Have you ever seen anyone fly off the handle over something small and insignificant? Have you ever flown off the handle? Have you ever raised your voice without thinking, gotten mad over something silly, said something you regret? Maybe it was during rush hour as you are racing to get home and someone cuts you off or you said something to your kids or spouse in a moment of anger that you can’t take back. I see it in my own church. It’s those claiming to be Christ followers and acting out in anger. There is anger and ungodly speech running rampant and I fear that those actions are revealing that their faith in Jesus is not genuine.
I want to use James to help bring us back from our anger and into the loving arms of our Lord and Savior, Jesus.
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
-James 1:19-21 (NIV), emphasis added
There are two types of anger I have seen. The first is the quick outbursts and fits of anger. This is similar to what you might see a preschooler doing when he doesn’t get his way. It might seem weird to have an adult act this way, but I have seen it. At first it’s funny and then it’s embarrassing and sad.
The second type is a deep-seated anger, anger that come from your heart that creates the outbursts. Sometimes it comes out violently and others it is a passive anger.
We all get angry at one point or another. It’s human nature. Some only get angry on occasion and some are angry all the time and allow their anger to control them. Even if you are an angry person, even if you have anger in your heart, God still loves you! And because He loves you he wants to heal your heart from that anger.
because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
-James 1:20-21 (NIV), emphasis added
James gets to the heart of the problem and begins to fix it at its source. He doesn’t tell us to count to 10, take deep breaths, which I am not saying don’t work. But there is a faster, better way to fix our human anger.
The issue is that our anger is human anger, not Godly and so our anger does not make us righteous in the eyes of God. We are angry, and we end up speaking in a way that is ungodly. And the best way to get rid our hearts of human anger is to get rid of all moral filth and evil in our lives and accept God’s Word, which can save you. The Word can save us from our anger and the sin that is keeping us from God.
18But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart.
-Matthew 15:18 (NIV), emphasis added
If God’s Word isn’t in your heart, if you aren’t reading your bible and talking with God daily, hourly, every second, then the things you are saying and doing will reflect that. When I focus on God, I notice a difference in my life and so do those around me. I am a kinder, gentler person. So how do we control our anger?
Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
-James 1:21 (NIV)
Get rid of all moral filth: turn away from your sin and dig into God’s word. Learn how God wants you to live. I can hear some you now: “I already go to church listen to God’s Word. I’m good, my anger is going to get better because I listen to a sermon once a week. I get my Jesus in on Sunday.” Get this: Just reading God’s word and going to church is NOT enough. Going to church once a week doesn’t make you a Christian and will NOT help you with your anger.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
-James 1:22 (NIV), emphasis added
There are people in church, people claiming to be Christians, who are not sure whether or not they have genuine faith. There are people who think they’re living a life that is pleasing to God, who think they are in right standing with God, but they’re not. They think they are right with God because they go to church and hear the Word of God.
There are people going to church every week, saying they agree with what is being taught, AMEN, they nod along and sing the songs, but when they walk out the doors they live a life that does not reflect what they have just agreed with in church. They do not DO what the Word says. They don’t show love to other, only hate; they swear at each other and get violent over the littlest things; what comes out of their mouths is filthy and wicked and if my mom heard me say those things, I’d get my mouth washed out with soap.
So what happens if we are one of those people? What if we go to church and hear God’s Word, but we don’t do what it says? Then your life isn’t built upon the rock that is Jesus.
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice, is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.
-Matthew 7:24-27 (NIV), emphasis added
When we only listen to God’s word, Sunday after Sunday, and we do not put it in to practice and begin to change our lives, the life we built will come crashing down. But when you do what the Word says and not just listen to it, you can stand firm on the rock that is Jesus and you will be blessed in what you do.
Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
-James 1:23-25 (NIV), emphasis added
Imagine you look at your reflection in the mirror and you turn away and immediately forget if you have dark or light hair, the position of your nose and eyes, you forget whether you put on your makeup. Pretty silly of you to forget what you look like. If someone tells you not to touch a hot stove and you nod your head and listen, but you don’t do what they said you will get burned when you touch the stove.
You go to church and hear the Word, you nod along and listen to what is said, check “Go to Church” off your weekly “Christian Checklist”, then you leave, you go home, to school, wherever, and you forget what you are taught, you don’t do what God’s Word tells you to do, you completely ignore God’s Word. Does that sound like a Christ follower to you?
Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.
-James 1:26 (NIV), emphasis added
I am concerned. I see how those around me, those claiming to know Christ, speak out of an angry heart, they yell and swear, they hear what is taught and they ignore it! And I don’t even know if they are Christians. I don’t care how many of the songs you have memorized or how much of the Scripture you’ve hidden in your heart or how many Sundays you go to church, if you’re speaking like this to people who are brothers and sisters or even enemies, you may not be a Christian.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
-James 1:27 (NIV), emphasis added
The kind of faith that pleases God is the faith that is bearing the fruit of love. Love for our neighbors, for those around us in need; love and devotion to God, this is real faith. This is being a Christian.
Are you a Christian? Think about you…not your parents, not your friend, not your spouse or your kids. I’m talking about you. Are you a Christian? Are you one who has humbly received the gospel, the Word of Truth, about Christ? If the answer to that question is no, what’s keeping you even today from receiving Him? What’s the hurdle? I invite you, I encourage you, believe in Christ. He loves you. This good God, this perfect God, has made a way for you to be loved by Him and to become His son or daughter. He did it by making His only Son an enemy so you who are an enemy of God right now could become His son or daughter.
If you answered, “Yes, I’m a Christian,” is this evident in your life? Would other godly people affirm that about you? Are you even willing to ask them? Does your daily life, professing Christ, align with your profession of faith? Are you a doer of the Word when you leave church on Sundays? Would people in your family, your friends, even those at church actually be surprised to learn you’re a Christian? If you told them you were a Christian, would they be surprised? Is there any chance that you’re self-deceived about what your relationship with God is? Any chance that you might be the one who looks in the mirror and walks away and forgets what you see?
Where are you today? Are you a Christ follower or have you been lying to yourself and God?