There’s just a Thursday with an extra name: Ascension. It’s not just the world that has ignored the festival. The Church seems to have lost interest as well. Most congregations have elected to forgo a worship service on Ascension and those that cling to the tradition count on few to attend.
Ascension day is every bit as much as Good Friday, Easter, and Christmas. It deserves to be celebrated. For those still unconvinced, here are seven reasons to rejoice on Ascension Day:
1. Jesus ascended so that the Holy Spirit could descend.
The Spirit is the promised “other Comforter” essential to the life and growth of the Church—no Holy Spirit, no Church, no faith, no salvation. Jesus ascended to send the Spirit.
2. Jesus reigns now over everything.
He has been enthroned at the Father’s right hand, and the full glory of the Godhead is His. The ascension is His coronation ceremony and highlights the splendor and authority of Jesus over every king, ruler, and nation.
3. The ascension was the plan from the very beginning.
Just as the passion and resurrection were predicted in the Old Testament, so too was the ascension. Jesus’ extraordinary visible ascent is the essential capstone of his earthly ministry.
4. Jesus ascended bodily.
After his resurrection, Jesus showed himself to the crowds and disciples. They touched his scars and ate with him. Immanuel, God with us, is now at the right hand of the Father interceding on our behalf.
5. The commission announced by Jesus is now in full force.
Just as a death must precede the implementation of a will, so the ascension of Jesus must precede the implementation and empowerment of the command to the disciples (you included) to witness the reality of Jesus to the world.
6. The ascension of Jesus is a preview of the promised consummation.
At the Last Day Jesus will return as He went: physically and visibly. It will not be a “spiritual” or metaphorical return, but an actual coming of His physical body. No one is going to miss it.
7. Jesus is Lord.
Not only did Jesus come back from the dead, but He now reigns on high. He is Lord of all creation. He is Lord of your life.
Whether or not anyone else joins you, you’ve got much to celebrate on Ascension Day. At the very least, take a moment to gaze skyward, study a cloud, and offer a prayer of thanks and praise and anticipation to the one who now reigns on high and who is coming soon.
COMMON-UNITY with God and with others is indispensable to the Christian life. The communities of this world are broken, and never provide the ultimate place of acceptance and belonging that we all long for. Jesus died on the cross to create a new diverse community (common-unity), that seeks to share and show acceptance based on what God has done instead of what we do to earn people's approval.
We want to help you easily start and develop a relationship with Christ that will start and develop relationships with others, so we provide small groups of people that meet on a semester basis throughout the week to share the hope of Christ through relationships, the Bible, and prayer. These small groups are all little communities that reflect this new community made up of people from diverse backgrounds and situations who unify around the person and work of Jesus.
We base our Small Group model on the example of Jesus and the early church as described in the Bible. In Acts, you can read about how small group meetings in homes helped lay the foundation for tremendous growth.
Prayer is a dominant theme throughout Scripture. We are called to pray for one another (James 5:16) as well as those who mistreat us (Luke 6:28). When we pray for someone, it brings the attention off our ill-will and rather helps us focus on what God wills us to do in the life of that person.
Related to prayer is the idea of confession. First John 1:9 emphasizes the importance of confessing to God what we have done wrong to demonstrate how sorry we are for what we did. When we are the offender, this step is key to reconciliation. When we have been offended, it is helpful to ask God to search our heart to see if we have erred.
Similar to confession is the act of repenting. Repentance requires leaving the old way of life and walking in a direction. This step is essential in reconciliation because it shows that there has been behavior modification (Luke 17:3).
After spending time seeking the Lord, it is necessary to talk with the person with whom we have the broken relationship. Beginning difficult conversations can be awkward and it is tempting to talk about the person rather than talk to them. However, confrontation is biblical and healthy (Matthew 18:15-17). When meeting with the person, it is helpful to remember James’ teaching to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry (James 1:19).
5. Take Responsibility
When we meet with someone in conflict, it is important to remember to take responsibility for our offenses. The goal of the conversation is restoration. Therefore, we must aim to speak openly and honestly about our actions and feelings (Ephesians 4:25; Matthew 7:12). We expect the same courtesy.
6. Make Amends
In some instances, we might need to offer to make amends for where we have offended someone to restore the relationship. We see this concept in Scripture in the life of Zacchaeus, the tax collector. After he repented to Jesus, he gave the people he cheated four times the amount in return. He went beyond what was expected to make things right. Likewise, we should be willing to try to improve the situation of those we offend.
7. Be Humble
Reconciliation is difficult. This can especially be true if we were the one who has been hurt. The temptation is to play the victim. However, we must remember that we are all sinful. Thus, we need to remain humble in our conversation (Philippians 2:3-11)
As we approach reconciliation, a key element is forgiveness. The term describes the removal of guilt. Scripture commands that we forgive one another because God has forgiven us (Colossians 3:13). Jesus speaks of the consequences of unforgiveness (Matthew 6:15). It is important to note that forgiveness should take place regardless of the result of any conversation. Forgiveness is one-sided and is enabled through the power of Christ. Therefore, we should offer it to any offender, regardless of whether we feel like they deserve it.
When guilt is removed, love remains. Since we have forgiven on our side, we are free to show love. This is Jesus’ command to his disciples and is how we grow as a Body of Christ. If the other member has not yet forgiven, we can continue to show love and pray for the situation.
Not all situations resolve immediately. Some take decades to reconcile. If this is the case, do not lose heart. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 states, “we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (ESV). We serve a sovereign God whose greatest desire is to reconcile the world. Have faith and trust him.
Gentleness is supporting others during their times of weakness so that they can achieve their full potential in the Lord.
Definition One Hebrew word for gentleness is anah. It is a root word with a wide range of meanings: “to look down; to depress, to humble oneself; to be bowed down; to be afflicted, humbled; to weaken oneself.”
The Practical Expression of Gentleness
Gentleness is demonstrated in our responses to others, especially those who are under our care. We are to discipline ourselves in order to recognize the weaknesses and limitations of others and respond to them with soft answers and patient encouragement. We are to nurture them with joyful singing, wise answers, crying out to the Lord on their behalf, and lifting them up when they falter.
The Biblical Models of Gentleness
1. A shepherd caring for sheep The very life and health of the sheep depend on the gentleness of the shepherd. The understanding of a gentle shepherd is expressed in Jacob’s reply to his brother, who wanted the sheep to travel with his four hundred men. “And he said unto him, My lord knoweth that the children are tender, and the flocks and herds with young are with me: and if men should overdrive them one day, all the flock will die. Let my lord, I pray thee, pass over before his servant: and I will lead on softly [gently], according as the cattle that goeth before me and the children be able to endure” (Genesis 33:13–14).
The Lord compares Himself to a gentle shepherd in the following passage: “Behold, the Lord GOD will come with a strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young” (Isaiah 40:10–11). The Hebrew word for gently lead in this passage is nahal. It means “to lead with care; to cause to rest; to bring to a place of rest; to guide; to refresh, protect, sustain.” Jesus describes Himself as the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep. “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). 2. A mother with her infant Paul uses the concept of gentleness when describing his love and care for those whom he led to Christ: “We were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children'' (I Thessalonians 2:7)
The Greek word for cherisheth is thalpo. It means “to keep warm, to foster with tender care.” It carries with it the picture of a mother hen covering her young with her feathers. A nursing mother knows that her infants are very vulnerable and easily damaged by harsh treatment or neglect. She knows that they are dependent on her for loving care, nourishment, and protection. In I Thessalonians 2:7, the word Paul used for gentle means “to be kind, mild, affable.”
How a Gentle Spirit Is Developed
We learn gentleness at the hands of those who are gentle with us. One of the reasons God allows suffering is to provide us with opportunities to express gentleness to others. This concept is reflected in the definition of the Hebrew word gentleness (anah): “to stoop, humble oneself, bow down; to be afflicted, humbled; to weaken oneself.” The concept of gentleness through humbling oneself was taught by Jesus to His disciples when He said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). “Come unto me,” Jesus said, “all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls'' (Matthew 11:28–29). The word lowly means “low lying, humiliated” and denotes being of low degree, brought low, humble, cast down. In order to teach us how to be lowly, God carefully takes us through trials. In them, He gives us comfort and counsel so that we will be prepared to share with others who are going through similar trials. “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (II Corinthians 1:3–4).
How Gentleness Makes Us Great
Twice in Scripture, David testifies, “Thy gentleness hath made me great” (II Samuel 22:36, Psalm 18:35). In these passages, the Hebrew word for great is rabah. It means “to increase greatly or exceedingly, to enlarge; to become many, to make much; to multiply.” Gentleness begins with pain and sorrow and ends in an abundant increase. This is the way of God. If we die to ourselves, we will live; if we give bountifully, we will receive bountifully; if we sow in tears, we will reap in joy. The life of Jabez is a beautiful picture of the meaning and potential of gentleness. Jabez means “sorrow.” His mother gave him this name because she “bare him with sorrow.” Names in the days of Jabez were very important. Often they were predictors of a person’s future. However, Jabez wanted to change the focus and goal of his life, so he called on the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested” (I Chronicles 4:10).
How Gentleness Is Basic to Wisdom
When James describes the qualities of wisdom, he includes gentleness: “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17). The gentleness that comes from true wisdom is the result of an understanding heart. That is exactly what Solomon requested from the Lord: “Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people” (I Kings 3:9). The Hebrew word for understanding in this passage is shama. Shama is used in the following passage for the word hear: “Hear [shama], O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and keep, and do them” (Deuteronomy 5:1). Thus, gentleness is the result of a hearing heart. The word shama is also translated obey in Scripture. As we listen to the Word of God and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, we will escape the harshness and corruption of the lusts of the flesh and experience the fruit of the Spirit, which is “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance” (Galatians 5:22–23). The word gentleness in this passage is chrestotes, which refers to moral excellence in character and attitude. A practical expression of wisdom and gentleness is to speak evil of no one and to seek peace and harmony with everyone. “Put them [all believers] in mind to . . . speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men” (Titus 3:1–2). “The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient” (II Timothy 2:24). Gentleness is supporting others during their time of weakness so that they can achieve their full potential in the Lord.
Personal Evaluation and Application
How gentle are you?
• Have you developed self discipline and humility in order to be attentive to the hurts and needs of others?
• When you give instructions or responses to others, do you take into consideration their weaknesses and limitations?
• Do you have a shepherd’s mind-set toward those who are looking to you for spiritual leadership or example?
• Have you translated past pain and suffering in your life into reminders to protect others and prepare them to have a right response to any offenders?
• Are you irritable and reactionary when people with needs intrude upon your time or energy?
• Do you speak evil of someone you dislike? • Do you look for ways to teach those who are not as spiritually mature as they should be?
• Do you give a soft answer so that you do not offend or discourage others?
• Do you see potential in others and purpose to help them grow in the Lord?
Dads, don’t give up on leading your families in worshiping Jesus.
As difficult as it was to have our church buildings closed for several months, one of the surprising graces for many families has been the recovery of family worship. Yet in this recovery, many dads — including myself — discovered our shortcomings as family worship leaders.
Despite my role as one of our church’s pastors, I admit that in our home, family worship can at times feel more forced than joy-filled and more frustrating than fruitful. On many occasions, I’ve felt tempted to throw in the towel altogether. Perhaps you can relate. That said, we know that God’s will for fathers is to raise their kids “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4), and that faithfulness requires pressing on in the strength of the Holy Spirit.
Consider three common obstacles that often hinder dads in their efforts toward joy-filled family worship of Jesus.
Typically, when we think of family worship, we imagine the whole family huddled together to share in prayer, Scripture, and song. That’s not a bad way to think about family worship, but the first hurdle requires you to take a step back from intentional times of worship and to consider what else is competing for your family’s worship. The reality is, your family is always worshiping someone or something and, if you don’t consider the competition, you may be surprised to find that despite intentional times spent in God’s word and prayer, your family’s worship of Jesus may still be coming in second place.
You can identify what is competing for your family’s worship by doing a personal assessment of where and how your family spends the bulk of its time, money, and attention. Even more importantly, dads, draw in your wives and children, inviting them to help you determine what is most important in your family’s life. Ask questions like:
For all of the talk within the church about family worship, so few men and fathers today grew up in homes where Jesus was regularly worshiped, the Bible was consistently read, or their fathers played an active role in their spiritual maturation. Husbands and dads know they should be leading their families in worship, but many of us have received little practical discipleship in how to do so. As a result, many men feel as though they are inventing the wheel when it comes to family worship — and the wheel typically doesn’t roll smoothly at first.
I have found that when I’ve tried to hide my insecurities about leading my family spiritually, I’ve actually made our times around God’s word and in prayer painfully awkward and strained. Instead, when I’m honest about the weakness I feel to adequately lead my family, I experience God’s grace at work in and through me the most.
So, dads, clear the hurdle of awkwardness by naming your insecurities as they relate to leading your family in worship, and trust that in your weakness the Lord will prove the sufficiency of his grace and power (2 Corinthians 12:9).
3: Mere Knowledge
Deuteronomy 6:4–9 gives both the goal and mechanism for family worship. The goal is to cultivate a love for God that brings him glory, and the mechanism is saturating your life with his word.
The danger for many dads is to make family worship hardly anything more than an intellectual exercise. I know that I’ve been too easily satisfied at times with my children simply reciting the right answers about whatever passage of Scripture we’re studying or topic we’re discussing. Knowledge is good and necessary, but it’s not enough by itself. God’s chief concern is that the truth of his word is impressed upon our hearts: “These words that I command you today shall be on your heart” (Deuteronomy 6:6). The goal of family worship doesn’t end with learning; it ends with love.
“The goal of family worship doesn’t end with learning; it ends with a changed heart.”
With love as the goal, dads, take the lead in drawing out your family at an affectional level. One of the best ways to do this is to set the tone by expressing how you’re seeing God at work in your own heart. Encourage your wife and children with what the Lord is teaching you and ways you’re seeing him make you more like Jesus. Help them see how the gospel applies to their joys and sorrows, and encourage each of them in the particulars of their lives.
As you approach family worship, clear the hurdle of mere academic exercise by remembering 1 Corinthians 13. If you have family devotions but have not love, you are a noisy gong and ultimately gain nothing. Pursue love, and you gain God.
Consistency Is Key
Family worship is significant but surprisingly simple. Dads, you don’t need to overcomplicate leading your family in worship. God has given you his word, and his Holy Spirit, and promised to work in and through your weakness. With the Spirit’s help, repent of ways your family has valued other activities and worshiped things above Jesus. Then set aside regular times to read the Bible together, sing, discuss, and pray.
Your family’s worship will not always feel profound (though it is!). You will certainly face all sorts of distractions — from wriggly toddlers to defiant teenagers. Sometimes family worship will feel forced. At other times it will feel frustrating. But consistency is key.
God’s word never returns empty and always accomplishes what he has purposed (Isaiah 55:10–11).
So, don’t give up even when you feel like your efforts are fruitless. Fight the good fight of faith, and trust that God will use your perseverance in family worship to cultivate deeper love for him and neighbor. Be faithful, and leave the results to Jesus, the true worship leader of your home.
Should you like more helpful guidance on establishing a devotional time each day with your family, please let me know and I will gladly be there for you to offer encouragement and help to get going or keep going.
Faithfully In Christ
There have been two transactions, not one. The first payment, the price of our redemption, was made in order to satisfy all other claims over all men everywhere. Twice in Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians he tells the believers that they have been bought with a price, which price Peter tells us is “the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1: 18, 19). However, a second transaction was, and is still being, made to those who turn to Him in faith … to us. Jesus did not just settle the debt I owed, He purchased me and therefore has rights over me, His purchased possession.
The second payment is not the price that has been paid for sin, to redeem us to God: that price is the precious blood of Christ. The second payment is the gracious Holy Spirit of God.
In Ephesians 1: 14 the AV uses the term “earnest” to denote this payment which is translated literally as pledge, alternatively a down payment. Strong’s identifies the Greek word as “arrabon”, which means a pledge, or surety. It is a commercial term, referring to that part of the purchase-money or property given in advance as security for the remainder – the balance of the purchase price. In modern parlance we would speak of a security deposit.
In modern Greek “arrabona”, a slightly different word, refers to an engagement ring - an expression that some prefer as linking with the concept of the Church as a bride. Whilst this has appeal it confuses two thoughts:
All Christendom has the Scriptures in common, but not all who handle the Scriptures belong to Jesus. What then makes the difference?
The gracious Holy Spirit of God! He is the difference
The table is a place to remember the blessing of God.
There is a concept from a number of years ago that encouraged Christian families to guard their time around the meal table.
The techno world we live in and embrace has in many homes robbed the family of a healthy time of communication with each other. Everyone is on their device or watching television or both and if anyone speaks, it is sometimes perceived as an inconvenience by the rest of the family.
The concept was suggested that Christian families should ensure they sit around the meal table and engage each other as they eat and utilize this quality time, and then conclude it with a devotional time in God's Word and Prayer.
There is a lot of value in this concept and it is by no means a new one. Perhaps you could be encouraged to explore how frequently the Christian Community and Body of Christ and in fact even before this, the Jewish nation in Scripture reveals so much value and situations that revolve around the meal time table.
Jesus empowered the ancient church with a strategy for communion designed to create unity, loving community, and holiness in view of His return. One part of this strategy was to celebrate the Lord’s Supper frequently. The other was to partake of the elements in the context of an actual meal.
Perhaps before we invite people to Jesus or invite them to church, we should invite them to dinner
Sharing tables is one of the most uniquely human things we do. No other creature consumes its food at a table. And sharing tables with other people reminds us that there’s more to food than fuel. We don’t eat only for sustenance.
The Table as a Place of Connection
Tables are one of the most important places of human connection. We’re often most fully alive to life when sharing a meal around a table. We shouldn’t be surprised, then, to find that throughout the Bible God has a way of showing up at tables. In fact, it’s worth noting that at the center of the spiritual lives of God’s people in both the Old and New Testaments, we find a table: the table of Passover and the table of Communion. New Testament scholar N. T. Wright captured something of this sentiment when he wrote, “When Jesus himself wanted to explain to his disciples what his forthcoming death was all about, he didn’t give them a theory, he gave them a meal.”
In the fast-paced, tech-saturated, attention-deficit-disordered culture in which we find ourselves, Christians need to recover the art of a slow meal around a table with people we care about. “Table fellowship” doesn’t often make the list of the classical spiritual disciplines. But in the midst of a world that increasingly seems to have lost its way with regard to matters of both food and the soul, Christian spirituality has something important to say about the way that sharing tables nourishes us both physically and spiritually. We need a recovery of the significance of what we eat, where we eat, and with whom we eat.
In Matthew’s account of the Last Supper, he writes, “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body’” (Matt 26:26). The same pattern of language—blessing, breaking, and giving—also shows up in the accounts of Jesus’s miraculous feedings, as well as in the scene in which Jesus is recognized by the disciples with whom he had walked on the road to Emmaus.
We need to recover the importance of gathering with our family and with people around our tables for the purpose of enjoying a meal as both a gift and means of fellowship and encouragement. Such gatherings don’t need to involve lavish spreads. They can, in fact, be quite simple. But they are those meals where we gather with guests and get a glimpse of the banquet of the kingdom to come, those meals where we get a little foretaste of the shalom of God. (I use the word Shalom as we don't seem to have an English word that singularly embraces it all). A Hebrew word meaning peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquility.
So let me encourage you to make a concerted effort in two areas:
1. In your home, enjoy your meal time around a table as opposed to in the lounge watching tv, and conclude your evening mealtime with a scripture reading and family prayer time.
2. Think of someone each month that you can invite to share in your meal with you as you enjoy the meal the Lord has provided, and encourage them.
When speaking to people during this Lockdown period of the Corona pandemic, I have found that some folk harbor bitterness and unforgiveness towards a friend or family member. In some cases these go back years and often seems to happen around times of grief over the loss of a loved one.
Forgiveness is getting your heart right with God by making the choice to forgive others and by receiving His forgiveness.
Forgiveness does not mean you are relieving someone of responsibility for his or her actions. Forgiveness does not necessarily mean you trust that person. Forgiveness is the act of letting God’s love flow through you.
Think about the above definition for a moment.
Doug Easterday says, “You’re not alleviating responsibility from anyone by forgiving them. You are transferring it to where it really belongs and that’s with God. They will answer to God someday, but if you’re requiring them to answer to you, then you have as big a problem as they do.”
Forgiveness is obedience to God.
“Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven’” (Matthew 18:21-22 NKJV).
Lord, it is only by Your power that I can forgive. Keep me from destroying myself with unforgiveness. Amen.
Greetings Knysna Community & Lagoonside Church Family
This Sunday the 26th July, we will be opening the doors for Church Fellowship.
We will be having our meetings 10 am Sundays. Should you be considering joining us at church then please read the following guidelines we will be following:
Notice Guidelines For Convening for Church at the Building
Between Services all surfaces like tables and chairs etc to be sanitized including kitchen counters and toilet facilities.
We will maintain a Register of attendees. Kindly send Kristen the following information once off for each of you that will attend :
(a) Full names;
(b) Residential address;
(c) Contact Details: cell number, telephone number or e-mail address
Any form of socialising should be done only outside and 1.5m apart
Where places of worship remain open to the public for visits, prayer or counselling, No substance or liquid may be shared between persons.
We thank you in advance and look forward to seeing those who come.
Those who remain home, we will continue to service you via current media being used. Should you have a friend or family member you would like to be included in on that format, send us their details to incorporate them.
We thank the Lord for His continued grace each day!
Dealing With Your Anger
Chances are, almost everyone here was angry at least once this past week. It may have been minor frustration with another driver or being irritated with your kids for not putting away their toys. It could have been a situation at work. Some husbands and wives live with daily anger and hurt feelings. Some parents and their children are in a constant battle of outbursts of anger and abusive words. Many adults have hurts from childhood that keep bubbling to the surface. Every time they think about them, they seethe with anger.
Don't be thinking you don't get angry or downplay it. In The Christian Counsellor's Manual ([Baker], p. 359), Jay Adams states, “Anger is a problem for every Christian; sinful anger is probably involved in 90 percent of all counselling problems.”
Think of what would happen if everyone learned to deal with their anger! Child abuse and divorce would be eradicated. Murder, terrorism, and war would stop. And many health problems would clear up. Doctors believe that anger can harm the heart as much as smoking and high blood pressure do. The number one predictor in cardiovascular disease—more important than cholesterol—is mismanaged anger. Besides high blood pressure and heart disease, anger can result in many other serious health problems. So our text is very practical. Paul says, Christians must put aside all sinful anger and abusive speech.
Col 3:8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
If you’re honest, your reaction to this verse is probably, “I agree! But, really, how do you do it?” It’s easy to say, “Put all your anger and abusive speech aside.” But it’s another thing to do it!
Paul’s advice here reminds me of the hilarious Bob Newhart routine where he is a psychologist and a woman comes for counsel because she is afraid of being buried alive in a box. (Watch it on You Tube when you need a good laugh.) Newhart’s counsel for her phobia, plus several other problems, consists of two words: “Stop it!” He screams it at her over and over, “Just stop it!” She tries to bring up how her mother treated her as a child, but Newhart says, “No, we don’t go there. Just stop it!”
Well, here Paul seems to say, “You’re angry? Just stop it!” “But, Paul, when I was a child, my parents abused me. So now I seethe with anger.” “Put it all aside!”
“But, Paul, my wife nags me constantly until I explode with anger.” “Put it all aside!”
“But Paul, my husband is a workaholic who leaves all the housework and dealing with the kids to me. He’s so inconsiderate! I’m so angry with him!” “Put it all aside!”
“But, Paul, my kids don’t do what I say, no matter how many times I ask them to do it. The only way I can get them to obey is to yell at them!” “Put it all aside!”
“But, Paul, you don’t understand. My boss at work favours his daughter who works for the company and he treats me unfairly. I get so angry. I just hate him!” “Put it all aside!”
It’s as if Paul had taken lessons from Bob Newhart! He doesn’t say that it will take years of psychotherapy to work through your anger issues. He doesn’t tell these new believers to sign up for an anger management class. He simply tells them, “Put it all aside.”
I wonder if we’ve made things more complicated than they need to be. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul writes to people from pagan backgrounds who had been involved in some pretty serious sins which undoubtedly left them wounded and scarred (Col. 3:5-7). They didn’t have study Bibles and Christian books on how to deal with anger. There were no video series by famous Christian counsellors. In fact, there were no Christian counsellors! There were no magazines offering self-help articles on anger management. And all Paul says is, “Put it all aside.” That’s amazing! What can we learn from this verse in the context of this letter?
1. Honestly analyze your anger to determine whether it is righteous, sinful, or mixed.
It is striking that in verse 6 Paul mentions the wrath of God, but then in verse 8 he tells us to put aside all anger and wrath (“anger” in v. 8 is the same Greek word as “wrath” in v. 6). But if God has wrath and He gets angry (Exod. 34:6; Ps. 7:6) and we are to be godly, then why do we need to put aside all wrath and anger?
In Colossians 4:16, Paul tells his readers to swap letters with the church in Laodicea. Many scholars think that Ephesians was a circular letter sent to all the churches in Asia Minor and that it’s the one he refers to as coming from Laodicea. If so, the Colossians also read it. In Ephesians 4:26 (quoting Psalm 4:4) Paul wrote, “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Then, a few verses later (Eph. 4:31), he told his readers to put aside all anger. These and other Scriptures show that anger can be either righteous or sinful. What’s the difference?
Righteous anger is the godly reaction to sin or injustice. God’s wrath is His settled opposition against sin. In fact, most biblical references to anger refer to God’s anger, not to human anger. Jesus was angry without sinning when He encountered unbelief and hypocrisy (Mark 3:5; John 2:14-17; Matt. 21:12-13; 23:13-33). If we become like Him, we, too, will be angry and feel hatred toward sin, hypocrisy, and injustice. In fact, when you hear of babies being slaughtered by abortion or of criminals going without proper punishment, it raises a righteous anger!
So the first step in dealing with your anger is to stop and honestly analyze it: Is it righteous anger, sinful anger, or a mixture of both? Think about why you’re angry. God used this approach with Cain when He asked, “Why are you angry?” (Gen. 4:6). God never asks questions to gain information, but rather to help the person think about the situation from God’s perspective. Cain was angry because God had rejected his sacrifice and he was jealous of his brother, whose sacrifice God had accepted. God went on to exhort Cain to do well and to warn him that sin was crouching at the door, ready to devour him. But Cain ignored God’s counsel and murdered his brother.
The prophet Jonah was angry because he wanted God to judge his enemies, but instead God had brought a revival and forgiven them. God specifically asked Jonah more than once, “Do you have good reason to be angry?” (Jon. 4:4, 9) Jonah angrily insisted that he did have good reason to be angry, but it’s obvious that he did not.
So, be careful! The Scottish hymn writer, George Matheson, said, “There are times when I do well to be angry, but I have mistaken the times.” It’s easy to justify sinful anger by claiming that it was righteous. And even legitimately righteous anger is often tainted by sinful anger.
The embarrassing truth is that when I analyze my anger, almost always it is rooted in selfishness: I didn’t get my way and I want my way! I didn’t get my rights and I demand my rights! So the first step in overcoming anger is to analyze it honestly before God by looking at why you were angry. If selfishness had any part in your anger, it was sinful.
But, maybe you’re thinking, “How is that helpful? Admitting that my anger was sinful only makes me feel guilty!” But, the good news is that the Bible has the solution for victory over sin! Thus …
2. You can control your sinful anger.
Christ died both to take away the guilt of our sins and to give us power through the indwelling Holy Spirit to overcome our sins. Paul’s simple command to put aside our anger implies that we can control it. He doesn’t make exceptions for those with short fuses or for those who have been victimized. He just says (Col. 3:8), “Put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.”
You may protest, “But the problem is, I can’t control it! I explode before I think about it. Telling me to stop being angry is like Bob Newhart telling that claustrophobic woman to stop it.” But that’s not true. I offer two proofs:
First, the Bible never commands us to do what we cannot do by the power of God’s indwelling Spirit. Besides Paul’s commands here and in Ephesians, there are many other direct commands in the Bible. The Book of Proverbs has well over a dozen verses about controlling anger (e.g., 12:18; 14:16, 17, 29; 15:1, 18; 16:32; 17:14; 19:11). God told Cain that he must master his sin and temptation (Gen. 4:7). While Cain probably did not have the Holy Spirit indwelling him, if he had cried out, “God, I can’t master my sin! Give me Your strength to obey You,” God graciously would have answered.
But all believers in Jesus Christ have the indwelling Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 12:13). In Galatians 5:19-21, Paul lists a number of deeds of the flesh, including “enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, and envying,” which all are related to sinful anger. He goes on (Gal. 5:22-23) to list the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control,” most of which are the opposite of sinful anger. The key to moving from the deeds of the flesh to the fruit of the Spirit is (Gal. 5:16): “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”
So while it may be humanly impossible to control your anger, if you’ll confess it as sin and learn to walk in the Spirit in obedience to God, you can control it or else God’s Word is not true. The word “fruit” implies that it is a growth process. These qualities require nurture and attention. But if, the second you feel anger welling up inside of you, you stop long enough to recognize it as sin, yield to the Holy Spirit, and rely on His strength, you will see increasing victories over your anger.
Second, your own experience proves that you can control your anger if you want to do so. Every one of us has controlled our anger—instantly turned it off—when we wanted to. For example, you’re having a heated argument with your spouse when the phone rings. You pick it up and hear my voice on the other end. “Oh, pastor! How nice of you to call!” What are you doing? Yes, you’re being a hypocrite! But, also, you’re controlling your anger! Or, your boss does something that makes your blood boil, but you know that if you explode at him, it will cost you your job. So you keep a lid on it. You’re controlling your anger. (I’m indebted to Adams, ibid., p. 352, note 8, for this basic idea.)
Even non-Christians can control their anger. Magazines like Reader’s Digest often feature self-help articles with tips on how to control your anger. Psychologists offer anger-management classes that must be somewhat effective or they would not continue to get students. Gandhi had a motto on his wall which read, “When you are in the right, you can afford to keep your temper; when you are in the wrong, you cannot afford to lose it.” So if the world without God can control anger, we who have the Holy Spirit living in us need to get rid of the excuse that we just can’t control our anger. That’s not true.
What is it we are to control? “Anger” and “wrath” are often used somewhat synonymously. If there is a difference, “anger” has the nuance of a settled, deep-seated animosity that grows into hatred. “Wrath” comes from the Greek word meaning, “to boil” and refers to outbursts of anger (Luke 4:28; Acts 19:28; Gal. 5:20). “Malice” is a general term for wickedness; here refers to, “Having it in for someone.”
“Slander” is the word used for blasphemy against God, which means to damage God’s honour or reputation. Here it means to speak against someone by tearing down their reputation. You make them look bad and yourself look good. “Abusive speech” means using insults, whether profanity or not, to put down another person. It’s the opposite of words that build up the other person and give him grace (Eph. 4:29). Our anger usually works its way out in angry words that tear into the other person. But Paul’s command shows that we don’t have to yell or use foul language that attacks the one we’re angry at. We can control our tongue, even when we’re angry, to bring grace and healing.
So the first step when you’re angry is to stop long enough to analyze it: Is it righteous, sinful, or mixed. Then, realize that you can control your sinful anger.
3. Recognize and confess your sinful anger and submit to God’s sovereign hand in the situation.
Before I can deal with my anger by putting these things aside, I’ve got to recognize that I am angry, that it’s sin, and that I’m responsible for it. If you’re really brave, ask your wife, “Am I an angry man?” But don’t get angry if she tells you the truth! So many Christians either deny being angry; or, they’ve bought into the psychological hogwash that says, “Feelings aren’t right or wrong; feelings just are.” So rather than confessing their anger as sin and turning from it, they accept it as okay. I’ve known of Christian counsellors who tell angry people that they have a right to be angry because of how they’ve been treated. Some even advise, “Tell God off! He can take it! Tell Him how angry you are with Him!” These are unbiblical, worldly strategies for dealing with anger.
God’s way is not for us to blame the person who wronged us or to justify our anger as right when it is sin. It’s never right to blame God for allowing some difficult situation that came into my life! Rather, when I’m angry I should acknowledge, “I have sinned” (2 Sam. 12:13; Ps. 51:4) Confessing it means accepting responsibility for it and taking appropriate action to turn from it. It means going to the one I was angry with and asking forgiveness. I must believe that God sovereignly out of His goodness allowed whatever happened to me for my good. So I must submit joyfully to His mighty hand (Gen. 50:20; Rom. 8:28; 1 Pet. 5:6-10), asking Him to teach me what I need to learn from this trial.
4. Deal radically and decisively with all of your sinful anger.
The command of verse 8 parallels that of verse 5, where Paul said to put these sins to death. “Put them aside,” was used of taking off a garment. In Colossians 3:12-14, Paul commands us to put on many godly behaviours, summarized by love. “Putting off” and “putting on” are decisive actions that we can and must do. The Holy Spirit produces His fruit of self-control in us, but we are responsible to walk in the Spirit so that we do not fulfil the deeds of the flesh, such as anger. A passive approach to anger doesn’t work. You’ve got to confront it head on; it won’t go away by itself.
To deal radically and decisively with anger, you’ve got to develop a biblical strategy. First (and foremost!), make sure that you’ve trusted in Jesus Christ to forgive your sins and give you eternal life. The minute you believe in Jesus, you receive the Holy Spirit who takes up permanent residence in your heart. Then you need to learn to walk in moment by moment dependence on the Spirit, yielding control of your life to Him.
Also, memorize key Scriptures that relate to anger. Proverbs 12:18 states, “There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” You can use your tongue like a sword to destroy or like a scalpel to heal. God has brought that verse to my mind many times just as I was ready to start swinging my “sword”! Another helpful verse is James 1:19-20, “But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” There are many other helpful verses that God can use, but only if you’ve committed them to memory. You won’t have a Bible and concordance available when you’re tempted to be angry!
If you have sinned by being angry, go to the person and humbly ask forgiveness for your wrong. If as husband and wife, you’ve argued angrily in the presence of your kids, call the family together. Men, take the initiative by telling your kids, “When I yelled at your mom, I sinned. I’ve asked God to forgive me and I asked your mother to forgive me. I want to learn how to please God by not getting angry in the future.” Ask your kids’ forgiveness when you get angry with them. Otherwise, they will smell hypocrisy: Dad claims to be a Christian and he puts on a good front at church, but he doesn’t act like a Christian at home!” Our homes should be permeated with the love of Christ, not with sinful anger.
Also, to conquer your anger, spend time daily meditating on God’s mercy to you at the cross. Paul goes on to say (Col. 3:12-13), “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” How did He forgive us? Paul already told us (Col. 2:13): “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions.” Now we are totally identified with Christ, who is our life (Col. 3:1-4)! Meditate on these wonderful truths daily!
Another way to deal decisively with anger is, pray for and with those you’re angry with. If a quarrel erupts in the family, husbands, take the initiative to say, “Hold on! Let’s stop and ask God for wisdom on how to resolve this His way.” Don’t preach at your mate or at your kids with your prayer: “Lord, please help my wife and kids not to be so angry!” Confess your own anger and ask the Lord to help you show His love to your family.
The point is, your anger won’t get better by itself if you don’t take radical, decisive action to put it aside. You’ve got to recognize that all sinful anger and abusive speech are not pleasing to the Lord. They’re old, dirty clothes, but they should be cast aside by the person who has died to the old life and has been raised up to new life with Christ. Don’t accept it or excuse it as normal. Anger can be controlled if you analyze it as to its source, recognize and confess it as sin, and deal decisively with it as you walk in the Spirit.
In the Sermon on the Mount, after speaking about how anger makes us guilty of murder in God's sight, deserving of hell, Jesus applied it by saying (Matt. 5:23-24), “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.” To paraphrase, “If you’re at church and you remember that you’re at odds with someone, God is more concerned about your being reconciled to that person than He is with your worship while you’re still at odds.”
Our relationships, especially in our families, are very important to the Lord! Don’t live in anger all week long and then put on a veneer of worshiping God on Sundays. He wants us to put aside the old, dirty clothes of sinful anger and abusive speech and to put on the new, clean clothes of love, kindness, and forgiveness in Christ. The Lord’s Supper is a frequent reminder of how He forgave us. Even so, we are to forgive and love one another.
Is Paul’s command to put aside all anger simplistic? How much do we need to probe the past to resolve our anger issues?
What has been the most difficult aspect for you in controlling your anger? How can you deal with it?
Since anger is largely a feeling, how can God command us not to be angry? Can we control our feelings? At what point do our angry feelings become sin?
God asks Cain (Gen. 4:6), “Why are you angry?” How can asking yourself that question help you deal with your anger?