Once again we are going to look at a certain characteristic of the human race that is so widespread across the world, among people of all temperaments, nations, races and cultures, something that reaps havoc and destruction in homes and everywhere, and how God can deliver us from it. I am talking about anger.
In a previous study we saw how we give Satan an opportunity in our life if we don't forgive someone; an opportunity to get a foothold in our life to destroy us. The Bible says another thing that gives the devil an opportunity in our life is anger. Ephesians 4:26-27 says, "Be angry but don't sin... and don't let the sun go down on your anger and don't give the devil an opportunity." There is an anger that is sinful, and there is an anger that is not sinful. We read in Mark 3, when Jesus went into the synagogue, there was a man with a withered hand and the Pharisees were watching Jesus to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath day. When Jesus saw the lack of compassion on the part of these Pharisees, we read, "He looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart" (Mk. 3:5). He didn't lose control of Himself. If He had lost control of Himself, He would not have been grieved. He had grief and anger at these people. Jesus was angry when He saw the moneychangers making money in the name of religion in the temple. He drove them out. Again He did not lose control of Himself.
"The spirit filled man is full of self-control" (Gal. 5:24). He does not lose control of himself, but he may be angry when he sees people, like the Pharisees, lacking compassion for poor suffering people or when he sees people making money in the name of religion. Such anger, where it concerns the glory of God and the good of other people, is not sin. But anger that concerns ourselves; angry because somebody cheated me or somebody inconvenienced me or somebody disturbed my plans or made things difficult for me, or hurt me, all such anger is sin. When they slapped Jesus on the face and pulled out the hair from His beard, He never got angry. He never said anything. He forgave them.
So when it says be angry but don't sin, we need to recognize what type of anger is sin and what type isn't. Anger that has got nothing to do with us, but only with the glory of God and the good of others, it is righteous anger. But anger, because of anything connected with us, the way somebody treats me or hurts me, whatever it is, it is always sin. Then it goes on to say (Eph. 4:26), if you do sin in this way, make sure your anger doesn't stay with you for more than 12 hours. God recognizes that a lot of believers are not going to have victory over anger, because they are not wholehearted enough. If they were wholehearted, they would have victory over anger, the wrong type of anger. Because He knows that there are a lot of people who will not choose God's best, He offers them a second best for their salvation. He says, "Just make sure the sun doesn't set over your anger."
In those days, the day was divided into two parts, day and night in a different way that it is now. Day was 6 o'clock in the morning till 6 o'clock in the evening or sunset, and night was from sunset to sunrise next morning. So when it says here, don't let the sun go down on your anger, what it basically means is, don't go to sleep with your anger unresolved or unsettled. In those days, without electricity, people went to sleep in the sunset and woke up at sunrise. So the word for us today is, don't go to bed with some unresolved, unsettled anger still there in your heart. How careful people are to brush their teeth before they go to bed? Many people are careful just to ensure that leftover particles of food don't stay within the teeth and destroy their teeth. How much more careful we should be to make sure that some leftover bitterness or anger is not still there in our hearts, not cleansed away, when we go to sleep with that? This means that a husband and wife, even if they had a disagreement or a tension between them during the day, should settle it before they go to bed.
Very, very few believers, husband and wives, obey this exhortation. Do you lose your temper, do you get angry? Well, seek to overcome it. But until you do, make sure of one thing, that, at least, you settle the matter before you go to sleep. That is the absolute outer limit. Don't go beyond that. What shall we say then about believers who carry anger, bitterness, and hatred in their heart against others for days, months, and years? We have to say they have no fear of God; no respect for the word of God. When you let anger to stay in your heart, "You give the devil an opportunity" (Eph. 4:27). You are giving the devil a foothold in your life to destroy you, to control you, and to do something in your life to bring confusion. Don't give the devil an opportunity.
When you turn back to the beginning of the Bible, after Adam and Eve were thrown out of the Garden of Eden, we read that they had two children. They were not the only two, there were many others, but two of them are mentioned here, Cain and Abel. They both came and offered an offering to God. Abel offered a lamb and Cain offered some vegetables. The Lord accepted Abel and his offering (Gen. 4:4) but He did not accept Cain. There we read of the first sin mentioned after man left the Garden of Eden. No doubt Adam and others committed many sins before that, but the first sin mentioned in the Bible, after man got out of Eden, is anger. Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. You know, when a man is angry, you can see it in his face. He can't hide it. God has made our face in such a way that if you are angry, everybody will know it.
And the Lord said to him, 'Why are you angry? Why is your face like this? If you also do well and intend well, don't you think your face would be lifted up - you will be cheerful and not angry?' Cain did not listen. Because he didn't listen to God, when God tried to warn him, he went out and became a murderer. The Lord had said to him, "Sin is crouching at your door. It desires you - sin desires to have you. But you must master it" (Gen. 4:7). That is the first place in the Bible where you hear about victory over sin preached by God himself. God preached the first message on victory over sin. Sin desires you but you must master it, you must overcome it. There we see the importance of dealing with anger as soon as it comes and God warns us, even today, through the Holy Spirit. But Cain didn't listen. When you don't listen, sin just grows like a cancer. If you don't cut it out, it will be worse. And it finally became so bad he went and killed his brother.
So there we see how anger came out of jealousy. Here was Cain. He saw God blessing Abel and he couldn't stand it, particularly because Abel was younger. Are you jealous of someone, younger than you, being blessed mightily by the Lord? What is your attitude towards him? Do you rejoice like you should, if you are the member of the same body, or are you jealous that God is using him and not you? If so, you are evil. That jealousy will lead to anger and you never know what the final result will be. We read another example in 1 Samuel 18. It was a time when David had killed Goliath and all the women came out of the cities of Israel dancing and singing and saying, "Saul has slain his thousands and David his ten thousands" (1 Sam. 18:7). And just like it is said about Cain, it says about Saul, a man whom God had once chosen to be king that he became very angry, and eventually an evil spirit possessed him because he allowed this anger to go beyond limits. He was angry out of jealousy. He said, "They have ascribed ten thousands to David, but only thousands to me" (2 Sam. 18:8). And it came about in the next day an evil spirit came upon Saul. It is dangerous to let anger continue. It can lead to an evil spirit oppressing you. That is what we see here. It became so bad that Saul took a spear and tried to kill David. Anger can lead to murder. Of course, unlike Abel, David escaped.
Jesus Christ has come to save us from sin. Seek God with all of your heart to be totally free from anger. Ask God to deliver you from it completely, totally! Cry out to God every time you slip and fall. Go to God and say, 'Lord I have sinned, deliver me from this completely.' Don't take it lightly. Jesus can deliver you totally from this bad habit.