"In your anger do not sin; and do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold." - Ephesians 4:26-27
There is a building just down the street from where I am sitting at this moment where the congregation of Lighthouse Community Church served the Lord together for many years. Actually, the congregation from which Lighthouse was born existed on that corner for 95 years. That's a long time. But almost two years ago we began a process of prayer and procedures to make one last attempt to be an instrument in God's hands to open the eyes of many in the denomination of which we were a part to the reality that the Word of God was being ignored and that there were false teachers in our midst. The amazing thing was that most leaders and people in the denomination said they agreed with us, but were not willing to do anything about it. Some of them, maybe most of them, would disagree with my assessment of what happened, but nothing has changed and the false teaching not only continues, but is spreading.
The leaders and people at Lighthouse had to make a decision: stay and keep fighting, or leave the denomination and lose the building we had worked hard to erect in order to faithfully serve the Lord in our community. Some have said it must have been a difficult choice, but once we were convinced that "saving the denomination" was not God's number one priority, but rather, being "the pillar and foundation of truth" (I Timothy 3:15), the decision was an easy one. Our mission and vision statement gave us our answer: We exist to proclaim the reign of Jesus Christ over all things; glorifying and enjoying God forever! We had no choice but to do that which honored the Lord and did not water down His truth or twist it to accommodate modern social immorality of any kind. For us, it really came down to Acts 5:29: "We must obey God rather than men."
So we left the building and began worshiping in a school cafeteria on June 10th of this year. We had been worshiping with about 350-400 people total between two services while in the building. In the cafeteria we set up 390 chairs, understanding that our attendance may go down for a while. However, within a few weeks, we could see that this was not going to work long-term. We were running out of room! So on August 12th we moved again, this time to another school and a larger gymnasium. Now we are setting up almost 500 chairs and we are worshiping with 400-425 people in one service. We praise God for His faithfulness to us.
So what does all this have to do with anger? Well, all I can say is that people who are focused on a manmade agenda do things that appear good to some but which ultimately dishonor God. Many people are deceived by nice-sounding words from smiling faces. Leaders in the visible church do things "behind the scenes" without talking with their brothers and sisters in Christ in the congregation, using the excuse that they are called to lead and the people "don't need to know everything." It happens all the time. And when it does, it is a disgrace to Christ and His Church, and THAT makes me angry!! It should make everyone who loves Christ and His body angry. Leadership in the Church must be transparent and humble, seeking first the wisdom of God's Word and Spirit and then the counsel of God's people.
We can be angry at what angers God! But because God knows our sinful tendency to make it all about US, and to become bitter and vengeful, He warns us not to carry our anger over to the next day, but rather, to come to Him and find peace. How do you do that? You go back to the passage that Paul is quoting in Ephesians 4:26, when he says, "In your anger do not sin" ... Psalm 4 ...
The Psalmist begins by crying out to God: "Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer. How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?" (vss. 1-2). With David, who wrote this Psalm, I wonder how long men will delude themselves and those around them, bringing dishonor to the cause of Christ. Then he goes on:
"Know that the LORD has set apart the godly for Himself; the LORD will hear when I call to Him" (vs. 3). We can have confidence that God sees what is happening, that He knows the hearts of all men, and that He takes the side of those who stand for Him. Know that and trusting in the God who never fails, David writes, "In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent" (vs. 4). I need to be sure that my anger does not become sinful, self-centered and dishonoring to God. I need to search my own heart and be silent before the LORD, not complaining or murmuring, or allowing bitterness and resentment to fill my mind as though I am the one being offended. Those who are causing my anger are sinning against God and He will deal with their deceit in His own time and in His own way. I must confess my own sin and draw near to Christ for forgiveness and cleansing and set my heart on pleasing God.
In doing so, I must "offer right sacrifices and trust in the LORD" (vs. 5). He is at work, even when I don't understand why things are happening as they are; even when it seems sometimes like those who are doing evil are "winning." I must continue to offer the sacrifice of praise and serve Him with the zeal and passion He deserves from those who are in Christ's army.
Now here's where the good part is and this is what I and all the people of Lighthouse Community Church, Non-Denominational have experienced: "Many are asking, 'Who can show us any good?' Let the light of your face shine upon us, O LORD. You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound. I will lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety" (vss. 6-8). Isn't that wonderful?? God has shown His mercy, His goodness and His kindness to us over these past few months in ways we could not have possibly imagined! He has provided for all our needs and He is bringing brothers and sisters in Christ whom we have not previously known to join with us in our labor for the Lord. Those who are seeking truth and answers to life's deepest questions are being drawn by the Lord into our midst and the Spirit continues to send us out into our community and beyond. Our God is able and He is with us! Whatever He calls us to endure for His glory, He will give us strength and peace to overcome, if we are willing to lay aside our anger and replace it with praise!!
Thank You, Father, for loving us, for guiding us, for watching over and protecting us, and for always, always giving us all we NEED as we seek first your kingdom and your righteousness!! To YOU be the glory, now and forever! Amen!!