John Owen is often cited for an essential point about the Christian life, ‘be killing sin, or sin be killing you.’ Christians are to be active and zealous for their growth and maturity, as Paul says, ‘work forward your salvation with fear (of God) and trembling’ (Phil 2:12). One besetting sin that many continue to struggle with is the problem of not being all-powerful demi-gods. We struggle against a world that does not work according to our desires and with people who do not bow to our every whim. In short, we are a people filled with the poison of anger.
Ed Welch offers a great little devotional entitled, A Small Book about a Big Problem. I found the book to be an excellent book in every regard. It is a biblically rich, readable, and reliable resource. But I do offer a warning; it is convicting. No reader escapes seeing the scriptures as highlighting their sins and needs for repentance and grace.
Let me offer just one example. On Day 5 of the 50-day devotional, Welch brings up the matter of murder. No, not murder in physical space, but with our hearts, minds, and tongues. Welch cites the sage wisdom of Prov 12:18: “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” How many times have we torn down neighbors, friends, spouses, and children by rash words that function as sword thrusts to the heart? There are many (MANY) times we wish we could take back the words that crossed our lips, leaped across the room, only to crash down on others. Our tongues are like flaming arrows that shoot others down (James 3:6-16) instead of praising our great God. This manner of life stems from a heart poisoned with unrighteous anger.
Welch’s 50-day devotional journeys through the sources of our sinful anger and offers resources for repentance, healing, and change. The main lesson I come away with is that I need to reflect and be ever mindful of my failings, see how Christ forgives me, and then ‘exegete*’ the mind of Christ that gives the gift of grace to me (Phil 2:5, 12). I need to bring out Christ’s work by living a cruciform life. M personal anger is antithetical to the humility and work of Christ, the grace of God poured daily on me, and the debt of love I owe to others (Rom 14:8).
Anger much? Don’t be a slave to sinful passions, but turn to Christ in the hope-filled expectation of healing.
*exegete- to bring out embedded wisdom and truth. To live by exegeting the mind of Christ is to know his work and be conformed to it, i.e., to live cruciform lives.
Rev. Dr. Chris S. Stevens
John Knox in Ruston