Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.
Ephesians 4:26-27 ESV
According to [Ephesians 4] verse 27 this is what Satan is watching for—the gap called grudge. If there is any way that Satan can assist you to hold a grudge, he will do it. For there are six goals of Satan which are greatly advanced when professing Christians hold grudges.
1. To Make Us Put Ourselves in the Place of God
Ever since Genesis 3 Satan’s goal has been to make us put ourselves in the place of God. “When you eat of the fruit of the tree your eyes will be opened and you will be like God.” Nothing helps in holding a grudge like thinking too highly of ourselves. The more exalted we are in our own eyes, the more justified we will feel in holding a grudge against the person who offended us. If Satan can succeed in making a grudge feel natural or justified, he will have gone a long way toward his goal of making us put ourselves in the place of God.
2. To Make Us Act as If We Are Judge, Not God
Satan aims to make us act as if we were judge and not God. Romans 12:19 says, “Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but give place to wrath, for it is written: Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord. No, if your enemy is hungry feed him.” If we hold a grudge, we act as though God were not a just judge. We act as though we are the moral guardians of the world and if we don’t hold this wrong against this person, it’s going to slip away into oblivion and a great injustice will go unrequited. But this is sheer unbelief. Vengeance belongs to God. He will repay. It is his business not ours. So again holding a grudge puts us in the place of God—just where Satan wants us.
3. To Make the Cross of Christ Look Weak and Foolish
Satan aims to make the cross of Christ look weak and foolish. Notice Ephesians 4:32–5:2. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God as beloved children. And walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.” The power that frees us from holding grudges is that in the cross of Christ God satisfied his grudge against us and dropped it. So Paul says, forgive as God in Christ forgave you. When we hold a grudge, we cancel out the cross. We act as though God did a foolish thing on the cross, since he dropped his infinite grudge against us, but we are going to hold on to our little grudge against so and so. And thus Satan brings the cross of Christ into contempt.
4. To Cultivate Disunity in the Body of Christ
Satan aims to cultivate disunity in the body of Christ so that the grand evidence for Christ’s divine reality is shattered. Proverbs 15:18 says, “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.” Short tempers and long grudges breed strife and disunity in the church. But in John 17:23 Jesus said that unity in the church is a great evidence to the world of his reality. So if Satan can preserve and deepen grudges among God’s people, he will have achieved a great goal—the hiding of Christ’s reality from the world.
5. To Crush Broken Christians into Depression
Satan aims to crush broken Christians until they are depressed into uselessness. Paul tells about an instance of church discipline at Corinth in which the offending party repented. Paul counsels in 2 Corinthians 2:7, “So you should turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you reaffirm your love for him.” The burdens of life are so great at times that someone’s grudge against us can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. You can destroy a person by holding a grudge against them—the very work of Satan from the time of Cain and Abel.
6. To Help You Destroy Yourself
Finally, by holding a grudge Satan will help you destroy yourself. Satan always throws away his tools in the end. He promises the moon and delivers misery. When the unforgiving servant was thrown into jail, Jesus said to his disciples, “So also my heavenly Father will do to you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
Forgive from Your Heart—Put On the New Nature
Which brings us back to where we started—”from your heart,” from your new nature, the purified spring, the good tree. The only way to get victory over anger is to put off the old nature corrupted by desires of deceit—Satan’s deceit, and to put on the new nature, by acting according to the truth:
- the truth that none of us is so exalted that we can justify holding a grudge,
- the truth that vengeance belongs to God, he will settle all accounts;
- the truth that the cross of Christ is the wisdom and power of God, not foolishness;
- the truth that the unity of the church is precious beyond words;
- and the truth that it is possible by holding a grudge to commit spiritual murder and suicide simultaneously.
The Son of God came into the world to destroy the works of the devil. Let’s resist the devil this Christmas with all the power of God by putting on the new nature Christ came to create.