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Faith that Works: Anger, Words, and the Monster Slayer

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The Monster Inside Me

Journalist Hunter Thompson, longtime contributor to Rolling Stone magazine and author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, committed suicide in 2005 at age sixty-seven. His addiction to drugs and alcohol and his abusive actions toward others were no secret. After his death, his first wife, Sandy Conklin-Thompson, wrote:
He was, on the one hand, extremely loving and tender, brilliant and exciting, generous and kind. On the other end of the spectrum—he was full spectrum—he was extremely cruel.…
I will never forget something Hunter once said to me. In one of his tender moments, I asked him if he knew when he was about to become the Monster. He said, “Sandy, it’s like this. I sense it first, and before I have completely turned around he is there. He is me.”
Who is there? Who is he? Its a monster inside of him. The monster was anger. Hunter Thompson sounds much like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from Robert Louis Stevenson novel Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In Stevenson story of Jekyll and Hyde, Jekyll drank a serum that transformed him into a monster. Hyde, was evil, self-indulgent, and uncaring to anyone but himself. The reality is, we do not need to drink a serum t be evil, self-indulgent, and uncaring. We come into this world with the sin serum already in us. All of us are Hyde in our fallen condition. All of us have the monster of anger lurking inside.
Take a moment to consider your heart when your anger is stirred. It’s passionate intensity. The feeling it boil up, rippling on the edges of of your heart, steaming as it rolls down the sides. Sometimes it smolders like coals in a fire. Other times the eruption is so spontaneous, its like a gas explosion in a house. One minute you’re standing in the kitchen. The next minute you are picking yourself off the ground with ringing in your ears watching the debris of what was once a home, a family, a church, scatter everywhere. People are missing. The neighborhood is shocked. The church is split. Death, destruction, and confusion are the fruit of your angers labor. Anger is a monster, and Hunter Thompson was right. He is me, like Mr. Hyde is Dr. Jekyll.
The Bible warns you to address the beast of anger. Solomon warns his son
Proverbs 14:17 HCSB
A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, and a man who schemes is hated.
Proverbs 29:22 HCSB
An angry man stirs up conflict, and a hot-tempered man increases rebellion.
Proverbs 30:33 HCSB
For the churning of milk produces butter, and twisting a nose draws blood, and stirring up anger produces strife.
Proverbs 25:28 HCSB
A man who does not control his temper is like a city whose wall is broken down.
A city without a wall was vulnerable to attack and peril. Solomon says that is the fate on an angry person.
Paul identifies anger as a work of the flesh, along with hatred, strife, and jealousy. He warns a few verses earlier for the Galatian church to not “bite and devour” each other, assumingely from the anger and hatred and strife building up among them. The monster has one objective. Bite and devour. The most obvious example of what happens when sinful anger is aroused, specifically from jealousy and hatred is when Cain killed Able (Gen 4). Cain revealed the monster inside of him when he picked up that stone to slay his brother in a jealous rage.
In the context of James, trials are afflicting his readers like waves on a beach. The poor are being exploited by the rich. (Nothing stirs the heart of man like exploitation and injustice.) Poverty has a grip on many families in the church. Some leadership might be showing partiality toward the rich, making the poor in the church feel powerless and worthless. Additionally, the church is likely in an area of Palestine where Jews and Christians are already viewed poorly. Persecution was likely adding more tension to a somewhat fractured group. Needless to say, James readers were experiencing an inordinate amount of stress.
Stress acts like a vice that presses both sides of your heart. As the stress heats up, the vice pushes on both sides causing whatever is inside your heart to squeeze out. James told us as much when he described the reproduction process of sin. Your heart is sinful. You have unrighteous anger inside of you. Temptation makes sinful anger look appealing to you.
For example, temptation will seduce your heart to respond to an injustice your suffer with the measure of your wrath and not God’s. Vengeance is mine, says the sinful heart. I will repay evil as I see fit, until I am satisfied.
What is so appealing about satisfying your anger? Aquinas says

Anger combines the pain of injury and the pleasures of vengeance and inflicting injury.” Aquinas

Sinful anger seduces your heart into believing that the pleasure of vengeance and wielding your short arm of justice is the right thing to do, even in God’s eyes-despite the Bible saying to you,
Romans 12:19 HCSB
Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written: Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord.
For the Christian, the monster inside of you battles your new nature. At times, your hearts battle with the monster of anger and it feels like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Who will win the day? The New Me or the Monster inside of me?
In James 1:19-20, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, James offers you a faith wielding wise way handle your unrighteous anger in times of trial so that you can endure until the end. This morning when the stress of trials press your heart like a vice and the monster of anger begins to rear his face,

Christian, Jesus empowers you to wisely win the battle of your unrighteous anger by loving God and neighbor.

The difference between righteous anger and unrighteous anger.

In verse 19, James says you must be slow to anger. He does not say ignore it or see it as always bad. There are times when your anger might be warranted. Jesus was angered at the Pharisees hardness of heart (Mark 3:5). Jesus was also angered when the people turned the temple into a den of thieves (Matthew 21:12-13). Jesus had a righteous anger toward sin; the sin of unbelief and the sin that dishonored his Father’s house. There is such a thing as righteous anger.
Moses demonstrated righteous anger when he came near the camp and saw that Israel had created an idol in the form of a golden calf (Exodus 32:19). He was angered by the faithlessness and wickedness of Israel toward God. When the people of Israel was threatened by the Ammonites, the Spirit of God rushed on Saul and he became hot with righteous anger (1 Samuel 11:6). Anything that defames God or violates his holy will, you have a good reason to be angered. The problem is, I would contend that 9 times out of 10, your anger is not for righteousness sake. It is for self-sake.
Dr. Robert Jones offers three helpful criteria to use to see if your anger is righteous:

“ 1. It reacts against actual sin.

2. It focuses on God and his concerns.

3. It coexists with other godly qualities and expresses itself in godly ways.” Dr. Robert Jones (Uprooting Anger)

When Jesus expressed his anger it was toward actual sin. In the temple, Jesus was more concerned about His father’s house and his name, than he was about anything else. Jesus anger was grounded in truth and expressed with self-control. There was no monster, no Mr. Hyde.
Jones goes on to contrast righteous anger from unrighteous anger. Jones says,
“While sinful anger screams , curses, vents, and rages, righteous anger maintains a godly demeanor. Yet our Lord’s controlled anger was not weak. It was confrontational. Fortified with power, his anger showed itself in bold judicial acts.
Righteous anger is not the anger James is worried about in our text. He is primarily concerned with unrighteous anger. James implies your unrighteous anger has four qualities to it.

Your unrighteous anger flows from your sinful heart.(Mark 7:20-23; Luke 6:43-45)

Jesus is clear about where your anger comes from. In
Mark 7:20–23 (ESV)
And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him.
For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery,
coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.
All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
or in
Luke 6:43–45 (ESV)
“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit,
for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush.
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
The Bible teaches that you must guard your heart because it is the well-spring of your soul. The heart is where your desires or passions dwell. It is the place your convictions and deep seated beliefs have roots. Jesus says if your heart is bad, the fruit of your life is bad; that is you thoughts, words, and actions. A good tree produces good fruit. A heart ruled by unrighteous anger produces the bad fruit of unrighteous anger.

Your unrighteous anger is destructive.(James 1:20)

The bad fruit your heart produces when it is ruled by unrighteous anger, for starters, is impatience and harsh words. James alludes to this when he says,
James 1:19 ESV
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;
According to James, an angry heart does not listen carefully or with the intent to understand the other person or situation. When you are angry, you are quick to say harsh words that usually cut to the other persons heart. Words have consequences. Angry words have severe consequences.
There is good reason why James connects your hasty words with your anger in verse 19. They go hand in hand. Paul admonishes the Colossian church
Colossians 3:8 HCSB
But now you must also put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth.
Do you see the unhealthy marriage between your anger and your mouth? Paul says put away: anger, wrath, malice-pretty much all synonyms of each other. Then he connects slander and obscene language to your anger. In your anger you slander your brother, that is you lie or gossip about them. In your anger you curse and swear, vent and rage, against them.
Stop and think for a moment how you respond in anger toward your spouse, or your children, or your neighbors. What does the monster inside of you say when you are angry? What action do you take in your anger? Again, Dr. Jones is helpful. He asks,
In the name of “righteous anger,” do you ever rail against him or her? Do you ignore or withdraw from your mate? Do you spiral downward in self - pity? Do his or her offenses consume your mind? Do you cancel your plans for that evening or suspend your service for Christ that weekend? Or do you simply kick the dog, or the door? If so, your anger is not Christlike.” Dr. Robert Jones
When I was a very young man, before I knew Christ, I worked at a Coca Cola plant in Rice Lake, WI. I unloaded trucks all day at different stores in the area. It could be grueling work, and during the summer it lasted all day. My brother worked his way up from the truck to be a sales representative. He worked all day selling coke, and I worked all day stocking coke.
One summer morning, I rode into work with Shane. He went his way and I went my way. At the end of the day, I was waiting for Shane to go home. I sat for about a half hour. We did not have cell phones, so I called his mother-in-law to see she had heard from him. She asked why I was looking for him, and in a solid two minute rant I curse my brother up and down. I had worked all day and was beat tired. He was keeping me from my shower and my dinner. So I gave him the verbal business. Before I could finish, his mother-in-law stopped me dead in my tracks. She said she could not believe I would speak in such a way about her son-in-law and that if I could do was slander that man, she wanted nothing to do with me. She hung up. That made me even more angry. I felt my anger was justified.
Francis De Sales once said,
There was never an angry man that thought his anger unjust.” Francis De Sales
Kent Hughes makes the point that we rationalize our anger, calling it frankness or attributing it to upbringing or the pressure we are under-but anger like this is sin.
My anger was evil. My heart was filled with unrighteous anger and it flowed out of my mouth toward a good man. I made the assumption that Shane was doing this on purpose. I said in my heart, “Shane must have stopped somewhere for a drink with the boys, or he’s out playing golf.” Anger has a funny way of skewing reality to what you want it to be in the moment. Your thoughts will live out that fallacy fantasy until it stirs the heart to even more rage, readying the monster to be cut loose. The reality was, Shane was held up on a sale about an hour away. He had no way to letting me know he was running late. It didn’t matter at that point. The monster inside of me was loose, and I hurt someone I loved dearly. My unrighteous anger was destructive, and it did not please God when I let it loose.

Your unrighteous anger is not pleasing to God. (James 1:20)

James gives the ground (the because) for why you should be slow to anger in verse 20. He says,
James 1:20 ESV
for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
When James says “righteousness of God” he is not referring so much to justification. He is speaking about walking in a manner that is pleasing to God. If you look at the verb “produce,” it means to carry out or accomplish. Douglas Moo astutely notes that it would seem odd to have James be thinking of God’s gift of righteousness when he is saying that our anger is actively producing something. Also, it would be hard to imagine man’s anger could produce anything close to God’s righteousness.
Also note, Jesus used the same word for “righteousness” to describe the pattern of behavior a disciple must have to exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees ( Matthew 5:20).
In the same sense, Jesus used the word “righteousness” in Matthew 5:6
Matthew 5:6 ESV
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
and in
Matthew 5:10 ESV
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
In both cases, Jesus is referring to a way of living, a righteous way of living, or a righteous pattern of behavior that pleases to God. Because James alludes to much of Jesus’ teaching in the gospel, especially his Sermon on the Mount, it is likely that James is referring to a righteous way of living that is pleasing to God. In other words,

Your unrighteous anger does not produce a righteous way of living that is pleasing to God.

Righteous living that pleases God, imitate God’s patience and being “slow to anger” (James 1:19), and be patient in suffering as Christ was (1 Peter 2:20). Patience is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22; Rom. 8:25; 1 Cor. 13:4; Col. 1:11; 3:12; 2 Tim. 3:10; 4:2; James 5:7–8; Rev. 2:2–3). Wayne Grudem wisely says,
“As with most of the attributes of God that we are to imitate in our lives, patience requires a moment-by-moment trust in God to fulfill his promises and purposes in our lives at his chosen time, which is the best time (though we easily become impatient).” Wayne Grudem
This hits word of wisdom hit home this morning. Patience is not what I showed my wife or Abram this week. It has been a stressful week at church and in the home. Deadlines are approaching, TTV is gearing up, and we are rolling out a vision for the church at the business meeting. Add to that, our family is going through a transition; we dropped Naomi off at Missouri Baptist University yesterday. We are a close knit family. To have one of use transition out of the house is stressful. I cannot tell you with a straight face I was patient this week. I wan’t. And God has revealed to me that my impatience, my unrighteous anger, showed that my heart was not trusting Jesus moment by moment to fulfill his promise for our family and our church. What

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is your remedy. (James 1:21)

Addressing your unrighteous means you know that your anger does not please God because it is destructive, and that it flows from sin in your heart. Understanding that unrighteous anger flows from your heart helps you see that the remedy is the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ to transform your heart, change your beliefs and convictions, so that your anger gives way to mercy and patience.
The gospel has the power turn your heart’s anger toward love for God and neighbor.
James 1:21 (ESV)
Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
The implanted word that can save your soul is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel is the gift of God to save sinners from his wrath, his righteous anger. The reason why your heart is filled with unrighteous anger is because you are an unrighteous person. All of humanity has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)., What you deserve for violating God’s holy law is his wrath in hell (Romans 6:23). But God in his mercy gave his only beloved Son as gift to save you. He has been patient with you not immediately giving you what you deserve. God demonstrated his love for you in that wile you are a sinner, He sent his Son to die for you on the cross (Romans 5:8). His death paid the penalty you deserve and God accepted his death as a perfect sacrifice by raising Jesus from the dead three days later. Jesus ascended into heaven and sends his Spirit to everyone who accepts him by faith.
Furthermore, he sits at the right hand of the Father praying for his people, awaiting the day when he will return to restore heaven and earth. That is the implanted word that can save your soul if you will confess with you mouth what you believe in your heart, that Jesus is Lord, God raised him from the dead, and he can forgive your sin and make you right with God (Romans 10:9-10). On the cross, Jesus appeased God’s righteous anger by sacrificially atoning for your unrighteous anger. You must ask for his forgiveness to receive it.
When you receive the implanted word that can save your soul, you can trust that God has done a regenerating work on your heart. He has taken the heart of stone out and put in a heart of flesh. Now you have eyes to see Jesus as your Savior and love Jesus as your king because God has enabled your heart to see Jesus and love Jesus. With this new heart comes the ability to say no to sin. He gives you a new desire to follow his commands. Ezekiel prophesied this,
Ezekiel 36:26–27 ESV
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. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
Knowing this is vital to addressing your unrighteous anger. Because anger is a heart issue, you need God to address your heart. Jesus has the power to change your angry heart to a heart that loves God and neighbor the way he love His father and loves us. When God gives your heart new birth, your heart will be able to want to change your anger and live in a way that pleases God.
The second thing that happens at your new birth you are baptized in Jesus’s Spirit. When Jesus ascended, he sent his Spirit to live inside of his people. He promised his Spirit as a means to empower his people to live in the kingdom of God as they joyfully advance the kingdom of God (Acts 1:8). Not only is your heart changed to desire meekness and patience and love, but Jesus has given you His Spirit to empower you to slay the monster of anger inside of you. Listen to Paul as he wrote these words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit,
Romans 6:6–15 (ESV)
We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.
For one who has died has been set free from sin.
Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.
For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.
So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.
Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.
For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
He goes on to say in Romans 8:1-2
Romans 8:1–2 ESV
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
Paul also prays for the Ephesian church to have the Spirit of God strengthen them and fill them with the fullness of God so they can how the height and depth of the love of God (Eph 3:15-20). You have a new heart. You have His Spirit. You have His word. Peter says you have his example.
If anyone had the right to be angry about his circumstance or at people, it was Jesus. He was given the trial of the cross. He was told to die for sinners as if he was a sinner. It was a trial almost unbearable. His anger would have been justified. He could’ve display his wrath for the evil done to him. But Peter says of Jesus,
1 Peter 2:23 ESV
When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.
Jesus is your remedy for your sinful anger. He is your anger monster slayer. He slays your anger by transforming your Hyde into a redeemed Dr. Jekyll. His Spirit has the true power transform your heart of stone into a heart that loves peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). His Spirit empowers you to turn away from your anger. You are not the monster of anger in God’s sight. You are His redeemed. When you sense it first, and before you have completely turned around it will not be Mr. Hyde or the Monster of Anger who is there. It will be Jesus. You are in Him, and you have the heart and power to say, He is in me. Amen
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