Ephesians 4:31 - Hebrew 12:14-15
(Used by permission: Pastor Roger Baker, Calvary Baptist Church, King, NC , Oct 3, 2002 - Some minor changes made including the illustration at the end of the message. )
One of the great problems in the life of a Christian and in our churches is something that is hard to admit, though easy to recognize.
It is one of the most destructive and dangerous of all human emotions and if not dealt with, will spiritually destroy the person who has it.
Definition: "adjective" 1 having a sharp, pungent taste or smell; not sweet. 2 causing pain or unhappiness. 3 feeling anger, hurt, and resentment. 4 (of a conflict) harsh and acrimonious - which means having ill feelings. 5 (of wind or weather) intensely cold.
It is the feeling of hurt, resentment, anger, and even hate that can build up in our hearts when we have been hurt by another person or by an experience in life. It can be directed towards other people and even towards God.
The Book of Hebrews was written last in the first century. Jerusalem had been destroyed, Jewish believers had been greatly persecuted. They had been harassed-mistreated. Because they believed in Christ their family and friends had turned against them.
There was a real danger that they would turn bitter, return to Judaism and give up on the Lord. They were prime candidates for bitterness.
Often in our lives people hurt us, take advantage of us, betray us, take credit for what we have done. Often people belittle us and elevate themselves and treat us badly....often with there being no fault of our own. We did nothing to desire it and sometimes should have been praised or recognized for what we did, but were robbed of our reward.
I. The Root of Bitterness - Its Cause.
How does bitterness take root in your heart. Before there is a root there is a seed. The seed is planted and the plant begins to grow.
"Root" = It exists beneath the surface, invisible to the eye, but very real. The seed is planted when someone does you wrong, or you perceive that you were wronged. It could begin when you were disappointed or hurt. Sometimes the person who hurts us does it unintentionally being insensitive to what the did or said. Other times. . .it is deliberate. In either case the seed sprouts unseen by others and it takes root.
Problem: Don't deal with it properly - instead of returning love for hurt...we disregard the Grace of God which is God's unmerited favor. God forgives the sinner who does not deserve to be forgiven. Bitterness begins when instead of forgiving, we become resentful and bitterness grows towards them. We think the person should know what the did and should correct their behavior, but they go on as if nothing has happened. But God's word teach us that forgiveness is not based on merit, but on grace....because we choose to forgive and not hold resentment.
In the model prayer Jesus in Matthew 6:12 said we ask for forgiveness as we are forgiving others, "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." The word debt means what is owed to us or in this verse someone who has offended or sinned against us.
Jesus in Matthew 6:14-15 shows us the seriousness of the matter: "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
In Matthew 18:22 Jesus gave us the standard saying that we were to forgive seventy times seventy the person who hurts us. A BITTER PERSON IS USUALLY ONE WHO HAVE BEEN HURT.
Usually there are three ways we are hurt.
Bitterness in a believer's live represents a spiritual failure. The Christian is to live by God's principles and one vital principle that is demonstrated in God's grace is that we are to forgive those that trespass against us.
It is impossible for us to go through life without being hurt by someone. There will be times when we are wronged.
What is frustrating is that it we have a truly been hurt and most times the person who hurt us goes on as if it did not happen. Most times there is no apparent justice and the person who hurt us so deeply receives not punishment, does not apologize and suffers no ill consequences for their act.
- A Christian man, was fired because he was honest and refused to do unethical things in business. The company continued to prosper...he lost his job.
- A faithful hard working employee is passed over for a position and it was given to someone else who did not deserve it.
- One's spouse was unfaithful and walked out on their spouse. A faithful spouse who loved their companion was betrayed.
- A person's close friend talked about them to others and betrayed them.
- A pastor is mistreated by the congregation that he faithfully and sacrificially served.
- Bothers and sisters become bitter when daddy or momma's things are divided after their deaths. One daughter for years takes care of an ailing mother at great expense of money and time. The will is read and she gets no more than the others....with no recognition for us service and love to her mother.
- One child is praised in the family and another's achievements are ignored or made little of.
- A tragedy happens in life....child is killed, mamed, wife or husbad dies leaving the spouse alone and in debt.
All these things and many many more can cause bitterness to take root in a person's heart.
In S.I. McMillen, MD book "None of these Diseases" he said: "The moment I start hating a person I become that person's slave. I can't enjoy life...he controls my thoughts...I can't escape his/her grasp on my mind. He or she may be many miles away, always in my mind."
You get the "Woe is me syndrome and everything you will be seen through the colored lens of bitterness.
3. It can sicken your body. God did not create our bodies to nurse bitter feelings towards others. It has been said that "Not every sick person is bitter, but every bitter person will eventually get sick."
4. It causes stress and we all know that what the doctors tell us about stress it true. It will ruin our health and can kill us. Yet, is a sickness that can be 100% prevented and completely cured.
5. Bitterness will defile others around you if not overcome.
B. You see....bitterness is sin. Sin breaks our fellowship with God and we then do not have His blessing or guidance.
Often people because of pressure will keep on doing their job. They will keep coming to church. Outwardly the will make a semblance at serving the Lord, but their heart is not in it. There service is not done in faith trusting the Lord, but done resentfully.
Bitterness is a personal sin and God clearly tells us that the wages of sin is death..... Sin is always destructive and this sin is one of the very worse.
Yet there is a particular problem admitting bitterness. It is so very hard to admit. Why?
We feel that we are justified in feeling the way we do because we were the person who was wronged. What makes it worse....the person who hurt us often goes on about life with no apparent ill effect. They got away with hurting us and feel no remorse and make no apology.
2. You must confess your bitterness as sin. Eph. 4:29-32
"Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."
James 3:14 says, "But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth."
3. You must forgive the person who has wronged you. Eph. 4:32.
Husband, wife, church, pastor, church member, family member or friend, parent....no matter what the did to you or how grievously they harmed you.
Our natural nature...the old carnal nature says this person has hurt me so bad I can never forgive them. Maybe the continue to hurt you and seem to take pleasure it it. You see we feel justified in our resentment towards them.
Yet, as a believer we have been shown the love and forgiveness of Christ. He died for us when we were in rebellion against Him. Yes, we were guilty, but He loved us and showed that love by paying our sin debt...that we owed. We who have been shown such as wonderful love....can we do less.
You know the sin of bitterness you harbor....it helped drive the nails into his hands and feet. It helped shove Him down on that old rugged cross, it helped beat Him until His body and face were amass of sores and torn flesh. WE HAD A REAL PART IN HIS SUFFERING AND DEATH .....DO WE DESERVE TO BE FORGIVEN? Truly we do not, yet He forgave us when we believed.
Can't you, for the love of Christ...forgive someone who hurt you? Can't you for the love of Christ....give the matter over to the Lord? Even someone who continues to hurt or offend you and who is not deserving of forgiveness...?
(THE FOLLOWING ILLUSTRATION IS ABOUT COOPER ABRAMS AND WAS NOT A PART OF PASTOR BAKER'S ORIGINAL MESSAGE)
ILLUS: Bitterness is bondage and what a joy to be set free from it. Years ago, Carolyn and I sacrificed our all for a church. We loved them and we cared for them and their relationship with the Lord. We gave them many years of our lives....we gave up family. We were not able to attend our son's wedding, or the birth of our grandson's. We have missed most of their lives. Yet this church showed its appreciation by treating us so very bad. It almost killed me....yet I had to let it go, or it would have destroyed me. They to this day have never apologized or tried to set the thing right....but they are forgiven and I hold no grudge against them. My prayer is that they will seek the Lord and get their hearts right with Him.
You must release them from the debt your feel they owe you.
The invitation is simple: As Christ loved you....so love your neighbor, no matter what the sin against you....forgive them and put it aside. Turn the matter over to the Lord, ask Him to forgive you for your bitter feelings and then forgive that person.
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