June 6, 2016

Killing the Gremlin of Anger

by Clint Archer

When I was a really little kid a cheesy 80s horror movie hit the big screen. It was called Gremlins. The story is about a boy who finds a small, fury, odd-looking creature called a mogwai that seems as harmless as a hamster. But you discover that if this unassuming little pet stays up past midnight, and has a snack, it morphs into a grotesque, evil, brutally violent monster called a Gremlin! Like I said, it was the 80s.Mogwai

I begged my parents to let me watch it, all the kids at school were talking about it. They wisely refused. The movie was a box office hit and soon spawned merchandise like the fluffy toy version of the mogwai. As compensation for not allowing me to see the movie, they bought me this fluffy toy mogwai to add to the posse of teddy bears on my bed.

One day I was at a friend’s house for a sleep over, and his parents said we could rent a movie. We rented Gremlins. I didn’t sleep a wink that night, and when I got home I was too scared to go into my room because I now knew what that harmless looking mogwai was capable of if he was fed after midnight. I had nightmares for months, and donated my toy mogwai to some unsuspecting neighbors so that it could torment other little kids and leave me alone.

The Bible talks about another insipid danger which people consider mostly harmless. But what they don’t realize is that it turns into an evil monster when it is fed after midnight. It’s called the sin of anger.

Eph 4:26-27 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.


1. Identify your sin of anger

This means pasting a biblical label on it. Don’t call it being crabby, irritable, or hot-blooded. We often speak in terms of anger coming from a source other than ourselves. We use victim terminology. We ‘lose our temper’ because he ‘makes us so angry.’ But anger is a sin that is conceived in the only place sin can be: your heart (James 1:14-15).

GremlinBut this verse implies that it is possible to be angry and not sin, so there are two types of anger.

Garden variety anger: This is getting upset when someone wrongs you. It makes you want to get revenge, or somehow retaliate to signal your displeasure. This is why cars have horns ….. to tell other drivers how angry we are….right?

Righteous indignation: Jesus burned with zeal for the temple, made a whip and drove out the avaricious merchants. So, yes, there is such a thing as righteous anger. But when Jesus was reviled, persecuted and arrested, he never got angry. There is no anger of Christ that was ever sparked by an attack on him, or his teachings or even his disciples.

So righteous anger is anger that is a reaction to an attack on God or others, not you. As soon as you are in the group of those affected, then you are disqualified from being angry about it. Let’s face it, if someone breaks into your home and steals everything, are you honestly angry that they were violating the Romans 13 principle of obeying the government, and violating the 10 commandments? Or are you angry that your new flat screen TV is gone and wasn’t insured?

It is good for us to feel anger toward sin against God. But…don’t re-label your anger as righteous anger.

2. Change your mind

We need to use Scripture to help think about anger the way God does. It is no minor-league sin.
Matt 5:22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment;

To think rightly about sin you need to know that it gives an opportunity to the devil to wreak havoc in your life and the lives of others. One of the best ways to renew your mind is to remember the consequences of sin.

a) Anger makes you do foolish things.

Prov 14: 17 A man of quick temper acts foolishly…
Like the guy who gets angry in traffic so starts driving recklessly with his family in the car.

b) Anger makes you vulnerable to manipulation.

Prov 25: 28 A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.
You’ve heard people say ‘She knows just how to push my buttons.’ Well, take the remote out of her hand!

c) Anger breeds more anger.

Prov 29: 22 A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression.
Wrath and anger are like a male and female rabbit. If you leave them alone long enough they are going to start multiplying. Soon you have baby bunnies of strife and transgression.

3. Replace it with self-control

Eph 4:26 Be angry and do not sin; [don’t stop reading there] do not let the sun go down on your anger,

That’s because, like a mogwai turning into to a Gremlin, overnight anger morphs into bitterness. And there is no such thing as righteous bitterness! Bitterness is a whole new species of monster.

This is what it looks like to let the sun go down on your anger:
– pretending nothing is wrong, but inside it’s eating at you like acid in your gut.
– having a falling out and letting days go by without reconciliation.
– giving someone the silent treatment; reconciliation only comes when you talk about the issue and ask forgiveness.
– bringing it up days later. “Well yesterday you did this, so you can’t get upset at me doing it today.”
– fantasizing about or plotting revenge.

So the “put on” behavior is self-control. This command to be angry and not sin implies that we have a say over how long we are angry for.

If you are an angry husband, or a moody teenager, or a crabby old woman, or an irritable mom, you need to identify, confess, repent, renew your mind, and put on the opposite, righteous behavior.

You can only do that by God’s grace because of Jesus Christ. But you need to treat the monster with urgency. Do NOT leave repentance until tomorrow. It may be too late to stave off bitterness.

Clint Archer

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Clint has been the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church since 2005. He lives in Durban, South Africa with his wife and four kids.
  • Well said brother.

  • Jon45Solas

    You forgot to throw coffee into the mix as treatment for irritability.

    Ok, scratch that. I guess you can leave it like it is. 🙂

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  • Jason

    Proverbs 29:22 must be putting water on it.

  • I’m not ignoring comments, I’m just in transit. About to board a plane at Dulles bound for Istanbul. But I’ll check in if/when I can.

    • Starrocks923

      Hey, we all understand. Get some sleep on the plane; I know none of us got any this weekend, but you’ve earned it!

      You’re an awesome preacher who’s on fire for the Lord, and your faithfulness is inspiring. Whenever I heard you say the word “Well”, I knew it was time to whip out my Bible! You’ve made a significant impact on my dear friend Jesse Johnson’s walk with the Lord as well as mine, and I greatly look forward to seeing you around next year. (Same to you too, Michael Coughlin! Thanks for helping with the soda cans and water!)

      • Judy Parker

        Funny Starrocks923 – after sitting under Clint’s ministry for a number of years I have also noticed that all good sermons start with the word “Well” 🙂 what a blessing he is!

        • Starrocks923

          More specifically, “Well” is the part where he starts the sermon. Cracking a few jokes right before doesn’t count, nor does praying. 😉

  • John Byde

    Easier said than done, folks! I’m a Christian. When my narcissistic next door neighbour bawled out my 4 year old son for crying while she was trying to lie in (this was at 12 noon), I got angry with her and told her some choice words. In that situation, I’m going to defend my son. Sorry I’m not as holy as you guys!

    • Starrocks923

      Well, I’m not so sure it’s a matter of being “holier”…perhaps you mean to say “more sanctified”? I detect possible sarcasm in your last sentence, and I’m sincerely sorry if any of my comments have upset you in any way.

      I struggle with getting angry and defensive a lot. My mom makes the most mundane mistakes and ridiculous comments, and I used to swear she was trolling. Meanwhile, my dad gets very impatient and often blows up when faced with the credit card missing for the zillionth time, even though we checked through the piles of trash on the floor 20 times and retraced our steps all the way back to the other side of the continent, only to find it hiding under the green chair. I’m often tempted to take the word “damnation”, shorten it and use it in a non-Biblical way, if you know what I mean…

      We all sin every day, even though we’re saved. The classic Jekyll and Hyde (That Petra song is [/u]still[u] stuck in my head!) example is in Romans 7:15, when the Apostle Paul writes, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” None of us could ever be Enoch, yet there is grace in our failings. Jesus died on the cross for all of our sins, including the sins we will (unfortunately) continue to make for the rest of our existence.

      Galatians 2:20 says, ” I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Sanctification means killing your sinful self every day and being renewed in the likeness of Christ. Trading the old for the new. We all struggle with the gremlins of sin in our lives, which means it’s time to pick up our crosses – it’s sin-killing time!

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