Summary: This message continues the discussion of bitterness - its cause and cure.
Future Focus Present Faithfulness Series Pt 11
“Uprooting Bitter Roots 4”
Hebrews identifies three deadly infections that critically cripple the church. God calls the entire Christian community to guard against their spread in the community.
1. Guard against anyone falling short of God’s enabling grace
2. Guard against bitter roots
I. The character of bitterness
Bitterness describes the presence of negative thoughts and emotions in the soul toward those I hold responsible for an actual or perceived offense intentionally or unintentionally inflicted upon me or someone I care about.
These negative and destructive thought and emotions can be directed toward God, myself or others. Whoever I deem responsible for failure to live up to my expectations, didn’t come through for me or caused me discomfort becomes the object of my negative thoughts and emotions. It could be God, myself or other people. Bitter roots develop due to the failure to properly address wounds and offenses. Wounds and offenses are unavoidable – bitterness is.
God instructs us all to passionately “see to it” that we do. All of us must passionately guard against the spread of bitter roots in the Christian community.
Bitterness is like an infected wound.
Bitterness is like a polluted stream.
Bitterness is like an aggressive plant that takes over the garden.
C. Characteristics from Hebrews 12:15
…seeing to it that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled Hebrews 12:15
1. Bitterness is a community issue
2. Bitterness is distasteful and poisonous
3. Bitterness begins underground
4. Bitterness eventually surfaces
5. Bitterness entangles us
6. Bitterness defiles others
II. The cause of bitterness is pride
The bitter plants of negative and destructive thoughts and emotions toward God, myself or others flourishes in the soil of self-centeredness or pride. The selfish focus of “me and mine” becomes the perfect environment for the germination and proliferation of destructive bitter roots. Scripture clearly traces the source of all relational meltdown and dysfunction to selfish ambition and bitter jealousy arising from selfish pride; energized by the world, the flesh and the devil.
III. The consequences of bitterness
Bitterness creeps its way into every person’s life. There is no shortage of stories illustrating its devastating effects on the kingdom of God over the centuries. Its destruction can be traced all the way back to the very first family. God counseled Cain (Adam and Eve’s firstborn son) to beware how he dealt with his negative thoughts and bitter jealousy toward his brother Abel.
God counseled him to master the temptation to harbor those negative feelings toward another.
He ignored the counsel and it quickly led to murder – the ultimate expression of bitterness.
Bitterness has severe consequences on the giver and the receiver. It destroys churches. It destroys families. It ruins marriages. It severs relationships. It ravages spiritual, mental and emotional health as well as physical health. Paul indicated that a failure to forgive makes us vulnerable to Satan’s schemes.
But whom you forgive anything, I also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ, in order that no advantage be taken of us by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his schemes. 2Cor 2:10
An unforgiving spirit is like a hot coal. The longer and tighter it is held, the deeper the burn. Stanley
IV. The cure of bitterness
A. Prevention of bitterness
Prevention starts with a decision to apply the inoculation, the vaccine. It is like that stuff that you can spread on the garden to prevent the germinations of weeds. It doesn’t work once the plants become established. It was developed to prevent germination. Here are four decisions we must make. They are the core of what it means to be a follower of Christ. They were the foundations of everything Jesus did.
1. Fully trust God
2. Sacrificially serve people
3. Completely forgive those who offend me
4. Genuinely bless those who offend me
The continual attention to these four things will prevent the germination of bitter roots no matter how slight or severe the offense. But what do we do if about already established roots?
B. Cure for bitterness
If you are a Christian, the primary biblical response to offense is love and forgiveness. Jesus entrusted His life to God. Jesus sacrificed His life for the offenders. He not only dismissed our debt but lavished undeserved blessing upon us in spite of the offense. We are called to do the same thing.
To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. 1 Peter 3:8-9