Don’t let anger give the devil opportunity

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

How do we live differently from the world?

One way we live differently is by putting away our anger. Not allowing it to stew overnight. It is important we don’t allow anger to stew because it will develop further. Anger, though sinful in itself, left unchecked will turn into further sinful action. Corrupting talk, wrath, clamor, slander, malice. All these actions against another can stem from anger and will kill unity in community.

When we allow anger to stew, we give opportunity to the devil. He uses our anger with others to create division and disunity. It’s that division and disunity that destroys the church’s witness, it hinders its mission. Don’t allow the devil the victory. Deal with anger in seed form so that it will not take root.

Goals Lead to Success but hold them loosely

Goals, whether they are small or large almost everyone has them. That is especially true this time of year. We call them resolutions, but essentially they are our goals for the next year.

Goals for the New Year

Personal Goals

I’ve set some goals for 2021. Like most people, one of my goals is to be healthier. 2020 did a number on me. We went from stocking up on M&M’s to Oreo’s to Ice Cream and then holiday candy and treats. Before I knew it, I had put on 20 in 2020.

If I were to poll the audience, I am sure many of you have a goal to live healthier this next year as well. Or maybe you are planning on striking out on your own and starting a new business. You are finally going to do it. Or maybe your goal is to finish school or that big project you have been working on. Maybe you want to read more or through the Bible in 2021. If you don’t have any other goals, I’d certainly suggest reading through the Bible in a year as a worthwhile goal. Or maybe you want to downsize, clean out those closets and garage. Whatever it might be, I’m sure you have some goals, a New Years Resolution, or two in mind.

Almost 50 percent of people make New Year’s resolutions. 80% of those people believe they will keep their New Years resolution, but the truth is New Years resolutions are not easy to keep. According to the Washington Post, only 46 percent of those who make resolution will keep them for six months and 8 percent the whole year. That is a staggering statistic. Only 8% hit their goal, which means 92% of all people fail at keeping their New Years Resolution.1

Since New Years resolutions are not easy to keep, the goals we set are not easy to attain so:

  • We must be realistic with the goals we set.
  • We need a good foundation upon which to build.
  • We need others to help us realize our goals.

Church Goals

As a church, we need the same. We need a goal for which to reach or we are going to flounder around like a fish out of water. We also have to be realistic with the goals we set. We have to build on a good foundation. We need one another to help us realize our goals.

Goals Lead to Success

We have to know in what direction we are going before we head out. I’d encourage you to develop some personally goals for the year.

If you are a brother pastor, develop some ministry goals as well. Develop goals for your personal ministry as well as your church’s ministry. If we are going to see success in 2021, we must develop goals.

Hold Them Loosely

While it is important we develop goals, we must hold our goals loosely. If 2020 taught us anything, our goals, whether they be personal or ministry-related, might not match God’s goals for us. Develop goals, but hold those goals loosely as you pray for the Lord’s guidance, empowerment, and ultimately for His will to be done.


[1] https://www.finder.com/new-years-resolution-statistics AND https://www.wrpawprint.com/features/2015/01/27/failing-new-years-resolutions/

You can’t love Jesus while hating your brother.

“For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints,” (Eph 1:15)

You can’t love Jesus while hating your brother. Notice Paul combines these two ideas — your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love towards all the saints. These ideas are not combined by accident. Rather they are combined on purpose.

But why? Why should faith in Jesus produce love towards others?

Our faith in Christ changes our identity.

  • We are now adopted sons and daughters through Christ (Eph 1:5).
  • God’s wisdom and insight are lavished upon us through which He makes known to us the mystery of His will, which is to unite all things (Eph 1:8-10).
  • Furthermore, we have obtained an inheritance, which indicates we are a part of a new family (Eph 1:11-12). Our inheritance is even guaranteed by the third member of the Trinity — the Spirit (Eph 1:13-14).
  • Moreover, we are released from our former manner of life, so that we now live a new life in Christ that is the antithesis of the passions of our flesh (Eph 2:1-3).
  • God has even seated us with Christ in the heavenly places, insinuating that we are not just adopted sons and daughters, who have been changed to follow a new course of life, but we are kings and queens who reign and rule next to the eternal all-powerful King of the universe (Eph 2:4-6).

Our new life in Christ should produce unity. Paul’s argument in this section drives towards that conclusion. Verse 16 of chapter 2 says it explicitly —

“and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (Eph 2:16).

The hostility he mentions primarily deals with the divide between Jew and Gentile. Through Christ, we are made one in Christ. We are both — Jew and Gentile — citizens of a new kingdom in which we are united (Eph 2:19).

While Paul’s argument deals firstly with the divide, and subsequent unity in Christ, between Jew and Gentile, the outworking of our unity as citizens of a new kingdom is love for one another. As citizens of a new kingdom we are to have camaraderie with one another. More than camaraderie we are to work together. More than just working together, we are to love one another. We are capable of loving one another because we have been freed from our past life, which was dominated by the prince of the power of the air and our own flesh (Eph 2:1-3).

As citizens of a new kingdom, freed from sin and Satan’s control, having our desires changed, and given a new identity in Christ, we can and we should love one another.

You can’t love Jesus while hating your brother.

Don’t let your gift of God’s Word go underutilized this year.

Reading the Bible is a gift that is underutilized. In our day print and digital media are ubiquitous. We take for granted our ability to read, as well as our freedom to own and download a copy of God’s Word.

Why don’t you utilize the gift you have been given and the relationship with God you are privileged to possess. The Bible Project is an excellent resource. One I have used many times in the past and one I am using right now to read through the Bible. I encourage you to download their app, sign up for their weekly email, or subscribe to their plan via YouVersion.

Don’t let your gift of God’s Word go underutilized this year.

Love for neighbor creates unity in the community and we should seek unity.

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Gal 5:13)

In Christ we have been set free from the demands of the law. Not that we set the law aside in that we shouldn’t follow God’s Word. No, we must and we should follow God’s Word. A disciple is someone who follows a master. Jesus is our master. We are His disciples. We should follow Him. But we are free from the law’s bondage over us. It is no longer our tutor, teaching, training, restraining and pointing. It has accomplished it’s goal in that it has pointed us to Christ.

Jesus is the fulfillment of the law. He embodied it perfectly, never breaking a single command. As a result, He is able to be our perfect sacrifice, fulfilling the law on our behalf so as to make those who believe in Him through faith righteous.

Having experienced the freedom Christ provides, we should not use your freedom to satisfy the desires of our flesh. In fact, the opposite is true. Having been set free from the bondage of sin, we should use our freedom to follow Jesus in living according to God’s Word.

Not that it is a bad idea, but we don’t need to memorize all the commands in God’s Word in order to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. The whole law, as we are told in verse 14, can be summed in their phrases, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Gal 5:14). Paul is playing off Jesus’ answer in the gospels to a question regarding what is the greatest commandment. Jesus answered it is to love God and the second greatest was to love your neighbor (Matt 22:36-40). I believe both ideas are implied here, but the specific focus of the passage in on community, which is why the second greatest commandment is quoted.

It is wrong to say that you love God, while at the same time hating your brother. If you love God, you will love your brother. You will not use your freedom to bite and devour them. Instead, you will use your freedom to show love and care for them. If we seek to devour another instead of living in unity with them, we will be devoured ourselves. So as others attempt to take a bite out of us, we should press into love.

Love for neighbor creates unity in the community and we should seek unity. It is what the law, although imperfectly, was seeking and what we are capable of now that we are freed from the bondage of sin in Christ. We are capable of loving and living in unity with our fellow brothers and sisters. We must press into unity in our community by loving others as we would love ourselves.

Spiritual growth comes through faith not works

“Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Gal 3:3)

How do we grow as a Christian? Is it through ascetic practices, being more disciplined than we once were, or by keeping the Law to a greater extent?

Salvation comes through faith not by works. We are justified in God’s sight through the work of Christ on our behalf when we exercise faith in Jesus’ work on our behalf.

If we are saved/justified by faith, we are also sanctified by faith. We don’t come to Christ through faith, then grow in righteousness through our works. No, we grow as a believer, putting off the old and putting on the new through faith in Jesus’ work on our behalf and the Spirit’s work in our life.

It is the Spirit who works in us to bring to mind our sin. He also works to change our desires so that over time, or in some instances in a moment, no longer desire the things of the world. We live for and long for the things of God.

Beating our body into submission through ascetic practices will not work. The desires of our flesh is strong. For thousands of years, the law didn’t work to make man righteous. We need Jesus’ justifying work and we need the Spirit’s sanctifying work in order to grow in righteousness.