Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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When Wants Are Seen as Needs

Leslie Basham: Pastor and author Paul David Tripp says that when someone steps on what you crave in your heart, then anger usually follows.

Dr. Paul David Tripp: We are sinfully angry again and again, not because people have broken God’s law, but because they’ve broken our law, and we don’t like it.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, April 30.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: One of the books on my nightstand right now is a book by Paul David Tripp called Dangerous Calling. As I’ve been reading this book, I’ve been highlighting and underlining and marking and—wow—it’s really been speaking to my heart, in my calling.

This is just one more example of how God has used Dr. Tripp over the years—even though we’ve never met personally—to encourage my walk with the Lord, and to help me be more effective in the ministry to which God’s called me. So I’m really excited that Dr. Tripp is going to be joining us at Revive ’13, a conference we’re hosting for women helping women.

My friend, Elyse Fitzpatrick, will be joining us as well. I so appreciate the long-term experience that both these speakers have in biblical counseling. They have a lot of practical wisdom to share with leaders who are investing their lives in others. What I love about both Dr. Tripp and Elyse Fitzpatrick is that they continually, consistently, persistently, point us back to Jesus and to the cross, and to what difference that makes in our own lives and as we seek to help others.

They’re also really good at showing us how our life issues and circumstances inevitably come back to the heart. You’re about to hear an example of what I mean by that. Dr. Tripp is going to show us why anger is, ultimately, a heart issue. What you’re about to hear isn’t about anger management. It’s about how the Lord can change our hearts, which then protects us from sinning in our anger.

We heard the first part of this message yesterday, and if you missed it, you can hear that part of the program at Now, here’s Dr. Paul David Tripp with Part 2.

Dr. Tripp: I love what it says in Luke 6:  Jesus says, “It’s out of the heart that the mouth speaks” (v. 45 paraphrased).

Before I say anything about that passage, let me define the biblical language for you. The Bible basically divides the human being into two pieces: the inner man and the outer man. The outer man is your physical body . . . it’s your physical self . . . it’s your earth suit. It’s the house for your heart that you’re given while you live on earth. When we go to eternity, we’re going to get another “suit” (some of us are very excited by that).

Then, the Bible talks about the inner man. The inner man is your spiritual self. It’s the true you—the motivational, emotional, thoughtful, cognitive you. The Bible uses a lot of terms for that inner man: mind, emotions, spirit, soul, will . . . and all of those terms are collected in one big basket-term used all over Scripture. That term is “heart.”

Here’s what Jesus is saying. He’s saying, "It’s out of the heart—that inner you—that the mouth speaks." Have you ever said to somebody, “Ooh! I didn’t mean to say that!” Maybe what would be more honest to say is, “I’m sorry I said what I meant.” If it wasn’t inside of you, it wouldn’t come out of you.

The Bible says you cannot be honest about your anger and say it has nothing to do with you. If you are going to be honest about your anger, you have to say, “This has something to do with me.” Let me take you back to the James 4 passage: “What causes quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?”

Get this—James connects your anger to your desires. You’ve got to get that connection. Somehow, some way, when you are sinfully angry, when you’re doing and saying things that you should not do and you should not say—in whatever little or big moment of life—somehow, some way that anger is connected to your personal world of desire.

I have to make a couple of qualifications here, because I think it’s very, very important for you to understand exactly what James is saying. First thing, he doesn’t say that it’s wrong for you to have desires. It’s not wrong for you to desire. God gave you the capacity to desire—there’s nothing wrong with desiring things.

When you quit desiring, guess what? You’re dead. It’s true. Everything you do in life, somehow, some way, is the expression of desire. So James isn’t saying it’s wrong to desire. Second thing, notice up there in the verses that we’re looking at (James 4:1–3), James doesn’t have the word “evil” before the word “desire.”

He’s not saying that sinful conflict is the result of desiring bad things. He’s not saying desire is wrong, and he’s not talking about bad desire. Maybe you’re sitting there thinking, “Okay, Paul, then what in the world is he talking about?” Notice what he says here: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that (what’s the next word) battle within you?”

You’ll never ever understand what James is saying unless you understand that statement. “Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” Here’s what James is doing . . . he’s ripping back the curtain, and he’s helping us understand that in every situation and relationship of human life, there’s an unceasing war that’s being fought on the turf of your heart.

There’s a war going on inside of you. Anger is all about that war. It’s a war of desire. Think about this. What’s the whole purpose of war? The whole purpose of war is to win. And what’s the purpose of winning? It’s control. So, here’s what we can say: There is a battle, a war, for control of your heart that’s being fought in every situation, in every location of your life, and that war will continue to be fought until we’re finally in glory with the Lord Jesus Christ.

What is that war about? What does James mean when he says there’s a war for desire? Look at what it says here: “You want something but you don’t get it. You kill and covet but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight and you do not have because you do not ask God, and when you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that they you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (vv. 2–3 paraphrased)

Here’s the war . .  . I want to say it this way, and then I’ll explain it to you. It’s a war between my desire and God’s desire. It’s a war between what God wants for me, and what I want for me. In fact, Romans 1:25 says, we tend to exchange worship and service for the Creator for worship and service of the created things.

Here’s what happens to me—things that are perfectly good to desire become my functional gods. This is a stunning truth that’s taught throughout Scripture. I’ll give it to you in my words: “A desire for even a good thing becomes a bad thing when that desire becomes a ruling thing.”

Permit me a couple of examples: the desire for acceptance. Is the desire for acceptance a bad thing? No, it’s not. There would be something wrong with you if you did not want to live in healthy community with other people. You’re a social being. You were made for relationships. You should desire that community with other people.

But listen, the degree to which people listen to my story, the degree to which people recognize that I am there, the degree to which people affirm me . . . and so, I’m not there to love other people, I’m not there to serve them, I’m not there to hear their stories . . . I’m there to get this one thing that I’m actually persuaded I can’t live without.

"If you give me that one thing, I will thank God that you’re in my life . . . I’ll love you." But if I go to that party and I feel like I’ve been ignored or I’ve been “dissed” in some way, I’m spontaneously irritated. I will repeat that party over and over in my head. I’ll grow in anger, I’ll grow in discouragement. I’ll say to myself, “There’s no way I’m ever going to go to one of those parties again. How dare that person do that to me!”

Listen, that’s not just about those people—that’s about you, because a good thing has become a bad thing, and that’s why it’s created the conflict it’s creating in your life. It’s not a bad thing to want.

What about comfort? Is comfort a bad thing to want? No, it’s a very healthy thing. When we see people who are physically hurting themselves, we think there’s something wrong with them because you should not want to experience that pain. Comfort’s a good thing, but comfort must not rule you.

If you’re a parent and you’re getting your comfort from your decorative ability and the possessions you have around you and all the identity that those possessions give you, and your teenage son comes in telling you he’s cracked up your new car while he sits on the cover of your stereo and breaks it and spills his soda on your Oriental rug, what’s going to happen to you? You’re not going to say to yourself, “You know, this is a wonderful moment of ministry.” You’re going to explode into anger.

I like giving this illustration—it’s a family illustration, but we’ve all lived in families, so you can understand it.

It’s ten-thirty at night and two youngsters who should have been to bed at nine o’clock are fighting, once again, in their room. You can’t believe it, because you’re in comfort zone at that point. You think it’s your right, at a certain time of night, to “punch out” from life.

You hear that struggle in that room, and you start marching down the hallway. You’re probably not saying, “God, thank you for this wonderful opportunity to minister to my children.” Here’s what you’re saying to yourself: “They’re dead. They’re dead” (in time to your footsteps).

You burst into the room and you say, “Do you have a clue what my day has been like? Do you know what I do? I do ___ and I do____, and this is the thanks I get? I don’t ask for much. I don’t need a mansion or a Rolls-Royce, just children who are from earth! I bought every shred of clothes you put on your back. I purchased every morsel of food you put in your mouth. I made your Christmases happy.”

Now, do you think as the child’s listening to that the child’s saying, “My, this is helpful. I’m learning so much from this person. I’d just like to have this person in my room more.” Here’s what you need to get about those two incidents: That parent is not angry because that child is a sinner. That parent is angry because in that child’s sin, he steps on what that parent craves.

If you’re angry because the child’s a sinner, you move toward that child with the anger of mercy and the anger of wisdom and the anger of grace and the anger of correction and the anger of instruction. When you’re bursting forth in ugly anger that says, “How dare you do this to me,” it’s not because that person is a sinner. It’s because, in their sin, they’ve stepped on what you’ve now convinced yourself you can’t live without.

Listen, we are sinfully angry again and again, not because people have broken God’s law, but because they’ve broken our law, and we don’t like it. I wish I could say that wasn’t true in my life. I wish I could say that I’m always absorbed by God’s purpose and not my own, but I can’t say that.

I want to go to stores that have no waiting lines. I want to be with people who love to be in my presence and always affirm my opinions. I want the street to be empty of other automobiles. I want every business to have the kind of chocolate that I enjoy. I want, I want, I want, I want . . .

Your sinful anger is connected to things that have now come to rule you that were never meant to rule you. Comfort is perfectly good to want, but it makes a bad god. Acceptance is perfectly good to want, but it makes a bad god. That’s our struggle. Here it is. The struggle with anger is actually a struggle between two kingdoms—the kingdom of God and the kingdom of self.

My struggle with anger is a struggle of self-sovereignty. I want my world to work the way I want it to work. I don’t want to be next to friends who will fail me. I don’t want that. I don’t ever want to hear somebody say something unkind to me. I don’t want that.

I don’t ever want to deal with obstacle and difficulties. I want to rule my world, and I want it to act the way I want it to act, and if it doesn’t, I’m angry. I want to say this kindly, but you should be sitting there saying, “Me, too.” We need help, because a desire for even a good thing becomes a bad thing when that desire becomes a ruling thing. We end up being controlled by things that never, ever should control us.

I was sitting with a dad one day who had a fifteen-year-old son who was really messing up. In a moment of anger, he jumped up and ran across my office and said, “If it’s the last thing I ever do”—pointing his finger in the face of his son—“I’ll get you to respect me!” Wow. Now, is respect a bad thing? No, it’s not.

But it had risen to a level in this man’s life . . . He said to me once, “Do you want to know how much my son disrespects me?” Now, when you get that preamble, you think you’re going to get something important, right? He said, “He scrapes his fork across the plate at dinner!”

I’m thinking, “What!?” Can you imagine a fifteen-year-old boy saying, “Of all the ways I can disrespect my dad, what would be . . . I know what I’ll do! I’ll scrape my fork across the plate . . . eee, eee, eee, eee, eee . . . that will drive him crazy!”

You see what happened to that man? That good thing had risen to the level of a ruling thing, and life with him was a final exam of respect. That’s exactly what James is talking about. So the goal for us is not to learn how to manage our anger. The goal is worship re-alignment, not anger management.

You say, “Paul, I don’t know what you mean.” Well, this word worship is a tricky word. When you hear the word worship, what do you immediately think about? A Sunday service, a bulletin, songs, offering, preaching . . . and you’ve got to hear this biblical truth—worship is first an identity before it’s ever an activity.

You are a worshiper, and because of that, you worship. What does that mean? It means that your heart always lives in the pursuit of something. Your heart is always controlled by something. Your heart is always ruled by something. We call that “values.” The Bible uses a great name for this—“treasures.” We always have things of treasure that we’re living for.

In fact, you can argue this, your behavior in any relationship or situation is your attempt to get out of that relationship and situation what’s valuable to you. You’re a value-oriented human being. There is something that is always ruling your heart, and there are only two options: Your heart is effectively, functionally controlled by God—God’s goodness, His grace, His love and His call—or your heart is being effectively, functionally controlled by some aspect of the created world. There’s no inbetween. There are only two categories.

So, I live in the midst of my relationships and situations ruled by things that were never supposed to rule me. They’re perfectly good to desire, but they’re not supposed to control me. Or, I live in those situations and relationships with a heart that’s controlled by the Lord.

James is saying that conflict will always result when something in the creation rules my heart.

Nancy: I am so grateful for that important reminder from Dr. Paul David Tripp. I can think about so many times when something in the creation—something good that God has created—has ruled in my heart, and how conflict and anger have been a result—even if that anger didn’t get expressed outwardly.

I’ve needed this fresh challenge to look at the heart issues behind anger. Ultimately, sinful anger points us to idolatry, doesn’t it? I hope you’ll take some time to let God search your own heart in light of what we’ve heard today. Can you remember the last time you sinned in your anger? Maybe you don’t have to think back very far.

Does that incident point out any misplaced priorities? I hope you’ll ask the Lord to recalibrate your priorities, to change your heart, and to set you free from any idols of the heart that may be producing sinful anger.

This is the kind of insight that Dr. Tripp will be bringing when he joins us at Revive ’13. I’ll be there, along with my friend Elyse Fitzpatrick and another friend, worship leader Shannon Wexelberg. Revive ’13 is for any woman who’s involved in helping other women.

If you’re involved in some way in women’s ministry in your church, or perhaps you serve as a small group leader or a teacher or counselor, you’ll get a lot out of this conference. Maybe you’re thinking, I don’t have any official position, but maybe you host a small group in your  home, or you meet one-on-one to mentor or disciple other women, or you’d like to be involved in some of those ways. You’ll benefit from this conference as well.

If you feel like you’d like some more help in addressing the tough, practical life issues that women face, I hope you’ll join us for Revive ’13, which is coming to the Chicago area—Schaumburg, Illinois—September 20 and 21. You can still get in on early-bird registration through tomorrow. [Note: Early registration has been extended to June 1.]

I hope you’ll get all the details by visiting us at

Leslie: Thanks, Nancy. Tomorrow, Dr. Tripp will show you why anger will keep relationships in such an unhealthy pattern. When he counsels women and men, he sees this . . .

Dr. Tripp: If I have a husband who says, “I live in an angry marriage, but it’s my wife . . .” And I have a wife who says, “I live in an angry marriage, but it’s my husband. . .” there will be no changing that marriage. You have a disastrously angry marriage, and you have two utterly innocent people living in the middle of it.

Leslie: Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts, with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.


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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.