Listening to the Word

One of my favorite podcasts to listen to is Truth for Life with Alistair Begg. Alistair is a pastor in Ohio who preaches expositionally through the Word. Every message that I have heard from him is straight from the Word, does not assume that man’s wisdom is right (though he doesn’t discount the work of other men), and cuts to the core of my sin nature. I nearly always feel convicted or encouraged after listening to his messages. He originally is from Scotland, so listening to his “wee”s and his accent is also fun. Today, I listened to a particularly thought-provoking and convicting message titled, The Word of Truth. This is a two part podcast and while the first part was good and foundational, it was the second part that left me pondering my ways. In it, he is teaching on James 1:18-19.

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.

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.

I could probably write pages on all the things that he spoke, what I thought about them, and how my heart responded. However, the only one that I really want to focus on here is regarding the phrase, “slow to anger.” Yes, of course, there is the obvious meaning that we should try to not get angry too quickly, but he raised two interesting points. That little phrase is sandwiched between the prior verse which points out that it is the Word which brought us into salvation and the following verse which notes that man’s anger doesn’t produce God’s righteousness. So, being quick to listen, slow to anger, etc. are not just good character qualities, but are good disciple qualities.

The first point was that when we are studying the Word or hearing it taught, we must not come with an angry heart. It doesn’t matter what the anger is regarding, it will distort and even drown out our ability to be changed by the Word. There are many, many people out there that while they may get angry sometimes, they are generally laid back people and do not often struggle with this. I am not that person! I find myself getting angry daily — nearly always with my family. The very people that I try to worship beside. How many times, I wonder, have I missed a message meant for me, because I was too busy applying it to one of my family members? Only throught God’s power and grace will I be able to squelch that angry spirit. It is something that I must seek after for the benefit of my own Christian walk as well as the benefit of those around me. I will not be able to glean all that I could and should from preaching, Bible study, etc. if I do not prepare my heart to be a fertile soil waiting to grow the seed of faith.

The other point was in how our anger affects (or doesn’t affect) the lives of others. I don’t want to get into all the details and make this too long. Instead, I’ll share the direction of my thoughts as he spoke on this point. I remembered the MANY times that I have looked upon other Christians with disdain for things that they might allow in their lives, ways they might act, or things that they might speak. While I might be right in that some of those things aren’t becoming of a Christian, my indignance will not change the behavior. If anything, it might spurn the person on to do more of the same — an “I’ll show you” mentality. One area (of several) where I struggle with this is modesty. I think that I have it all figured out! I know what is pleasing to the Lord for women to wear and what disappoints Him. (I’m being a little sarcastic, but there is some truth here, too). When I see a Christian wearing something that doesn’t fit in my profile of what’s acceptable, I actually get angry. What good does it do anyone? It doesn’t help me or the person. It certainly doesn’t help my children learn to be loving. It doesn’t help my husband keep a good attitude when I begin ranting about it. It really does nothing to produce righteousness. Even this anger that I might try to call “righteous anger” because it is rooted in my understanding of the Word, is not anger and Jesus would call it hatred! How I must seek Him to create in me a spirit that is quiet, ready to learn, and willing to love as He loves — without conditions.

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