The person who gets sinfully angry has forgotten his new gospel identity in Christ. When we’re tempted to respond to people or circumstances with sinful anger, it is the renewal of our minds with biblical truths that will empower us to walk in grace and humility.
The key to overcoming anger is what you say to your own heart (Proverbs 4:23), especially in seasons when your anger might be provoked. Instead of merely counting to ten, or to a thousand, an angry person needs to stop and fill his mind with biblical truth so that he can overcome anger in his heart and become a person of grace. When anger builds, these truths do not automatically come to mind. The angry person is suppressing these truths so that he can continue to feed, justify, and express his rage. He must learn in the crucial moments of temptation to set his mind on things above because he is united with Christ (Colossians 3:1-3). As soon as temptation comes, it is helpful to review the following truths and related Scriptures. These truths redirect our hearts from devilish anger to Christian grace.
I want something too much, which is idolatry (James 4:1-4).
We become angry when our desires are not met. What must you have to be happy? Must you be respected and appreciated? Comfortable? Successful? Must you have a stress-free life? We must give our desires to God as we seek our ultimate satisfaction in Him (Isaiah 55:1-2; Psalm 34:8). When we will sin to get what we desire or to be sinfully angry because our desires have not been met, we have made these desires into idols. See the personal application projects at the end of this booklet for an assignment to help you identify your idolatrous desires.
I am not God/Judge (Genesis 50:19; Romans 12:17-21).
When others wrong us, we sense that the balance of justice is out of kilter, and we want to make it right again. The angry person thinks to himself, “You wronged me, so you deserve to be punished.” The angry person can punish the guilty party through hateful speech, acts of violence, slander, theft, or more subtly through being cold, quiet and withdrawn. These expressions of anger are sinfully judgmental. James reminds us that contrary to what our sinful hearts may think, “The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). Our vengeful acts do not bring justice, but they compound sin. “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17, 21). Even worse, our sinful expressions of anger usurp God’s office as the judge. When others wrong us, it comforts us to know that God will bring justice to those who do evil, even when human systems of justice fail. As we trust Him, we don’t need to take our own revenge or play God.