Anger Vs. Self Control
Matt 5: 20-26 audio (4MB)
Welcome to the first youth service of 2010!
This week we kick off the first in a four part series on Christian Attitudes
Today we’ll be looking at Anger vs. Self-control, and then throughout the year, we’ll look at Humility vs. Pride, Judgment vs. Grace and Holiness vs. Worldliness.
My hope is that you’ll use this time to really search your character and attitudes and to reflect on whether they are matching up to Jesus’. And obviously we can’t look at every attitude individually but if something in these talks challenges you on other areas of life then I encourage you to act on it.
Well, Anger vs. Self Control, lets define these terms so we’re all on the same page. The dictionary has these definitions:
Anger – ‘a strong feeling of displeasure aroused by a wrong; wrath; resentment; displeasure’
Self-control – ‘control or restraint of oneself or one's actions, feelings’
The passage that we read this morning takes a pretty hard line on anger doesn’t it? There really isn’t much room for grey to spread into it.
Here, Jesus himself is telling us clearly, that he hates anger and won’t have it among his people, among those who call ourselves Christians.
Galatians 5:16-25 says this:
‘Live by the spirit I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh: for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want.’
What does it mean to live by the spirit? When those of us who are Christians here chose to follow Jesus, the Bible tells us that each and everyone of us was given the gift of the Holy Spirit to live with us, to guide us as a sort of counselor or advisor in how to live – the spirit is the one who changes us to become more like Christ!
He goes on, ‘But if you are led by the Spirit you are not subject to the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness (depravity), idolatry, sorcery, enmities (fits of anger), carousing and things like these.’
Ok so these are the works of the flesh, these were the characteristics separating us from God. Sex outside the bounds of marriage (fornication), impurity (thoughts, words, deeds, depravity, we used to put so many things before God (idolatry)
‘I am warning you as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. There is no law against such things.’
These are the characteristics that should mark us now – the fruits of the spirit – since we have the spirit living with us, guiding us, changing us, we should be able to see these present in the way we live our lives!
‘And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.’
This will be a passage that we come to again and again through our series, because it outlines things very clearly doesn’t it? (Apart from all the confusing big words)
Paul says it in black and white that hatred, discord, impurity are all wrong and says that if you follow this way you won’t be inheriting the kingdom of God!
And he throws anger into that crowd as well. What’s your view on anger and its place in your life and personal character? And please, spare me the Sunday school answers jumping into your heads right now - I want to know what are you living out right now at this time in your life!
Jesus says in no uncertain terms - ‘But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother is subject to judgement.’ Paul says, if you are someone who has anger in your heart, then you won’t be going to heaven!
Jesus, in the passage we just read, illustrates what he means by anger with a couple of examples. Firstly he says anger in the same breath as murder, both are subject to judgement. Do we have the same wariness of anger as we do of murder?
He goes onto say anyone who says, ‘you fool’, will be liable of the hell of fire. How many times a day do we get so frustrated, does our patience get so tried as to push us to the brink of naming someone a fool or an idiot, even in secret?
Do we live as though we have taken this on board in our lives? I know I don’t live life as if I put anger on par with murder
I know anger doesn’t bother me nearly so much as people who live out depraved lives – and yet there it is in black and white!
How about your view on self-control and its place in your life? Are you a person who could be described as having a lot of self-control?
Now that’s an unpopular term today isn’t it? Self-control is just such a nerdy, goody-goody, boring term!
In today’s world we’re encouraged to ‘just let it all out’ to allow ourselves to experience things, to allow ourselves to splurge, or go on adventures, or have a lot of fun and self-control and even control in general is seen as the enemy to the loud cry for freedom and opportunity and experience!
And these cries aren’t always a bad thing, freedom is good, opportunities are good, experiences, for the most part are beneficial, but this attitude creeps continually into your own personal character, and increasingly so in regards to anger.
My aim for today isn’t only to try and convince you of the gravity of anger in your life. My other aim today is to try and convince you that self-control isn’t a bad thing! That it’s a great thing!
It’s a prized possession of the Holy Spirit as we saw in Galatians! And one that he wishes to give to each of us who follow Jesus.
Jesus finishes off his warnings, in our passage today, with an appeal that if we feel angry at all, we must go and sort these matters out quickly, however it needs to be done
if we need to bring ourselves under control again, or if we have to go to someone and apologize…whatever it takes says Jesus, get it done!
Now I know that some of you have been fidgeting the whole way through this service wondering if I’ll ever admit to there being an anger that is ok, that is right.
And so I’ll say it now, there is anger that is right to have! There is an anger that rises inside you when we see the injustices in this world, when we see the depravity that comes with war or when we see insincerity or dishonesty coming from those in positions of power. These things are anger that is right.
And maybe closer to home for many of us – we do have a right to feel anger towards a close friend who has betrayed us or let us down, there is an anger that comes from death or sickness of a loved one, that is alright to feel
Jesus himself, who says, the one who is angry with his brother is in danger of hell. Is the same one who drives people out of the temple with whips and overturns tables, as he screams at them to get out!
He is the same one who came down hard on the Pharisees and religious leaders, calling them hypocrites when he looked into their hearts and sees only jealousy and pride!
Some anger is reasonable and wont fade when the sun goes down and shouldn’t. But please don’t take the easy way and see this as an excuse for anger
The point here is that we need to try and resolve even this kind of anger as soon as possible and move on with our lives, because it will eat at you, that is the nature of anger, it will eat at you
The Bible’s short course on anger, I think, is this:
If our motive is to hurt someone, the anger is wrong. But if our motive is to protect or stop injustice, then the anger is a right anger. But both angers need to be resolved or they may hurt the innocent even if the innocent is you.
2 Peter 1:5-9
‘For this very reason you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness and goodness with knowledge and knowledge with self-control…for if these things are yours and increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful…for anyone who lacks these things is nearsighted, blind and is forgetful of the cleansing of past sins.’
Self-control is a mark of maturity; it doesn’t ignore right anger, but shuns foolish and selfish anger. Those who ignore self-control are near-sighted, blind, and have forgotten grace, forgotten that they have been forgiven and so, need to forgive others.
I’ve been really challenged in writing this talk because I discovered something scary about myself. The times that I get angry a lot is when I start feeling better than everyone else. It’s true.
Its not because I’ve been hurt by someone, its not because I’m caught in terrible traffic, or am under too much pressure or because I’m being bullied or anything (though all these things do make me angry)
Most of the time I find myself angry because I start thinking I’m better than everyone else and I forget that I’m a sinner and probably a worse person than they are…
Max Lucado, a favourite author of mine who has a gift for saying the obvious in ways that make things obvious (think about it) says this:
‘The only time you can’t forgive someone is when you start to believe that the forgiveness you have been given is something that you deserve.’
Church, we have all been forgiven!! And now we need to show that love from Jesus to others by forgiving them!
Anger, it’s a word that none of us like, maybe even a feeling that many of us cant stand. And yet the majority of us hold on to it for all we’re worth
Anger is dangerous, hurtful, and is the tool by which many relationships have fallen apart, a tool that has ruined a great many people and something that Jesus and Paul after him warn against with an undeniable intensity.
Self-control is a term that is becoming less and less popular for its boringness, its so lame in our world that offers ‘release’ and ‘experience’ and countless opportunities, and even scarier, no one will judge you anymore, freedom.
Self-control doesn’t ignore the things in this world that are bad and deserve our hatred and anger, it doesn’t belittle injustice or death or betrayal. Its not meant to turn us into emotionless robots.
But does show the foolishness of an anger that is misplaced and guides us to a place where we must resolve those issues as soon as we can.
What are we to do with this reflection? What are we meant to take away from it?
James 1:19-20 says this,
‘You must understand this my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness…be doers of the word and not merely hearers who deceive themselves’
Are we just going to be hearers or are we going to be doers? And I pray to God that we are a church of doers!!
Are you angry at the moment, do you have issues with your brother or sister or even yourself that needs to be resolved? Live your faith practically and go resolve this now! Ephesians says, ‘don’t sin by letting anger control you!
Are you one who gets angry easily and lets it carry you away? Have you been rejecting the weight of its consequences and turning away from the blessing of self-control? Be doers in the faith and confront this personal issue you have that overflows into the public!
My accountability partner, a great friend of mine gets really angry and frustrated on the road. And he’s been challenged to not jump to insults and dark thoughts about the driver that cuts him off or beeps at him with no cause – but to bless them in his heart.
Lets get active, go to the people you need to go to. Ask forgiveness where you need to ask it. Pray for a release from anger and ask for the gift of self-control and get accountable with a trusted friend because if it isn’t resolved you will hurt many others and you won’t inherit the kingdom of heaven.
Anger or Self-control, which will define your life as a Christian?