people. We’re going to be well-intentioned in things and yet because of our imperfect minds, it’s going to turn out exactly opposite to what we intended. So I think we’re all clear on that — that we don’t have perfect minds and so, we will often make mistakes and errors that we’ll have to apologize for and we can’t be perfect that way. We can’t be in that sense perfect as God is perfect. He never makes a mistake. We’ll always make mistakes.
I think we’re all aware too that we can’t be perfect in that we are touched by sickness, and we can’t remain untouched by sickness. We get colds, we get flu, we get diseases and they affect our bodies and that affects our emotions, and at times that affects whether we’re up or down. So, we’re all aware that there are infirmities in this life, physical infirmities that we at least can’t be free from all the time though increasingly as our life goes on and as our personality becomes more integrated and our faith goes, we can even be free from many of those things.
However, don’t you agree those aren’t the things that really bring us a sense of guilt? Those are kind of the non-willed sins or the kind of unconscious sins. The sins that we don’t intend and those we don’t plan to do and, on the whole, those sins don’t bring us great guilt. We are sorry for them and we apologize, we confess them, but they’re not the things that bring us deep deep down into despair about our own personal behavior. The ones that bring us into deep personal despair and a sense of guilt are the willed sins, the sins that we will to do. The sins that we intend to do, the habitual attitudes that keep springing up in our hearts, year after year after year and we can’t change them. The things that we do and we know we shouldn’t do. The conscious sins, those are the ones that bring us guilt.
In other words, the times when we have to cry out with Paul, “The good that I would I cannot do, and the evil I hate is the very thing I do.” Those are the sins that bring us guilt. They are sins like frustration and anger. Many of us are genuinely uncertain about those things because there is so much confusion in our day about them. I mean you’ll all agree great parts of Christendom say, “Well, your anger is forgiven because of Jesus’ death on the Cross and if you believe that, your anger would be forgiven and then you should do your best to overcome your anger. You probably won’t be able to overcome it all the time but you should do your best.”
And great parts of Christendom give us that advice and actually that doesn’t leave us in too different a situation except we say, “We’re forgiven.” It doesn’t leave us in too different a situation from the secular psychologist or counselors because they tend to say today, “Well, now anger you know, it’s something that needs to be expressed. You need to express your anger. If you don’t express it, you’ll repress it and that will make you unhealthy and give you all kinds of complexes. So you ought to express your anger and the more you express it and are honest about it, the more you’ll get rid of it.” And then there are other parts of Christendom that say, “Well, no,
don’t express it, just repress it, pretend it isn’t there and just ignore it.” Of course that creates repression which is an unconscious thing and it creates a real hypocrisy in the life.
Now what is right in regard to a thing like anger? Well, loved ones there is an anger that is right, that the Bible talks about. You’ll find it mentioned in Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry but do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Again, verse 26, “Be angry but do not sin.” Now, first of all, we should probably note the Bible never says “love and do not sin” because it’s pretty clear that you can love and you’re not in danger of sinning. So here the Bible is saying, “be angry but do not sin”, so there is a danger here of falling into sin. So be careful when you are angry. Now what kind of anger is justified?
Well, Jesus gives us the example when He turned over the tables of the moneylenders in the temple, that kind of anger. He reacted strongly and vigorously against an evil on God’s behalf. That kind of anger is right. That kind of anger, that kind of righteous indignation has brought about many results in this world where man and woman have risen in situations and said, “This is unjust, this is wrong, this isn’t right.” They haven’t said it from themselves, they’ve said it on somebody else’s behalf.
So anger in the sense of righteous indignation that produces a vigorous reaction against an evil on behalf of other people, that kind of anger is right and you notice, it’s a controlled anger — otherwise it doesn’t do any good. Whether it’s Wilberforce on slavery or it’s Jesus on the table of the moneylenders, it’s a controlled reaction against wrong, an unselfish controlled reaction against wrong on behalf of another person and it brings about results whether it’s in the moral realm, the spiritual or the political realm. That kind of anger is right.
But there is a kind of anger that is sin. That’s temper – bad temper. When you fling out at another person because you are angry at what they’re doing to you and you feel it’s unfair and it’s not right and it’s not just and you just want to get them out of your way and get the thing cleared. That kind of anger is sin. It’s where you’re angry on behalf of yourself, for your own sake, for your own selfish defense and you’re out of control. That’s the anger that is sin.
It’s an anger that comes because you are trying to control things. You’re trying to control the circumstances or you’re trying to control the situation and it is getting out of hand. You get mad and you just burst out. It’s just a wild anger on your own behalf that doesn’t question for one moment your judgment in the situation. You don’t pause for a moment to judge, “Am I right? Should I have control of this situation?” You just burst out in anger because you assume “I have the right to control the situation and to make it what I want it to be.” The amazing thing is that every time you or I get angry, it’s clear indication to us that we’re trying to control something that God doesn’t want us to control.
Even a school teacher or a parent in a controlled reaction against a child that is unselfish, for the sake of bringing that child into order under God, that parent will know that and they’ll have a sense that it is right, “I should control this, this is my responsibility.” But anger that comes from selfish bad temper is always an indication to us; you’re trying to control something that isn’t your right to control.
Loved ones, we get angry on the whole when self rises up and wants to control something and the other people won’t let you control it and so you fling out at them in desperation. Now, can you practice that kind of anger in your life and stay at peace with God? Is that kind of anger right?
Loved ones, just look at this verse with me, and you’ll see there’s no doubt of it.
Galatians 5:19, “Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
If that kind of anger exists in your life, and you know what I mean, it can’t exist every day — otherwise you’d be dead of blood pressure. I am not talking about every day, but if that kind of anger exists in your life, crops up every two weeks, every three weeks, every month, you find yourself involved in that kind of anger — you will not inherit the kingdom of God. It’s not me that’s saying it. It’s the Bible that says it, “Those who do that will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Now, if you say, “Well, what do I do?” Ask God, ask God, ask God to show you how monstrous your self has become. Ask Him to show you that. Ask Him to show you how massive and all controlling your great self has become because it’s your self that gets angry. Show Him how exceedingly sinful your self is, show Him that you are your god, not Him.
See, that’s why you get angry, loved ones. You get into a certain situation that doesn’t please you and God gives you clear advice in that situation. He says, “In all circumstances, give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” Even the circumstances that God didn’t send to you, He allows you to come into them and He asks you to give thanks for them. And when you rebel against them, it’s because you don’t see them as Him at all.
You don’t see this life is governed by God at all, it’s governed by you. You’re your own god. You want things to go your way and you determine to make them go your way. Ask God to show you how monstrous this great self has become and He will. God, the Holy Spirit, will begin to show you that. He’ll begin to show you how deeply engrained that self is. Then, don’t try to put it right yourself. That’s what all of us are doing. We’re tampering with anger, we’re tinkering with it and all you’re doing is temporizing.
You’re not changing it at all, you’re not getting rid of it, you’re just temporizing. In fact, you’re getting involved in salvation by works. That’s what many of us do. We receive forgiveness for our sins and then we start working at our anger or working at our selfishness and we’re just falling back into salvation by works.
There is only One that can deliver you from your self and the anger that comes from it and that is God himself. God alone can deliver you from that perverted carnality that makes you angry when things don’t go your way. Loved ones, if you could only see that little bit of anger is like the tip of an iceberg and that’s why you’re having such trouble with your anger or with things like irritability or things like a critical spirit.
It is only the tip of the iceberg. If you went underneath the surface of the iceberg that brought down that great ship, you would find that 9/10th of the iceberg was underneath the water and only a 10th was above and that’s why when you chip away at the anger with a little book on controlling your temperament or a little trick on power of autosuggestion, you’re chipping away at a little piece of that iceberg and there are 9/10ths underneath, far far bigger than the little bit that you see — and the 9/10ths consists of a carnal, independent, proud self that you inherited from Adam.
You’re trying to deal with a race and a mankind vice and sin that did not start with you but that you have inherited from the thousands and millions of great grandparents that have preceded you. You’re dealing with a thing called sin or carnality that has to be dealt with by God Himself. One of the great steps forward for all of us here this morning would be if we would see that. If we would see that only God can deliver us, and we would see that we are not able to do anything about this. We have to come to God and we have to ask Him to deliver us from this.
That’s the only way we’ll ever come to the place that Paul reached when he said in Galatians 2:20, “I live, yet it’s not I that live, but Christ lives within me because I have been crucified with Christ.” It’s the only way — to begin to ask God to deliver you from this self — that He will begin to point you to those verses in the Bible that show that that’s why Jesus died, that’s why Jesus died.
I know we all say Jesus died to forgive us our sins. Our sins were forgiven, even in Old Testament times sins were forgiven. But God was able to forgive us our sins because He had done something about the sinner. Do you see that? Do you see how foolish it would be for God to forgive us all our sins if we had to continue in sin and had to march into heaven with our sins still in our lives to create a hell out of heaven? Why would there be any sense in God forgiving? God forgave us and forgives us now because He knows in Jesus He has destroyed the source of sin within us. He has destroyed that old self of ours that is so big and so monstrous and so all controlling. Ask God to reveal that to you.
I know you hear me say it intellectually but you need to have revelation about it. You need to ask God, “God give me revelation, show me how I was crucified with Christ. Show me how I was included in His death and this massive self that gets angry, was destroyed in Him. Show me that Lord, reveal that to me, and make that real to me. Show me if there are ways in my life that I have never changed because I did not realize what happened when I was crucified with Jesus.” Get before the Holy Spirit and ask Him to give you revelation about it and the Holy Spirit will loved ones, each one of you and me, each of us have died in Jesus in a way that nobody else in this auditorium did.
That’s the preciousness of it, the dearness of it, the loving kindness of it and the personableness of it. God knows you, He knows where you live and you live in a different place from where all the rest of us live and when He put you into Jesus, He did something to that old self in you that He has not done to any of the rest of us and He can reveal that to you.
Then, if you’re willing, God Himself can make that real in you. If you are willing to humble yourself in Jesus, and to allow your “self” to cease to be in Him, and to regard Him as having the rest of your life to live the way He wants, God will send the Spirit of His Son sweetly in to fill all of your personality and every corner of your life and to beget in you the fruit of the Spirit, the resurrected life, the love and the joy and peace that will spring up from within.
I don’t know if you know that there’s a dear verse in the Old Testament and you should probably look at it because it is so startling, it is Isaiah 57:15, “For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite.” God deals in two places, one is in heaven in control of the whole universe and the other is in any humble contrite heart that is willing to be crucified with Jesus and to end their life in Christ and to hand it completely over to God’s Spirit to do what He wants with it.
If you say yes to that, the Holy Spirit Himself comes in and begets in you what the Bible says are “rivers of living water” and that’s why it’s so different. So many of you will say to me, “Well, is it just that the anger comes up and you control it?” No, it’s that it doesn’t come up. That’s the wonder of it and you’ll say to me, “Do I have to learn to be like Jesus?” No, if you are willing to take your place with Jesus in His death, He will pour in His resurrected life and your heart becomes a treasure and a sweet fragrance. You begin to find beautiful feelings coming up from within instead of selfish and angry feelings. It starts deep down there so that it’s no problem to be a Christian, it’s no trouble to be a Christian because the Holy Spirit pours out from within you the fruit of the Spirit, love and joy and peace and longsuffering and gentleness, goodness, that’s it loved ones.
It’s a miracle. God will take care of pouring in the resurrected life through the power of the Holy Spirit, if you will take care of the crucified life of simply accepting what God has already done to you in Jesus. You see our problem is we’re not dead. We’re all so much alive and wanting each one of us what we want. Wanting to control our life, that’s where all the strain comes from. There’s a place of rest when you at last let God be God in your life and if you say to me, “But brother, does that mean I have to die?” Yeah, yeah it does, it does. It means you have to die, that’s right.
If you say to me, “Oh, then you end up a non-entity, or you end up somebody with no personality, or you end up just a zombie?” You know, you know the proof of the pudding is in the eating, you know it. You know everyone that you and I have seen that have come through this, they’re anything but zombies, and they’re anything but non-entities. They are more fully themselves than they ever were in their lives before.
Truth is, if you lose your life for His sake, you find it. If you lose your personality for His sake, you find it, that’s it. There’s nothing to lose. C.T. Studd or Hudson Taylor said, “You give up what you cannot keep to get what you cannot lose.” That’s it. There’s no question.
Loved ones, Christianity is different. You’re translated out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His beloved Son. You’re saved from anger and selfishness and envy and jealousy, and you beget love and joy and peace and long suffering and gentleness and goodness. One is black the other is white. It’s clear, it’s clean. The only thing that’s not clear or clean is the kind of half-hearted watered-down Gospel that we have today. Where you’re supposed to be forgiven your sins and do your best with all the rest of the poor souls.
No, you’re not. You can’t do your best. You have no best to do. Doing your best will drive you to a mental asylum. No, you let it all go, you say to God, “I cannot do anything about it Lord, but what You’ve done in Jesus, that’s what I want, take me into that whatever the cost. Bring me into that through the Holy Spirit. I want to be delivered from self. I want to be delivered into the kingdom of Your beloved Son.” That’s it.
It’s a whole work, that’s what changed the world, that’s what transformed the first century, that’s what still changes the world and that’s what can change our cities and can change your home and can change your life — but it’s an absolute and a complete work and there’s no room for the watered down hypocritical stuff.
Loved ones, it’s real and God will be faithful to you as He has been to so many of us. It’s a whole work and it can be done in you this morning, it can be done in you. If you say, “Can it be done in a moment?” — in a moment, in a moment, that’s right. If you say to me, “Isn’t it progress?” Yes,
there is progress, but the progress is easy. Once you get rid of the cancer, you can grow in health, but you can’t grow out of cancer. Cancer grows with you, you can’t grow out of sin, and sin has to be cleansed by the mighty work of the Holy Spirit applying to you the death of our Lord Jesus. And then you can grow in holiness and grow in beauty and grow in godliness. So you have to start some way you know, and this morning is as good a morning as any to start.
It’s really “have thine own way Lord, have thine own way. I am tired being angry at things that I couldn’t control and I can’t control. I am tired being irritable about things that I have tried to be god over. I don’t want that, Lord. I want You to be God in my life. I want You to control everything and if that means crucified with Christ, whatever that means Lord, You show me.” Maybe some of you just have to come to the altar and you have to say, “Lord, I am going to head in that direction.” Maybe you won’t come right through this morning. Maybe somebody else has been seeking this for years and you have to come to the altar and receive it by faith this morning because you’re ready. But whatever is the situation loved ones, I’d make a move.
One thing I discovered at university was, faith is not thinking it, faith is not thinking. It’s thinking and then it’s action and acting is what declares your faith. That’s why I used to wonder, “this business of an altar call or having an altar, why do it?” It’s you saying to God, the angels of heaven, the angels of hell, Satan, the whole universe, “I am heading in that direction.” That’s the important thing. It’s the same as Mount Carmel, “If God be God then follow Him — if Baal, then follow him.” It’s a declaration in action that you are heading towards that and you want that more than anything in your life.
I’d encourage you to just come to the altar as we sing that last hymn and you do what you need to do with God. “Have thine own way Lord, have thine own way.” It’s 292 in that song book.
Have thine own way Lord, have thine own way; Thou art the potter, I am the clay; Mold me and make me after thy will, While I am waiting, yielded and still.
Let’s just stand as we sing.