Matthew R. Perry

Posts Tagged ‘anger’

Will You Keep Short Accounts?

In Uncategorized on June 12, 2008 at 9:07 am

(This sermon, Could You Be Charged With First Degree Anger?, was preached at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY, on Sunday, June 8, 2008. To read through Part I, click here; Part 2 here. To listen to other audio sermons, click here.)

Jesus ties it all together in Matthew 5:25-26:

Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

So what is Jesus saying? Jesus is saying, “Dear disciples and all who would hear, you have a window of opportunity.” One day, you will have to give an account of your life before the Great Judge of the Universe, Jesus Christ. When that happens, it will be too late, for the Scripture does say, “It is destined for man to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

But until then, God in his great patience and care gives us an opportunity to take care of those issues. So this would be a great time to put this all together and go step-by-step through this.

First, remember that you and all other human beings are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27).

Secondly, admit that you do get angry at times—and don’t make excuses.

Thirdly, take steps to rectify the situation immediately. Even in times of worship, where one’s pride may take the fore because you are attending, now is the time to get up and go reconcile. Frederich Buechner once wrote, “Of the 7 deadly sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back–in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.” So deal with it now!

Fourth, trust that God will administer justice, if need be.
Romans 12:19-21 says:

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” [20] To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” [21] Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

If your trust truly is in Christ alone, then that Gospel trust must bleed over into every area of life — especially this one.

Lastly, ask God to change your heart. In Ezekiel 36:25-26, God says, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” When God works this, we will become more sensitive to his working. True followers of Christ have this, but it takes a diligent pursuit. If you want a hardened heart, then do nothing — that heart will come and drag you right into hell. If you want to be right before him, ask him to change your heart.

Conclusion

Yesterday, I came across a documentary by NPR on the life of Gerry Mulligan. Mulligan was a premiere tenor sax player who was a very influential in the field of jazz in the 40s, 50s, and 60s, and was even working on a project when he died in 1996. Mulligan was an innovator, but he was also a bit headstrong. He knew what he wanted his arrangements and his band to sound like — even if it meant going against what others in the field felt was un-doable. While he made a number of friends and gained a ton of admirers, he also had some on the other side of that fence.

In 1995, Mulligan found out he and another one of his former band members, found out they had cancer. These men shared great admiration for one another, but also some serious artistic differences that would often strain the relationship. In light of the cancer, made this very wise comment, he said “When Gerry and I found out we had cancer, all those disagreements were just taken off the table and we focus on the issues we agreed on. None of those things we disagreed on in the grand scheme didn’t matter.”

This is something to ponder, isn’t it? While there are certain this we can never compromise on (Christ, the Bible, the resurrection, the Trinity, the local church, etc.), there are issues that will plant the seeds of anger and contempt in our hearts. What will it take for us to repent of those issues? Let me ask it another way: what will God have to do in your life to help you see that nothing is worth destroying your relationship with God or with your neighbor? Will it have to be cancer? A church split? A catastrophe of some sort? Or have Jesus’ words penetrated to such a degree that his word is sufficient?

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Reconciling To Your Brother Is More Important Than Religious Duty

In Sermons on June 10, 2008 at 4:11 pm

(This sermon, Could You Be Charged With First Degree Anger?, was preached at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY, on Sunday, June 8, 2008.  To read through Part I, click here.  To listen to other audio sermons, click here.)

What would you do if I stood up here in front of you and gave you a guilt-free reason to miss church? It would serve as one reason to be absent that would excusable. Well, you don’t have to look to your pastor for a reason — look to Jesus. Matthew 5:23-24 says:

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Jesus tells us that reconciling to your brother is more important than even the most important of religious duties. Someone may say, “Well, doesn’t this idea contradict what the writer in Hebrews says about “not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together” (Hebrews 10:25)? Doesn’t the Spirit say that if we are Christians that we must never miss church? Yes it does, but it also tells us in verses 23-24:

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.

How can you stir up one another to love and good works if you realize that someone has something against you (or, even more obvious, you have something against someone else that is fracturing that relationship)? You may say, “They are acting that way for no reason.” Are you so sure about that? D.A Carson notes that if we continue to engage in personal or public worship having a fractured relationship and we are not willing to deal with it, worship “becomes a pretence and a sham if the worshiper has behaved so poorly that his brother has something against him.”

What’s the issue? If someone has something against us, we cannot simply shake that off by saying, “Oh, that’s their problem! If they want to fix it, they know where I am.” Yet, according to Jesus, this issue is so serious that there is no rationale for justifying this away and putting it on someone else. Your worship and fellowship with God is on the line. Psalm 66:18 says:

If I had cherished iniquity in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened.

1 Samuel 15:22 shows the prophet Samuel saying,

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to listen than the fat of rams.

Why? Because you have underestimated what God did in taking the first step in reconciling you to himself! Col. 2:13-15 says:

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, [14] by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. [15] He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Notice that God didn’t just wipe them away — those trespasses he set aside came at a high cost. He initiated the whole thing. And when we consider that God atoned for our sins by placing their horrific penalty on His own Son so we may have hope of life everlasting in Him, then we turn around and struggle with issues that are trivial.

If you find yourself using church or other religious issues to numb the Holy Spirit’s work in your heart, then you are only deceiving yourself.

Have You Committed First-Degree Anger? (Part I)

In Sermons on June 9, 2008 at 9:20 pm

During my freshman and sophomore year of college, I worked at Winn-Dixie as a produce clerk. During that time, I met some interesting folks and became good acquaintances with them. One of those individuals was a young man named ________________________. He and I went to the same high school (I graduated a year ahead of him), but I didn’t get to know him until we worked at W/D. Even with our religious differences (he being an atheist and I being a Christian), we got along quite well. He was a nice, polite, mild-mannered guy with freakish strength.

Imagine my surprise when, after I transferred to Palm Beach Atlantic College and returned back home from break, my mom showed me the front page of the paper with his picture on it with the headline, “Charged with First-Degree Murder, receives a 25-year sentence in prison.” As I read the story, I couldn’t believe how it all happened. He started dating this girl in high school, when her ex-boyfriend started coming around and stalking her. And, to make a long story short, Alex took care of the problem in a most cold-blooded, cold-hearted way.

It’s been 16 years since this happened. And I began to think about the disposition with which __________________ presented himself at work. All the while, that anger and ultimately that murder was lying in his heart that whole time. It is an emotion that lurks in the heart and takes no prisoners. Some say it’s OK: “It’s just the murder that makes the front page and occupies the lead stories on the 6:00 news. It’s OK to be angry, just as long as you don’t make the front page, right?” They have a case. You never see anyone sentences to first-degree anger, do you?

This was the mindset during Jesus’ time. The Pharisees led the people to think that as long as you kept the law outwardly, you were righteous. Some looked at Jesus and thought he was trying to relax the commands of God — but in reality, Jesus goes deeper to God’s true intention behind the command. It’s not simply about an external obedience but an internal transformation.

1. Anger plants the seeds of murder in our hearts (Matthew 5:21-22).

My wife has found a new hobby. Over the last few weeks, she has been working hard at planting flowers and shrubs and such in order to make the house look like a home. She has such a gift for this — and the results are obvious. But at the beginning, each of these flowers started with a small seed that was planted at just the right depth and nourished in just the right way. The result is a beautiful, colorful bloom!

Anger plants the seeds of murder in our hearts. Again, Jesus says,

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ [22] But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire” (Matthew 5:21-22).

The first question asked is, “Wait, is all anger bad? Isn’t there some anger that is good? Wasn’t Jesus angry?” Yes, Jesus had at least two bouts of anger when dealing with the moneychangers in the Temple. And there are times when God calls us to show a righteous anger at some great injustice done in the world to others.

But this an anger that is toward others who have offended us. James Boice notes, “If we are honest, we must admit that far more often we are angry at some wrong done against ourselves, real or imaginary, some insult or some deserved neglect.” Carson notes that Jesus is like a good preacher who confronts his audience. “You think yourselves far removed morally speaking from murderers — have you ever hated? Have you never wished someone were dead? Have you ever committed character assassination? Such vilifying lies at the root of murder, and makes a conscious realization that he differs not a whit, morally speaking, from the actual murderer.”

All of our words and our actions begin with the attitudes of the human heart. We find ourselves so offended that we tend to say, “I wish they would just go away.” They begin to use their tongue to humiliate — even to the point of saying, “Worthless! You fool!!” We want them to hurt as badly or more so than we hurt.

James 3:3-6 puts into view exactly the horror of the tongue:

If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. [4] Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. [5] So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! [6] And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.

You may say, “Those are just words — how can one equate harsh words with murder?” Easy – because they come from the same seed of anger. What is the rub ultimately? The rub is that we are harboring seeds of murder against another one of God’s creation. MacArthur tells of a Jewish legend in which a young rabbi named Simon Ben Eleazar who had just come from a session with his famous teacher. The young man felt especially proud about how he handled himself before the teacher. As he basked in his feelings of wisdom and holiness, he passed a man who was especially unattractive. When the man greeted Simon, the rabbi responded, “You Raca! How ugly you are. Are all men of your town as ugly as you?” “That I do not know, “the man answered, “but go and tell the Maker who created me how ugly is the creature he has made.”