Righteousness Receives The Crown

“Gray hair is a crown of glory;

it is gained in a righteous life.”

Proverbs 16:31

Even at a very young age, C.H. Spurgeon was a great preacher. As pastors throughout the area became aware of how powerfully Spurgeon preached, they would invite him to come preach in their pulpits. One of the pastors that invited Spurgeon to come fill his pulpit was Mr. Sutton, of Cottenham. Though Sutton had never placed his eyes on Spurgeon, he was eager for Spurgeon to come preach one of his anniversary sermons.

When Sutton’s eyes finally landed on Spurgeon, Sutton was a bit shocked to find that Spurgeon was only a teenager. He immediately regretted inviting this boy preacher to come preach one of his anniversary sermons to a congregation that was jam packed in the sanctuary. The gray-haired Mr. Sutton told Spurgeon, “I shouldn’t have asked you here, had I known you were such a bit of a boy.” To which the young fiery eyed Spurgeon quipped, “I can go back as easily as I came.” Mr. Sutton, however, did not ask Spurgeon to leave. He unexcitedly went ahead and let Spurgeon address his congregation. Though he did rudely and impolitely let Spurgeon know that he didn’t expect much from a young preacher that still had his mother’s milk in his mouth!

When it came time for Spurgeon to preach, he picked up the book of Proverbs and read aloud, “Gray hair is a crown of glory” (16:31a). After reading he looked at the congregation and said, “I doubt it, for, this morning, I met with a man who has a hoary (gray) head, yet he has not learnt common civility to his fellow-men.” Then Spurgeon proceeded to read the second half of the verse, “it is gained in a righteous life” (16:31b). He then said boldly, “Ah! that’s another thing; a hoary head would then be a crown of glory, and, for the matter of that, so would a red head, or a head of any other color.” 

A Saucy Dog!

After these initial comments, Spurgeon went on to preach the sermon he had originally planned to herald. Mr. Sutton came up afterwards and said, “Bless your heart! I have been a minister nearly forty years, and I was never better pleased with a sermon in all my life, but you are the sauciest dog that ever barked in the pulpit.”

Spurgeon was a saucy dog, and this saucy dog taught Mr. Sutton two lessons that day. The first lesson was that gray hair is only a crown of glory when it is gained by years of righteous living. This is the main meaning of the proverb above. The second lesson was that a dark headed teenager with a passion for righteousness is worth listening to! This is an implication of the proverb that Spurgeon felt the freedom to draw out. For our purposes, we will focus on the main meaning.

Gray Hair – Crown of Glory

The Christian that lives a righteous life enters into his latter years with gray hair that is a crown of glory. They have spent decades meditating on and memorizing the Bible. Their constant devouring of the word of God allows them to speak the word of Christ to those around them. As they have lived in God’s world, God has refined and further conformed them into the image of Christ through fiery trials. Faced with difficult situations where it actually costs them to obey God, they have steadfastly remained faithful to Christ despite the costs.

Throughout all of this, God has slowly rid them of pride and produced within them ever increasing humility. They “flourish like the palm tree”, they “grow like a cedar”, and “they bear fruit in old age” (Psalm 92:12,14). Spending time with them is one of the greatest blessings in this earthly life. Their gray hair is a crown of glory, and those within the church ought to esteem them as paradigms of godly wisdom and virtue.

Gray Hair – Not Necessarily a Crown Of Glory

Nevertheless, just because a person is aged does not mean they possess the crown of glory. Apart from a righteous life, their gray hair is merely a crown that lies debased in the dust of the earth. Rather than living righteously to attain the crown of glory, they have lived wickedly storing up the wrath of God. Their “white hairs of ungodliness bespeak ripeness for wrath.” With this in mind, Charles Bridges said, “For what is a more lamentable spectacle, than a graceless old man.” Bridges is right. There is not a more lamentable sight that a graceless old man that has squandered decades of his life in service to the world, the flesh, and the devil.

This is not to say that the young are not to honor and respect even the ungodliest of older men. As followers of Christ, younger Christians should honor and respect them. However, nobody should be so foolish as to think that, just because someone is older, they possess godly wisdom, understanding, and counsel. If they have not live righteously, they lack the crown of glory that comes with old age. This means that Christians should not view them as paradigms of godly wisdom and virtue.

Justification-Catholics vs Protestants

Introduction

With this blog, I want to look at the difference between the Catholic Church’s understanding of justification and the biblical teaching regarding justification. That sounds condescending, but the Catholic Church gets justification wrong. This is one of the reasons for the Reformation in the 1500s. With that said, this blog will not be overwhelmingly comprehensive. There are much better resources out there to study this. However, this blog will aim to be helpful. Let’s begin with the Catholic Church’s understanding of justification.

Catholics on Justification

First, it is vitally important to note that the Catholic Church believes that the term justification means, “to make righteous.” Now, they are incorrect in their understanding here, as we will see later, but this is how they interpret the term justified.

With that said, the Catholic Church holds to the doctrine of original sin just like Protestants do. So, they believe that, “All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). They believe that, ever since Adam’s sin, we all have incurred guilt, condemnation, and a sin nature. That, in Adam’s sin, we all sinned because he is the representative of the human race. Protestants and Catholics are in agreement here.

However, Catholics believe that infant baptism brings about the conversion of the infant, forgiveness of sins, and the removal of the ramifications of original sin. Below you find proof of this from their own resources:

“Born with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin, children also have need of the new birth in Baptism to be freed from the power of darkness and brought into the realm of the freedom of the children of God, to which all men are called.”

Catholic doctrine goes on to say:

“By Baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin. In those who have been reborn nothing remains that would impede their entry into the Kingdom of God, neither Adam’s sin, nor personal sin, nor the consequences of sin, the gravest of which is separation from God.”

Thus, the Catholic Church is clearly saying that infant baptism saves people. God, through the baptism, converts the child, forgives the child of Adam’s sins and personal sins, and gives the child eternal life. Now let’s look specifically at how they believe the infant is justified in baptism.

They say, “Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy. Its purpose is the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life.” As you can see, for the Catholic, God confers justification to the individual, the infant, in baptism. And notice how they say that justification “conforms us to the righteousness of God.” This is where you see that justification, for the Catholic, means to make righteous.

Also, notice how justification, for the Catholic, is a lifelong process. Justification begins at baptism, but the individual is continually made inwardly just “or righteous” by the mercy of God. It is evident that baptism begins the justification process whereby you are made more and more righteous throughout the whole of life.

Secondly, the Catholic Church does not believe in a separate doctrine of sanctification like Protestants do. Rather, they believe that justification entails sanctification.

They say, “Justification entails the sanctification of the whole being.” From this statement we notice that, for justification to be complete, the whole person has to be sanctified. The whole person has to be made righteous. However, if the person is not completely sanctified, made righteous, upon death they go to purgatory in order to be purged of their remaining sin (for hundreds, thousands, or millions) of years until they are completely righteous. Then, after all that purging, they can finally appear before God.

Also, this is a key reason that they do not believe that people can have assurance of salvation. Since justification entails the sanctification of the whole person, nobody can actually be sure that they are justified. It ultimately depends on how much they toil and work for righteousness. And ultimately, how will they ever know if they have worked enough? They can’t. That is why they do not believe in assurance of salvation.

Also, at this point, it is helpful to mention this: The Catholic Church believes that some individuals can merit salvation for others. They say, “Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctificationfor the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life.”

As you can see, the Catholic Church believes that, by the Spirit, you are to work hard in order to merit the grace (strange use of words there…a bit contradictory if you ask me) needed for the ultimate attainment of eternal life. Then, as you keep reading, you’ll notice that they believe you can work hard and merit eternal life for other people. So, you are earning your own final justification and the final justification of others.

Lastly, since the Catholic church believes that initial justification comes at infant baptism and that it entails a process of being made righteous, individuals who fall into grave sin later on can lose that initial justification. Or, and this is the best-case scenario, they can go do confession with a priest and be given certain acts of penance in order to get that initial justification again so that they can start back on the process of being made righteous. You’ll see this in the quote below:

“Above all for those who, since Baptism, have fallen into grave sin, and have thus lost their baptismal grace and wounded ecclesial communion. It is to them that the sacrament of Penance offers a new possibility to convert and to recover the grace of justification. The Fathers of the Church present this sacrament as ‘the second plank [of salvation] after the shipwreck which is the loss of grace.’

In conclusion, the Catholic Church believes that the sacrament of baptism brings about initial justification, forgiveness of sins, and an infusion of righteousness that entails the sanctification of the whole person. Justification ultimately takes place throughout the whole of life and is a process of being made more and more righteous. This justification, depending upon your obedience or disobedience, may be lost, incomplete, or completed. Ultimately you can have no assurance that you are justified. You simply must toil and work seeking to merit final justification for both yourself and possibly for others. (If you are wanting to read more on Catholic doctrine then you can go here).

Protestants on Justification

Now let’s look at why Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and other reformers protested this aspect of Catholic doctrine and heralded that a sinner is justified by faith alone in Christ alone.

First, as men and women were looking at the Bible, they realized that the term “justified” did not mean, “to make righteous,” as the Catholic Church articulated. Rather, they saw that the term “justified” meant, “to declare righteous.” Let’s look at some biblical texts to see this:

  • Deuteronomy 25:1 “If there is a dispute between men and they come into court and the judges decide between them, acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty,”
    • Here, we see that a judge was to look at the innocent and justify him, declare him to be righteous, based off his innocence. And was to look at the guilty and declare him to be condemned based off his wrongdoing.
  • Proverbs 17:15 “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord.”
    • Here, we learn that declaring the wicked to be righteous is an abomination to the Lord. Also, to condemn the righteous is an abomination to the Lord. The Lord detest judicial verdicts contrary to reality. These are perversions of justice.
  • In Luke 7:29, after a teaching Jesus gives regarding John the Baptist, the Bible says, “When all the people heard this, and the tax collectors too, they declared God just.”
    • These people are not making God righteous, they are declaring him to be what He truly is. . .righteous.
  • Romans 5:1 “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
    • To remain consistent with Scripture, justified here means, “to declare righteous.” An individual is judicially declared righteous by faith in Christ.

As you can see, justified is used in the legal since. It is when a judge looks at an innocent individual and declares him to be righteous based off his innocence.

Secondly, since justified is a legal term and it means to declare someone to be righteous, it is not a process like the Catholic Church teaches. Rather, it is an instantaneous declaration. As a judge wades through all the material and sees that the person on trial has not done anything wrong, the judge justifies him. Thus, the judge authoritatively declares him to be righteous. This is not a process. It is an immediate declaration.

Thirdly, if this is the case, then how in the world will we, who are not righteous, be declared righteous by God? If we do not get this right, we will end up hopeless. We must answer this properly.

And in order to answer this properly, we need to clearly understand that we will not be justified by our works. Romans 3:19-20 says, “Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” No amount of obedience to the law will ever lead to justification. Rather, the law is going to increasingly show you that you are a sinner and that you have no hope of being justified, judicially declared righteous, before God.

Also Galatians 2:15 says, “We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law.” Once again, seeking to work out your own righteousness by obedience to the law will never lead God to judicially declare you righteous. The reason for this is because we are sinners and cannot fulfill the whole law. It says, “For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.’ So, if you are relying on the Law, you are cursed by God because in order to be justified by the Law you have to be perfectly obedient to the entirety of the Law. You are not permitted to transgress one part of it. Nobody has or will do this (except Christ, but more on this later).

So, we will not be justified because of any of our works. We will not be declared righteous because we saved our self for marriage, we attended church often, we read the Bible periodically, we participated in the sacraments of the Catholic Church, we refrained from getting drunkwe were baptizedwe walked an isle and said a prayer when we were youngeror because we volunteered at a non-profit.

None of this will lead God to judicially declare you righteous. God will look at the futility of all of these works and judicially declare you guilty and deserving of condemnation! He will not render a judicial verdict contrary to reality and the reality is that we have sinned in a myriad of ways and that even our ‘good works’ are deplorable to him.

Therefore, this brings us to this, God will justify, declare righteous, us unrighteous people through faith alone in Jesus Christ! Here are some verses that show this:

  • Romans 3:28-31 “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one—who will justify the circumcised (Jews) by faith and the uncircumcised (Gentiles) through faith.” 
  • Romans 5:1 “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 
  • Galatians 2:15-16 “We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christso we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”

Scripture makes it abundantly clear that if we, as sinners and transgressors of God’s law, are going to be justified ‘declared righteous’ it is going to be through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.

Fourthly, how can God justify the ungodly when Proverbs said it is an abomination for a human judge to justify the ungodly?

This is where you get to something that is really remarkable and should cause you to have a whole lot of joy. There are two aspects of our justification by faith alone in Christ alone that we need to understand. The first is this, pardon or remission of sins. You see, when Christ died on the cross many years ago, he died in order to save you from your sins. He died as our substitute. On the cross, he bore the sins of all those who would believe in him by faith. Therefore, when you have faith in Christ Jesus, you can no longer be condemned for your sins because Christ Jesus was condemned for those sins in his death on the cross (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24).

And the second is this, imputed righteousness. So, the Catholic church articulates infused righteousness throughout the whole of one’s life. As you co-operate with the Holy Spirit in doing good works, God is infusing more and more righteousness into you. However, the Bible teaches imputed righteousness. Imputed means credited. Something that is given to you. When you have faith in Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ’s righteousness is imputed to you. It is given to you as a gift from God. Paul says in Philippians 3:8-9:

Philippians 3:8-9 “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.”

Now, if you put these two together then you will have what we call the doctrine of double imputation. Our sins imputed, or credited, to Christ on the cross, and Christ’s righteousness imputed, or credited, to us. This is beautifully taught in 2 Corinthians 5:21 where Paul says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Therefore, God is justified in justifying the ungodly because the ungodly, through faith in Jesus, are truly righteous. We have the righteousness of Christ given to us. God justified us because the righteousness of God was gifted to us through faith in Christ. This is the hope of the Gospel! Though we are all sinners, we can be declared righteous through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.

Conclusion

This is the difference between the Catholic Church and the Protestant Church on the doctrine of justification. And, as you can tell, the difference is vast. The Catholic Church’s understanding will lead people to a reliance on works while the Protestant teaching will lead people to a reliance on the finished work of Jesus Christ. I was reminded of this a few weeks ago when I evangelized a girl from the Catholic Church on NC State’s campus. I asked her how I could be forgiven of my sins and go to heaven. She simply responded, “You have to go to confession and do penance.” Thus, the Catholic Church once again makes you look to yourself for forgiveness of sins and righteousness.

After she said that, I told her the good news of the Gospel is that through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone she can be forgiven of sins and be credited with the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Thus, contrary to the Catholic Church, the Protestant Church, once again, makes you look to Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins and righteousness.

Our First Priority

A Remarkable and Important Verse!

One of my favorite verses in all the Bible is Matthew 6:33. Within the section of Scripture that this particular verse is found, Jesus is teaching his disciples how they are not to be anxious about food, water, or clothing. Their lives should not be consumed with an overwhelming preoccupation for seeking the necessities of life. They are made for so much more than this. I mean, unbelievers are the ones that are to be preoccupied with the necessities of life because that is all they have. This is not so with the Christian. We know there is a God that is in enthroned in the heavens. Therefore, that is what we ought to be procuppied with seeking. This is why Jesus says these famous words in Matthew 6:33:

Verse 33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

 This verse is by far the most important verse in this section of Scripture. This is the whole reason we, as Christians, are not to be anxious and preoccupied with running after food, drink, and clothing. It is because we are to be seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.

What This Means

Well, the term “Seek” here literally means to “eagerly seek” or to “run after.” Then he says “First” which is in reference to a level of priority. So, in essence, Christ is telling us, in context, to stop placing food, water, and clothing as our top priority and to begin placing the kingdom of God and His righteousness as our top priority.

So, this is what we, as Christians, are to be earnestly seeking and running after. But what in the world does this look like? We like this verse as a screensaver on our phones but what does it mean for our lives? To understand this, let’s begin with what the kingdom of God is.

The Kingdom of God

The Kingdom of God is a reference to the rule and reign of God. It is the Kingdom that is not ruled by man, but the one ruled by Almighty God. It is the kingdom that Jesus Christ inaugurated in his first coming, and it is the kingdom that will be consummated in Christ’s second coming. And to seek this kingdom is three-fold.

First, we need to seek this Kingdom personally. Recall when Nicodemus approached Jesus at night saying, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do the signs that you do unless God is with him” (John 3:2). Then Jesus responded to Nicodemus directly, getting at the heart of the matter, saying, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

This is what I mean when I say that one, first and foremost, needs to earnestly seek the Kingdom of God in a personal way. They need to be born again by the Spirit of God. They desperately need God to impart new spiritual life to their dead spiritual corpses through the ministry of the Spirit. They need to repent of their sins, look at Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected as the only Savior of the world, and then place their faith in Him. It is at this moment that an individual passes from Satan’s evil kingdom to God’s glorious kingdom. It is at this moment that one goes from being in the domain of darkness to the kingdom of God’s beloved Son. So, first, one needs to seek the kingdom of God in this way!

Secondly, we need to earnestly seek the Kingdom of God corporately. By that, I mean that we need to be consistently seeking the reign of God in the church. We need to seek each other’s submission to Christ as a local assembly of brothers and sisters in Christ. What might this look like?

Well, we need to encourage one another, we need to speak the Scriptures into each other’s lives. We need to correct and rebuke one another. We need to pray for one another. We need to disciple one another. We ought to be earnest and zealous for everybody in the church, including ourselves, to be more and more obedient to the Lord. This is what it looks like to seek the Kingdom of God corporately!

Thirdly, we need to earnestly seek the Kingdom of God globally. We need to seek to advance the Kingdom of Christ throughout all the world. Our desire and ambition ought to be to take this Gospel of the Kingdom of God to family, neighbors, co-workers, and ultimately to the ends of the earth. We need to pray to this end, raise our kids to this end, give money to this end, and send out missionaries to this end. In doing this, we are seeking the advancement of God’s Kingdom all across the globe!

This is what it means to seek the Kingdom of God. And, according to Christ, it is to be our first order of business! It is to be our top priority. It is to be our main ambition. It is more important that food, drink, and clothing. That is incredible!

His Righteousness

Now, let’s reflect on what it means to seek “His righteousness.” Within the Bible, we learn about two types of righteousness. The first is an alien righteousness we receive by faith. The second is a practical righteousness that comes from being filled with the Spirit of God. So first, let’s talk about the alien righteousness.

In Philippians 3:7-9, Paul says, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.”

Did you notice how Paul said that this is not a righteousness of his own? This is not a righteousness that he mustered up. No! It is an alien righteousness. By that, I simply mean it comes from outside of himself. It is a righteousness that comes from God that he received through faith in Jesus Christ. This is the righteousness that brings salvation. This is all by God’s grace!

At this point, it is important to understand that this is not the righteousness that Jesus is telling us to be seeking in our passage. We do not have to seek it. The Lord gives us it as a gift through faith in Jesus Christ. This is the good news of the Gospel. So, if you have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, then God has graciously given you Christ’s righteousness as a free gift. That is why you are saved.

With that said, this means that the righteousness that Jesus wants us to seek in our passage is that second type of righteousness. It is that practical righteousness that comes from being filled with the Spirit of God. It is that righteousness that we are to live out after we become children of God. The righteousness that comes as we submit to God in the whole of life. The righteousness that makes us a light to the world and a city on a hill.

So, this is the righteousness we are to be seeking as our top priority. But what does this look like practically? And to begin with, let’s talk about what seeking this righteousness does not look like.

First, seeking this righteousness does not look like merely attending church on a Sunday morning. Many people think that this is what is required of them. They think that, as a Christian, you go to church on a Sunday morning and that is it.

Secondly, seeking this righteousness does not look like merely being baptized. You talk to many people and that is what they think. They think that to be baptized is what it is all about!

Thirdly, seeking this righteousness does not look like mechanically praying the same rote prayer every evening and before every meal. That is not it!

Lastly, though we could keep going, seeking God’s righteousness does not look like voting straight republican or democrat during the elections. That is not it either! This is too small a view of the Christian religion.

You see, Christianity is huge! It encompasses everything. It consumes the entirety of one’s life. To seek God’s righteousness infiltrates every part of our minutes, days, weeks, months, and years.

It is waking up every day, peering into the Word of God, and saying, “I am not my own, I have been bought by the precious blood of the Lord Jesus. Therefore, Christ is my Lord and I am his slave. My aim today will not be to live for myself, but to live for my Savior. I will aim to love, serve, and obey Him and only Him.”

Seeking God’s righteousness sounds like Paul when he says, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians. 3:12-14).

It looks like Jesus when he says, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (John 4:34). And like Jesus when he was fasting for 40 days in the wilderness and Satan comes and says, “If you are the Son of God, turn this stone into bread.” To which Jesus responded saying, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:3-4). This is what seeking “His righteousness” looks like!

Conclusion

So, this is what Jesus expects us to seek first and foremost. Our main ambition is to be seeking the kingdom of God and his righteousness. We are to be running after this. This is what we were made for. This is what we were saved for. This will glorify and honor our Lord a great deal. Therefore, let us strive to, by the power of the Spirit and through faith in Jesus, seek to be obedient to this remarkable verse!

The Destructive Power of Sinful Anger

Our hearts are deceitful, sin is deceptive, and the ancient serpent that wages war against our souls is crafty. This is a recipe for disaster. That is why it is so helpful to look after one another, study sin, and be aware of the ways of the evil one.

With that said, the specific sin that I want to look at today is anger. I just want us to briefly think through the destructive power of sinful anger. My hope is that this will help us to, by the power of the Spirit, put this sin to death.

Why Sinful Anger is so Destructive

First, the sin of anger is so destructive because it tends to quickly manifest itself outwardly for all to see.

Proverbs 14:29 “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.”

I like how the NIV interprets “exalts” here as “displays.” I think this is exactly what is being revealed here. Somebody with a hasty temper displays to the public that they are foolish (lacking wisdom). With that in mind, Proverb 14:17 says, “A man of quick temper acts foolishly, and a man of evil devices is hated” (Proverbs 14:17).

So, Proverbs is revealing that sinful anger tends to manifest itself outwardly rather quickly. Now, all sin is like this to an extent. All sin, the longer is partaken in, usually becomes more and more manifest to the public’s eye. For example, lust usually begins with the mind. An individual begins to think inappropriately. Before long it begins to be a sin committed with the eyes. So, a person begins to have eyes full of lust and is looking inappropriately at women or men. Then, after a while, lust begins to manifest itself physically. The individual has less and less sexual restraint. Lastly, the sin of lust begins to manifests itself in ways that you never would have imagined. . . . sexual immorality, enslavement to pornography, an affair on your spouse, etc.

This is simply how sin is. And though this is generally true of all sin, it really does seem like sinful anger is a sin that is prone to manifest itself to the public a bit quicker than other sins. There is something about the intense emotions that come with anger that leads it to quickly escalate.

And, even as I say that, you know exactly what I am talking about. Think about the times that you have been angry and then said or did something that you immediately regretted. For example, when I played baseball, I would literally see guys goofing off before an at bat. Then, during the at bat, they would strike out. They would get angry because their pride was shot. They would then come into the dugout, throw their helmet down, throw their bat down, and punch the bench. They would literally break their hand punching the bench (I am not kidding)! And, just remember, they were goofing off three minutes prior to breaking their hand.

Or just think about how quickly people get upset at another driver on the road and then say something verbally or do something physically that is completely out of character for them.

These are just examples from everyday life. The Bible gives us numerous evidences of this truth as well. Cain was filled with anger and killed his brother. Haman was filled with anger and sought to kill Mordecai. King Saul was filled with anger and sought to kill David. The meek and gentle Moses was filled with bitterness and anger at Israel’s complaining and then struck the rock twice when God had only commanded him to speak to it. Jonah was filled with anger and said that it would be better for him to die.

It is just apparent that anger tends to manifest itself in outward ways rather quickly. This, in turn, brings reproach to Christ and misrepresents the God whom we serve. For the God whom we serve is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love!

Secondly, since the sin of anger tends to manifest itself publicly rather quickly, it always brings about harm to our neighbor.

Now, it is important to note that this is generally true of all sin as well. The more public a sin is, the more it harms your neighbor. For example, if I covet, or earnestly desire my neighbor’s things, then I have sinned. However, since I coveted them, but did not steal them, my neighbor is not necessarily affected by my sin. Now, if I were to covet my neighbor’s possessions and then begin to steal them, then my neighbor would be directly affected by my sin.

For another example, just think about King David. When he should have been off at war, he was roaming around on the roof of his palace. Upon roaming around, he noticed Bathsheba bathing. If he would have noticed her and then lusted after her in his heart, he would have most certainly been in sin, but she, nor her husband, would have been impacted by his sin.

However, we see that David did not just see and lust after Bathsheba. Rather, he lusted and then sent his servant to bring Bathsheba to him. In doing this, David’s sin caused greater and greater damage to his neighbors. It hurt David himself, Bathsheba, Uriah (her husband), and honestly the entire kingdom of Israel. So, the more public a sin is, the more harm it usually does to our neighbors.

And I think that anger, since it quickly manifests itself to the public, tends to harm our neighbors a great deal. And practically, we know that this is true. You get angry at your parents, so you say something to them that is hateful causing them much anguish. You get upset with your boyfriend or girlfriend and say something to them that you would not have said in a thousand years had you been in your right mind. You are driving down the road and a car cuts you off making you fume with anger. As you fume with anger, you make a hand gesture that you haven’t made in three years. The list can go on and on. Sinful anger simply destroys our neighbors.

This is why you have Proverbs that say things like:

Proverbs 15:18 “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.”

Proverbs 29:22 “A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression.”

So, this is the second reason sinful anger is so destructive. It always brings about harm to your neighbor!

Thirdly, the sin of anger has a tendency to rub off on the people closest to you. So, if you are an angry person then you’ll usually begin seeing the people around you be angry people.

Listen to what this Proverb says:

Proverbs 22:24-25 “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.

Anger is repulsive. It is a heinous sin. It is absolutely dreadful to be caught in the thicket of, and to see it from afar shows the sheer ugliness of it. Yet, somehow, if we are around it enough, we grow a bit angrier as well. It is as though the sin of anger is a contagion and if we are around it long enough, we too will get it. Listen to what Charles Bridges says about all this:

Common intercourse with a furious man is like living in a house that is on fire. His unreasonable conduct stirs our own tempers. One fire kindles another. Occasional bursts of passion soon form the habit. The habit becomes the nature. Thus we learn his ways, and get a snare to our soul.

So, he is saying, to befriend a person that is given to anger will lead us to have our anger stirred up as well. Then, if this happens frequently, we will make anger a habit. That’s a dreadful thought.

With this in mind, Bridges ends saying, “We learn anger easier than meekness. We convey disease, not health. Hence it is the rule of self-preservation, no less than the rule of God—Make no friendship with an angry man.”

Bridges is saying, for the sake of preserving your own soul, do not befriend somebody that is constantly given to anger. So, this is the third reason the sin of anger is so destructive. It tends to lead those around you to be angry as well.

Lastly, sinful anger tends to stay with us for a long time.

You see, there is something about the sin of anger that tends to stick with us for a while. I mean, let’s be honest, we rarely ever get angry and then quickly get over it. Rather, anger  stays with us a while, increases in its severity, and causes us to do or say things that we should not do or say.

With that in mind, think about this instruction from Ecclesiastes:

Ecclesiastes 7:9 “Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools.”

So, a wise person may get angry, but they do not let anger reside within them letting it build up. They do not allow it to consistently grow and fester within them. The fool, however, does! He allows anger to lodge in his heart letting it impact all that he does and says. This is one of the reasons that the Apostle Paul commands the church in Ephesus saying, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph. 4:26).

So, that is the fourth and last reason the sin of anger is so destructive. Sinful anger tends to stay with us for a while.

Conclusion

So, may we, as Christians, be slow to anger (James 1:19). May we realize that one of the very reasons we are saved is because we serve a gracious God who was and is incredibly patient and slow to anger with us. Seriously, many of us rebelled against God for decades. Let that sink in. We opposed Him for years. We affronted His glory time after time. However, He was slow to anger with us. He was patiently enduring our hard heartedness until we came to repentance and faith in Christ. That is remarkable.

And, as Christians, we ought to imitate that. We ought to be slow to anger as well. For, as is evident from the points mentioned above, sinful anger is destructive. It does not represent the God whom we serve, it does not do any good to our neighbors, nor does it do any spiritual good to us personally. So, by the power of the Spirit, let’s put sinful anger to death to the glory of God.

 

Don’t Neglect the Church as the Spring Semester Gets Hectic!

I have not been in college ministry a very long time (almost 3 years), but I have been in it long enough to know that church attendance begins to dissipate as students begin to inch closer and closer towards the end of the spring semester. (Just as a side note….I do not think this is a problem just for college students. We, by nature, start strong and finish poorly).

My desire in this blog post is to convince you of five reasons why you should maintain faithfully attending church as you see summer on the horizon.

To Behold the Glory of Christ

Christ says, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14). Now, it is apparent that Christ is speaking about his crucifixion within this verse. However, what is important to understand is that he is not merely talking about the actual event of his crucifixion. Not many people were looking at Christ’s actual crucifixion and receiving eternal life. Thus, Christ’s statement must go beyond that! It must go beyond the event of his actual crucifixion to something that is happening even today, for today, people are still looking to Christ crucified and receiving eternal life.  

And I would argue that Christ is speaking about the ministry of the word of God. It is the preaching and teaching ministry of the word that is revealing Christ crucified. Paul tells the Galatians, who did not see the actual crucifixion of Christ, “Oh foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you? It was before your very eyes that Jesus was publicly portrayed as crucified” (Galatians 3:1). Also, he tells Titus that the eternal life that is in Christ Jesus was manifested through the preaching of the word (Titus 1:2-3).

There is a revealing of Christ crucified through the faithful teaching and preaching of the word. This is one reason why faithfully and consistently sitting under the word of God is so important. Week in and week out, you are beholding Christ. This serves to strengthen your faith. And, if you want to prove this through a litmus test, simply go ask somebody that has neglected attending church for a while how their faith is holding up. And if they say it is good, then stay around them long enough to see the falsity of their statement be manifested.

To Hear the Word of the Lord

Preaching, if it is done faithfully and in accordance with the biblical text, carries great authority. As the preacher draws out the meaning of the text, he is drawing out the very word of God (1 Thess. 2:13). Thus, to sit under faithful preaching is to sit under the word of the Lord. This is something that every Christian needs to consistently hear. This is the Christian’s food and drink. This is what is going to nourish and strengthen them in their walk with Christ. So, to consistently attend church presents you with the opportunity to consistently hear what the God of heaven and earth has said and is saying through His written Word. However, to neglect church is to willingly separate yourself from hearing the word of the Lord. 

To Bear Other’s Burdens

Much of the Christian life is lived out glorifying God by sacrificially bearing the burdens of others. We do this out of love for God and love for neighbor. This is how we actually fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2). We are to be a people that see other brothers and sisters in Christ bearing burdens that are so heavy that they cannot bear themselves-such as financial burdens, health burdens, burdens brought about by other’s sins, burdens brought about by our own sin-and then gladly die to ourselves, and place some of their burdens upon our own shoulders for the glory of God and the sake of Christ. This type of burden bearing is nearly impossible when you forsake the local church.

Satan’s Assault is Continuous

Satan is a thief that comes to steal, kill, deceive, accuse, and destroy. He is relentless in his opposition to both God and man. As soon as Adam and Eve were in the garden, Satan is on the scene with his wicked weapons in hand. As soon as Abel offered a better sacrifice than Cain, he rears his ugly head. As soon as Israel began to multiply in Egypt, he was present in the wicked Pharaoh. As soon as Christ Jesus was born of a virgin, he was there as a dragon ready to devour Him! He is driven by pride, greed, envy, jealousy, selfish ambition, and hatred. His desire is to utterly destroy you. He wants your physical life and your spiritual life, and he will not rest until he has them!

Church is like an embassy in a foreign land for a citizen of the kingdom of God. When we are faithfully engaging in the life of the church, we are safe from the ancient enemy of our souls! To put it in a little perspective, when Paul tells the Corinthians to exercise church discipline on a brother who has lapsed into heinous sin, he tells them to expel the brother from the church, and to hand him over to Satan! So, to be separated from the local church is to be handed over to Satan. Thus, when you willfully neglect church, you are, in a since, allowing yourself to roam in Satan’s evil lair. Why in the world would anybody want to do that?

You Reap What You Sow

The Bible consistently teaches that you will reap what you sow. So, in an agricultural since, if you sow wheat then you will reap wheat. But the Scripture takes this beyond the simple agricultural meaning to a spiritual meaning. Paul says, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:7-8). Proverbs says, “Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity” (Proverbs 22:8). This is a general principle that rears its head constantly throughout the Bible and we can be certain that it rears its head today as well. 

To sow to the Spirit will lead to eternal life, but to sow to the flesh will lead to eternal death. To sow to the Spirit will lead to a harvest of righteousness, but to sow to the flesh will lead to a harvest of unrighteousness. When you willfully forsake assembling with other Christians due to idleness, sluggishness, laziness, unrepentant sin, etc., then you are sowing to the flesh. And before long, if the general principle proves true, you will reap unrighteousness and ungodliness. 

To Conclude

So those are five brief reasons why you should persevere in attending church as your spring semester begins to get hectic, you see summer on the horizon, and you are absolutely worn out. With that said, persevere!