Bowing & Doubting

Great Commission #1

I want to spend this week on the blog focusing on the Great Commission left to us by Jesus Himself. Matthew’s Gospel records a set of commands which Jesus gave to His disciples, and these extend to us as well. They have become very familiar words, and the phrase “Great Commission” is famous among churches. But do we really know what it means?

If I asked you to sum up the Great Commission, what would you say? I wager that most would answer by saying, “Telling others about Jesus!” This is true, in a broad sense, but the Great Commission is rather more specific than that.

Matthew’s Gospel records the following:

But the eleven disciples went into Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had sent them. 17 When they saw him, they bowed down to him; but some doubted. 18 Jesus came to them and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Matthew 28:16-20 (WEB)

Bowing and Doubting

After Jesus’ death and resurrection, He makes an appointment with His disciples to meet Him in Galilee. This is a town in the north of Israel, and meant the disciples having to travel up from Jerusalem after Jesus’ death.

Before we examine Jesus’ commands,, let us first look at the important words leading up to them.

Verse 16 shows us that they went to Galilee, and then up the mountain as agreed. There, Jesus appears to them, and it records that they bow down. This, to me at least, implies that all eleven of them did indeed bow to the Risen Lord. They recognised Him, and not just the Person of Jesus, but His now revealed power and stature as the Risen Christ. Recognising His divinity will be important when we consider Jesus’ authority in a moment.

Then, verse 17 makes a note that many of us may skip over. Some of them doubted… This is astonishing to me. This is not some large group barely familiar with Jesus, but the Eleven, the inner circle. They have travelled with Jesus for three years, seeing Him heal and raise the dead. They watched as He was crucified, and yet now stands before them, alive and well. Still, some of them doubted.

They all bowed, but some of them doubted. Faith and doubt are not mutually exclusive it seems #Bible #Jesus #GreatCommission

What this says to me is that faith and doubt are not mutually exclusive. We can have faith at the same time we are wrestling with doubt. Putting it another way, faith is not the absence of doubt, and nor is doubt the absence of faith.

We know that these men went on to die for what they believed, and some in horrendous ways such as Peter who was crucified upside down. Despite having “doubts” they did not allow them to hamper their world-changing faith.

For us, I think the lesson is that it is ok to have questions. There is much we do not understand, and it is simply not possible to have all the answers before we commit to Jesus. We should take our questions to the Lord and prayerfully seek the truth.

All Authority

Jesus came to them and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.

Matthew 28:18 (WEB)

Before we examine Jesus’ commission to us in the coming days, we must first understand His authority. Here, He states quite clearly that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him. That means, simply put, He is in charge.

Jesus does not offer guidance here, nor advice, nor encouragement. Instead, He sets out His total authority over all things and then tells us what to do. It is not optional, and we cannot ignore it.

Consider if you went to court and the judge ordered you to do something. It is not optional for you, but the authority of the court now compels you to follow its instructions. To not comply could lead to hefty fines or worse incarceration.

When Jesus gives us these commands, He expects them to be followed and He is backed by all authority under heaven. Do we treat His words accordingly?

The point I want to make, as we begin this series, is to understand that Jesus sets out His authority because He expects us to do what He says. We will look at what is involved in this in the coming days, but let us begin by submitting to His authority, and deciding in our hearts that we will do whatever it is He is about to ask us.

What will you do?

At the end of each post on the Great Commission, I will ask you this question: what will you do in response to what you have read?

Today, I ask:

  • How can you bow down to the Risen Christ?
  • Do you have doubts? If so, how can you bring them to the Lord?
  • Are you prepared to fully submit yourself to Jesus’ authority? Be honest, and take the answer to God in prayer.

Don’t Speak Out of Your Pain (Best of 2021)

You have probably heard it said that people don’t always mean what they say when they are angry. Perhaps, you’ve even said things you didn’t mean when emotions were running high? Among other things, I’m quite certain the Apostle Paul had such things in mind when he wrote these words from Ephesians: Be angry, and…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2021/05/07/dont-speak-out-of-your-pain/

A Protective Father – Andy Brown

Last year, I wrote a series of blog posts on the early part of the book of acts. The below post, which is about a protective father seems appropriate for this fathers day!

To all of the fathers out there, I wish you a very happy Father’s Day! It is both a very difficult and very rewarding job to raise children in this difficult world. Be encouraged and God bless you and your children today.

At long last, we move on to Acts 5. This chapter opens with a rather disturbing set of events, and I want to try to shed some light on what is happening here. This particular passage is a difficult one, and I admit to having struggled with it for many years. I will explain why,…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2020/06/16/a-protective-father/

Sudden Disaster

You need not be afraid of sudden disaster

    or the destruction that comes upon the wicked,

26 for the Lord is your security.

    He will keep your foot from being caught in a trap.

Proverbs 3:25-26 (NLT)

Reading the third chapter of Proverbs this week, this particular couplet of verses jumped out at me. Have no fear of sudden disaster, the word directs us, and yet I find myself often drifting into fearing the worst, or worst-case scenarios. My anxious mind wanders into negative places, and I start playing the “what if” game. Minutes can go by, and in my head I’ve crafted unlikely situations and pushed them out to their extremities, no matter how implausible.

When I read this verse yesterday morning, I realise that I do fear sudden disaster more often than I care to admit.

I do not mind telling you that I am prone to anxiety, and indeed have suffered with it at times. Anxiety is more than just worry, although it may start that way. Anxiety can be crippling, and it can cause us to shut down almost completely. There have been times when I’ve felt a knot in my stomach; a nervousness that I couldn’t explain. Perhaps you have experienced something similar yourself, or know others who have.

Sadly, it is all too common these days. Stress, anxiety, and depression affect many people in a whole host of ways. I am no psychologist, and of course if you need help with any of these things, do go and see your doctor.

These verses help us though, and so I want to consider them today.

They firstly say we need not fear sudden disaster, nor the destruction which falls upon the wicked. Why not? Because of what is said in verse 26.

The Lord is your security. That’s the key right there. We desire security in many respects. We want our homes to be secure from break in. We want our jobs to be secure from loss or redundancy. We want our family to be secure from harm – in this life and the next. We want to feel and be secure in all aspects of life.

When we feel anxious, or fear sudden disaster, we do not feel secure. We feel there is a threat, known or unknown, which may befall us. What if I lose my job? What if I get injured? What if my spouse leaves me? What if… fill in the blank for you.

Yet God is our security. He is our fortress and high tower. In Him, we need not fear these things.

Don’t misunderstand, this is not a cast iron promise that nothing bad will ever happen. Life itself is proof of that fact. But the Bible is no liar, and we must understand what it means for the Lord to “be our security”.

Security in Christ means that no matter what happens in this life a) He will be right there with us, and b) We have eternal security that can never be stolen or damaged.

In this life, we will face trouble and danger. If you don’t believe me, just live. That’s not to be negative of course, but things just go wrong in this fallen world full of fallen people. If we stick with Christ however, we know that He will never leave us nor forsake us. We know that no matter what happens on this earth, He is working for the good of His people who are called according to His purpose. What happens to you may not be “good”, but we can trust God to bring good out of it.

I believe He wants us to have a good life here on the earth. Like any good Father, He wants us to have blessings and live a good and enjoyable life. Our enjoyment is not His primary concern though, and that’s the thing we forget sometimes. God deserves and will obtain maximum glory for Himself, and if that means us going through a time of trial, then so be it.

God also takes a longer perspective than us. While we go through trouble, it may feel like the end of the world to us. And even if it is, there is a new world to look forward to in eternity. Even if it was not true that God wants to bless us here on earth, we have a home in heaven to look forward to. That will compensate for any discomfort, trial or trouble we face while alive on the earth. A life of 80 or 90 years is a mere blip next to eternity.

So, returning to the passage at hand (I hadn’t forgotten!). We need not fear sudden disaster because the Lord is our security. We can trust Him to bring good into our lives, and know that the bad also has a purpose. Our security in Him is eternal, and not temporal.

This truth, if we accept and rejoice in it, is hugely comforting. I need not fear sudden disaster because firstly, it might never happen, and secondly because there is a heavenly eternity to focus on. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. Nothing. That being the case, we need not fear sudden disaster coming upon us.

The Rule of Six

Here in the UK, the government have now introduced a new rule known as “The Rule of Six,” which means that outside of work or other specific situations, no more than six individuals should meet together. This is an attempt at preventing further spread of COVID-19 which is on the rise across the country right now.

Some have questioned the new rules, accusing the Government of having no science to back this up. While true, there are no scientific papers to support the idea of six people being anything other than an arbitrary number, it is more a practical decision. Previous rules were somewhat confusing about who could meet and when. The premise of the Rule of Six is to simplify things. Sadly I don’t think it has achieved that.

Our family is a family of six, which means we cannot all meet up with any other person or group. Some point to the absurdity of being able to work with a group of seven people but then not being to go out to lunch with them.

It is all rather easy to criticise the Government in this situation. They cannot get it right for trying. No one wanted a lockdown, and yet they were criticised for not locking down sooner. There is obvious contradiction in their seemingly random approach, encouraging us to eat out one minute and stay home the next. I do want to point out what a difficult job the Government have and it is right that we believers pray for them continually.

This is all well and good, but not exactly my usual approach to blogging. Typically I stick to the Bible and leave politics out. I make no comment here on the new or previous rules, and so turn to the Scripture in our uncertain times.

Whether deliberately or otherwise, a great sense of fear was created around this virus. We have never locked down before, and many – rightly – understood this to mean how serious the situation was. The subsequent consequences to the economy pose an equal or even greater threat, so steps are being made to try to undo the damage. Fear is not so easily dismissed as it is created.

We were not created for fear. In fact, we see that fear was the very first negative experienced by Adam and Eve after the Fall of humanity.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool[c] of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”[d] 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”

Genesis 3:8-10 (ESV)

Having eaten of the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve realised they were naked. They were just as naked before, but now, for the first time, took their eyes off of God and turned them on themselves. Sin entered the world, and the first emotion they felt was fear. There is no evidence of fear prior to this.

The Bible has much to say about fear – far more than I can ever say in this one short post. Suffice it to say that fear is not what God wants for His people. Fear often stops us obeying the Lord or doing what we know is right. Sometimes we fear other people and so don’t fully serve God, frightened of people’s judgement or criticism.

Many places in the Bible tell us not to fear. It does not necessarily mean do not feel the emotion of fear, but rather, do not allow the fear you feel to stop you doing what you know is right.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)

So how do we conquer fear? How do we master it in these fearful times? I could write a whole book on the subject, but hope these few points help.

We must start from the point of understanding that God does not want us to be afraid. Fear is a very real and powerful emotion at times, but we must harness it, not allowing it to drive us but instead God’s Spirit. As you act and speak this week, ask yourself if the words or deeds are driven by fear or the Holy Spirit.

We must pray through fear. Fear is not an easy foe at times, and so we must stand firm in prayer and draw on the strength of God. If you are facing a particularly frightening time, then please do seek God more and more. Often the thing we fear becomes tiny and insignificant as we compare it to the splendour and majesty of our God!

My final suggestion is to think through the consequences or outcomes of what you fear. For example, a couple of weeks ago I faced a situation which was quite scary. I knew it was coming and was getting anxious about it. As I thought about it however, I realised if it did not work out as I wanted, there were virtually no consequences. at all. Fear and worry about it was a major waste of energy. We play the “What if?” game which can be mentally draining. Many of the things we fear though have little consequence, and even fewer have eternal ramifications.

The world we live in can be a frightening place at times, but you do not face it alone. Fear can be beaten, and we do so in the strength of our Lord. What do you fear right now? Talk to God about it and fight that fear!

Fear Nothing (PoW)

Pearls of Wisdom

Fear nothing, except God Himself

We are often afraid of many things in life. That fear can prevent us doing what we know is right. Often the fear of other people stops us doing or saying the things that God has prompted us to. Or worse, peer pressure leads us to do things we know are sinful.

The Bible has much to say about fear, and while I do not think the emotion of fear is prohibited in the Scripture, bowing down to it and letting it stop us certainly is.

When this life is over, and we stand before God, all those things we feared will seem rather insignificant. There is nothing to fear, except God Himself.

When we say “fear” these days, we simply mean things that we are scared of. Often people are afraid of spiders, heights or public speaking. This kind of fear is not what we were made for. God does not want His people to be afraid. Evolutionists explain fear as a safety mechanism, and yet we saw no sign of fear in Adam and Eve until after the Fall and sin entered the world.

Our Heavenly Father does not want us to fear Him in the sense of being afraid of Him. Rather, when we speak of fearing God, we mean a reverential fear. This is to highly respect God in His position of Sovereign Lord with the power of eternity in His hands.

Next to God, there is nothing worth fearing. If your fear is stopping you from serving God then cast it out today! Fear nothing, except God Himself!

Prayer Video #2

I was planning on writing a follow up to yesterday’s post – Spiritual Distancing #1– but actually felt I needed to record another prayer video today. Hope you enjoy it, and please join me in prayer.

You can find the first prayer video here – Praying for you. 

For some strange reason, the video looks upside down in the post preview… but when you play it, it comes out fine. Not sure why, but just wanted to point that out!

Please do send in any more prayer request, as I’d be glad to pray for you too.

God bless you and yours.

Conquering Fear (Audio)

Here is the audio from a sermon I gave a few weeks ago at a local women’s retreat. It is about Conquering Fear and comes from the passage in Mark 4 where Jesus calms the storm.

I’m sorry about the quality of the audio, and hope it doesn’t distract too much. My microphone seemed to pick up the traffic noise more than me for some reason! I also have my youngest daughter around to “help” me at times!

 

Receive Forgiveness

All the prophets testify to this: everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins through his name.

Acts 10:43 (ISV, emphasis added)

I don’t remember a time before I believed in God, but that doesn’t mean I was always a Christian. When I first started to hear about God, the truth is I was afraid. I was afraid that I wasn’t forgiven, and was really motivated by not wanting to pay for my sins in eternity – although I would have had little idea what that meant!

I remember going to bed at night asking God to forgive me for as much as I could remember. I’d go back through my day trying to recall every little thing I’d done wrong – likely forgetting most of it.

I was terrified that Jesus might return in the night, and that I hadn’t asked Him to forgive me for some thing or other. I’d ask over and over again, accutely aware of how bad I was. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a bad kid at all, I just felt that way when faced with the reality that there is a God who judges us.

The cycle would go on and on. I’d go about my day, make various mistakes along the way, then lay in bed at night asking God over and over to forgive me. I’d get up the next morning and do it all over again.

It was exhausting!

One day I listened to someone teaching who shared a very similar experience that they had gone through. At one time while they were repeatedly asking God to forgive them, God interrupted them to say – “I forgave you the first time you asked.”

This hit home to me.

My problem was not about asking for forgiveness, but rather about not receiving it from God

Truth be told, I had no real understanding of the cross or what Jesus had done for me. I didn’t know that God had washed me clean, and that I was a new creature in Christ. Through my ignorance of this, I just kept repeating the same request for forgiveness over and over, hoping God would be gracious enough to grant me my request.

In many ways, I was acting as though I was living under the Old Covenant as described in the Bible. I had no temple or animal sacrifice to make, but I kept coming back to the altar day after day, offering up my apologies and ever falling short of God’s glory. I was “hoping” for God’s mercy, and had no concept that it was already mine in Jesus.

Asking was not the issue; receiving was.

I don’t believe I am alone in this.

Perhaps it is not as obvious as what I am about to express, but our thought process goes something like this:

  1. We are conscious of a sin we have committed (how we have fallen short of God’s standards in some way)
  2. We ask for forgiveness
  3. If you ask us, then we’ll say that God has forgiven us
  4. We think it cannot be so easy, and so either plead our case or beat ourselves up.
  5. That “beating ourselves up” can last a few hours or days, depending on how serious the sin was (in our minds at least).
  6. Once we have “suffered” enough, or more accurately punished ourselves enough, we move on.

Does that seem in any way familiar to you?

If it does, then the Gospel really is good news for you!

The first two steps are healthy; when the Holy Spirit shows us we have sinned, it is right for us to ask God to forgive us.

Everything after that is wrong however.

If you sincerely ask God to forgive you, and put your trust in Jesus Christ, you can count on His mercy and receive your forgiveness. You don’t need to beg or plead, you can’t earn it, and all you need do is trust God.

We err when we stray into the third step and beyond.

It really is that easy! God is not making it hard for us to be forgiven. He does not put barriers in our path or frustrate us, rather He wants to forgive us far more than we want to be forgiven!

Beating ourselves up for something we have done wrong is an attempt by us to add to the cross of Christ. I’m certain we would not say that aloud, but it’s true. If we truly believed that Christ’s death at the cross was sufficient, then we would not need to add to it by punishing ourselves.

So what should we do?

He has no need to offer sacrifices every day like high priests do, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he sacrificed himself.

Hebrews 7:27 (ISV)

This verse speaks of Jesus. Firstly, He does not need to offer a sacrifice for Himself as He never once sinned against His Heavenly Father. Secondly, because He was the perfect Sacrifice, He does not need to offer Himself over and over again. Rather, Jesus did it once and for all.

When He cried out on the cross, “It is finished!” It really was.

I don’t believe that forgiveness is something you must keep refilling on. I think it is something God gives you once and it covers you for all eternity. Christ’s sacrifice was a one time event and will never be repeated. It never needs to be.

I rarely ask for forgiveness anymore, and certainly not because I get everything right! Instead, I thank God for the forgiveness He has already given me, and rejoice in that truth.

Don’t get me wrong, i’m not saying sin is not important and that we should not deal with it. Indeed we should. When the Holy Spirit reveals to us that we have fallen short in some way, we should thank Him. We confess the mistake we made, ask for His help to not do it again and thank Him for covering us in the blood of the Son.

There’s a good chance you will sin this week… same goes for me. Instead of beating yourself up and asking God over and over to forgive you, ask just once. Put your faith and trust in Christ and move on.

If you don’t, I can guarantee that you will spend more time thinking about it than God is.

For I will be merciful regarding their wrong deeds, and I will never again remember their sins.

Hebrews 8:12 (ISV)

Truly live in freedom this week. Jesus has dealt with your sins once and for all. You are clean and free! Rejoice in that truth! Don’t spend your time asking God to forgive you, instead receive the free gift He offers.

 

To find out more about the Gospel – good news about Jesus – check out my Resurrection Sunday blog post.

Don’t Let the Sun Go Down

Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:

Ephesians 4:26 (KJV)

In my last blog post, I began to explore the above verse and what it means. As I said last time, I’ve usually heard this taught as a call not to go to bed on an argument. Good advice this may be, but not necessarily what Paul is getting at.

We considered how the first part – Be angry and sin not – isn’t just an instruction not to let your anger get the better of you, but could also be read as a command to be angry.

You may have read this verse a hundred times in the past, and perhaps each time you read it, your brain said “Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry…” But what does it actually say?

It says – don’t let the sun go down on your wrath. Or to put it another way, don’t let your anger ever go out and grow dull.

I know this may seem like an odd idea, as surely the Bible teaches us to be loving and not to get angry. Can it really be a command to get and stay angry?

As we explored a little last time, anger is sometimes a right response. In the event of injustice or sin, we ought to be angry. Like God, we ought to hate sin and its effects on humanity. And while our sin may result in other people getting hurt, ultimately we are the ones who hurt the most as a result of sinfulness.

To truly love the good, we must also hate the bad. We must stand against sin in all of its forms. To do that, we need a holy anger, and one that does not go out.

Am I taking this verse out of context though? Is it correct to interpret it this way? I believe it is, but understand those who may disagree.

Context is always important when reading the Bible, and we ought never to take a single verse out of its proper context and form a doctrine out of it. Falsehood lies down that path.

Scripture should be interpreted in the light of other Scripture.

For some doctrines, we need to examine the entire Bible in order to see a complete picture. Of course we don’t have time or space to do this here, but lets look at this verse with it surrounding verses to get at least a small idea of context.

Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. 26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27 Neither give place to the devil.

Ephesians 4:25-27 (KJV)

Verse 25 is a clear instruction to put away lying, and to speak truth to each other. This can actually be quite difficult at times. “Do you like my outfit?” or “What do you think of my new hairstyle?” More importantly, when it comes to questions of advice or big decisions, “Should I take this job?” or “Do you think I should marry them?” an honest answer is not always easy to give, and often not the answer the asker really wants to hear.

So often we seek validation from others to agree with what we have already in mind to do. To give an alternative view can be tough.

Similarly, Paul could well be talking about correcting each other in a loving way. Often we leave it to the pastor or minister to address such matters, but indeed there is a role for each of us as part of a church family.

Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not giving you permission to walk up to just anyone in church and give them a lecture about how they ought to live – we must earn that right through a trusting relationship or as a loving member of church leadership.

But we must tackle sin. We must not just get by with it. So in speaking truth to one another, there may be times when we need a little righteous anger to stir us up to confront an issue. Again, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying we should get angry at people; rather we should be angry at sin.

Verse 27 is short and not so sweet. Don’t give the devil a foothold. Could it be that by not following the “command” to be angry, we somehow give the enemy a route into our lives?

It is a narrow path, with ditches on both sides. Err in either direction, and you’ll end up off the road!

What i mean is this. Anger which is uncontrolled or directed at people or things, can certainly give the devil a chance to wreck our lives. How many lives have been destroyed in one single moment of uncontrolled anger? How many men and women find themselves in prison for one slip of judgement allowing their temper to get the better of them?

I’m not giving anyone an excuse to be angry in an ungodly way here.

Equally though, when we reuse to be angry at sin or to have a righteous anger, we give the devil a foothold. If we co-operate with him, the enemy can destroy our lives. If you follow every temptation to do whatever you want, to commit adultery or murder or to steal or rob, your life will come to ruin.

We need to get angry at the devil

Therefore, submit yourselves to God. Resist the Devil, and he will run away from you.

James 4:7 (ISV)

James says that we must resist the devil. Often we ask God to do the resisting, but in reality it must be us who do so. We do that through prayer, our words and our actions. But notice, submission to God must come first. There is no sense in trying to resist the enemy if you are not submitting your life to Jesus.

Likewise, Jesus said:

From the days of John the Baptist until the present, the kingdom from heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people have been attacking it,

Matthew 11:12 (ISV)

The kingdom from heaven is forcefully advancing…

Christians ought not to be passive, weak or downtrodden. We are children of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in us. We should be advancing God’s kingdom with passion and determination. Not in our own strength, and certainly not without persecution but always pressing on.

So, Paul tells us to be angry and to never let the sun go down on our wrath. Are you advancing or just barely holding on? Do you need some righteous anger to take a stand against the enemy and resist his influence in your life?

Ask God to stir you up. Pray that He will help you to have a controlled anger that is pointed at the right things. Renew your mind in God’s Word and learn who you are in Christ. Don’t just put up with the enemy, resist him!

Don’t let the sun go down.

Be Angry

Be angry, yet do not sin.” Do not let the sun set while you are still angry,

Ephesians 4:26 (ISV)

I like the ISV Bible, but here’s that same verse from the KJV.

Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:

Ephesians 4:26 (KJV)

The KJV has a certain grandeur to it which other translations can lack at times. For every day reading however, I prefer a more contemporary version than the KJV with its “thee” and “thou” wording.

In this case, I find that the KJV is one of the closest to the Greek language. Many modern translations render this verse slightly differently, and even stray into interpetting it for us the reader.

Whenever I have heard this verse taught in the past, it goes something like this:

If you get into an argument with someone, try to settle the matter before you go to bed…

This is not bad advice at all, but I’m becoming less convinced that this is really what Paul was saying here.

Some translations actually bring forth the idea that we should deal with our “heated debates” before bedtime, and again, while that may be good advice, i’m not so sure that’s what the Scripture is really all about.

Take the Amplified Bible for instance, which is one I find very helpful at times. It says this:

Be angry [at sin—at immorality, at injustice, at ungodly behavior], yet do not sin; do not let your anger [cause you shame, nor allow it to] last until the sun goes down.

Ephesians 4:26 (Amp)

The first part of the verse is very similar to the KJV – advising us not to sin while angry. It specifies the kind of things we ought to be angry about, such as injustice. The latter part of the verse advises us not to let the sun go down while we are still angry.

In some respects, this is a contradiction. The first part appears to be encouraging us to “be angry” and then tells us not to “be angry” when the sun goes down. So what’s happening here?

I think this verse is going beyond advising us not to be angry during night hours.

Let’s work through this verse logically, and study the text itself rather than our usual interpretation.

Anger is not a sin

The first thing to note is that anger is not a sin. This verse clearly indicates that we can be in a state of anger, but without falling into sin.

Jesus Himself – who was without sin – got angry. He got very angry. In fact, He was so angry that He turned over tables and even had a “weapon”.

 In the Temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, as well as moneychangers sitting at their tables.  After making a whip out of cords, he drove all of them out of the Temple, including the sheep and the cattle. He scattered the coins of the moneychangers and knocked over their tables.

Then he told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

John 2:14-17 (ISV)

So we see clearly that Jesus was angry, and yet did not sin even once. This tells us that anger alone is not a sin.

The problem comes when our anger is directed at the wrong things, or gets out of control.

As the Amplified Bible expanded this verse, it showed that the target of our anger ought to be things such as injustice or sin. That’s why we were given anger in the first place – to take action when we recognise that someone or something is unjust.

When a child is killed by a drunk driver, or an elderly person is robbed at gunpoint, it is perfectly acceptable to be angry about such things.

The issue is when we direct that anger against the slow checkout attendant or the person who didn’t see us and cut us off in traffic. Frustrating as those things may be, they are not real reasons to get angry.

The way to test is to examine our selfishness. Chances are that if we are angry because of a selfish reason (such as having to wait) then that is not a righteous anger. Righteous anger is directed at ungodliness, sin or the devil. Other unrighteous anger is usually a result of our own selfishness.

Anger is a secondary emotion. No one ever gets angry without reason, there is always something that comes first. It may be offense, humiliation or fear that triggers it.

Perhaps you have children and get angry at them at times. Ask yourself why. It may be because of fear – they did something daft and were in danger of hurting themselves. It may be that they interrupted something you were doing, and “self” didn’t like it. If my anger is kindled against my children, it is often because “I” just want to sit down, or “i’ve” had a tough day. It is rarely anything to do with them.

Be Angry

While the verse is often interpreted as “don’t sin when you get cross,” it goes even further than that. Rather than just don’t sin, it’s a command to be angry.

Actually this is a quote from Psalm 4:4 –

Be angry, yet do not sin. Think about this[b] when upon your beds, and be silent.
Interlude

Psalm 4:4 (ISV, emphasis added)

Psalm 4 is a passionate plea to prayer. David starts off crying out to God, then to man, then to God about man and finally to man about God.

Paul grabs hold of this passion and says, “Be angry, and sin not.” One of the problems in the church today is that it is afraid to stand up and call sin by its name. We compromise our position, accepting the world’s way and either ignoring or dismissing the Bible, and people outside don’t always know what the church stands for.

It’s not enough just to love the good things, we must also hate the bad.

I once heard someone say that love and hate are two separate ends of the same stick. To truly love something, you must also hate the things that come against them. I don’t know if i wholeheartedly agree with this or not, but i certainly do understand that loving good is not the same as hating evil.

When we try to love good without hating evil, we end up accepting everything and standing for nothing. We end up with watered down doctrines and a church that looks like the world instead of the Word.

So Paul’s command to be angry is not by accident. This post has already gone longer than I planned, and I haven’t yet addressed the issue of going to bed while you are still angry! Let’s pick that up next time.

For now though, perhaps you are someone with a temper and you know that you need to bring it in line. Perhaps though, you are on the opposite end, and actually need to stir yourself up and start getting angry at sin and injustice. Perhaps – slightly confusingly – you are both, and need to redirect that temper towards the right things.

Do you need to be more or less angry this week? (At appropriate things of course) Do you need to have a serious think about the things that make you angry, and the things that don’t?