Hostility seems to be a hallmark of this church age in a similar way that road-rage is to the world. It is alright for us to be righteously indignant as long as we do not sin. There is a place for righteous indignation, but God does not permit much anger because it is difficult not to sin when angry. That kind of anger is a "mark of the beast."
Frequently, hostility is simply a denial of reality. People do not have tempers born in them; angry tempers begin to be created in childhood. Parents allow tempers to burst forth, and each time it happens, it becomes easier—and the next time and the next and on and on until it is ingrained in the personality.
Anger is nothing more than a passionate response to some sort of stimuli, and it is almost always a self-centered response. It usually begins when we believe that what should or should not have happened either did or did not, and conflict arises. We can believe, either strongly or weakly, it should or should not have happened. Therefore, anger can be either strong or weak or anywhere in between.
The reality is this: What happened happened. How will anger help the problem? Satan believes that it does because he wants to control, to win, to compete, to devour, to get the upper hand, to triumph. Do we really need the anger to drive us to manipulate or to punish? Why not just start working on a solution without the anger, knowing full well that the anger will likely create sin and cause additional damage to the relationship? In a way, it is all very logical, but our feelings get in the way.
Proverbs 14:12 says, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death." The first clause can be paraphrased, "There is a way that man thinks things should be." This is where conflict arises: Two people see things differently. The question is, then, who is to say that it should be the way we see it?
Things happen because laws are broken, and whatever we sow we reap. Sometimes we get caught in other peoples' ignorance and stupidity. This is a fact of everybody's life, even to God in the flesh. He got caught in the ignorance and stupidity of His fellow Israelites in Judea, and it cost Him His life—yet He did not get angry. What an example! What an example of control. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus."
How far did He go to make peace? To the death. Even when the other person was totally, absolutely, completely wrong, He did not go to war against him.
The problem with anger arises when we turn our feelings and drives to set things right, as we see them, into absolute necessities. We feel it must be our way, but the reality is that others have the same rights from God that we have. Everyone has free moral agency. Anger arises because of the way we judge things: We apply the standard that we hold as being the right one.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Spiritual Mark of the Beast
Notice how many active words Paul uses in Colossians 3:1-17 to describe what a Christian must be doing:
- "Seek those things which are above" (verse 1).
- "Set your mind on things above" (verse 2).
- "Put to death your members" (verse 5).
- "Put off all these" (verse 8).
- "Do not lie to one another" (verse 9).
- "Put on tender mercies" (verse 12).
- "Bearing with one another, and forgiving" (verse 13).
- "Put on love" (verse 14).
- "Let the peace of God rule . . . and be thankful" (verse 15).
- "Let the word of Christ dwell in you" (verse 16).
- "Do all in the name of the Lord Jesus" (verse 17).
Paul makes sure we understand that we must actively participate in order to grow. When God talks about growth, He means increasing in His attributes, the qualities that will conform us to His image.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Five Teachings of Grace
This is the practical application of "seek[ing] those things which are above" (Colossians 3:1). In effect, Paul is saying that, if we are seeking heavenly things, the resources to overcome these things will be available. They will be part of us because God responds to those who are truly seeking Him.
We must be patient. Our relationship with God is not magic. It takes work. Those of us who have had any of these problems understand that one must hold a tight rein on oneself to keep from doing the things that Paul says to "put off." They are so deeply ingrained within us that they want to break out all by themselves.
This is why Paul writes in Romans 7:15-23, "The things that I do not want to do, I do. The things I do want to do, I do not do." He concludes that two conflicting laws were working within him. There was the law of his mind, which loved God, understood a great deal about Him, and wanted to submit to Him, to sacrifice for His sake and in His name, and to discipline himself. But the law of his flesh—sin that dwelt within him—every once in a while reared its ugly head and broke out.
Thus, we must discipline ourselves. We know that we are to "put off" those things that do not reflect the image of God and to "put on" the characteristics that do. "Putting on" and "taking off" are not always easy. Sometimes, we can readily apply or overcome certain things; they seem to come easily to us. But other character flaws are thorns in the flesh, their barbs stuck deep within us, and they embarrass us from time to time and make us feel guilty. They make us wonder whether we will be acceptable before God. Seeing this, we realize that overcoming them will take a great deal of work—and work requires discipline.
One of the final things that Paul mentions in this passage is love (Colossians 3:14). Love is the crown; it tops off, as it were, all of the other virtues, tying them all together. A true love for God and love for others—not to mention a proper love for ourselves—will motivate us to transform into Christ's image.
The diligent "putting on" and the "taking off" will be the proof of our seeking God and the things which are above. When we understand this, we realize that even the ability to "put on" and to "take off" is a gift from God, as the resources to do this come from Him. God responds to those who make Him the focus of their lives, and this is who we exhibit. The evidence begins to show in the way we live our lives.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 23)
Paul changes the metaphor to taking off clothing and putting it on. Is it possible that, just by thinking about it, the clothing we now wear will just fall off? We must make an effort to disrobe. On the other hand, we have to choose what clothing we will wear in its place. Then we have to make the effort to put it on.
These things are so clear. Do we see that we cannot just stand still? Growth, in terms of salvation, is not something that just happens because we receive the Spirit of God. It is caused to happen.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Christ calls us to take up our cross and follow His example. This call is not so much a call to martyrdom as a command to deny self or, crucify the flesh, even to the point of death. We must be prepared to die, if that is where the course of events leads, but in most cases it is not so much literal martyrdom as it is to have the attitude of self-denial that is willing to give up all. Christ's disciples live to serve God, not self. Paul admonishes us to put off our former conduct and put to death our sinful actions.
Martin G. Collins
Overcoming (Part 5): Self-Denial
What we fear to do is to suffer the pangs of self-denial. We fear putting to death our flesh that is demanding satisfaction. But the truth is that we are dealing with the most troublesome aspect of our humanity. It is pride demanding its due. That is what we do not want to face because, in submitting to God, we are denying what pride is demanding, that we stand up for ourselves.
Do you understand that it is pride within us that wants to be god? It loves being praised and being coddled. It quickly puffs up with angry judgment over the real or perceived wrongs of others while being oblivious to its own. It is almost like a living, breathing something, a form within us unlike that of any other creature. It can be fed, or it can be starved. When fed, it grows. When it is starved, it diminishes and dies daily.
Pride starves and diminishes when we choose to submit to God's Word in obedience. But it is going to put up a strong defense of itself through the fear of being denied. It wants satisfaction. "You shall be as gods," the serpent told Eve. God made the serpent say exactly what was happening. Pride in Adam and Eve exalted itself over God, and made them god by changing the standard to satisfy themselves when they saw that the fruit was attractive. They did not deny their flesh.
Whether the challenges arise in what we permit ourselves to eat or to drink, how much we permit ourselves to eat, the control of the tongue, directing the temper, or whether we choose to be kind or sarcastic or cynical or hopeful and encouraging, the test to control our fear of humbling ourselves exists. That is where the battle is being waged.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Does Doctrine Really Matter? (Part 4)
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