Online Worship for Midweek Advent Service December 8, 2021
Sermon for Midweek Advent #2 – Slowing Down our Wrath
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus, the Christ. Amen.
James 1:19–20 (ESV)
19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
In the Name of Jesus, the Christ, our Savior,
Who when he was reviled, did not revile in return,
Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Most Precious Blood –
They are decidedly different messages, obvious actually, if you care to pay attention. There are two different messages that accompany the Christmas Season every year.
In one, people are told that the gifts they receive are dependent upon their goodness. They are told that the gift giver is always watching and that ‘he knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you are awake; he knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness’s sake.’
It’s a simple message: “Be good, do good and you will be rewarded.” It is decidedly work-righteous. It’s really not that different from, “Be a good person and you’ll get to go to heaven.” It’s also completely false. If it were true, then no one would ever receive a gift...yet everyone does. No doubt, some believe that they have earned their gifts then in some fashion.
The other message says that the gifts aren’t dependent upon a person’s goodness, but the givers love. People are to be told that despite the fact that they have been evil, the real gift giver, the one that really does know and see everything, sent someone else to pay their debt. Moreover, the gift was freely given by the giver to everyone – because everyone is wicked and no one is good. It’s all about the love and mercy of the giver, not the goodness of those receiving the gift (s).
But there is still more to the second message. The gift-giver so loved us that He has made plans to adopt us into His Family for time and for eternity. The gift giver has made peace with us all, by means of the gift of His Son.
Now we have received from God this Greatest Gift of all. We are right with God by faith in His Son, Jesus. Still, we await the full enjoyment of His Gift. While we live on this earth, we are troubled with a sinful nature, and often do what displeases our God. We daily confess our sins and seek the gift giver’s forgiveness. We wait earnestly for the one who died to make us God’s adopted children to return with power and great glory. We look forward to spending eternity apart from sin in the new heavens and the new earth.
While we live our lives in expectation of that day, we strive to do so in a way that pleases the gift giver. Which, in a way, brings us back to those first two attitudes.
Why do we make every effort to live godly lives?
Is it because we want to stay on the gift-givers good side, earn brownie points with him, and perhaps a better room in the Father’s House? Do we try to live godly lives...to be rewarded by God? OR
Do we try to live Godly lives because our future is assured in Christ Jesus and we wish to live in faith, and express our faith in love and thanksgiving for the Savior’s love?
It is decidedly the latter.
So also, this evening, we strive to slow our wrath, our anger – not to earn favor with God, but in faith and out of joyful hearts. May God the Holy Spirit help us to grow in our faith and love. May He also grant us spiritual wisdom and maturity that we may be quick to hear and slow to speak and to anger. Amen.
What is the best gift you’ve ever received? Take a moment to think about it. What would you say is the best gift you ever received, at Christmas, on a Birthday, whenever? Why is it the best gift you ever received?
God has given us many gifts...the biggest and best of which is a living faith that trusts in His Son, Jesus. In the words that lead up to these, we are reminded by James of the source of every good and every perfect gift (James 1:16-17):
16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
I’ve received many gifts in my lifetime. Many of those gifts are used up, broken, discarded and long forgotten. There are still others I still possess and for which I am grateful. He who is the called the ‘Father of lights’ because He made the two great lights (Genesis 1:16) – the Sun and the Moon – has given me what I have, and I am grateful.
He is the source of every good and perfect gift you have received. There is one more important than all the rest. What that gift is and how we received it is related in the next verse, James 1:18 –
18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth,
that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
God didn’t gift us faith to trust in Jesus – because we were worthy, or because we earned or deserved it. It was God’s grace, His undeserved love that determined to give us the new birth, long before we were ever born. He determined to give us new birth, by the Word of Truth. He made us his own children and heirs.
God would have us exercise our faith. He wants us to think about what is best for our faith and with the help of the Holy Spirit act accordingly, so that we continue to grow up and mature.
So, with this in mind, James writes to believers of every age:
19 Know this, my beloved brothers:
let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;
I wonder how many gifts I have ruined because I didn’t listen. When I opened the present on Christmas Eve, my father or mother would say, “Now, be careful with that. Don’t leave that outside where it can get rained on or it will be ruined.” “If you don’t put it away, someone will step on it and break it!” CRUNCH!
I was often so enamored with the gift that I didn’t listen to my parent’s admonition to take care of it! If only I had listened, perhaps I’d still have some of those cherished gifts today!
When the Spirit of God urges believers to be quick to listen – He’s first and foremost talking about listening to Him. If there is one thing that gets in the way of our maturing as Christians it’s figuring that we know what we need to know and consequently not listening to God’s Word or applying that Word to our lives. We are to be quick, earnest, rapid to listen to our God and to those who bring us His Word. When we aren’t, we get in the way of our growth in faith and understanding, we remain children.
Our very first concern is to be listening to our God.
Which brings us to the second admonition – we are called upon to be slow to speak. We all know people who just can’t seem to stop talking. We feel like we’ve accomplished the miraculous if we manage to slip in a word edgewise.
We are urged to be SLOW to speak. We are to think before opening the mouth. The fact of the matter is that no one learns anything by talking...but only by listening. No one makes a worse listener than a person who won’t stop talking. Let’s take a lesson from the Virgin Mary. When we read the account of Jesus’ birth, we hear not a word from Mary. We are only told of her that she, listened and thought about what had been said (Luke 2:19):
“She treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”
Can we be slow to speak? Can we be silent and meditate upon the Word of God this Advent? Let us earnestly pray that the Spirit of God would move us to take the time to silently think about what God has done for us as revealed in His Word. If we do, we will most certainly grow in faith and in Christian maturity.
Which brings us to the third admonition which is to be the focus of our meditation this evening.
As Children of God, we are called upon to be slow to anger. It seems that all three of these go together. When we don’t listen to God and replace listening with talking...there is bound to be frustration, annoyance...wrath.
It’s known by many different names...and it doesn’t go away during the Christmas Season. We call it frustration, irritation, annoyance, aggravation, crankiness, impatience...but they are all just other ways of saying, “I’m Angry.” It’s something that I have often had a problem with...perhaps you do too.
I’m heading out to take care of something when another car pulls out in front of me...forcing me to slam on the brakes. Really? Are you kidding me? Idiot! Is the other driver being discourteous? Sure, maybe. Is it worth being angry about? NO, not at all.
I’m in a hurry at the grocery store, needing one thing. Someone scoots ahead of me into the express lane with a full cart of groceries. Seriously? Jerk. What about when we have a full cart?
We stop looking at people – like Jesus does – as people that He died for and we get angry.
We may excuse our anger because it’s been a long day, week or month; but there really is no excuse. I find that very often that anger is a problem because I put myself first or because I want something. Anger arises from jealousy and from insecurity. It also arises when we put ourselves first or are in a hurry. Angry quickly leads to hurtful words and hateful thoughts.
It’s true that righteous anger exists...but let’s be honest, ours is rarely if ever righteous. So rather than excusing our sin, God help us to resemble the tax collector in Jesus’ parable and pray (Luke 18:13):
“God be merciful to me, a sinner.”
Forgive me LORD.
Help me during the Advent Season to slow down my wrath.
Help me to be patient.
Help me to see people like you do.
Help me to control my thoughts.
Help me not to excuse my sin or blame someone else for my wicked words and thoughts.
Help me...because --
... the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
Our fallen nature is quick to be angry and just as quick to excuse it. Angry, hurtful, proud...these are all attitudes that God doesn’t consider to be righteous, good or pleasant. These aren’t fitting for the Child of God.
We wish to live lives of thankfulness to the Great Giver, our God. If we are to do that then we will have to petition Him further for spiritual gifts like patience and longsuffering. For only then, with the Help of the Spirit through the Word of God, can we slow down our wrath as His forgiven children.
How can I thank Thee, Lord, For all Thy loving-kindness, That Thou hast patiently borne with me in my blindness? When dead in many sins And trespasses I lay, I kindled, holy God, Thine anger ev’ery day.
It is Thy work alone That I am now converted; O’er Satan’s work in me Thou hast Thy power asserted. Thy mercy and Thy grace That rise afresh each morn Have turned my stony heart Into a heart new-born.
O Father, God of Love, Hear Thou my supplication’ O Savior, Son of God, Grant me Thy full salvation; And Thou, O Holy Ghost, Be Thou my faithful Guide That I may serve Thee here and there with Thee abide.