Angry hearts aren’t free hearts

‘You shall not murder.” (Deuteronomy 5:17 ESV).

This is the immoral, careless killing of another (murder), but also includes the death of another because of negligence or carelessness (manslaughter).  This verb is never used when describing killing in war so apparently there is a distinction.  The bible prohibits murder because we are image bearers (Genesis 1:26–27; 9:6); we have special status as being reflectors of God’s glory in a unique way.  So murder is, in a way, an attack on God.

The polar opposite of murder (fueled by hate) is love as highlighted in Leviticus 19:17-18:  ““You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.”

Loving our neighbor is repeated in the New Testament by Jesus, Paul & James:

  • Matthew 22:37–40:  “And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.””
  • Romans 13:9:  “For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
  • Galatians 5:14:  “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word:  “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”
  • James 2:8:  “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.”

Jesus’ teaching on this in the Sermon on the Mount gets to the real heart of the problem:  anger.  ““You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:21–24 ESV).  If you are angry, then your heart is not free.  Jesus knows that if He gets our hearts under control then our actions will follow.  He is restoring His image within us so that we actually are becoming more human (as God designed us to be).  We can’t kill anger any more than we can produce love on our own – we need outside assistance!  Let us place ourselves in proximity to God’s grace by our spiritual disciplines and let us plead with Him to change our hearts, motivations & affections.


The intent behind the law

Commandments 6-8 (murder, adultery & theft) are about living in a fair, just and covenantal community.  “The sixth through eighth commandments present general prohibitions not to murder (5:13), commit adultery (5:14), or steal (5:15). In doing so, they set minimum standards for Israel to be a just society and indicate the context in which the people will be called further to be holy and to love the Lord with their all their heart, soul, and might (Deut. 6:4–9), and their neighbors with goodwill and generosity (Lev. 19:18). Thus, while the prohibition against stealing is a basic principle of justice in Israel’s national life, the people are called to do more than refrain from taking another person’s possessions. They are to embody the Lord’s love for them by loving the stranger and sojourner as themselves (Lev. 19:33–34). When Jesus refers to the law in the Sermon on the Mount (“you have heard that it was said,” Matt. 5:21ff.), he is correcting not the intended purpose of the OT law but the mistaken presumption that these laws (or their interpretation) were meant to be exhaustive of what it meant to live as a child of the kingdom of heaven. (E.g., as Jesus made clear, simply refraining from murder does not fulfill the law when a person disdains his brother as a fool; or simply refraining from adultery does not fulfill the law when a man lusts after a woman; see Matt. 5:21–24, 27–28; and note on Matt. 5:21–48.).”  From the ESV Study Bible.

Honor Mom & Dad

“‘Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.”
(Deuteronomy 5:16 ESV)

This is the beginning of human authority which ultimately points to God’s authority.  Honor respects the role and the person.  Some of the time, the person is harder to respect because of some of life’s decisions that they have made, but we should strive to honor them nonetheless.  Jesus & Paul highlight this command as well in Mark 7:1–13; Ephesians 6:1–3; 1 Timothy 5:4.  This commandment is the only one that offers the follower a reward if obeyed:  a life filled with God’s presence and favor.  Authority is central in the scriptures because it is central to life – we are a people under authority.  That was the reason for the tree in the garden, to remind Adam & Eve that they were not ultimate or autonomous, to remind them that they were under God’s authority.  Parents are to protect, provide & teach their children to love and obey God.  Parents are to provide a picture of redemption – a little Eden on earth.

For some, mom & dad were absent, disconnected or just plain wicked.  How do you honor them when there is very little in them that seems worthy of honor or when the wounds & scars that you carry are deep & debilitating?  There are no simple answers to this – for some it might be a life long struggle.  It is important to remember that most (though not all) parents try to do the best that they can, though they fall woefully short and their sins scar those around them.  The real power to forgive & honor those closest to us that have wounded us is found in the cross of Christ.  The more deeply that we understand and embrace that there was nothing good in us that inclined God toward us (or that inclined us toward Him); the more that we deeply understand & embrace that before He formed a star, planet or carved out a river He determined to love you and made a way for you to be reconciled with Him.  The more deeply that we understand our own depravity, rebellion & self-centeredness and see the beauty of grace in the cross, the more empowered (supernaturally) we are to forgive, honor & love.

Heart of the Matter Review

““This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”” (John 6:29 ESV)

What is the work that we need to be doing?  That is the same question that was asked of Jesus in John 6:29.  His answer?  Be disciplined, work hard, feed the poor, love the unloveable, memorize the scriptures?  No.  All of these are good things, but they are secondary things.  The work we need to be doing in our faith is belief:  “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”  The real battle for us is to remember and rely upon the seemingly unbelievable good news of the Gospel – that a good and all powerful God has made a way for rebellious creatures to return and be reconciled with Him.  We don’t forget this in our minds, but the glory of God & His gospel readily creeps out of our hearts.

Heart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Lives by Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation helps us to remember the staggering promises of the gospel by providing short, gospel saturated daily devotions that are aimed at penetrating the reader’s heart.  Paul Tripp, Ed Welch, Timothy S. Lane, William Smith, Michael Emlet, David Powlison and others share profoundly practical & impactful truths on subjects that include fear & anxiety, anger, contentment, faith, relationships, stress, suffering, identity and trials & suffering.  If you find yourself in the battle for belief, then Heart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Lives is an excellent resource to help you on your journey.  It is available from New Growth Press at their online store, Amazon or WTS Books.  You can sign up to win a free copy here.

The Gospel

A good and all powerful God has made a way for rebellious creatures to return and be reconciled with Him; this is freely offered to everyone that will completely abandon all trust in their own morality and self-reliant efforts and will place their full trust in the perfectly lived life and sacrificial death of Jesus.

Free to Love

“Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.” (1 John 2:10 ESV)

You are free to love the people in your life when you love God more than anything. Because their love and acceptance is not your ultimate goal, you won’t be enslaved by your expectations for them and the disappointments that inevitably follow. Jesus is calling you to turn from love of self to love for him. Think about how Jesus has loved you—he lived the perfect life you should have lived, and he died the death you deserved.

When you wake up every morning and interact personally with the one who has done all this for you, your family’s slights and insults won’t plague you in the same way. This won’t be automatic or easy. Jesus said that each of us must take up our cross every day (Luke 9:23).

You must daily die to your self-centeredness by finding your identity in what Jesus has done for you in his life, death, and resurrection. As you do this every day, you will turn from making anything else in creation more important to you than the God who has rescued you from your self-centeredness. Growing as a disciple is gradual, in the same way that the crucifixion was slow and agonizing. As we die to self and embrace our new identity in Christ, God is slowly and patiently bringing us to the end of ourselves, so that he might fill us with the life of Christ.”

by Timothy S. Lane, August 28, p 241.  From Heart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Lives by Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. Copyright © 2012 by Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. Used by permission of New Growth Press.

Relational Idols

“And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” (1 John 2:28–3:3 ESV)

“No human being was ever meant to be the source of personal joy and contentment for someone else. Your spouse, your friends, and your children cannot be the sources of your identity. When you seek to define who you are through those relationships, you are asking another sinner to be your personal messiah, to give you the inward rest of soul that only God can give. Only when I have sought my identity in the proper place (in my relationship with God) am I able to put you in the proper place as well. When I relate to you knowing that I am God’s child and the recipient of his grace, I am able to serve and love you.

However, if I am seeking to get identity from you, I will watch you too closely. I will become acutely aware of your weaknesses and failures. I will become overly critical, frustrated, and angry. I will be angry not because you are a sinner, but because you have failed to deliver the one thing I seek from you: identity.

When I remember that Christ has given me everything I need to be the person he has designed me to be, I am free to serve and love you. When I know who I am, I am free to be humble, gentle, patient, forbearing, and loving as we navigate the inevitable messiness of relationships.”

Why doesn’t God just make your relationships better overnight? We often think that if God really cared for us, he would make our relationships easier. In reality, a difficult relationship is a mark of his love and care.

We would prefer that God would just change the relationship, but he won’t be content until the relationship changes us too. This is how God created relationships to function.
What happens in the messiness of relationships is that our hearts are revealed, our weaknesses are exposed, and we start coming to the end of ourselves. Only when this happens do we reach out for the help God alone can provide. Weak and needy people finding their hope in Christ’s grace are what mark a mature relationship.

The most dangerous aspect of your relationships is not your weakness, but your delusions of strength. Self-reliance is almost always a component of a bad relationship.
While we would like to avoid the mess and enjoy deep and intimate community, God says that it is in the very process of working through the mess that intimacy is found.

Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp, February 14, p 45 & January 16, p 16.  From Heart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Lives by Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. Copyright © 2012 by Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. Used by permission of New Growth Press.

You Can Rest

“He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:9–14 ESV)

“Feel the futility of it. In the Old Testament, the priests of Israel were required to offer daily sacrifices to atone for sins. Hebrews points out that the fact these sacrifices had to be performed over and over for hundreds of years shows that they were ineffective in removing sin (Hebrews 10:1–2). Let the language of these tasks being “endless” and being required “year after year” make you tired.

But when Jesus comes, acting as our high priest, he makes a sacrifice of his own life and body that pays the debt once and for all. “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:12). Jesus, unlike any other priest, completed his work and was able to sit down. Like his Father in Genesis 1, Jesus sits because his labor for us is perfect and complete. In other words,

“It was very good.” Because Jesus rests, you can rest.

Jesus’ death and resurrection embody the promises of Sabbath. His work is perfect; complete. He has redeemed us from our sin. By trusting him and obeying his words and his Spirit within us, we are no longer slaves to our corrupted nature. We are free to be God’s children. His resurrection is a picture and promise of the new life we have now and will have forever when Jesus returns and we are resurrected as well.”

by Winston T. Smith, April 17, 108.  From Heart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Lives by Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. Copyright © 2012 by Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. Used by permission of New Growth Press.


“Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!
Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.
Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.
O Israel,trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield. O house of Aaron, trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield. You who fear the LORD, trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield.
The LORD has remembered us; he will bless us; he will bless the house of Israel; he will bless the house of Aaron; he will bless those who fear the LORD, both the small and the great.
May the LORD give you increase, you and your children! May you be blessed by the LORD, who made heaven and earth!
The heavens are the LORD’s heavens, but the earth he has given to the children of man. The dead do not praise the LORD, nor do any who go down into silence. But we will bless the LORD from this time forth and forevermore. Praise the LORD!” (Psalms 115:1–18 ESV)

All that’s left to do is trust God. But that just happens to be the hardest thing for a human being to do. If it were natural to us, everyone would happily follow Jesus, and divided allegiances would be an aberration. But trust isn’t natural, and divided allegiances are the norm. We are all guilty of little faith and, to make things worse, it isn’t enough to simply understand this. Acknowledging the diagnosis does not automatically lead to a cure. You can confess it, and worry will creep in even during your confession! The cure is not to simply know what the problem is. The cure is to know the one we are called to trust. Keep looking at the triune God and how he has revealed himself throughout history. Don’t spend your time focusing on your wavering allegiances.

How do you seek the kingdom? When you seek the King, you are seeking his kingdom. This kingdom includes everything that comes from him. It includes his law, his grace and mercy, his blessings of life, adoption, and holiness, and all his promises throughout Scripture. Those who seek him feed on his Word and seek to imitate him.

Are you worried? Jesus says there is nothing to worry about. It isn’t our kingdom, it is God’s. We take our cue from the King, and the King is not fretting over anything.

He is in complete control.”

by Edward T. Welch, Dec 17, p 352.  From Heart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Lives by Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. Copyright © 2012 by Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. Used by permission of New Growth Press.

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