Summary: Bitterness can be destructive. This message deals with WHY we become bitter, and HOW to get rid of bitterness in our life.
“Put Away Bitterness”
(My thanks to Jim Wilson for his article “How To Be Free From Bitterness”, which provided valuable information for this sermon.)
INTRODUCTION: Ephesians 4:31-5:2
The message this morning is on BITTERNESS, which our text says is “to be put away from you”.
Have you ever known someone who was BITTER?
o Maybe BITTER at GOD … blaming God for the bad things that has happened to them.
o Maybe BITTER at a MATE … blaming them for what they had done to them … perhaps ending a marriage in divorce … bitter at a PARENT … a CHILD …
o Maybe BITTER at an EMPLOYER … because they didn’t get the promotion they thought they deserved.
Let’s take a look and see what BITTERNESS really is. Maybe YOU are bitter … maybe you know someone who is … maybe you are on the RECEIVING end of BITTERNESS.
I. WHAT MAKES A PERSON BITTER? Perceived Sin
When we THINK someone has sinned against us, we harbor resentment towards that person … which can turn to bitterness. We wait for an APOLOGY … if it doesn’t come … we harbor RESENTMENT against that person.
We’ve gotten this idea that … BEFORE we can forgive someone … they have to APOLOGIZE. Do you know that the word “apologize” isn’t in the Bible?
When someone sins against us, we wait for an apology … if we don’t get it, we get bitter toward that person.
WHAT IF the person DOESN’T REALIZE that they have sinned against you? OR … ACTUALLY HAVEN’T sinned against you (but you think they have)? THEN … they’ll never apologize … AND … you’ll be bitter, waiting for an apology that can’t ever come.
EX.: Someone came to me and let me know (in uncertain terms) that I never visited them when they were in the hospital. They harbored resentment toward me because of my apparent lack of interest. I didn’t know they were in the hospital. I asked them why they didn’t let me know that they were in the hospital. They said that they didn’t want to bother me! Since I hadn’t APOLOGIZED for not seeing them, they grew BITTER. How could I APOLOGIZE when I didn’t know I had done anything wrong?
SO … I APOLOGIZED (even though I had nothing to apologize for). What if I had never found out that they were BITTER … and APOLOGIZED? They would have been resentful to me FOREVER!
It doesn’t matter if someone has ACTUALLY sinned against you or not. It is the PERCEIVED sin that causes BITTERNESS.
II. WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERISTICS OF BITTERNESS?
How can you tell if someone is BITTER? Bitterness remembers details!
Most of what you have done, or what was done to you, you have forgotten a long time ago … you don’t remember details of most events. BUT … when you are BITTER about something, you can remember EVERY DETAIL! Every word that was said … the tone and inflection of the voice used … the time, place and circumstances of the event. You know EXACTLY what happened.
Why is this true? Because you have reviewed it over and over in your mind … a thousand times! We don’t normally review the GOOD things like that. We remember them, and enjoy them … then we set them aside. BUT … when you are BITTER over something, you can’t let go of it … and it haunts you … and you play it over & over again … you become OBSESSED with it.
EX. – I’ve counseled people who are going through a divorce. They are BITTER. There have been thousands of good times in the marriage. They wouldn’t have gotten married in the first place, if they hadn’t loved each other at one time. BUT … something happened … and they are BITTER. They can’t remember the good times. All they can remember are the things that they have been rehearsing in their minds over and over and over again. That’s BITTERNESS!
When a person is BITTER, no detail is forgotten. Some details are even EXAGGERATED after awhile. The more you analyze and scrutinize them, the worse they become.
How do you know if you are BITTER? Your resentment causes you to be obsessed with all the sordid details of the event.
I. WHAT MAKES YOU BITTER? Perceived sin.
II. WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERISTICS OF BITTERNESS? Remembering details.
III. WHY DO WE BECOME BITTER? Because we think we have a RIGHT to be bitter.
BITTERNESS isn’t based on how BIG the offense against us is … BUT … on how CLOSE the offense is to us.
EX. – MURDER is a BIG OFFENSE. We can read about someone who wipes out a whole family in California. We might be appalled, but we don’t feel any bitterness. WHY? Because we don’t know them, and it hasn’t affected our life.