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The Ruled Spirit

In Proverbs 16:32, God gives us His holy preference: “I’d rather have a man slow to anger than one who is mighty. I’d rather have a man who rules his spirit than one who takes a city.” This is true even when that mighty conquering is done “for God.” God values a self-controlled man or woman more highly than the very best works done by someone who is out-of-control.

But we still try to do good things in bad ways. A husband or wife will use the threat of anger or the silent treatment to get what they want in marriage. A father or mother will use anger to manage their home and get the kids to obey. A child’s request for a particular food or toy is a good desire, but a tantrum is not the right way to fulfill it. Too many families are whitewashed on the outside, but inside, they are full of dead men’s bones, because the appearance of godliness and good behavior is propped up by the constant threat of Daddy’s temper or Mom’s mood.

This is why God says to fix the inside first – before you can lead others, you must control yourself. When you hear that God values self-control more than accomplishment, this should make you more concerned with learning how to rule your spirit and less concerned with taking cities or doing other mighty works for God, your family, or your neighbor. Knowing God’s preferences should shape your priorities.

So here is the all-important question: how can I become slow to anger? How can I rule my spirit? First, the bad news. Why aren’t you slow to anger? What keeps you from ruling your own spirit? You are dead to righteousness, born under the control of sinful desires. You have to be alive to be in control, and you are dead in your trespasses and sins. You don’t need techniques that will help you control your anger. You don’t need more willpower, better circumstances, or good examples. You need life!

But the main message of the sermon today is not “Don’t be an angry person!” or even “Rule your spirit!”, commands that dead people cannot obey. Here is the good news for people who are tired of being controlled by their anger: Jesus gives you life! The Bible teaches that when you put your faith in Jesus Christ, you are born again and made new, not after the image of angry Adam, but after the image of slow-to-anger Christ. This means that the question is no longer “Can I overcome anger?” But “Can Jesus, who lives in me, overcome anger?” The answer to the first question has always been “No”, but the answer to the second is always “Yes!”

Not only does God give you life in Christ, but He also gives you His Holy Spirit. Now that you are alive, you can hear the Spirit’s voice, and the particular fruit of the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life as it relates to anger is self-control. When Adam sinned in the garden, he gave up control, and became enslaved to sin. By resisting sin, bearing sin, and defeating death, Jesus sets you free, and the Holy Spirit restores the ability to control your impulses and desires. Now you can overcome anger, because you are alive, and the Holy Spirit dwells within you. There are mighty men who can capture cities who cannot do what Spirit-filled Christians are enabled to do: you can rule your spirit.

Now that you have been made alive in Christ and the Holy Spirit is restoring self-control to your spirit, this is the life God calls you to: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Eph. 4:31-32)

God could have been very angry with you, but instead, He sent His Son to redeem you and His Spirit to make you holy. God rules His own Spirit instead of overthrowing the world, and because of His self-control, you are saved. Therefore, since you have been made alive in Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit, rule your own spirit, and allow godliness to overcome your anger.

Posted on Thursday, November 12, 2015 by CJ Bowen