The Book of James, Part 14:
Avoid the Appeal of Anger,
Abandon the Rest of Sin.

Review:

This morning we are back in the Book of James. We are still in the First Chapter, in verses 13-21. We have talked about:

   1. Acknowledge The Danger of Temptation (1:13-15)
   2. Appreciate The Goodness of God (1:16-18)

Now we are ready to see that James tells us to:

   3. Avoid the Appeal of Anger (1:19-20)

These two verses contain a wealth of truth about living in a manner worthy of being called a Christian.

James says, "But everyone…" It's important to note that these three guidelines in this verse apply to every person. Isn't our tendency to come up with reasons why we are the exception? Don't we tend to expect more of others, relationally? Don't we tend to focus on the shortcomings of others in relationships rather than our own? But God, through James says "everyone".

The first thing James tells us to do to avoid anger is:

  1. Learn to listen God doesn't want us dragging our feet when it comes to these instructions. We need to be quick to do these things. This reminds me of Psalm 119:60. What does a willingness to listen communicate to others? What are some situations or relationships where we need to be good listeners? We've talked about listening to people but how good are you at listening to God? It may be that this is the intended emphasis of this verse. We need to be quick to listen to God, anxious to hear from him, always stopping to ask his guidance.
  2. The second thing James tells us is to:

  3. Watch Your Words. Instead of being quick to listen and slow to speak, we tend to do just the opposite -- we are slow to listen and quick to speak! We don't listen, we are too busy trying to find an opportunity to interrupt so we can talk. What does being "slow to speak" communicate positively to others? One application of being slow to speak is that we need to be careful about jumping to conclusions. We need to make sure that we really understand before we speak: Then James tells us to:
  4. Restrain Your Rage Slow to anger - When's the last time you got angry? How often have you gotten angry or irritated with someone or something in the past week?

    It's interesting that James particularly highlighted anger as a bad habit that we need to break. The context here is relationships. There are few attitudes that will cause more problems in relationships than uncontrolled anger.

    You're less likely to get angry if you realize there's always a cost to anger. Any time you loose your temper there's a price tag. Every time you get angry there is a cost.... The point is this, you always lose when you lose your temper. You lose the respect of other people. You may lose the love of people you love most. You may lose the love of your children if you get angry at them too often. You may lose your job due to an uncontrolled temper."

There is a technique in negotiating in which you intentionally get the opponent angry. If you can get him angry, you can win the negotiation. Anger trips up rational decision making. The same is true in relationships. The first one to get angry is the one who loses the argument.

There are over 500 references to anger and its synonyms (angry, wrath, rage, fury) in the Bible. A great source of teaching in the Bible on anger is the book of Proverbs. Read through chapters 14-31 and underline every reference you can find on this subject.

There are 3 great verses about anger in Ephesians. Maybe you will recall these verses from our last study.

This verse deals with righteous indignation. Be angry about what is not right and correct, but don't let the anger control you, manage it. These are not the attributes of a Christian. These are not in the WWJD (What would Jesus Do?) One of the greatest training that we could give to our children is anger management, by example.

One writer told a story on herself that illustrates this. She said: "I have found that if I don't have my quiet time each morning, I tend to lose my temper over insignificant things. Recently, my son, Andrew, reminded me of the need for daily prayer. He had accidentally spilled his drink and I went into a tirade. Andrew ended my harsh words when he quietly asked, "Mom, did you forget to ask Jesus to help you be nice today?"

Who makes you angry?

You do!

Situations and other people cannot make you angry. No matter what anyone around you does, they cannot make you angry. You create your own anger...You and I have 3 choices for our anger:

  1. we can turn it inward...absorbing it like a sponge [which hurts us];
  2. we can vent it out on others [which hurts them];
  3. we can stop creating it."

  4. For the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. --James 1:20
James gives us one final warning about anger - not only does the behavior displease the Lord, but the results are not according to His will either. Anger is not a tool that normally results in the result that God wants. The exception is righteousness indignation, which is rarely when we let anger take over.

We need to recognize that anger is our enemy and to be managed and avoided.

Then James tells us to:

   4. Abandon the Rest of Sin

When we give our lives to living in the Spirit, as Wayne is teaching, we see Him make big changes within us. Maybe you've seen Him break some bad habit in your life that you'd struggled with for years. Hopefully, you've seen significant changes in your character.

But sometimes there are "little", hidden areas of sin in our lives that we've never really dealt with. The sense of this verse seems to be to root out these sinful practices.

James says

What are some sinful habits or attitudes that you just aren't dealing with?

There's a great little booklet called My Heart, Christ's Home. This is an excerpt from a devotional classic which compares the human heart to a home, with different rooms representing various parts of our life - e.g. the kitchen represents our fleshly appetites, the study represents our mind, and so on. This section concerns "The Hall Closet". The writer has invited Jesus to live in her house (really her life.)

The Hall Closet:

James continues: Just as we need to root out all the sin and filthiness in our lives, so we also need to receive God's Word. The picture here seems to be of replacing - sin must go and God's Word must come. Remember that in human behavior, you can't just quit a bad habit, to successfully quit a bad habit, you have to replace it with a good habit.

This is the second reference to the Word of God in this passage. Listen to what each of these phrases tell us about God's Word?

The Bible is absolute truth God's word is implanted in us through the Holy Spirit The Bible, the Word of God, through which we gain salvation.

Conclusion:

This passage has taught us much about the work God is doing within us to help us become more and more like Jesus. It's important for us to understand that this is God's purpose and plan for us, that we be like Jesus. Our desire is for our comfort; His desire is for us to behave like Jesus.

This fits with the context of these verses. Remember, James started by talking about the trials and adversity we will all experience.

Author and speaker Tony Campolo tells this story:

I was in a church in Oregon not too long ago, and I prayed for a man who had cancer. In the middle of the week, I got a telephone call from his wife. She said, "You prayed for my husband. He had cancer." I said, "Had?" Whoa, I thought, it's happened.

"He died," she said, and I felt terrible.

She continued, "Don't feel bad. When he came into that church that Sunday he was filled with anger. He knew he was going to be dead in a short period of time, and he hated God. He was 58 years old, and he wanted to see his children and grandchildren grow up. He was angry that this all-powerful God didn't take away his sickness and heal him. He would lie in bed and curse God. The more his anger grew towards God, the more miserable he was to everybody around him. It was an awful thing to be in his presence. After you prayed for him, a peace had come over him and a joy had come into him. Tony, the last three days have been the best days of our lives. We've sung. We've laughed. We've read Scripture. We prayed. Oh, they've been wonderful days. And I called to thank you for laying your hands on him and praying for healing.

And then she said something incredibly profound. She said, "He wasn't cured, but he was healed."

That's a great principle for all of us to remember. God may not "cure" the difficulties of our lives but, if we let Him, He will "heal" us of all our ungodly attitudes.

Next week:

...we will be studying James 1:22-27, looking at the attributes of a disciple of Jesus.

So read James 1:22-27, to see what James says about what we should be like as a representative of Jesus.