Posted by Gary on November 13, 2009
With all our attention on the Swine Flu and the simple truth that one in four people will have cancer in their lifetime you would hope that we would all be doing some thinking.
The sad truth is that the fall of Adam has left us with hearts that by nature do not want to hear from God, to hear His word of warning of the judgment to come and even more sadly, unwilling to hear about His terms of peace through the sacrificial death and resurrection of His Son, the Lord Jesus.
We can refuse to go to church, turn off the television or radio as one of God’s messengers preaches or avoid the Christian in our work place or neighborhood but there is one messenger that God has that cannot be denied or ignored, sickness.
God will have His hearing and while every illness is not the direct result of sin, every illness preaches a sermon…sooner or later you and I are going to die and stand before the judgment seat of the holy God who made us. Are we ready to meet Him? Are we forgiven or still in our sins?
J.C. Ryle in his sermon, Christ in the Sick Room holds before us nine lessons that sickness teaches us. Won’t you do your soul some good today and read them and think? Maybe you’ll be moved to get serious about things and read the whole sermon. Wouldn’t it be something if we turned off the television, hung up the phone and put down the worthless books that we seem to have time for that do no good for our souls to read something that bears a message for our good? If you are not sick now, you will be soon and some day not so long from now with an illness that two aspirin and a call to the doctor will not remove. Take some moments now for Bishop Ryle:
I do not say that sickness always does good. Alas! We ministers know to our sorrow that it frequently does no good at all. Too often we see men and women, after recovering from a long and dangerous illness, more hardened and irreligious than they were before. Too often they return to the world, if not to sin, with more eagerness and zest than ever; and the impressions made on their conscience in the hour of sickness are swept away like children’s writing on the sand of the sea-shore when the tide flows.
But I do say that sickness ought to do us good. And I do say that God sends it in order to do us good. It is a friendly letter from heaven. It is a knock at the door of conscience. It is the voice of the Savior asking to be let in. Happy is he who opens the letter and reads it, who hears the knock and opens the door, who welcomes Christ to the sick room. Come now, and let me plead with you a little about this, and show you a few of the lessons which He by sickness would teach us.
1. Sickness is meant to make us think—to remind us that we have a soul as well as a body—an immortal soul—a soul that will live forever in happiness or in misery—and that if this soul is not saved we had better never have been born.
2. Sickness is meant to teach us that there is a world beyond the grave—and that the world we now live in is only a training-place for another dwelling, where there will be no decay, no sorrow, no tears, no misery, and no sin.
3. Sickness is meant to make us look at our past lives honestly, fairly, and conscientiously. Am I ready for my great change if I should not get better? Do I repent truly of my sins? Are my sins forgiven and washed away in Christ’s blood? Am I prepared to meet God?
4. Sickness is meant to make us see the emptiness of the world and its utter inability to satisfy the highest and deepest needs of the soul.
5. Sickness is meant to send us to our Bibles. That blessed Book, in the days of health, is too often left on the shelf, becomes the safest place in which to put a bank-note, and is never opened from January to December. But sickness often brings it down from the shelf and throws new light on its pages.
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Posted by Gary on August 24, 2006
This is the sermon I preached this past Sunday. A number of people said they found it helpful so I thought I would make it available here.
Ephesians 4:26-27 "Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27and do not give the devil an opportunity."
Why do you get angry? Have you ever stopped and asked yourself that question? For three weeks now we have been considering Paul’s command to us to be angry and yet not to sin. We’ve talked about anger a great deal. We have acknowledged that not all anger is sinful, God Himself becomes angry and anger that flows from righteousness is God-like. While righteous anger is proper one who is honest with himself will acknowledge that very little of their anger is righteous, the majority of the time that you and I are angry that anger is sinful.
In all our talk about anger, I wonder if you have pondered what makes you angry. Don’t brush my question off or answer it too quickly, what I am asking you is vital to your relationship to God and to others. One thing I am learning as I grow and have been forced to consider anger because of our study is that the true source of our anger is sometimes hard to find. So often we are sure we know why we are angry, “It’s him”, “If only that wouldn’t have happened”. But often the other person or the set of circumstances is not really why we are mad, it is just easier to tell ourselves they are to blame. It is not until you and I are willing to get honest with God and ourselves that our anger will be sanctified and put it in its proper place.
Up until now, we have spoken about our anger in relation to being wronged by others, when you and I are the innocent party, but this morning I want to take us in another direction, I want us to consider a number of sinful causes of our anger. It is my hope by reviewing this list of potential sources of anger that you and I will come to terms with why we are angry and can seek God’s help in that specific area or areas. As we work our way through this list consider this principle, there is the surface reason we are angry but very often something is underneath driving our anger. It is my hope that this list will help us see the sin that so often drives our anger.
Perhaps the most frequent cause of our anger is selfishness. Anger that flows from putting ourselves and our concerns before those of others is wrong. Have you ever stopped and considered how much you think about yourself? What do you and I spend the bulk of our time doing? Thinking about what we would like, how we would like others to be and trying to forward our pursuits and goals. If we are honest, we will find that often we are angry because we feel that others are not meeting our needs or are not doing what we feel they should to bring about what we want.
I soberly and sincerely ask you to consider this morning how often you are angry because you are thinking about yourself. I think I can safely say that 90% of our anger at our spouses flows from selfishness. Your husband isn’t as caring as you would like, your wife’s figure isn’t what it use to be, her laugh gets on your nerves. What is this all about? It’s about you having told yourself what you would like but life not cooperating.
That elderly old man pulls out in front of you and drives 30 mph, what are you thinking about? Yourself. You’re angry because dinner isn’t ready when you are, who are you thinking about? Yourself. You blow up because your spouse doesn’t want to watch what you want to watch on television, who are you thinking about? Yourself.
Here we have struck pay dirt when it comes to our anger, the great majority of it flows from the cause of the fall of Adam and Eve, thinking about ourselves. Self-centeredness was at the heart of Adam’s rebellion and it is at the heart of every act of disobedience to God, it is often why you are angry. You want something or want someone to be a certain way or to do a certain thing and you are not getting what you want, and so you are angry.
The second reason we are often angry is pride. Anger that flows from pride is sinful. That new employee, that young whippersnapper came in and has a number of ideas that are better than what you’ve been doing and you don’t like it. Perhaps that young whippersnapper has become your boss, his every request and memo anger you. “Who does he think he is?” The greater question is, “Who do you think you are?” You obviously think you are something, you don’t have anything you need to learn and you believe you have the right to choose who you must take direction from.
Often we are angry because someone we believe to be less intelligent or less capable than we are tells us something that is right and we don’t want to admit that it is. We have contempt for some people because we think we are better than they are, they are beneath us, we shouldn’t be forced to deal with such people. Do you want to know one reason Jesus never sinned in His anger? Because He was, humble:
Matthew 11:29 "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."
Some of us in our lives are running into brick walls everywhere we turn, things are not going well, it is as if there is a hand holding back and destroying everything we do. Our response to this is that we are angry. What we may need to consider is that the hand working against us is God’s for God is opposed to the proud:
1 Peter 5:5 “You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
Very often pride is at the root of our anger and until we humble ourselves, anger will continue to rule us and we will continue to have God opposed to us.
A third reason you may get angry is that you don’t want to admit you are wrong. I understand that this is closely akin to pride but I feel it needs its own spotlight. We don’t like being told we are wrong do we? Quite honestly, we have all but convinced ourselves we are always right and it is the other person who needs to admit that they are wrong. I find that very often when Alise points out something that demonstrates that I have been wrong that I get angry. I will often speak harshly to her or try to take the conversation in another direction to avoid further focus on me being wrong.
The other day I stopped to visit one of the shut-ins of our church. When I pulled in the drive one of her neighbors that has committed himself to taking care of this woman wanted to know who I was, he was concerned about this tall, stranger walking up to her door. I told him that I was this woman’s pastor and his immediate response was, “Why don’t you people from the church do more to help her?” He was obviously upset. My immediate response was anger myself, I became defensive and I know it showed.
After going in to visit with this woman I sat there stewing inwardly, who was this man, who had never met me, to speak this way to me? To allege that our church has not done enough to help this woman? Well let me explain a little, this man, who lives by himself has given himself to helping this woman for some time including bringing her meals everyday, coming over and making sure she has taken her medication, feeding her cats and many other things I am sure I don’t know about.
As I sat in our shut-in’s living room and asked who he thought he was I realized that he was someone who was doing something wonderful and realized that my one visit to her every month or two was not nearly enough, nor has our church in a larger sense done what it should for this widow and another I can think of.
After twenty minutes of stewing, I finally had to say to myself, “Gary, you may not have liked this man’s approach to you but he is right and you needed to hear what he said to you today.” As I sat there longer, I determined I was going to go to this man’s door and tell him that he was right. As I walked across the street uncertain as to how this man would respond to me, I prayed and asked God to be with me.
I am sharing all this with you for two reasons: First, to show us something about ourselves that we need to see, we are often angry because we are wrong and resent having someone point it out to us. The second reason that I am telling you this story is because I believe that what happened next is vital to you and me practicing repentance and obtaining victory over sinful anger.
As I told you, I was very angry with this neighbor man and my anger kept building. What are we to do then? Well, if we have been wrong we are to admit it. I knew that the right thing to do toward him and myself was to acknowledge that he was right. When the neighbor opened the door, it was obvious by his face that he wondered what my visit was about and it seemed to me that he was prepared to maintain his ground. I knew I only had an initial few moments to help this meeting go where it needed to. My first sentence was to the point. I had come to let him know that what he had said to me was true and we do need to do more to help this woman. I believe included in my first statement were the words, “you are right.” The moment he heard my first sentence his countenance changed, he opened his door and said, “Come in.” We sat and had a nice conversation.
One of the great keys to overcoming anger is to humble ourselves, to admit when we are wrong, and to tell the other party so. I cannot tell you how struck I was at the change in this man’s attitude when I came acknowledging the truth of what he had said. It became obvious that he was not out to cause trouble, he had a reason to be frustrated and when he saw me willing to acknowledge this he welcomed me warmly. Is there a strained relationship in your life? Could it be that it is strained because you have been wrong and have been unwilling to admit you are? Why don’t you pray, go to that person and admit you have been wrong and see what God will do through your obedience?
“But”, some will insist. “I’m not the only one who has done wrong in this relationship; they are going to have to admit some things themselves.” Well, let me say to you, humility and repentance never insist that another person acknowledge their wrong before we do. Our wrong is our wrong. Let God deal with the other person about what they’ve done. “I won’t do it” some will still maintain. All right then, go on as you have been. Your approach is working quite well isn’t it? You wonder why your life is a mess. You wonder why God seems distant to you and that you get nothing out of reading the Bible and going to church? Go ahead and wait until the funeral when you can do nothing about it, live with it forever.
If this is where you are in some relationship than I ask one thing of you, honesty. If you sit here this morning angry with and unwilling to be reconciled with someone, then don’t lie and tell yourself that you are close to God because you are not. If there is something unsettled between you and someone else and you have not attempted to humble yourself and be reconciled, God doesn’t want your worship this morning, He wants you to be reconciled to whoever this person is:
Matthew 5:23-24 "Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”
Another reason you and I may be angry and sinning is that we refuse to accept people as they are. Some of you for years have been trying to make your spouse something else. You have co-workers that you don’t like and you talk behind their back. You can hardly stand the sight of your son-in-law or daughter-in-law, they are not worthy of your child. When are you going to accept the fact that the world doesn’t revolve around you and it is not everyone’s duty to be what you think they should be?
After ten years of marriage, I feel it safe to confirm that Alise and I are different from each other. Alise is deliberate in ways that I am not. This deliberateness of Alise’s has always been a source of frustration and anger when we go to a fast-food restaurant drive-thru window. My personality is I don’t like to make other people wait; I know all these menus as most parents of little ones do and I have thought through what I want before I pull up and expect Alise to also. Alise is different, she is very deliberate and looks the menu over, perhaps something will strike her as tasty as she scans it.
Now, I am one way, Alise is another, what is the solution? Well, I haven’t been able to get her to change yet so as of late, we don’t go through the drive-thru! Seriously, I have determined that it is better for me to wait and write down the order and go into the restaurant and get the food myself than to become angry an anger that flows from the fact that we are two different people. Come to terms with the fact that not everyone is like you, (thank goodness right?) and that anger that flows from trying to make them like you is wrong.
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