We’re learning what it means to walk like a brother. The Apostle Paul wrote the Ephesians that they “should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart, who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.” (Ephesians 4:17-19)
Let me stop here for a minute and share a couple of thoughts with you about unsaved people. Christians tend to look down on unsaved people (they are an unsavory group, you know – what with all their sinning and stuff). The fact about unsaved people is they can’t be different than they are – lost, unsaved, unsavory. Paul said it so well earlier in his letter to the Ephesians – “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.” (Ephesians 2:1-3)
Did you catch that – “in which you once walked”? Christians, let’s be careful in our pursuit of holiness not to forget where God found us. We once walked just like everyone else – dominated by the course of this world, the flesh, and the devil. We were part of them – remember? We once lived our lives in the sphere of the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind. We were children of wrath, “just as the others.” The Christian anthem captures the idea so well – “I once was lost but now am found, was blind, but now I see.” God is telling us through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians that we are not to live like unsaved people, but He also is telling us to remember who we were. A little humility is necessary from time to time and goes a long way in keeping us from thinking too much of ourselves.
“But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:20-24)
What have we learned from Christ? Jesus is the Truth and the Truth is in Him. What is that Truth? That you put off the old man and put on the new man. What’s the context? How we live our life – “concerning your former conduct.” We are different than what we were before we were taught by Christ because of what the Holy Spirit did and is doing in our lives – “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7) Regeneration is a powerful spiritual action (palingenesia – again birth, new birth). Notice the amazing process that leads to it:
- Kindness and love of God our Savior appeared toward man
- Not by works of righteousness which we have done
- He saved us according to His mercy
- Through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit
- God poured out His Spirit on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior
- We have been justified by His Grace that we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life
Just out of curiosity – did you see any part of that process that brings glory to us? God’s kindness – God’s love – appeared toward man – not by works of righteousness which we have done – He saved us – according to His mercy – through the Holy Spirit’s washing of regeneration and renewing – God poured out His Spirit on us – His grace justifies us – we become heirs according to the hope of eternal life that comes from God. See anything there that’s our doing? Nope – neither did I. It’s all of God. God = everything … me = nothing. How can a dead man bring himself to life? Can’t be done. How does a spiritually dead person bring himself/herself to spiritual life? Can’t be done. God does it all – from the loving to the choosing to the dying to the saving to the changing. We can put off the old and put on the new because of what Jesus accomplished on our behalf.
Step 1 – “Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another.”
We saw that last week – we have a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus tells us the Truth. He never lies. I can “trust” what Jesus tells me. God wants us to have that same relationship with other members of the Body of Christ. Put away lying – “let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor.” Why? Because “we are member of one another.” God has placed each one of us into the same spiritual body – the Body of Christ. We need to be able to believe each other – trust each other. Speaking truth to each other is the foundation of a powerful body of believers. Remember Genesis 3 ? Things were going great until Satan told Eve a lie and she believed it.
Step 2 – “Be angry, and do not sin’: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.” Ephesians 4:25-27
Be angry? Why is Paul telling Christians to be angry? That seems like a strange thing God would tell us to do? The insight we need is back in Genesis. God established a system of “sin offering” after Adam plunged the human race into sin. This offering was the way God gave people to have a relationship with Him. As was their custom, the men brought their sin offering to God. Abel was a shepherd and brought God the “firstborn of his flock and their fat.” Cain brought “an offering of the fruit of the ground.” God “respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering.” The Hebrew word translated respect (sa’ ah) means “to turn the eyes either to or from an object.” God turned His eyes “toward” Abel’s offering and “away” from Cain’s offering. Why did God do that? “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.”(Hebrews 11:4) Abel offered God a more excellent sacrifice “by faith.” Remember the foundation of our relationship with God? Faith. Abel offered God a more excellent sacrifice because it was “by faith.” What does that tell us about Cain’s offering? It was not excellent – it was not “by faith.” So, God looked away from Cain’s offering and did not receive it.
Think about that for a minute. You and your brother go before the Lord, as you have done countless times before, to bring your sin offering to Him. This time is different. God looks with favor on your brother’s, but looks away from yours. How does that make you feel? What if your mother and father are watching? What about your wife and children? Everyone sees that God looks away from your offering, while respecting your brother’s. What will you do now?
What was Cain’s reaction? “And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.” What was God’s reaction to Cain’s anger? “So the LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted?” That seems like wise counsel. All Cain has to do is “do well” and God promised to accept his offering. However, there is another side to anger – “And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” God presents the bad side of anger with personal attributes: “sin lies at the door … its desire is for you.” What could Cain do about it? “… but you should rule over it.” Sin wanted power over Cain, but Cain had the ability to rule over sin. The Hebrew word for “rule over” is masal. It carries the idea of bringing something under your control – getting mastery of the situation, as a leader would do. God told Cain to get control over his anger before sin took control.
We know what happened next. Cain’s anger was based on evil and it led to evil. “In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.” (1 John 3:10-12) Do you see the part Satan played in this? Satan was behind the first lie and he was behind the first murder. Cain “was of the wicked one and murdered his brother.”
Being angry is not the problem – things happen in life that anger us. What’s in our heart and how we respond to anger can be good or it can be bad. That’s what Paul wrote the Ephesians: “Be angry, and do not sin.” Okay, brother Paul, how do we do that? How can we be angry, but not sin?
- Do not let the sun go down on your wrath
- Nor give place to the devil.
Don’t let the day go by without dealing with your anger. Don’t give your anger time to develop into a monster you cannot control (“sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you”). Take control of your anger and rule over it. What happens when you don’t deal with your anger before the end of the day? Satan gets a place – a foothold – in your life. You go to sleep angry – you wake up angry – you start your day angry – you spend all day angry – you end that day angry – and the evil cycle begins. Where does it end? In murder. It may be the death of a relationship – it may be the murder of someone’s good name and character – it may be the destruction of someone’s life. That’s what happened to Cain. “Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.” (Genesis 4:8) Cain allowed time to pass while anger turned to jealousy and hatred. Cain talked with Abel and moved things to another location – to a field where Cain could be alone with his brother and kill him. When Cain refused God’s advice, he gave the devil a place in his life. What does the devil do when he gets a place in our life? Jesus said, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.” (John 10:10) That’s what Satan does – he lies, cheats, steals, kills, and destroys. No good thing will come from allowing sin to rule over us.
Christians – be angry, but don’t sin. Don’t give Satan any place in your life. Don’t let him have any say in the way you think, feel or act. Sin is always nearby, ready to pounce on us whenever it can. Its desire is “for us.” Sin wants to control us. When you get angry with a brother or sister in Christ, know that the devil wants to use it to destroy relationships and undermine the work of God. Paul says, “do not let the sun go down on your wrath.” Deal with it righteously – right away – every time.
Next week – step 3 in Walking Like A Brother.
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”