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About this series
Overcoming Emotions that Destroy
Practical Help for Those Angry Feelings that Ruin Relationships
How do you deal with those angry feelings we all experience? In the series, Overcoming Emotions That Destroy, Chip Ingram will help you identify whether you are a spewer, leaker, or stuffer. You will learn the difference between good and bad anger, how to gain control of it, and how to use it in constructive ways. This no-nonsense, practical series, will give you biblical tools to express your anger appropriately and deal with those who express their anger toward you.More from this series
There are two words that rarely go together in the same sentence or in your experience. The two words are good and mad. There are times where you are good. There are times where you are mad. But there are very few times where you are both good and mad. And we are going to talk today about how to be good and mad.
As we bring this whole series to a conclusion, I want to move beyond just understanding anger, that it’s a “red light” on the dashboard. I want to move beyond you recognizing, “Oh, anger wears many masks.”
I’m a spewer, right? I’m a stuffer or I’m a leaker. And you now know that. I want to move beyond that and I want to say that anger is a channel that’s a God given emotion that actually is to maximize your potential in Christ.
The goal of this series isn’t simply to help you quit blowing up. It’s not simply to help you, psychologically, get more healthy, although that will happen. Get you to stop stuffing or stop leaking. Our desire is that you would get such a grasp on this gift of anger, it’s an emotion, from God, that it would be a tool, a weapon, and resource designed to enable you to respond in a very, very powerful way to evil in a fallen world.
And God wants you to be, I’m going to go out on a limb, good and He wants you to be mad. And if you want to know how, turn in your Bibles to Ephesians chapter 4. And you can open your notes to the same spot. But if you have your Bibles, I’d like to open that as well, because I’m going to do a little bit more than just is in your notes.
As you read this classic passage, we’ve said it, we’ve referred to it, but I want to open it up, dig in, explain it, and apply it. It says, “Be angry,” command, “and yet, do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your anger. And do not give the devil and opportunity.” And with your Bible open and the notes here, I want to give you a little context here.
Ephesians 4 opens up and you have one, two, three chapters of: this is who you are in Christ. This is what God has done. You have been forgiven. You are His child. You have an inheritance. You’ve been adopted. His spirit has sealed you. You have been placed in the supernatural community called the Church. You have power. There is a plan. What you are experiencing now is a mystery that angels and prophets long to look into.
In chapters one, two, and three say, “This is your new position in Christ. You are precious, you are loved, you are adopted. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead actually dwells in your physical body, if you’ve trusted Christ.” And after telling you who you already are, look at your Bibles, look at verse 1 of chapter 4. “Therefore I urge you as a prisoner of the Lord, to walk in a manner worthy of His calling.”
The first three chapters are what we believe and what we know is true; the last three chapters are how we are to behave. How we are to actually live. This is your worth in God’s sight.
Chapters four, five, and six. This is your walk in God’s sight. An interesting word, where it says “walk in a manner” the word “worthy,” we get our English word axis. It’s the picture of scales. And it’s like, here are three chapters of truth, truth, truth, truth, truth, it’s not trying hard, it’s not being religious, it’s not keeping rules, it’s not keeping your nose clean, it’s not giving a little money, it’s not giving to the United Way, it’s a personal relationship with the living God based on the work of Christ and His resurrection. You are a whole new person.
And this is what’s true of you now. In view of that truth, I want you by faith to appropriate what you already possess so that your walk and your truth progressively tell the same story. God’s agenda for your life is for you to trust Him. That’s the number one agenda. His goal in every circumstance, in every pain, in every up, in every down, in every anger issue, in every job change, in every economic downturn, in every blessing is to help you to learn to believe that He is actually God, that He actually loves you, that His word is true, and that He in his wisdom and love is orchestrating these events, so that you will trust Him.
And as you trust Him, He promises to give you everything you need. Not to get proud when the blessing comes. Not to give in when the adversity comes. But as you trust Him, He will form the very character of the living Christ in you, so that the Jesus who lives in you in the power of the Holy Spirit, would manifest the very life of Christ to other people. That’s what Jesus meant when he said, “You are the light of the world.” He didn’t say, “Try to be the light of the world.” You are the light of the world. You are the salt. Jesus didn’t say, “Go and try to be My witnesses.” He said, “You are my witnesses.”
And so, in chapter 4, verse 1, it opens up and tells you that. As you would go through and just scan in your Bible, what you see, it begins relationally in verses 2 and 3. And so, it’s not so much about activity, it’s about a relationship that you have with God and with other people where it talks about those key attitudes. And then in verses 7 to 10 he reminds you that this was accomplished not by your effort but by what Christ did on the cross And it talks about His resurrection and what He did declaring victory over demonic forces.
And then in verses 11 through 16 he says: you can never do this on your own. It’s impossible. And so, He gave apostles and prophets and evangelists and pastors and teachers; they equip us regular, ordinary saints. Members. New Christians. Old Christians. To do what? The work of the ministry so that all of us one day will grow up.
Look at verse 13 in your Bible. “To the measure of the fullness of the stature of Christ, that you would actually become progressively like Jesus.” And then he says some of the evidences of being like Jesus is, part is relational and part is doctrinal. “No longer tossed here and there by every wind of doctrine in the craftiness of deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, you’ll grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, by that which every joint supplies according to the proper working of each individual part that causes the growth of the body of Christ and it looks like love.”
And then in verses 17 to 24 he’ll say, “There’s a process individually you have to go through. And it’s hard. You are going to have to put off the old. You put off the old anger. You put off the old bitterness. You put off some old habits. You put off the old pornography. You put off the old workaholism. You put off the old pleasing people. You put it off, have your mind renewed, that’s what we’ve done in these sessions, and then you put on.
And by faith you take some very specific steps and then in verses 25 to 32 of chapter 4, he doesn’t leave you thinking, “Well what should I put on?” He says there are five key areas that will develop who you are.
And if you look at the structure very carefully, beginning in verse 25 through the end of this chapter, he phrases it, “Put off, mind renewed, put on.” And what he’ll do is he’ll walk you through a process of honesty, he’ll say, “Don’t lie to one another anymore. Put on truth.” He’ll talk here about anger. “Be angry but don’t sin.” He’ll talk about behaviors. He’ll talk about attitudes. And he’ll even talk about speech.
And so he literally develops a going into training to see lived in and out of you and he starts talking about, “You’ve got to be honest. You have to deal with these emotions that sabotage things, no unwholesome word proceeding out of your mouth. Let all bitterness and wrath get away. He who steals, don’t steal anymore and you start to work.” And he gives us five very specific areas that as you put them on, you begin to grow and become more and more like Christ.
Then chapter 5 begins to open up and talks about the tension there is and the need for love and how we are tempted to try and fulfill it with sex because it’s pseudo intimacy and then he’ll tell us that, no really you need to be filled with the Spirit and in this new walk by being filled with the Spirit, the way it works out is first in those most intimate relationships with Him, and then your marriage, and then with children, and then your work, and then chapter 6 will end and say, “And all this happens in a hostile environment that’s filled with spiritual warfare and demonic forces trying to take you out.
I went through that for one reason. I do not want you to leave this series going, “Okay, overcoming emotions that destroy, I have some anger issues, I think I wear the stuffer mask. No I wear the leaker mask. I’m a spewer, I know I need to change. This will really help me become more psychologically healthy. I think this will improve all my relationships. I’m going to be a much nicer person. I’m so glad I went.” That’s not the purpose.
Those are all the side benefits. God gave you this gift, this tool, this weapon of anger that can be used for evil or for good to transform your life to make you like Christ. That’s what’s at stake. That’s what’s at stake. It’s not about getting along with your mate, it’s not about stopping offending people. That is what the context of this passage is. And let me give you just a quick little overview and I need to probably stay at least close to the notes.
The command is God expressed, it commands us to express our anger, right? Be angry. Notice second, God commands us to express our anger appropriately. So, be angry, but don’t sin. So, don’t – it’s a sin to stuff it and not deal with issues. It’s a sin to leak it. It’s a sin to put on a mask and blow up on people.
So he says, “You’re to be angry. It’s a powerful weapon and tool. But it’s like a shovel. You can use it to dig and make progress or bang people over the head. He says, “Don’t bang people over the head.” Use it as a tool to dig and see what God’s doing and even be a resource of motivation.
So, we’ve looked at three ways that we express anger. I want to give you a fourth one, and then I want to talk about how to do some very deep repair. We said we express our anger by spewing. One. We said we express it by stuffing. Two. We said we express it by leaking. Three. Passive-aggressiveness. I’d like to suggest that the Bible gives us a fourth. Indignation. It’s not in this text but it’s just a little one. Indignation.
Write down, if you would, three passages. You can check them out later. Mark chapter 3, Matthew chapter 23, and Mark chapter 11. Each one of these is the life of Christ. And it is a powerful, powerful picture of how God wants to use anger.
In Mark chapter 3, He’s in the synagogue. And He’s being attacked and He’s done some healing on the Sabbath. He’s done some things on the Sabbath and people are so narrow, this is what religion does, we get so narrow all we can see is the means and we forget the end. And so, there is a fellow there that needs to be healed and they’re waiting. “Is he going to heal him today so we can catch Him?” Like can you imagine thinking, Wow, this guy is going to miraculously heal and restore someone’s life, and all they can focus on is on what day He’s going to do it? So that they can whack Him?
I mean, that sounds really crazy until we look at some of the stuff we do. But I want you to notice a word there. “As they were preparing to catch Him, and Jesus says knowing their hearts, He was angry.” Jesus was angry with the hardness of their heart. He was angry that their religion and their control and their traditions had nullified the truth of God and after it says He is angry He says to the man, “Come on up here. We are going to get this done today.”
In Matthew 23, so we have, He’s visibly angry. In Matthew 23, we have a picture of Him being extremely frustrated. And He talks to the religious leaders. And He’s built his case and He’s lived the life and He’s done the miracles and He’s given the Sermon on the Mount and finally these blind guides who are leading all these people astray, He just rips it out. “You brood of vipers! You blind guides! You white washed tombs!” By the way, that’s how He preached it.
Sometimes we read the Bible like, “Jesus, meek and mild, picture in the Sunday School.” Jesus here He is against these, “You blind guides. You vipers. You terrible, terrible, people.” He was mad. He had people telling people, “This is the way of Life,” and leading them to the way of death.
And I want you to know, yeah, you can spew, you can stuff, you can leak. God wants you to get indignation about injustice and about people that are hurting and things that are wrong. And be willing to stand up and take the flak.
There’s a reason they crucified Him. It was for speeches like this. And then finally, He didn’t just have visible anger. He just didn’t have frustration and verbal anger. If you go to Mark 11, He has physical anger. And He walks into His father’s house. And I think He just, “I’ve just had it.” It was righteous. “I’ve had it. I can’t take it anymore.” “Get out of here!” And I mean, He began to turn over the tables and kick people out.
And that’s a Jesus that we are not real comfortable with. But that’s the Jesus that lives in you. But if you believe that anger is wrong you’ll never get indignation. That’s why we looked at the passage. What’s Ephesians 4:26 say? It’s a command. Command. “Be angry.” Question. Are you angry? And are you angry with the right stuff? Okay, in your anger it’s powerful you’ve got to be careful. Don’t sin. And we’ll talk about that.
I want to show you the power of this little excerpt. As we were thinking about how to help people grab this. “In 1980, a loving mother got angry. Someone had too much to drink. He’d been on a three day binge. Veered off a neighborhood road and stuck a thirteen-year-old girl. The life of this mother’s young teenager was instantly snuffed out. The mother, Candice Lightner was devastated, ripped open by grief. But after her grief, she got mad. She got really mad.
“She did research and found out that there were more deaths every single year in alcohol related accidents in America than all the young men that were ever killed in Vietnam. She was enraged. She decided immediately to start MADD. Capital M. Capital A. Capital D. Capital D. Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. It may have started small but now there are chapters all over the United States. The organization has lobbied hard and laws have been changed, largely due to the efforts of MADD, thousands of lives have been saved all because a heartbroken, angry woman let her anger be known.”
Candice Lightner didn’t seek revenge against the drunk driver who killed her daughter. She didn’t lash out, destroy property or people. Nor did she remain in her grief, stuffing the anger down deep inside. She didn’t self-destruct. Instead, she expressed her anger, she got it out appropriately in ways that were constructive rather than destructive and that’s what we are commanded to do.
Could I just ask you, just – I’m not going to ask you to go start an organization or – but can I just ask you to think about: what is it that’s going on in the world, but more in your world, that it’s just wrong? You know what I mean? It’s just wrong. It’s just, and you know what? Sometimes you think, “Well I can’t do everything.” Of course you can’t do everything. I don’t think God wants you to do everything. And if I watched the news and saw everything that was wrong, I just, I get depressed, I really limit how much time I can watch the news. The names change, it’s all the same junk.
And now with all the cable stations, they tell me way more information than I need to know to put in my head because they’re all competing for sensational stuff.
But there are certain things that really bug me. They really, they make me angry. And for some, it’s the plight of unwed moms and for others it’s alcoholics, for others it’s people. We’ve got a brother here that, I’ll tell you, he’s passionate. He’s passionate about people getting off of heroin.
What bugs you? What makes you mad? And, praise God, I suppose, I’m not sure, for talk radio, but I think we’ve substituted talking about what ought to happen and expressing our anger for doing something. “This is terrible. Did you hear this? Now here’s this. Now this. This is a terrible thing. This happened. Are you aware of…?” Well do something! Just shut up and do something! In your area.
And so, I would just encourage you to say, “God, what is it that I can’t let go?” Don’t manufacture something. But get your heart open. Part of this too, is we’ve been brainwashed about thirty or forty years, it’s very subtle, that basically the whole Christian life is about you being happy, and you being well adjusted, and Jesus is going to take care of you and if you really do things God’s way your marriages are going to be great and your kids turn out right and you’ll be financially mobile and they’ll get better education than you and, and the whole world’s going to get better someday, someway.
That’s a bunch of garbage. To every person who longs to live for Jesus Christ, you will be persecuted. “Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials.”
Now, you know what? The fact is, God in His great grace, when you walk with Him, it really does give you a lot better marriage and when you create an environment a lot of your kids will walk with God. That’s not the goal. We’ve made all the benefits the goal. The goal is you are only on this little planet for a small amount time to – what? Reflect Christ, make Him known, see people come to know Him, see them mature, and model this.
And what happens is now we take all these verses and we rearrange them and then we get really mad at God when pain comes into our life, and cancer comes into our life, and difficulty comes into our life and, and it rains on the just and the unjust. I don’t know about you but I have a lot of friends that have lost thirty to forty percent of their net income just like all the unbelievers.
Now it’s an opportunity to show them, “So, how do Christians respond to that?” So, I’m not against, I’m all for all the great benefits of God but I think we’ve so subtly, so subtly, we don’t get mad because the real issue that we are concerned about is: how does our life work out?
I hear people say, “It’s not about me, it’s not about me, it’s about God.” Well, okay, well start living that one. Let’s start acting like, well with my money, it’s not about me. With my time, it’s not about me. Ooh. With my energy, it’s not about me.
And the thing is, when that’s your focus and you give, then you have this counter intuitive thing where God does give. And that’s not just money, the passage by the way, Luke 6:38 is not a financial passage. He says, “Give, and it will be given unto you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over back into your lap.” But it’s about giving your life away. Your time away. Your energy away. Your gifts away. To do what? To do the will of God. Not to get God to do the will of you. And, see, that’s the subtle thing that’s happened.
And so, part of being angry is – the temptation is to go all the way through this and it become one more little self-help thing. “I’m really glad I’m doing better on my anger.” And I just want to say, I think God wants to use your anger to get some really great stuff done and you know what? You don’t have to start an organization that’s nationwide. What would happen if you got angry about some junk in your church? In your community? At your work? And it doesn’t mean you get on a soapbox and act like an idiot and say things. You are winsome, loving, pure, kind, and tenacious.
And you do the right thing, and by the way, there are consequences. I mean, that’s the other thing. We somehow get this idea that we are going to do life God’s way and sort of skip through it. There’ll be pain. But what do we do with all those verses like, “This present suffering is not to be compared with the glorious,” right? So, where did we start learning that the goal of life is to be comfortable and never experience pain?
Now, by the way, I don’t like pain any more than you do. And I’m not going to jump into it willfully. There is enough real good pain when you do the will of God. But the apostle Paul in his life, he had this weird view, like, “I want to know the fellowship of His suffering.” It’s in the pain and in the need that actually a lot of the becoming like Christ occurs.
So all I wanted to do was give you a picture of maybe anger is more than just helping you in your life, in your personal world.