Be Angry like your Father Jer 2:26-32; Ps 68:1-10; 1 John 1:1-4; John 2:13-22 St Marks 11.6.17
Around six o’clock last night I was confronted by an angry drunk outside a friend’s house, when I went home and watched the news there were images of angry mobs in London and Bougainville, people on both sides of the same sex marriage and climate change are angry, within a stone’s throw of our church there would be homes traumatised by the wild anger of domestic violence. Speaking more personally, Donna can share with you some of her scarier road rage experiences, and it may/may not surprise you that in a past parish in this city I had the nickname “screamer” and “angry man”. Lots of people are angry with the Roman Catholic Church because of child abuse, and there are many adults who still bear the scars of spiritual abuse from Pentecostal pastors. People are angry at terrorists, at politicians for not doing enough to stop terrorists, angry at “dole bludgers”. This is one angry planet. The Bible sums up the root cause of all this rage by describing people as “haters of God” (Rom 1:30; Col 1:21). But you know after more than 40 years as a believer in Jesus I cannot remember one person saying, “I am angry with God the Father.” I believe it is impossible to know God, in Jesus words, as ““Abba! Father!”” and to be angry with God and at rage with the world, but if we know God in our hearts as Father it is just as impossible not to have a holy and righteous anger at the evils of this world (Mark 14:36 cf. Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6; John 17:11, 25). The aim of this sermon is to help us come to a place of repentance for the lack of godly anger in the Church (not a very Anglican thing is it) and to move us to ask the Lord to share with us his zeal as a Father for the plight of lost suffering humanity. Through this a new power and authority will come into our prayers and lives transforming us from passive people to spiritual fighters for our families, friends and nation (Matt 28:16; John 10:17-18; 14:28). For this to happen the Spirit of God will need to change our minds and convince us that God’s anger is always good and we never need to shy away from him as our Father. all human confusion about God’s fiery judgement begins in the Garden of Eden.
The Human Condition
Adam was a son (Luke 3:38) with whom the loving Father God (Acts 17:28) shared the bitter truth (cf. Rev 10:9-10) that disobedience would lead to death (Gen 2:17). This revelation about the nature of things wasn’t designed to terrorise the man but to empower him with a holy zeal to protect the Garden from any evil that would bring death. When Satan stole into Eden as a seducing serpent (2 Cor 11:3; Rev 12:9) to deceive Eve (1 Tim 2:14) Adam should have been filled with a divine jealous anger (Eph 5:29; 2 Cor 11:2) to rise up as his family’s leader and protector and command Satan to depart with the authority of God’s word (Zech 3:2; Eph 6:17). If Adam had been a man, husband and future father of righteous anger everything in the world would have remained good (Gen 1:31). But Adam chose Satan as his father and led all of his descendants on a part that leads to hell (John 8:44; Eph 2:1ff; 1 John 3:8). Despite popular understanding Jesus’ teaching in his parable of the sheep and goats makes clear that the lake of fire was “prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt 25:41). Hell was never a part of God’s most pleasing plan for humanity (Ezek 33:11).
When righteous anger against evil is absent everything falls apart. How would Donna feel if some bloke walked up to her and propositioned her and I saw it and said nothing? She would feel hurt, disappointed and angry with me that I didn’t think her glorious and worthwhile enough to protect her; she rightly would expect me to be a jealous husband. In the spiritual realm Paul confronts the Corinthian Church; “I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” (2 Cor 11:2-4) The godly jealousy of which he speaks is the fiery jealousy of the Lord who will tolerate no rival for his holy affection (Ex 20:5; Deut 4:24; 6:15 etc.). In the End Jesus as the perfect jealous Husband will deliver his Church and Bride from the ravages of all evil by casting Satan and all who follow his ways into the lake of fire (Rev 19ff).
A H/husband without jealous wrath is a useless H/husband; but staying Christ –centred here where did Jesus learn to protect his Bride….from his Father (John 5:19). A God without wrath would be a useless unprotective Father who has abandoned the world to evil. Which is what most people think, but for confused reasons. I was counselling someone recently who shared that when his mum became severe with him his dad “disappeared”. This has tarnished and disempowered his image not only his image of human fathering but of the glory of God as Father (cf. Rom 3:23).
God designed us from the beginning to get angry with evil, but when we rebelled against his word we redefined evil in terms of our own interests. So Adam and Eve start to talk to God as if he is unjust, then the man became angry with the woman, the woman wanted to take control of the man. The very divine anger which was meant to protect the first family from the destructive consequences of evil is distorted into a hell on earth (Gen 3:8-19). Despite external appearances I have never met anyone who has not had an anger problem of some sort. Like people who take an inner vow not to get angry but turn their anger inwards and end up depressed. Getting angry with yourself will never heal you.
Today’s terrorists surely think God has anger like theirs (Ps 50:21). This is a universal religious problem. A group of African tribesman were moving their idol from its pit when the rope holding it began to break. The terrified cry went up, “Turn away, lest we look on face of our father and die.” (cf. Rev 6:16). Are Christians free from such things? In the book of Revelation praise breaks loose in heaven when God releases his judgements on the earth (Rev 19:1-4). If we can’t praise God for his judgements we are as confused about God’s anger as the lost (Isa 26:9). To receive revelation of the love of God in the wrath of God we must turn to… Christ.
Jesus and the Father
In the New Testament the wrath of God is understood only in terms of how someone responds to Jesus; “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36). Since Jesus said, ““Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.””, if you want to understand the heart of the wrath of God look at Jesus (John 14:9 cf. 1:18).
The character of God’s wrath is seen clearly when Jesus overturns the tables of the traders in the temple because they are turning his Father’s house of prayer into a den of robbers (Luke 19:46; John 2:16). After his death and resurrection Jesus’ disciples saw these events as fulfilling the prophetic psalm, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (John 2:17-22; Ps 69:9 cf. Matt 27:40; Mark 15:29). Jesus is the face of his Father in wrath as much as in mercy (Mark 3:5). If you want to know what’s going to happen at the End of the world the cleansing of the temple shows you. Just as in this incident we read in Revelation how the united wrath of God and the Lamb/Jesus will be outpoured on those who refuse to obey the gospel (Rev 6:16; 14:10 cf. 2 Thess 2:7-8). This wrath has but one purpose, to quote Revelation 11.18, “to destroy the destroyers of the earth”, God only wants good for people and whatever/whoever would come in the way of that will be destroyed (1 John 3:8). There is a deep mystery here.
However severe “the wrath of the Lamb” it may be experienced on the outside the spirit behind God’s anger is supremely gentle (cf. Deut 28:49; Ps 118:18; 119:107; Luke 19:21; Rom 11:22). This is why Jesus wept over Jerusalem as he prophesied its coming destruction (Luke 19:41-44), this is why the greatest preachers on hell always wept. It’s neither in God’s nature nor his pleasure to be wrathful with people.
The therapeutic purposes of the zeal of God are however wonderful. I received a phone call from an excited father recently who wanted to tell me his wayward/prodigal son had turned to the Lord in prison. Another father shared with me during the week the awesome things God was doing in his rebellious son’s life and that he had turned back to Christ from a psychiatric clinic. An all wise Father who knows just what punishments it takes to turn his sons back to himself (Heb 12:5-11). Tragically however the good purposes of God’s wrath in allowing suffering in the world are hidden from people. There is only one place where the wisdom of the wrath of God becomes crystal clear – this place is…..the cross.
The greatest evil and the greatest good that have ever happened in the history of the world come together in the cross. I was on the phone to a friend yesterday who is sick and despairing about the many people he knows who have suffered and died in recent years. I had to say to him, don’t look at the past, don’t speculate on the future look only to….Jesus (Heb 12:2).
When Christ cries out, ““My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”” he reveals to us that he is out of his depth as far as the purpose of his Father’s anger is concerned (Mark 15:34). [What is happening on the cross is beyond the limits of the not yet fully perfected humanity of Jesus to understand (Heb 2:10; 5:9; 7:28).] As the bearer of our sins under the wrath we deserve he is blinded in our place to the good and wise purposes of divine judgement (Isa 42:19; Rom 3:25; 2 Cor 5:21). He cannot see that the Father is working justice for the world, he feels he has been left to do the work of God alone and that Almighty God is passive in the face of evil. He feels abandoned by the righteous wrath of God in its power to destroy sin just as Adam abandoned God’s holy wrath in Eden letting all hell break loose on the earth. The devil’s hour of darkness seems complete (Luke 22:53; John 13:27).
If you/I felt deserted and derelict like Jesus felt (Lam 1:12) we would get angry towards God, the mob hurting us and with ourselves for getting into this mess. But Jesus feels no towards his Father and speaks forgiveness to his crucifiers (Luke 23:34). At the last casts himself on the character of God; ““Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”” (Luke 23:46). What happened then; the spirit of Jesus was immediately gathered to the bosom of “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” enfolded forever by the Father in perfect love (John 1:18; 2 Cor 1:3 cf. 1 John 4:17-18). The wrath of God the Father had completed its great eternal purpose of annihilating all evil in the life of his Son for the salvation of the world.
Application and Conclusion
The gospel revelation of Jesus Christ is a revelation of the good purposes of divine anger, the power of this revelation freed the New Testament Church to be radically like its Saviour (Rom 1:16). In Romans 12 Paul exhorts us repeatedly to be “zealous” for the Lord i.e. as Jesus was in serving his Father by cleansing the temple (vv.8, 11) and he reinforces this with the words “Hate what is evil.” (v. 9 Cf. Ps 97:10; 101:3; Am 5:15). (Do you hate evil?). Then in Ephesians is a command that must never be watered down; “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph 4:26 cf. Ps 4:4). Paul is not talking about venting our petty self-centred and often self-righteous anger, but sharing through the power of the Spirit in God’s holy anger in Christ. A righteous anger against injustice, an indignation on behalf of others, a zeal against the evil of the day (2 Cor 7:11; 11:29).
This sort of God-pleasing anger must first of all be directed in meekness and repentance towards our own sin and the sinful state of the Church (Matthew l8:l5-20; l Corinthians 5:1-5; Galatians 6:l-2; 1 Tim 1:20). Notwithstanding the dangers of loveless anger we must agree with the words of John Stott; “…..there is a great need…for more Christian anger. We…compromise with sin in a way in which God never does. In the face of blatant evil we should be indignant not tolerant, angry, not apathetic. If God hates sin, His people should hate sin too. If evil arouses His anger, it should arouse ours too. What other reaction can wickedness be expected to provoke in those who love God?”
For the sake of our families, friends and a lost world we need to become a church, even an Anglican church, stirred up in the Spirit to get angry at the devil and all his works and allow the Spirit to express this zeal as he did in Christ in healing the sick, casting out demons and preaching the gospel (Matt 10:8; Luke 7:22). Any church that refuses to get angry on its own account but which displays righteous anger at injustices will be a revelation for all to see of the wrath that is coming and which alone can create a perfect future world (Matt 3:7; Col 3:6; 1 Thess 1:10). Such a Church will look like….Jesus and have a tremendous impact both on the secular community, and other Christians.
Which Jesus do we want to follow today; the one who said ““I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled!”, or a Jesus that seems passive in the face of great evils, as if he had been abandoned by his Father (Luke 12:49). Since there is and never could be an abandoning Father Jesus can set us free from all our own useless angers; against god, others or ourselves. Today is the day to ask the Lord to deliver us from whatever holds us back from being filled with his fiery zeal against all that destroys human life as he created it to be (Heb 12:29; Rev 1:14). Can we ask Jesus today to share with us his zeal for his Father’s kingdom? If God so loved us so much as to send his Son to die for us will he not freely grant us this prayer (Rom 8:32).