Clearly Defined

Ephesians 4: 31 – 32

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.

In verse thirty, Paul told us to grieve not the Holy Spirit of God. His very next words seek to further instruct us in how to avoid distressing God’s Spirit. Put all of these things away from you; bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander and malice. Don’t have them around you at all because they should not be part of the mature Christian’s walk.

Most of us know, or at least have a good idea what bitterness, wrath and anger are but I found that I was reading right over clamor without giving it much attention. Then slander stands out to me because it refers to the spoken word, reminding us again about the words of our mouth. Then there is malice, about which most have a rough idea as to its meaning.

Stopping to look up each of these words in the dictionary, I realized that there is much more meaning in this scripture than we might, at first reading, appreciate. Look at the Webster’s definition for each of these terms.

Bitterness: sharp and disagreeable; harsh; severe; piercing. 2) characterized by strong feelings of hatred, resentment, cynicism.

Wrath: intense anger; rage; fury 2) any action carried out in great anger especially for punishment or vengeance.

Anger: a feeling of displeasure resulting from injury, mistreatment, opposition, etc., and usually showing itself in a desire to fight back at the supposed cause of this feeling.

Clamor: a loud outcry; uproar 2) a vehement, continued expression of the general feeling or of public opinion; loud demand or complaint. In its verb form – to make a clamor- cry out, demand, or complain noisily.

Slander: the utterance in the presence of another person of a false statement or statements, damaging to a third person’s character or reputation.

Malice: active ill will; desire to harm another or to do mischief; spite. 2) evil intent.

One can easily see the consistency in Paul’s discourse. Here he is again encouraging us to curb our language and restrain our tempers. This verse expounds on what he wrote in the previous text. Here we go deeper into the meanings of his former instructions. We see that clamor amounts to complaining and I think the idea of loud complaining draws up an image with which we are all familiar.

We are not to be cynical and skeptical. We are not to complain about others or speak in a way that is disparaging to their character. Well, we know that from verse 29 which says to only use our words in a way which edifies others. We are not to be harsh or sharp which means we are to be gentle. Nor are we supposed to strike back from a sense of being wronged. Staying apart from wrath includes avoiding any action carried out in anger.

I encourage you to keep this list for the future so that you can look back at it from time to time. These definitions will have different meaning for you at different moments of your development. You will see different significance depending on what is going on in your life at the time. The message that I think will consistently ring out through these words is, “Get a tight rein on your words and your anger.” Those two ideas are embedded in the definition of the six words.

Lastly, the definition above for slander is the world’s definition. I would suggest that God’s instruction to us may draw us to a higher standard than the legal definition of slander. In the legal sense, one must utter false statements in the hearing of another which have the effect of damaging a third person’s reputation. I believe God would even restrain you from speaking true statements about someone else that have the effect of damaging a person’s reputation. This is especially true when your motive is to tear them down or damage their image in the eyes of someone else. Please recall that we are instructed to only say those things which are good for edification of others. Therefore, even if the statements you make are true, if you are harming another in the utterance of them or you have the intent to harm them or their reputation, then I believe you are in disobedience to God and risk grieving the Holy Spirit. Keep your words holy because Jesus is “The Word” and He is holy.

Edifying Moment

Ephesians 4: 29

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.

We left off last week, in our Ephesians series, talking about how to react when angered. Here is what Father God would have you do when you are angry. Rather than giving place to the devil we are supposed to say things which are edifying. To edify means to build up. In other words, we are to speak those words which build up others rather than tearing them down.

Now really, this is not hard to understand, just kinda hard to do at times, but with Jesus all things are possible. I do not begin to say that you should do this in your own strength but rather that you should surrender your will to Jesus and let Him be the graciousness you need. And do you see that God will give all grace to all who are in need? He will fill the space with his grace where previously your old self would have filled the air with blue streaks. Now by humility and prayer a bad situation becomes a time of grace and blessing. When you yield your will to God, He is able to take all that is bad and turn it into the beauty of who He is.

In your time of need, before you give voice to your emotions, pray for the Lord of Hosts to be God of the situation, God of the moment and God of all that you are. Pray for Him to move in His grace rather than you moving in your emotions. You will see incredible moves of the Lord when you yield to His leading in such times.

Angry Expression

Ephesians 4: 26 -27

Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.

This is the verse I have been working my way towards for several days now. The point of all of this is for Paul to tell us not to give the devil an opportunity in our lives. An opportunity for what? Well, Jesus told us in John 10: 10 that the devil comes only to steal, kill and destroy. Therefore, we want to keep the door closed to the devil so that he cannot kill us, steal from us or otherwise destroy us, our families or our lives. That is what all of this has been building up to.

We saw Paul teaching the Ephesian church to put away their old selves in which they were deceived by the lusts and desires that the devil tempts with. He told them in putting away their old selves they should put on the new self that was purchased by the shed blood of Jesus. It is that blood by which we have become the righteousness of God. We are to live in truth, which is Christ, and put aside, for all time, the ways of the devil. We are to walk like Jesus rather than act like the devil. Then Paul sets the anchor pin by telling us not to give into anger.

Culturally we have completely overlooked this command. We constantly vent our anger and act out. Many people have heard the first two words of verse 26 but stopped there. We’ve got to read to the end. Paul knows that you are going to feel anger at times, but he is telling you not to give vent to it. Keep your mouth shut. Don’t rage, don’t tell everyone and their brother about this thing that has angered you or the person that you think has done you wrong.

He just finished telling us that we are the righteousness of God and holiness through the truth which is Christ. Do you think he is then telling us to allow anger to run amok in our life? Surely not. No, rather in verse 29 he goes on to say, “let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth” which is exactly what will happen if you let anger have its way with you. When you open your mouth you are going to give the devil something to work with and he is going to run amok with it.

I want you to see the completeness and the construction of Paul’s instruction. He is showing us how to overcome the devil’s machinations. He is protecting his own flock by showing them how to defeat the wiles of the devil. Don’t give anger a place in your life. Put that anger down. Do not carry it into the next day. For that matter, you are to overcome the anger before the sun sets. Do not let that anger rule you. As soon as you let the anger have expression in your life you are going to say things you ought not, and you are going to give the devil an opportunity. And believe you me, if you give him an opportunity, he is going to take it. He is going to steal something from you. Let the expression of anger and lying lips be part of the old man that you bury forever. Put on the truth and righteousness of Jesus so that you may live a life of victory over the trickery of the devil. Be free from the sin that continually binds you to disappointment, frustration and defeat. Receive this instruction into your spirit from a loving Father who gives it as a means to protect you.

Fear Fueled

Ephesians 4: 26

Be angry, and yet do not sin.

Fear is like anger because it has the potential to engulf you in sin and self-destruction. That is why I have chosen this verse to talk about fear. Fear is a horrible contagion; it contaminates all it touches. If you give fear any place in your life, it will seek to invade all your life. All of Job’s troubles came about because of his fear. He said, “For what I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me,” (Job 3: 25). Fortunately, he learned this important lesson about fear.

One of the keys in not sinning when you feel angry is to keep your mouth shut. This same key is super important when it comes to fear too. I want you not to be in fear, but the truth is that there are moments which seize the heart. As you work your way out of that fear, you need to very carefully guard your mouth. When it comes to anger, one of the biggest ways we sin is in what we say. When it comes to fear, we set things in motion with our words.

What you think about often is what you draw to you. If you are ruminating on fear-based ideas, you will begin to create a habitat for them. Then, before you know it, you begin to speak fear-based language. That is the proverbial straw which breaks the camels back. Don’t give voice to those fears because you will solidify them. Instead, go to your Bible and find scriptures which instill confidence and faith. Speak them, meditate on them. Go over them until they go down into your spirit and battle the fear at its root. Only faith can flush out fear and faith comes by the Word of God. It is a pretty simple formula actually, but you know how fear can paralyze a person. Don’t let fear get a firm hold on you. Fight it with the Word of God. Let the words of your mouth be the Word of God instead of those frightful thoughts that are running through your mind.

Take the fearful thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ. They have no part with you. Fear is not faith and you are a person of faith. Don’t be critical or judgmental, though, if you feel some fear. That is called being normal. Just don’t marinate your spirit in that stuff. Find the way out by calling on the Word of God. And, whatever you do, don’t give fear life by speaking it out. It is fine to talk with your Father and tell Him what you are feeling. He can help with that. But, don’t talk about all the things that can go wrong. Don’t speak out what you are afraid might happen. Say what God’s Word says. Your heart will feel much better and you will stand on safer ground.

Anger, Worry Flee from Me

Psalm 37: 8

Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; do not fret, it leads only to evildoing.

Here is the word of the Lord on worry and anger. It is pretty clear. It says don’t do it; don’t worry, don’t give in to anger. Now what part of that is difficult? Well, sometimes the hard part is in the execution of what God has directed us to do, rather than in the understanding. There is help in that though. First, God will never tell you to do something that He has not already empowered you to do. So, take some comfort there. Secondly, if He has told you to do it, then He will also help you. He never tells you something to do without making His resources available to you. You do not have to use will power to control your anger, you use His will power. Pray for His help and then let Him help you.

And as for worry, nothing good comes of it. Put worry away and don’t let it control your life any longer. Don’t waste your time and energy. Ask for help daily if need be and determine that you are not going to be a worrier. Anytime you feel yourself slipping, call on God to rescue you.

Lastly, God tells us that abiding in worry or anger leads to evil deeds. Worry and anger are ungodly thoughts and ungodly thoughts lead to ungodly acts. It is that simple. That is not to say that you will never feel anger nor be plagued by worry. It means that you must take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ Jesus. When those thoughts assail you counter them with the Word of God. You can hang them on this verse from today. You say, “Worry, I declare Psalm 37: 8 to you and command you to be gone in the name of Jesus.” The worry, anxiety, fear or anger must, and will, flee. Beware, though, for it can come back within moments. When it does, you just speak these words again. Say, “Worry, I told you to be gone. Psalm 37 tells me that I am not the prisoner of you. Now leave.” Just keep at it until the worry, fear or anger is convinced that you mean what you say. Those negative feelings and thoughts have to obey the Word of God. Be free of those chains of fear, anger and worry. Be free in Jesus’ name.

Saved from Wrath

1 Thessalonians 5: 9

For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

It surprises me that there is still confusion over God’s feelings towards us. Even people who have John 3: 16 memorized still talk about God’s wrath and about how He is going to pour out His wrath upon us. Well, this verse would seem to lay aside that perspective in favor of a God who loves us and intended to save us, even to save us from Wrath.

God is love (1 John 4: 8) and everything He does is from the vantage of love. Our crimes demanded punishment but because He wanted to spare us from our just due, He sent Jesus to take all of the punishment, all of the wrath upon himself. We have been pardoned. The jail cell doors are thrown open wide. We are free. We are excused from the prison cell and invited into the throne room. God saved us from the sentence levied against us by condemning Jesus. Therefore, we are no longer destined to or for wrath but rather our destinies are salvation, love, hope and peace through the grace of our Father and the triumph of Jesus’ sacrifice.

Love is in the house. Love demands kindness, not wrath. Love demands gentleness. Let’s get a revelation of our Father. He is gentle and kind, not angry. Any anger He had, He poured out on Jesus. Sometimes I think we do “Him” a disfavor by attributing the male pronoun to Him because the Bible reveals that He is male and female. Were we able to comprehend Him in His fullness, I think it would be easier for us to attribute His nurturing nature to His every thought and gesture. He is the strong warrior who protects us from the storm but He is every bit the tender soul who cuddles us in warmth and affection. He is the most emotionally expressive person you will ever meet. In fact, He is so effusive with His declarations of love that He will embarrass you.

You were not destined to endure anger or wrath. You were and are destined for greatness in Christ Jesus through the love and salvation bought for you at the cross and in truth, at the dawn of time. You are destined to sit on your heavenly parent’s knee and receive comfort and the outpouring of incomprehensible love. Receive love and abandon fear of wrath. Receive the fullness of Salvation.

God is . . . not provoked

1 Corinthians 13: 4 – 5

Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked.

How would you like it every person who loves you loved you so much that they could not be provoked? That is an amazing thought. Some people have a concept of God being an angry God. All I can say to that is, “They don’t know Him.” The Word says that He is not provoked to anger and I believe this to be true because I think I have tested the theory sufficiently. The mere fact that some of us are still on the planet instead of vaporized speaks to God’s unwavering patience.

God is not reactionary. He decided to love us long before we were born to the earth. Furthermore, He knew what He was getting back in the beginning. It’s not like our shortcomings are some big surprise to Him. He loved us and chose us before He sent Jesus to the cross. Consider this for a moment. When faced with the decision of sending His beloved to the earth to die for you and I He considered what He would get; He looked into the future and saw us and sent Him anyway. So, how can He be provoked now? He is not surprised though He may grieve a little from time to time but He also appointed an intercessor for us who would pray without ceasing. That intercessor is Jesus.

No matter what we do; regardless of the boneheaded things we may say, our Father loves us infinitely. He loves us with a love so pure that it shines and saves. It contains His glory and His radiance and it is this that, more than anything else, He wishes to rain on us. He just wants to love His kids with an active love.

So, don’t worry if you blew it yesterday. You did not provoke Him to anger. I can promise you that. And if you make a monster blunder tomorrow, He has already considered it and decided to love you unequivocally anyway. Can I tell you the truth? Your sins are not big enough to provoke the Father. I am not saying they make Him happy but the blood of Jesus shouts louder than anything you can ever do. It sings to God on your behalf. You are the beloved of God. I don’t want you to sin, but more importantly I want you to know that your sin is not bigger than God’s love for you. You are safe because love cannot be provoked, therefore, God is not provoked.