Sunday, August 9, 2009

Don't Let The Devil Get a Foothold

Text: Ephesians 4:25-5:2
Focus: The danger of anger
Function: To help people manage anger
Form: Bible Study


We are discussing Spiritual warfare from Ephesians.

Some might think that is rather odd, since without apology, we preach peace here.

Here’s the thing. Jesus taught that political conflict is not the job of the Church. The Church can and will be effective in bringing peace when it concentrates on Jesus whose battles were always spiritual.

And this is a battle. Jesus told us to take up our cross, and follow Him. We are at the same kind of risk as any army soldier. That is why our brothers and sisters in Nigeria are dying.

Think about that: Our brothers and sisters are being killed by Islamic fundamentalists. How does that make you feel?

Does it make you hate all Moslems?

Our natural response is to be angry. What angers ME the most is the way the crowd is being stirred into violence through religion by the political powers who seek to control others.

But the fact is: we get angry. After 9-11 a good Christian lady, a deaconess in her church told me: “I will never forgive them. Stop telling me I have to.”

I looked at her and smiled as I said: “we are Christians, we don’t have that luxury.”

We’ll keep referring to her throughout the sermon.

In this passage, the author makes a very clear reference to another scheme of the Devil. He tells us, anger is okay, but it is also a place where the Devil can gain a foothold in our lives.

I have often said: (SHOW) “Anger is the drug that stimulates the Western culture.” (show shooting up)

This scripture says, (SHOW) “Anger is a place where the Devil can gain a foothold in us.”

I mean it, watch a modern action movie with any sort of classic story line. There is a bad guy, and a good guy. The bad guy goes from bad to worse and finally the hero gets angry and rescues the world from the bad guy.

When the hero gets ANGRY, the tide changes, the women all swoon over him and the world is set back to right.

Brothers and sisters, (SHOW) the message, that anger solves our problems has been drilled into our heads hundreds, if not thousands of times throughout the course of our lifetimes.

So what about anger? What is anger?

Well, anger in itself is not evil.

(SHOW) Anger, is a God-given emotion.

Anger is not a sin. The passage says: “Be angry.” Sometimes, that’s a command. But then it is quick to say: “But don’t sin with it.”

I talked last week about how “righteous anger” was falsely used by the religious authorities to incite the mob into the murder of Jesus.

This is exactly the danger that God warns about in this passage.

Anger is an emotion. God created us to feel emotion. Anger is important for our mental well being.

Anger motivates us to do something about the problems that we face.

One of my psychology professors told me: “95% of depression is caused by anger that people feel powerless to do something about.”

They get angry, feel helpless to change the situation and then they stifle it.

When they do that, the adrenalin courses through their bodies and without a proper release it causes stress that leads to failure of organs, cancer and a weakening of the immune system that leads to other problems.

God WANTS US to deal with anger, but not to sin in the process.

(SHOW) Be angry. Sin not. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.

That last phrase is important. Deal with it quickly instead of letting it fester. Letting it fester makes it worse and leads us into sin.

But here is our problem. Our culture has conditioned us to feel anger more and more.
We feel it at times when it is not the appropriate emotion.

An ancient proverb states: “every person has two dogs, a good dog and a bad dog. The dog you feed is going to be the stronger dog.”

We are subtly taught that anger is the only way to solve our problems.

Anger may get us started on a solution to our problems, but for the Christian we have many more resources at our command.

Remember the deaconess who said” “I will never forgive?”

That day, she made a choice to disobey God.

She made a choice to give the devil a foothold in her life.

I watched that unwillingness to forgive permeate the way she lived her life.

Pretty soon, she was reminding her daughter of the ways she rebelled when she was younger and the daughter and her husband left the church.

(show shooting up again) The anger began to control her and ruin her.

She was so wrapped up in her anger that she brought down the whole Church. When she made the decision to stop forgiving, she not only brought herself down, but she brought down those around her.

Now this passage starts out with a “so then.”
That means that it is a conclusion to what was written before it.

Before it we read:
(SHOW) You used to be non-Christian. You used to live your lives merely driven by your emotions and passions and you did what felt good to you.
(SHOW) But now, you have changed the clothes of your lives. You have put off the old ways and put on the new ways.

(SHOW) So, when we get angry it means that we have the task of changing something.

So, what has to change?

It is either me, or the situation.

That is the first question: Maybe I need to change? Several wrong things can cause anger. Ask yourself:
• Is my anger due to a lack of forgiveness?
• Is it due to the fact that I am being selfish?
o Do I want something I can’t have?
o Ahab the king sulked in anger because he wanted his neighbor Naboth’s vineyard.
o But the OT law was clear: the land must stay in the family.
o So his wife, Queen Jezebel, had Naboth and his family murdered and gave the field to her husband as a present.
• Remember the lady who took down everyone around her?
o I’ll show you how it spread to others.
o Look at (SHOW) Proverbs 22:24-25: Don't hang out with angry people; don't keep company with hotheads. Bad temper is contagious—don't get infected.
o The whole culture of her Church became one of back-biting, accusing.
• Our text today talks about with this:
o (SHOW) Ephesians 4:31-32 Stop being mean, bad-tempered, and angry. Quarreling, harsh words, and dislike of others should have no place in your lives. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God has forgiven you because you belong to Christ.
o She had to forgive if she wanted to keep herself connected to Christ.
o She refused and it corrupted her and the people around her.
o So, there may be a selfish reason to our anger.
• Don’t over-think this selfish bit. Generally the person we are the hardest on is ourselves.
The reason I don’t want you over-think it because, secondly: (SHOW) Maybe you need to change the circumstance you are in:
• Change may be very hard for you.
o Stifling your anger may be easier.
• But remember, we are in spiritual warfare.
• So let me give you some scriptural advice on how to be angry without sinning.
• You know, it’s funny, this anger thing:
o Be angry, but be careful! You could fall into a trap!
o It’s like a sword fight.
o You are not going to defeat the enemy unless you engage him.
o And when you engage the enemy, you place yourself at risk.
o When anger leads us to action, we are in that risk.
o Risk of sinning by the anger, risk of failure to make the change.
• Sometimes, our anger indicates to us that God is calling us to action.
• Jesus cleared the temple with a whip.
• He was angry when He told the religious leaders that they were nothing more than whitewashed tombs, or a den of snakes.
• I believe He was passively aggressively angry when they brought to Him the woman caught in adultery and He ignored them and kept writing in the sand.
• Listen, Jesus was no wimp, and He wasn’t always gentle.
• But even in the times of His anger, He loved the person enough to tell them the truth.

So, we are at risk when we do something about it.
Let me contrast that risk with the sins of obesity and alcoholism:
• Eating is different than alcohol.
• Some Christians say, “If you never drink, you’ll never get drunk.”
• This is a safe way to keep alcohol from dominating your life.
• One dear pastor friend’s wife was raised by a very abusive alcoholic father and his promise to her before he was married was to never touch a drop.
• So, a way to keep from alcoholism is to never drink in the first place.
• But, what about obesity?
o You can’t not eat.
o So it is necessary for everyone to depend upon the fruit of the Holy Spirit of Self-control.
• Being angry may be a gift from God that is calling us to take necessary action and we need the control of the Holy Spirit to take action in a way that is consistent with our Christian values.
• So, what does the scripture say about not sinning in our anger?
• Look again at verse 30 from our text: (SHOW) 30 Don't grieve God. Don't break His heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for Himself. Don't take such a gift for granted.

So, after I have asked myself “is it me, does this anger mean I have to change?”
And if the conclusion is: “No, I have to do something about it,” then how do I proceed?

Remember (SHOW) 1st Rely on the Holy Spirit.

2nd: Anger has motivated you to change, but anger will not solve your problem.

We will look at this next scripture in depth the last Sunday of this month, but look at now: (SHOW) James 1:20: “for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.”

The Bible says: Man’s anger doesn’t solve the problems we face, even in Spiritual warfare.

Anger starts us into the battle, it motivates us to begin, but the solution is going to come from somewhere else. The solution will come from God.

The author of this passage tells us before we were believers; we were slaves to our passions, in 2,000 years things haven’t changed at all.

But once I have made the decision to change, the solution comes from my relationship with God and my willingness to fight the battles in a spiritual way, not a human way.

Anger isn’t going to solve your problem, it only gets us started. The solution comes from our faith.

This is also scriptural: (SHOW) 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 It is true that I am an ordinary, weak human being, but I don't use human plans and methods to win my battles. I use God's mighty weapons, not those made by men, to knock down the devil's strongholds.

Anger is there to get you started, but the solution comes from your faith.

Let me end with a story about how powerful God is:
It is a little bit of history. About the time I became aware of the entire world and not just my own home they build the Berlin wall.
• Throughout the formative years of my political and social development, that wall stood as a symbol of oppression and fascism.
• When I thought of the way evil is done by humanity towards others, that wall came to my mind.
• I was a young minister and I was reading Jesus promise that if we had just the tiniest bit of faith we could speak to a mountain and it would be cast into the sea.
• I didn’t think that God wanted us rearranging the topography of the earth, but I wondered just exactly how far that would go.
• So, in prayer I asked God and I sort of got an answer in a question.
• I heard in my mind the thought: “What is the greatest evil you can think of in this world?”
• Immediately, I thought of the Berlin wall.
• Again, in my mind I heard the words: “Speak to it and have it cast into the sea.”
• So, I did. I prayed: “In the name of Jesus, Berlin wall, I call you to be uprooted and cast into the sea.”
• I forgot about it.
• As a matter of fact, sometimes I question my own sanity, did God answer me?
• But if you remember the events, the West and the Soviet block were embroiled in a terrible struggle of ideologies.
• It was called the cold-war, and it was indeed a war.
• It was fought by spies and the lives of those who died trying to cross that wall.
• Some say that President Reagan’s huge investment in the military broke the bank in Russia and they lost control of the European block countries like East Germany, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, and etc.
• Others say their war in Afghanistan broke their bank.
• I don’t know the exact mechanism.
• But I do remember this. There was no hint of that wall coming down, and if you were alive and remember, all of a sudden, in a span of less than 6 or 3 months depending on whose history you read, that wall came down.
• I remember that day and watching it on the news and God speaking into my heart again, “remember how you prayed?”
• Now, it could have been just me. I am sure that many millions of others, especially those most directly affected by it were praying as well.
• But I learned that the weapons we use are not physical, made of human flesh, but they are indeed spiritual.
I can take this verse and without changing the purpose and intent of scripture tell you this when He says Be angry and sin not:
• Your life has been given to you by God to make a difference for Him.
• Be passionate about making those differences.
• Have faith in God.
• Partner with God and do it His way.

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