The Heart of Anger (Part 3)

Matthew 5:21-26

Tom Pennington  •  April 29, 2012
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Well, I invite you to turn with me again to Matthew 5 as we continue our journey through this amazing sermon of our Lord's, the Sermon on the Mount. We're dealing with a section in which Jesus equates murder and anger. This past week, after last week's message, someone who's a part of our church family sent me a link to an article that was published locally. The local CBS station ran a news article on a local business down in Dallas. The business is simply called The Anger Room. Did any of you see this or hear about this? Here's what the anger room's website says. "The Anger Room is a place where you can let your hair down, gear up, and (I'm not making this up) destroy real life mocked rooms that simulate an actual workplace, a living area, or a kitchen. (now I'm not sure how big a problem kitchens are for anger, but perhaps that's true) complete with dummies, manikins, TVs, tables, and many many more breakable items. It might sound crazy at first (yes) but we assure you, once you've tried this method of stress relief, nothing else will compare. We all get angry: we're human. So why not do everything you've dreamed of doing when you're mad without paying the insane cost and severe consequences of your actions." Wow! You know, that's funny in a sad kind of way isn't it? That's a business in our community. According to Jesus, anger is no laughing matter. It is deadly serious. In fact, Jesus says, as we saw last week, that just one episode of anger makes us guilty enough to go to hell forever.

We're looking at the section of the Sermon on the Mount that begins in Matthew 5:21, runs down through the end of chapter 5. And in this section, Jesus provides six illustrations. Six illustrations of how the righteousness of His disciples radically differs from the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. The righteousness of His true disciples starts not on the outside, but in the heart. And it flows out from the heart in conduct that honors God.

Now for the last couple of weeks, we've been looking at the first of these six illustrations where Jesus uses the Old Testament commandment against murder. Let me read it to you again. Matthew 5:21

"You have heard that the ancients were told, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent."

The theme of this paragraph is very clear. Sinful anger is the moral equivalent of murder. So, as Jesus' disciples, we must not tolerate sinful anger in our lives, and we must be quick to seek reconciliation with those whom we offend. Now, as we've watched this passage unfold, we began by looking at the law against murder quoted. Verse 21, the beginning of the verse, Jesus quotes the sixth commandment—you shall not murder. That command is against the illegal taking of life, excluding capital punishment as we saw, excluding self defense, excluding perhaps just war. When it comes to the illegal taking of life, that's what the sixth commandment forbids, on the surface.

Then we looked at the law against murder misinterpreted. Because you'll notice at the end of verse 21, the scribes had added a statement. It's not in all caps in our Bible to show that this is not in fact a direct quote from the Old Testament, although the concept occurs there. "Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court" The scribes had attached that statement about liability to local courts to the sixth commandment, and unknowingly, in doing that, they had actually undermined God's true intention behind the sixth commandment. They had undermined it by restricting it to the act of murder. They simply made it about the act. They also undermined the sixth commandment by interpreting it entirely as a negative command and not the positive implications of it. It's not enough simply not to kill your neighbor. In God's agenda, we must love our neighbor as ourselves. We must do everything we can to preserve and protect both their life and their reputation. A third way they undermined the law against murder is, they made it entirely a crime against man. By connecting it to the local courts, it was all about what you did against another person. In reality, as we saw from Genesis chapter 9, murder is primarily a sin against God. That's why God said if someone takes another person's life, his life is to be taken, because 'in the image of God he made man.' To attack another man is to attack, ultimately, the image of God. It is a direct assault on God Himself. Jesus makes it clear it's more than that, at the end of verse 22.

Now last week, we considered the law against murder explained. Jesus said, it's not what they have made it so let me give you an authoritative interpretation of that command. And we found that in verse 22. "you have heard. . .but I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court" Now notice Jesus has changed from murder to anger. And just as murder makes you liable before the court, Jesus says anger makes you liable before the court. And whoever says to his brother, You good-for-nothing, that's roughly equivalent to our 'You idiot, you stupid, shall be guilty before the supreme court. And whoever says You fool (that has a moral overtone to it—probably something like You scoundrel) shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. Now Jesus isn't making three separate points here. He's making one point, and that point is that anger is a violation of the commandment against murder. If God's law were properly enforced with its full meaning, then every single time you are angry with someone else, either in your heart or expressing it out of your mouth in angry words, you could be found guilty in court for breaking the sixth commandment, and you could be sentenced to the death penalty. And Jesus says, if that happened and your conviction were appealed to the highest court in Israel (the Greek word is actually the Sanhedrin—it's translated supreme court here). If your conviction were appealed to the highest court, that conviction would still stand. And then Jesus adds something shocking at the end of verse 22. He leaves the local courts and the highest human court, and He goes to the divine court. Jesus says when you stand before Him at the judgment, if you have simply once in your lifetime had an angry outburst, or if you have once harbored anger and hatred in your heart toward another person, then you will be sufficiently guilty on that basis alone for Him to condemn you to what He calls the gehenna of fire. He uses that terrible valley just outside the southwest corner of Jerusalem as an image of eternal punishment.

Now today we come to the fourth part of Jesus' lessons against anger. And that is the law against murder applied. What do we do with this? How do we as His disciples respond to what He has explained about the relationship between anger and murder, and the guilt that we have in light of that. And by the way, let me just say that when you understand how Jesus applies the law, you understand your need for the gospel. We tend to think of ourselves as pretty good, but when we see that just one outburst of anger is the equivalent of an act of murder, which makes us not only liable on the human level, but on the divine level—makes us liable for the gehenna of fire–then we understand how desperately we needed Jesus to come and to die in our place. Because every single one of us would be found guilty on that standard. Now when you come to the law against murder applied, you have to understand that what Jesus is about to teach us is completely out of step with the culture in which we live. This week I read the website of the American Psychological Association. This is what they say about anger "Anger is a completely normal usually healthy human emotion." But they admit that there are times when our anger gets out of hand and needs to be managed, so how do you manage this healthy emotion? They say "expressing your angry feelings in an assertive, non-aggressive manner is the healthiest way to express your anger. But whatever you do, don't ignore that anger. You have to get it out. You have to express it."

Scripture says that we are not to express our sinful anger at all. We're not to manage our anger. We are to reject it and eradicate it altogether. Listen to Ephesians 4:31. Paul says;

Let all bitterness (that's simply anger that has been allowed to simmer for a long time) and wrath and anger (those are the two Biblical words for anger—one is clamming up and the other is blowing up) and clamor (that simply means yelling in anger) and slander (that's name-calling in anger) . . .be put away from you. (let it all be put away from you) along with all malice (that's hatred, that's anger simmering on the inside.)

Reject it. Put it away. Have nothing to do with it. Don't manage it. Get rid of it. Colossians 3:8, Paul makes the same point to the church in Colosse. "But now you also, put them all aside: (like a piece of garment that you're done with) anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth." That's the Biblical response. That's the disciple's response.

Now in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus goes on to demand that when we do get angry, we must deal with it right away. We must seek full and complete reconciliation. Verse 22 sets a very high standard. We must never tolerate sinful anger in our lives at all. If anything less than total eradication of your anger is what you want, then you may well not be a disciple of Jesus at all. But in verses 23 to 26 Jesus also acknowledges that sinful anger will enter into our relationships even though we are His disciples. Even though He has just set that high standard, He says, now, that's what you need to be pursuing—the total eradication of anger. But, while you are redeemed, you still have a part of you that is fallen. The Bible calls it your flesh. And because of that, you will never completely eradicate anger in your lifetime. So Jesus says, let me tell you, when you get angry, how to deal with it. Here's how you respond. Look at verse 23. "Therefore. . ." That word is an important word because it connects what we're about to read with what has come before in verse 22. Jesus is saying, in light of the seriousness of anger, here's how you must respond to it. Jesus applies this lesson on anger with two illustrations, or two parables that make the same basic point. All of these verses are going to make this point. When sinful anger enters your relationships, you must quickly seek reconciliation. In fact, notice how He punctuates that. Verse 24. "leave your offering. . .go, first be reconciled. . ." Verse 25 "quickly. . . while you're on the way" Now these verses about being reconciled to another person obviously apply regardless of the nature of the sin. But in context, the primary application of these verses has to do with the sin of anger. Anger has somehow breached a relationship and you must be in a hurry to reconcile.

Now, the first illustration in verses 23-24 shows how the disastrous consequences of anger affect our relationship to God. So Jesus first says, reconcile first, before you attempt to worship. Look at verse 23. "Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you," Stop there. Now what's the scenario here? The Greek word for 'altar' can only refer to the altar in the temple in Jerusalem. Now, put yourself back in the situation. Remember where Jesus is teaching this sermon. He's on the north shore of the sea of Galilee—some 80 miles north of the altar and the temple in Jerusalem, at least 3 days journey in the ancient world. For these people to whom Jesus is speaking on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee that day, going to Jerusalem to offer a sacrifice was not a weekly occurrence. For them, they typically would have gone three times a year at the three annual feasts required of all Jewish males. They would have taken their animal, or perhaps purchased one once they got there, and then they would have gathered with thousands (even hundreds of thousands, according to Josephus) of other worshipers. They would have gotten in line with their animal, waiting for their opportunity for the sacrifice to have been killed and offered. Jesus says, if you're standing in that long line with thousands of other worshipers, waiting your turn and you remember that your brother—that is any other human being—has something against you, you need to immediately respond.

Now, that expression has something against you is only used two other times in the New Testament. It's used in Revelation 2:14, and Revelation 2:20. In both cases it is used of Jesus having something against one of those seven churches. In the context, those churches have sinned against Jesus and therefore, He has something against them. And so, in New Testament terms this phrase, if someone has something against you, means that you have sinned against them. That's the picture. And in context, the sin is what?—anger. So, Jesus says, you're there, you're in line with your animal, you've been waiting for this. This is one of three times a year. You would have traveled a three days journey south there to Jerusalem. You're standing there with your animal waiting in line and you remember that you have been angry with someone else. They have something rightfully against you. You've sinned against them in anger. You've expressed that anger perhaps, in some sinful way. Like you idiot or you fool, or in other sinful ways.

Now, it's important to understand here, Jesus is talking about sinful anger. That's important to understand because not all anger is sinful. There is such a thing as righteous indignation. God, for example, we're told, is angry with sinners every day, the Psalmist says. God gets angry. Not in the same sense as we do. There is something, though, in God, that can be compared to the human emotion of anger. Several times during His life on earth, Jesus became angry, and yet didn't sin. You remember, He got angry with the buyers and sellers in the Temple according to Matthew 21:12. He became angry with the Pharisees who hypocritically didn't want Him to heal on the Sabbath in Mark 3:1. And Jesus even, in Matthew 23, calls the scribes and Pharisees blind fools. So, what's the difference? What's the difference between righteous anger and sinful anger. Listen carefully. To be righteous our anger must be because God has been sinned against, or because others have been sinned against. To be righteous, our anger must be because God's rights have been crossed or because the justice due others has not been forthcoming. Sinful anger, listen again very carefully. This is so important to distinguish. Sinful anger is always about me and my rights and what I deserve having been crossed. Look at the way Jesus got angry. Look at the times He got angry, and you will discover that it is always either sin against God that made Him angry, or injustice and wrong done toward others. That's when Jesus got angry. On the other hand, how did He respond to personal offenses. Well, although He was unjustly arrested, unfairly accused, wrongly convicted, sinfully crucified; although He was mocked and abused and spit on, I Peter 2:23 says "while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but He kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously." In fact, on the cross, He prayed, Father, what?—forgive them for they know not what they do. So when it came to God being sinned against or others being treated unjustly, Jesus got righteously angry. But when it came to personal attacks against Him, He didn't revile. He didn't utter threats. He didn't strike back. He didn't become angry. Now you can see then, by the biblical standard of only getting angry when God is sinned against or when others are treated unjustly—let's just be honest with ourselves. 99% of the time, our anger is what? Sinful.

Alright, now look at what Jesus says. If you have become sinfully angry—if you're rights have been violated and you have struck out against another person in anger, and you're about to offer your sacrifice there in Jerusalem—one of those three times you've made this special trip—verse 24: "leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering." Now, Jesus is making one primary point here. There must be reconciliation with others before there can be worship of God. Before we seek forgiveness from God, we must seek forgiveness from our brother. Anger is so serious, both in the heart and expressed in derogatory language, that it produces disastrous results in our relationship with God. That's what Jesus is saying. Our anger creates a breach between us and God.

Jesus says, before you offer your sacrifice, leave your offering there, and go—first be reconciled to your brother, and then present your offering. Now as we sit here this morning, we have no real sense of what Jesus was really saying to these people. Because Jesus was effectively telling these people: No matter what it takes, I want you to stop the worship and I want you to go be reconciled. Now it's possible that the person who had something against the disciple had traveled with the disciple from Galilee to Jerusalem for the festival. So it's possible they're somewhere there in line, or they're somewhere in the larger city of Jerusalem. Jesus, in that case, is saying leave your sacrifice and go find that person. But it's also possible that this person had not traveled to Jerusalem for the festival. It's possible this person is still back in Galilee. Jesus is effectively telling these people they must be willing to travel the 3 to 4 days back to Galilee to be reconciled with someone, and then travel the 3 or 4 days back to Jerusalem to offer their sacrifices, and then go back to Galilee. You say, wait a minute. I have a better plan. Wouldn't it just have been simpler while you're standing there in line and you remember that you've been sinfully angry with someone and they have this against you—just to say, Lord, I promise when I get back to Galilee I'll make it right. Wouldn't that just have been simpler? Of course it would. But Jesus says, be reconciled to your brother first before you do anything else. It reminds me of Paul's words in Ephesians 4:26 when he says 'don't let the sun go down on your anger.' Don't go to bed until you have reconciled with the person you have been angry with. Why?

Why would this be so important? Well, there are probably a number of reasons but one comes immediately to mind. Because anger is really a direct attack on the character of God. We think of anger as being against another person, but anger is also an attack on God's character, because when we who are God's children get angry at petty personal offenses, we say to those around us: yeah, this is how my Father acts as well. It's easy to tick Him off. It's easy to make Him mad. Just cross a little line and He'll blow up just like I do. I'm a child of God. This is how my Father is. And yet the exact opposite is true, isn't it? What does the Scripture say about God? He is slow to anger. It takes God a long time to get hot. He's not easily ticked off. And when we don't seek reconciliation when we're angry, what do we say about God? We say that God doesn't do it either. When God gets—in His case—righteously angry, He doesn't want to be reconciled, He doesn't want to see you, He's angry with you. When, in reality, the exact opposite is true. When God is righteously angered by our sins, what does He do? 2 Corinthians 5:19: "God was in Christ, (what?) reconciling the world to Himself," When He deserved to be angry with us, He set out to reconcile Himself to us. And when we fail to do that, we lie about our God. We say, He gets angry easily, and He's not easily reconciled.

It's serious. Jesus is not saying that our relationship with people is more important than our relationship to God; that's why you've got to go to make it right first. He's saying that God will not accept your worship until your sinful anger has been addressed. This is the message of the Bible. Psalm 66:18 says "if I regard (that is if I cherish or harbor) wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear;" 1 Peter 3:7, written to husbands, but it is applicable to us all. "you husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she's a woman; show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, (why?) so that your prayers will not be hindered." Men, let me tell you something, and this is true for women as well. If you are sinfully angry and embittered toward your spouse, God's not listening. He's stopped listening a long time ago. The heavens are like brass above your head. That's what Peter's saying. You know, sometimes we feel like we're in a spiritual desert. Well there are a number of possible reasons for that, but sometimes it may be because we have refused to be reconciled in a relationship that has been breached by anger. God will not accept your worship until you have reconciled your relationships.

If you have, as you sit here this morning, attempted to worship but there are serious breaches in your relationships with others. If you've sinned against them in anger, and if you have nursed that anger and refused to truly be reconciled and forgive as you have been forgiven; and seek forgiveness for the sins you have committed. If that's true, then understand this (and this is not me speaking, this is Jesus speaking) God is not accepting your worship this morning. And He will not accept it until you're willing to be reconciled with your brother first. Maybe you need to find someone before you leave this place this morning, and confess your sin and ask for them to forgive you. Maybe you need to leave here today, and before you come back next Sunday, you need to make a phone call. You need to write an email or letter. You need to pick up the phone and call someone, or you need to go visit them, and you need to make things right. Maybe the sin of anger is destroying your marriage and your family. Listen, if you are allowing sinful anger to be a part of your heart and life toward your spouse or toward your children or toward your parents. If you are consistently angry and bitter toward them, then God is not listening to you. He will not hear, until what He hears comes from a heart that has sought to be reconciled with your brother first, and then seeks to be reconciled with Him.

Obviously, Jesus knows how God responds to anger, right? And He says, God doesn't want your worship until you're first willing to be reconciled with your brother. Maybe, for some of you, you've tried to be reconciled, but the person has just simply refused. Listen, if you can honestly before the Lord say you have done everything in your power to be reconciled. You have owned your sin. You have sought forgiveness, and that person simply will not be reconciled, then you no longer bear the guilt for that breach. God accepts your desire and attempts as it having been done. That's what Romans 12:18 says: "if possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men."

In the second illustration, verses 25 and 26, Jesus shows not only, as we have already seen, the unresolved sinful anger creates breaches in our relationship with God, but in these next verses He shows that the anger that comes out of our hearts creates disastrous consequences in our relationships with one another. So, in this second lesson, Jesus says reconcile quickly before the full consequences of anger are settled. Look at verse 25.

"Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Truly, I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent."

Now, let me tell you what that doesn't mean. It is seriously stretching the rules of biblical interpretation, or frankly literature interpretation at all, to make this refer to purgatory, as the Roman Catholic Church does. There are a number of reasons for that. That's a different message for a different time. But let me just show you one. In Roman Catholic doctrine, the opponent at law in this verse is the devil. But what does Jesus tell His followers to do in this verse. Be reconciled with their opponent. John Calvin's words are still true. When he wrote "in order that the Catholic Church find their purgatory here, they must first become friends of the devil's" This verse has nothing to do with the supposed doctrine of purgatory.

So what does it mean? Well, first of all, note the Greek word translated opponent at law here always means an adversary in a lawsuit. And that's why it's translated as it is. In this case, it appears that the disciple is not the one who is angry. In the first illustration, it's the disciple who was angry and had struck out in anger at someone else. In this case, it appears that it's their opponent who is angry. The idea here is that you or I, by our sinful behavior, have caused another person to be angry at us. We have done something to provoke their anger. And in this case, we owed them money and so they have decided to call the debt. And if we're not able to pay it, to take us to court.

The picture Jesus paints here was really a common one in the first century. Remember, this was primarily an agrarian (agricultural) society, and in an agricultural society, if you needed extra funds, you often borrowed it either from a friend or a family member. Still, often true today. Because there was a relationship, if you had trouble making the payments, usually it was simple enough to come to terms as between friends—as between family members. But in this case, Jesus says, suppose you've done something to anger your friend and creditor. In fact, you have made this friend angry enough that he refuses now to work out any terms of payment, and has decided instead to take you to court. He will have his pound of flesh—his revenge—because you have angered him. This would have been very serious in the first century because if you defaulted on your debts in the first century, and if your creditor took you to court, then you could be sent to debtor's prison until you paid back the entire loan. That's what this creditor has in mind here. Jesus says that's the scenario. You have made your friend or family member who loaned you money so angry that they will not come to terms even though you're not able to pay. They instead want you to suffer. They want you to hurt. And they're taking you to court. Jesus says, on the way to court, you and this person whom you've made angry, either accidentally run into each other. Or perhaps, because creditors in the first century could physically force someone to court, maybe this person's dragging you to court. But however it works, you are with this person as you're headed to court. Jesus says seize that moment and make friends quickly while you are with your opponent on the way to court. Why? Well notice what Jesus says, because if you aren't quickly reconciled, your opponent may hand you over to the judge. That expression is a technical term for handing someone over into legal custody. And the judge may find you guilty, hand you over to the officer of the court and he will throw you into debtor's prison. Until just a couple of hundred years ago, there were debtor's prisons. You say, that makes no sense. I mean, why would you throw someone who owes you money into prison. Now they can't work. They have no way of making money. Well, the idea was that you put enough pressure on the person and his family and friends will step up and repay the debt. Jesus adds, if you're not quick to reconcile and the consequences of your opponent's anger become set as a result of the decision of the court, verse 26. "Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent." Wow.

Now, there are two lessons from this second illustration. The first lesson—we could say this. Be reconciled quickly before the human consequences of your anger come to pass. Be reconciled before the consequences of anger destroy the relationship permanently. Anger is so destructive that left unresolved, it will turn someone who was once your friend, family member, spouse into your enemy. It's interesting. In the first illustration, it's our own anger that threatened the relationship and we're told to go and be reconciled. In the second illustration we have sinned to provoke someone else to anger, and although their anger may be sinful, we're still commanded to seek that person out and to attempt to be reconciled. For those of us who are Christians, we must not only avoid sinful anger ourselves, but we must not stir sinful anger up in the heart of others. That's why Paul says to fathers in Ephesians 6:4, "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger." Fathers aren't the only ones who can provoke others to anger. We all have that capacity. And when we do stir up anger in others, we must quickly seek reconciliation before the consequences of their anger comes to pass, and the relationship is destroyed. It's settled, it's final, and there's a permanent breach—a permanent wall.

The second lesson leaves the human level. We could say this. Be reconciled quickly before the ultimate, divine consequences of anger come to pass. Jesus ends the second illustration in a most interesting way. Look at verse 26. "Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent. Clearly, Jesus is saying that the consequences of allowing someone else's anger to grow and to fester (that you have created) will ultimately destroy the relationship on a human level. But the way Jesus introduces verse 26 implies that He's saying something more. Notice that solemn way He introduces it. "Truly, I say to you". Jesus may, here in verse 26, be playing off of the divine courtroom image at the end of verse 22, and the courtroom image in the passage we just looked at, the verse before it. And He may be saying here that your anger renders you guilty before God's court, and left unresolved, will show that you don't really belong to God at all and will bring the full and ultimate final consequences of Hell to bear in your life. Here's how one commentator puts it. "The inclusion of I tell you truly alerts us to a more ultimate purpose than merely avoiding imprisonment. Like the other parable of debt and imprisonment in Matthew 18, it is a pointer to the divine judgment on those whose earthly relationships do not conform to the values of the kingdom of heaven." In other words, if you're not living like a disciple, you may not be a disciple. Failing to seek reconciliation when there has been sinful anger may very well show, that you don't belong to Jesus at all, and you will face eternal punishment. As D.A.Carson writes, "Jesus insists on immediate action. Malicious anger is so evil and God's judgment so certain, that we must do all in our power to end it."

Let me ask you this morning, do you tolerate, in your life, frequent outbursts of anger, as though they were really a little thing? Do you excuse yourself for anger because you feel like it's justified based on what the other person has done to you? If you live in a state of unrepentant, unreconciled, unbroken anger, and you don't bother to seek reconciliation and forgiveness from the one you sin against, every single display of your anger makes you guilty enough, Jesus says, to be cast into the gehenna of fire. And if you don't see that state changed, if that anger continues to represent who you are, Jesus says you will end up there. Look at Galatians 5:19 Paul says: (ultimately Jesus says)

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are; (here's how the flesh, here's how an unredeemed person manifests their sinfulness) immorality, impurity, sensuality, (those have to do with sexual sin) idolatry, sorcery (now we get to relational sins)enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envyings, drunkenness, carousing, (and oh by the way, this isn't a comprehensive list) and things like these. (Paul says)of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you (Paul says, I've told you this before) that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Those who practice these things as a habit of life in an unrepentant, unbroken, unreconcilable way, will not inherit the kingdom of God. In other words, they are not in Jesus' spiritual kingdom today, and they won't be in His literal kingdom in the future.

Now folks, all of us have been guilty of anger. The only way to erase the divine record of our outbursts of anger is for us to fall on our face before Jesus Christ and ask Him who is rightly angry with us, to be reconciled to us—to forgive us on the basis of His perfect life and His substitutionary death. And to ask Him to change our hearts, so that we can be –look at Galatians 5:22. When the fruit of the Spirit is present in your life, when you have been reborn, when you've been made new, here's what the Spirit does. He produces love and joy and peace and patience. We're not quick to anger. We're like our Father. We're slow to anger. Kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Ask yourself as you read those two lists in Galatians 5 which list best describes my life. If it's the first list, then you're not in Christ. It's not that the second categories there have to be in perfection in your life. They aren't for any of us. But which list most describes your life? Paul says one has the Spirit, and the other is still in the flesh. How's your heart of anger?

Let's pray together. Father, help us to take our anger seriously. Help us to remember that ultimately this is an illustration of how the righteousness of Jesus' true disciples surpasses the external righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, because rather than being content with not murdering, we're not content with being angry. We want to eradicate it. We want it to be no longer a part of our lives, and Father, help us to pursue that by Your grace, and by the work of Your Spirit, with our whole hearts. But Lord, when we do sin in anger, and our Lord implies here that we will, remind us O God of how disastrous the results of that anger are in our relationship to You and in our relationship to others. And help us to be quick to seek reconciliation, to own up to our sin, and to confess our sin to the person, and to seek their forgiveness, and then to come, O God and seek Your forgiveness.

Father, I pray for the person here today who is in slavery to anger. Lord, I pray that You would help him or her to see the reality of their situation before You, and to cast themselves on Your mercy and ask that You be reconciled to them, even though You are rightly angry with them. May they find peace for their souls in Christ.

We pray Father, for those here today who are believers but who have breached relationships by their anger, and have not resolved it—have not reconciled. Father, don't let them put their heads on their pillows tonight—certainly don't let them come to worship again next Sunday corporately until they have made serious efforts to be reconciled. Whether they have been angry, or whether they have stirred it up in others. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.