Ben Zornes

The Good, Bad, & Ugly of Anger

Anger over an offense should be dealt with swiftly, and that anger must not be allowed to linger. Forgiveness and reconciliation is what anger’s end game should be (Ephesians 4:32).

God is slow to anger (Ps. 103:8, 145:8), but the Psalmist also asks the Lord how long “shall thy wrath burn like fire (Ps. 89:46)?” Anger is likened to a kindling of fire (Ps. 78:21). The hebrew word aph (אף) is commonly translated as anger or wrath, and it is used to describe the heat of passion when one is transgressed by another party or parties. God’s wrath in the New Testament is likened to a goblet of wine slowly filling up which will suddenly overflow in holy judgement upon evildoers. All this together should show us that anger is not a sin, but what our anger is directed at determines whether our anger is righteous or wicked.
If a genuine transgression is committed against you, anger is a proper response; but the question comes down to whether it was a real offense or only a perceived one. Furthermore, Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:26, “Be ye angry, and sin not,” followed by the famous admonition to not let the sun go down on your anger. Meaning, anger over an offense should be dealt with swiftly, and that anger must not be allowed to linger. Forgiveness and reconciliation is what anger’s end game should be (Eph. 4:32).

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What Are We Doing?

The only way which sinners like us can bring right worship (in our prayers & praise) is if we bring it in covenant. Every other attempt is really idolatry, self-worship, and sin. You’ve come to Mt. Zion, not to do God a favor, but because of His favor towards you.

One of the more vital needs of the church is for us to do what we do on purpose. In other words, while there’s a right sort of habitual piety, there’s also a very real threat of putting our worship on spiritless autopilot. We should ask ourselves, “What are we doing here?” And we should have an answer that’s derived from what God, in His Word, told us to do in our gathering.
This is a service of prayer (Acts 2:42) in which God renews His covenant with His people (Heb. 12:22-24). Let me break that into two parts. The reason we assemble is to offer our prayers up to the Lord. True prayer humbles itself before the Living God. As such, it brings praise for Who He is & petitions Him alone for deliverance from evil. Our songs are sung prayers; largely derived from the Psalms or from themes clearly tied to the text of Scripture.
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The Blueness of the Wound

In an age of comfort & ease it is all too tempting to think that afflictions are an inconvenience to our happiness. But the Word reveals to us that all our pains, whether inflicted by our own foolishness, or due to the sorrows that still fill this world, are means which the Lord brings about our true happiness. May the Lord forgive us as a nation for hating the stern rebukes of God’s Word through the faithful preaching of righteousness. May God grant us in His church tender hearts to feel in the sting of conviction and see in the bruises of our chastisement God’s lovingkindness, His purging holiness, His great mercy towards us.

In a recent reading through Proverbs around our dinner table, I was struck by a proverb that takes a bit of pondering to make sense of:
“The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil: so do stripes the inward parts of the belly (Pro. 20:30).”
To rephrase this verse, the black & blue of a bruise is the visible proof that the body is remedying some wound which struck the body. God not only designed your body to repair itself from being wounded, but also made that healing visible.
We’re naturally averse to suffering and pain. We try to avoid afflictions. But God’s kindness refuses to let the evil abide in us, and sends us hand-selected chastisements to purge our hearts. A stubborn child, a lawless criminal, a backsliding saint will all need to meet with the various, but stern, correcting strokes of justice. The parents must apply the rod. The judge must give punitive measures. The elders must withhold the Supper.
But the pain of discipline, the sting of rebuke, the sharpness of affliction aren’t ends in and of themselves.
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Strong Kindness

Instead of unleashing a torrent of fiery words upon each other, daily set about to lavish kindness upon each other. And it should be the sort of kindness that looks like the God you claim to worship. If your home is filled with shouts and biting words, determine today to give three kind compliments to your spouse and family. Our Father has shown immeasurable goodness and gentleness towards us. He’s not treated us as our sins deserve. Yet we all too often blow others’ sins and slights out of proportion.

Are you a kind person? Notice I didn’t ask “do people like you?” Or, “Are you nice?” I asked about whether you are kind or not. Of course, it’s quite easy to be friendly when out and about. But in your intimate relationships with your spouse, children, siblings, or friends, are you kind?
Along with being listed amongst the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, Paul tells the Ephesians to “Be kind one to another”, and to the Colossians, “put on kindness.” But kindness, as other virtues, must be defined by Scripture not by our sensibilities. Our kindness to others must rest on the kindness God, which appeared unto us in the redeeming work of Christ, and the regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit.
God’s kindness towards us wasn’t shown on the basis of our deserving it, but because it’s in His nature. The Psalmist declared: “Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee (Ps. 63:3).” The kindness of the Lord is superior to life itself.
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Born to Die

Lord’s Day after Lord’s Day, like the drumbeat of an advancing army, we proclaim the Lord’s Death. The death of the babe born in Bethlehem, the death of the Christ, the death of the King of the Jews, the death of Jesus of Nazareth. The Death which all peoples of the earth must reckon with. Here we proclaim it. Next week we proclaim it. Until He comes again we proclaim the death which defanged Death itself.

While our focus during the Advent season is upon Christ’s incarnation and birth, we should ever be mindful that He was born to die. As we come to this table, it should be noted that we are commanded to keep this Supper until Christ comes; and in our partaking of it, we show the Lord’s death.
There is poignancy in the Lord’s death. To state the obvious, death isn’t possible unless He was first born in the likeness of human flesh, and then lived a truly human life. And so, it’s the death of the Lord which we declare each time we partake of this bread & wine.
The church makes a corporate proclamation whenever we take this meal. We proclaim that God became a man and died.
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The Nail in Timidity’s Coffin

God’s commandment is to believe in Jesus, and love the brethren. Once again it is made abundantly clear for even the feeblest saint, our confidence towards God is on the basis of faith in Christ alone. ”Faith alone” should be the key signature of our prayers.

And this is His commandment, That we should believe upon the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, as He gave us commandment. 24 And he that keeps His commandments dwells in Him, and He in him. Now hereby we know that He dwells in us, by the Spirit which He has given us.1 John 3:23-24
As this line of argument comes to a close, John puts a nail in timidity’s coffin. Here is the command we are to keep. A command which is uncomfortably simple to both the self-righteous and the self-pitying. But this command is a deep comfort to the feeblest of saints: believe in Jesus, and love one another (v23); and then trust that you rest in Him as He abides in you.
John’s argument (in vv20-21) is a decision making flowchart of sorts. Does your heart condemn you? If, yes? God is greater than your heart. Now, in light of that, does your heart condemn you no more? Good, then say your prayers (v22).
To come to God in prayer is to come to Him by the Son, by the Intercessor. Only a fool would try to come before God in order to pull off a heist; as if he could dupe God by coming in any other way than by the Son. When God’s greatness is displayed in Jesus Christ manifested in the flesh, prayer becomes like the no-doubt 3-pointer. We pray “Thy Kingdom come”, and we are certain that near and far, in our heart and in our homes, from shore to shore Christ is King and shall be exalted in all the earth. Who could pray such a bold prayer unless that had certainty that the Father would hear & answer such prayers?
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How Abram Fought the Culture War

The worship of the saints compels men to leave their impotent idols or else face God’s swift wrath. Our worship defies the glory of man as we insist on lifting high the name above all names. But this worship must be done in true faith. You cannot worship God with your lips while treasuring up evil in your heart. This worship will be potent only insofar as it springs from evangelical faith. Faith that Christ has cleansed you. Faith that Christ is King. Faith that all the idols & idolaters will soon vanish, and only those who worship in spirit and in truth shall remain. 

When Abram first came into the land of Canaan we see him building altar after altar to Jehovah. This is both a sign of God’s kindness, and a warning of His wrath upon those who won’t receive this kindness. Some are offended when later on in history God commands Israel to go on a Holy War against the Canaanites. Before God set the hosts of Israel into those battles to conquer the Promised Land, He first marched a prophetic witness to these nations in the form of Abram’s worship. Many Canaanites were, in fact, converted and brought under the care of Abram’s community.
There is important instruction for us here. God fights culture wars with worship. When God’s people worship, they declare the downfall of pagan idols. Abram set up altars to the Living God. In so doing he summoned all the worshippers of sun, moon, wood, and stone to forsake their feeble gods and find glory in the presence of God Most High.
Our worship each Lord’s Day is an act of prophetic ministry. The worship of the saints compels men to leave their impotent idols or else face God’s swift wrath.
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The Virtue of Picking a Fight

When the fool is struck by the Word, those with understanding will understand and beware (Pro. 19:25). The lost have seen plenty of capitulation and flip-flopping all around them. What often sets them back, awakening them to grace, is seeing men and women of God stand with conviction for the whole counsel of God without getting red in the face for those portions of Leviticus about shell-fish. The world has seen plenty of cowardice, perhaps it is waiting for Christians who are actually courageous to believe, live, and declare the Word with boldness.

In the years that I’ve been writing publicly, a common contention is that pointing out and knocking down certain worldly viewpoints might be hurtful to people. The frequent rebuff I’ve seen is that Christians are supposed to be loving, not judgy and all that. Or some keyboard warrior will ask, “Why did you pick a fight on this or that issue, shouldn’t Christians be Gospel centered?”
Confronting some cultural nonsense, whether in the church or outside it, will often earn you the chiding of other Christians implying that you need to be more gracious, sweet, and kind. I’d like to address some of these objections, showing why we need twice the courage and half the niceness.
Impotent Gospel-Centeredness
First of all, too often claiming to be “Gospel-centered” has become an excuse to confine the Gospel to the size and scope of a linen closet. You’re not gospel-centered if you’re embarrassed by the Gospel as it is found in Leviticus, or in the hard sayings of Christ, or in the biting rhetoric of the Prophets, or in the salty stories of Judges. To be Gospel-centered actually requires us to be Bible-centered. We must read and receive the whole book.
You can think that John 3:16 is the only verse you need to hop up and down on, but even there, in that famous verse, Jesus clearly lays out the consequences of not believing in the only begotten Son: you will perish. Jesus seems to be implying, trigger warning, that outside of faith in Him there is no meaningful life.
It does no good to be Gospel-centered with an impotent Gospel. The Gospel of Christ is that He demands the whole of your life, your neighbor’s life, and Saudi Arabia’s life. He is Lord of all the earth. It all belongs to Christ. He has commanded us to disciple the nations, not coax them to join our religious LARPing club. Our Gospel is to the whole world, for the whole world.
The Godly Virtue of Picking Fights
Others object that picking a fight, by writing on a controversial topic (which I have been known to do), doesn’t seem very grace-filled. This all depends on if you define grace Biblically, or if you have had it defined for you by the sort of books with the author’s face taking up 90% of the front cover. Grace is proclaiming that God looks upon those in Christ with favor, having forgiven them all their sins. Grace is not molly-coddling folly or sin. Numerous examples of Prophets & Apostles, let alone our Lord Jesus, show that picking a fight can be the most godly course of action. Through these instances of godly fights, we see God’s grace displayed to sinners.
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