Do you ever get angry and ask yourself, “Why do I act as I do?” Perhaps you have a temper that gets out of control. You have had it all your life. When you were a child, you might have gotten into a physical fight with a friend. You gave him a black eye, and he sent you home with a bloody nose. The next day the fight was forgotten, and you were the best of friends.
Now you have grown up and learned that such behavior is not acceptable in the adult world. However, words are substituted for physical blows. Lashing out at another person when you are forty is no more difficult than when you were ten years old. Your words are cutting and cause for more pain than what comes from a black eye or a bloody nose. They are long remembered. In fact, some statements are never forgotten.
That old temper never seems to go away. It makes you wonder why you cannot control your temper. You reason that you are a Christian and have resolved to conquer this lifelong sin hundreds of times. Yet, you fail. This is the human predicament.
Our text today gives the answer about why we cannot manage these temper tantrums, but it also tells how they can be controlled.
The Bible teaches that we are born with a sinful nature. This is a basic Christian belief. It is called original sin. Our nature is rebellious and causes us to act contrary to God’s will rather than to follow Him.
When Adam and Eve were created, they were without sin. God told them to enjoy the garden. There was but one law Ð they could not eat of the tree of knowledge. The day they did, the relationship with Him would be broken. The tempter came along and assured them that it would do them no harm to eat of that tree. They transgressed the one law God had given to them. At that time, sin came into the world, and this sinful nature has passed to all people. David writes, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). David is saying his parents were sinful, and he inherited their nature.
Medical people are concerned about our genes. We all know what it is to provide a medical history of our families. From what did your parents die? What diseases did they have? How old were they then they died? Inheritance is very important in making a physical diagnosis of a person. It is also very important when we explain the person’s spiritual nature.
Job affirms this teaching when he says, “Who can bring what is pure from the impure?” (Job 14:4). Jesus also teaches, “Flesh gives girth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to the spirit” (John 3:6).
You may ask yourself why you sin? Why do you have a temper that gets out of control? Like it or not Ð it is our human nature. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
We are also accountable for our sins. Paul is clear when he writes, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Jesus describes the eternal fate of the person who dies outside of Christ: “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matthew 25:46). These are harsh words coming from a loving Savior who did not come to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
Such teaching about the sinfulness of the human being is not well received by a society captured by humanistic thought. Humanism teaches that people are basically good, and if there is some evil in us, it has come from the environment in which we live. This hatred evidenced in our lives could have been learned by observing parents whose lives were filled with hatred. Or perhaps a child, who is basically a good person, goes away to a college or university where he joins the wrong crowd and is led astray. This may reveal itself in immoral living or in an attitude of being so self-centered that the only thing that counts in life is what is good for me and mine. This, the humanist would say, is not a nature inherited, but one learned.
However, the humanist says there is hope. Anything that is wrong in the person’s life can be corrected by the person himself or with help from a counselor. According to humanistic philosophy, we are not helpless, nor do we need a Savior.
This is rather comforting, is it not? Is it not it pleasing to be told that you are such a pleasant person, and any wrong within you can easily be corrected? Sometimes you can be tempted to wonder if there is not some truth in what the humanist is teaching.
Look at some people who are so pleasant. They are kind, loving, forgiving, and concerned about others. We live with people who do not confess to be Christians, but live good lives. What about them?
My wife and I have asked that question often. Being disabled she needs much assistance when she is in a wheelchair or using her walker. It is so uplifting to see how people rush to help her. We have especially been impressed with the young people who are quick to offer help. If they have a sinful nature, what makes them so considerate?
Paul says, “Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature the things that are required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them” (Romans 2:14-16).
What does all of this mean? God has written the law on their hearts. Though they claim no relationship with Him, there is knowledge of right and wrong that reveals itself in their conscience and actions.
Nevertheless, while the person who is not a Christian may live a moral life, he or she is still a sinner in need of a Savior. They need to be delivered from the consequences of their sinfulness. This comes only by trusting Jesus Christ. Paul empresses this well when he writes, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
It is Christ who first forgives us. The Holy Spirit then empowers us to fight against these sins that are a part of our sinful nature. We cannot conquer our sinful ways by our own strength, no matter how hard we try. This is the human predicament. How sad it is to see the human being trying to right the wrongs in his or her life when it cannot be done by well-intentioned people. But here stands the Savior ready to help us.
How do I conquer my temper, or other sins? Turn to Christ in these hours of temptation and see what a difference walking with Him makes in our daily living. Amen.
Rev. Homer Larsen