So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
So far I've been quite generous toward those who are quick to wrath. It's because I understand that many times our wrath and anger spew forth from our own woundedness. However, Paul makes it clear that our wrath does not produce the fruit of righteousness in our lives and isn't acceptable behavior for a Christian. The good news is God has provided us with an effective tool so that when we find ourselves struggling to "lay aside all filthiness and the overflow of wickedness" which wants to consume us in wrath there is a way to overcome. It is through the implanted word of God.
According to Vine's Dictionary, the word "engrafted" was used in the original King James Version. It comes from a Greek word (emphutos) and is "an adjective derived from emphus, 'to implant': the RV has 'implanted.' The metaphor is that of a seed rooting itself in the heart." The whole idea is that when it takes root in our hearts, God's Word is "active and effective in overcoming whatever it is that is trying to overcome us." (See quote in previous blog.)
Matthew 13 gives us a great example of the Word of God taking root in a person's heart. Let's start with the reverse first. Matthew 13:20,21 gives us the negative aspect of this verse where the seed does not take root in the heart. "But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately received it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles." A person who is slow to hear, quick to speak and quick to wrath would indeed be an adequate description of a person with a stony heart.
Matthew 13:23 describes the word being received, "But he who received the seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces [the fruit of righteousness, emphasis mine] some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty." The Word of God will help us to do what we cannot do for ourselves in giving us strength to set aside our wrath (and offer forgiveness, if needed).
Once the Word of God is implanted, it's important to cultivate it on a daily basis. If we never open the Bible or read its powerful words or meditate on its truths but wait until a crisis to attempt to apply its truth to our lives, it won't be as effective. A seed needs to be nurtured and cultivated so it can grow. Psalm 119:11 states it beautifully, "Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You."
Application of God's Word:
1. Read Matthew 13:1-23. Which scenario best describes your heart? Don't be discouraged if your heart needs some "weeding." In humility, start by being honest with God. He loves you and He's ready to help you cultivate your heart with His implanted Word. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you a hunger and thirst for God's Word.
2. God desires that you have a "heart of flesh (2 Corin. 3:2,3);" in other words, a heart which is pliable. God's implanted Word will enable you to break up the hardness of your heart and cultivate the soil in which the fruit of righteousness will be able to grow.
3. What does hiding God's Word in your heart look like? How will it help you produce the fruit of righteousness instead of wrath?
Let me give you an example of how God's Word radically changed me. In a previous blog I've already alluded to a time in my life when I walked away from God and lived an ungodly lifestyle for several years. When I came back to God, He welcomed me with open arms forgiving me completely for my transgressions. However, I saw first hand the devastating consequences of how my actions hurt my husband and family. On a daily basis when I saw my husband's pain, it reminded me of how bad I really was and I simply couldn't forgive myself for hurting him and my family. I wasn't kind to myself, was angry and critical, not believing that I was worthy of God's love or forgiveness.
In a counseling session our Christian therapist gave me a list of scriptures declaring who I was in Christ. On the left hand side was a list of lies people believed about themselves and on the right hand side was a list of scriptures declaring the truth of who they were in Christ. At first, I only related to the lies because I believed just about everyone of them (such as, God couldn't really love someone as vile as me; God could never forgive a person as bad as me; I could never be used by God again; I deserved to be publicly flogged and humiliated for what I had done, etc.) I began a journal. I would list the lie, then write out every scripture which counteracted that lie and then journal the truth of who I was in Christ. The change didn't happen over night but when I began to focus on the truth of God's Word and began to really see myself through God's eyes, the shame diminished. I was eventually able to forgive myself and let go of the inward wrath, anger and disappointment. The fallout of my sinful living didn't go away over night either; in fact, there is some residual effects of what I did even now but I am able to differentiate between facing the consequences of what I had done to my family and the shame which tried to destroy me.
God's Word never fails. I can't think of a time in my life when I've applied the active and powerful Word of God in which it didn't take affect and make a difference. When I struggle with things like forgiveness and wrath, it has more to do with my want-to then it has to do with the effectiveness of God's Word. The wonder of it all is that His Word does soften my heart and helps my want-to to be what He wants for my life. His Word makes the soil of my heart pliable enabling it to receive the seed which produces righteousness.