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Bitterness a Root With a Bitter Fruit – Part Five

Ephesians 4: 30 – 32

When the poet Edwin Markham reached the age of retirement, he was stunned to learn that his banking friend had betrayed him and lost all of his life’s savings. At retirement he was penniless. The torch of bitterness burned where the candle of joy had formerly gleamed. His inspiration ceased and his pen became unproductive. One day this highly productive poet was sitting doodling, drawing circles when the convicting influence of the Holy Spirit impacted him. He said the Holy Spirit did not speak to him in an audible voice but clearly convinced him, “Markham, if you do not deal with this thing, it is going to ruin you. You cannot afford the price you are paying. You must forgive that man.” He prayed, “Lord, I will, and I do freely forgive.”

With the root of bitterness uprooted, his creativity returned and the man who wrote the memorable poems “Lincoln” and “The Man With the Hoe” produced what he considered his best poem entitled “Outwitted.”

“He drew a circle that shut me out–

Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout;

But love and I had the wit to win:

We drew a circle that took him in!”

Pray for the person you consider to have offended you. In Matthew 5:43-46, Jesus appeals to us to do so.  Stephen prayed for those stoning him, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge” (Acts 7:60).  Maintain a passion for friendship. 

The coup de gras in dealing with sin is this. Here is the final step in dealing with bitterness and all sin. “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). Rip up the root and put it on the cross.

Ephesians 4:32 is the highest motive for uprooting the root of bitterness: “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you”  (Eph 4:32). Forgive as an act of gratitude for being forgiven.

If our high and holy God can condescend to forgive such a lowly creature as I, then I, as a show of gratitude for His forgiveness of me, can forgive my peers. Do it in Jesus’ name.

In reality forgiveness is something good you do for yourself.

Bitterness a Root With a Bitter Fruit – Part Four

Ephesians 4: 30 – 32

In horticulture the pruning of a plant gives the root a growth opportunity. The same is true with bitterness. Just changing the vocabulary won’t help. The root will continue to grow.

Note some foliage that is to be “put away,” pruned, that is. (Ephesians 4: 31). “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31).

It all starts with bitterness which describes a bitter resentful spirit of one who broods over a perceived slight or injustice.

“Wrath” refers to a sudden outburst of passion.

“Anger” is a smoldering settled feeling.

“Clamor” refers to public quarreling.

“Evil speaking” means slanderous whispering. 

“Malice” refers to a vicious spirit, or spite, a deep unkindness.

These things are to be “put away.” Here are some practical steps.

Identify the source of your bitterness. Are you bitter because of another person’s act? Are you bitter over God’s acts or lack of action? 

The Bible mentions the bitterness of Naomi whose story is told in the book of Ruth. She was bitter. Her bitterness had grown out of a traumatic experience. She considered God to have failed her and she was bitter with God. Her husband and sons had died and she returned to her homeland saying, “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life bitter” (Ruth 1:20). Once Naomi took her eyes off herself and realized what a blessing God had granted her in the person of Ruth, she became a blessing to Ruth and was herself blessed.

View the person you feel has offended you as God’s tool to refine you. By letting the action of someone control you, that person becomes your master and you their puppet dancing off their strings. The question for the believer is always “Who is going to control me?” Who calls the signals in your life?

Thank God for the offense as an occasion to show your personal spiritual growth. “…rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings…” (I Peter 4: 13).

Don’t try to even the score. Remember, God said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay…”

Don’t keep score. “Love…thinks no evil” (I Cor. 13:5).

Forgive the person you consider to have offended you. Christ told Peter and us to do it 70 X 7 times. That means, don’t quit forgiving.

An old adage states: “The hornet of remembering may fly again, but the sting of bitterness has been removed.”

You can’t forget the fact, but by forgiving the person, you can forsake the bitterness associated.

Bitterness a Root With a Bitter Fruit – Part Three

Ephesians 4: 30 – 32

Bitterness has a destructive influence on the body. A three alarm nervous reaction had dried up your salivary secretions. Bitterness covertly influences the body.

Bitterness and other forms of emotional stress send an alarm to the thyroid gland to increase secretions. When this thyroxine pours into the bloodstream, it can cause a number of reactions such as muscle tension. Sometimes it flows into the brain contained in the rigid skull, causing headaches.

Dr. William Sadler, a physician said, “The sincere acceptance of the principles and teachings of Christ with respect to the life of mental peace and joy… would at once wipe out more than half the difficulties, diseases, and sorrows of the human race… it would pay any man or woman to live the Christ-life just for the mental and moral rewards it affords here in this present world.”

Much of the harm caused by bitterness is spiritual. Bitterness, being a manifestation of an un-Christlike attitude, becomes a hindrance to a good prayer life. Other spiritual activities are often abandoned. Bible study and worship lose their appeal. Spiritual appetites atrophy. 

Bitterness has more than personal impacts. Hebrews 12: 15 notes it hurts “others in their spiritual lives.”

A bitter root produces bitter fruit. Other people knowing you are a Christian and bitter are led to believe there is no positive result that comes from leading a spiritual life. Bitterness negates any spiritual influence. Who wants to be a bitter believer. They know God and bitterness don’t coexist. 

Bitterness gives God grief. “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God…” (Ephesians 4:30) The Holy Spirit is grieved by bitterness. The Holy Spirit is grieved when He is giving us direction not to do something and we do it. The Holy Spirit guides us not to be bitter and when we are it breaks His heart. Note what bitterness does to God. He is grieved. The word translated grieve means to weep.

Bitterness, especially that which has been around so long it has festered because of a refusal to be reconciled breaks God’s heart.

May this break the heart of the bitter person who refused to forgive for God’s sake. Physically, medically, and spiritually forgiveness gives joy to God and brings relief to the one forgiving.

Bitterness a Root With a Bitter Fruit – Part Two

Ephesians 4: 30 – 32

How well do you deal with bitterness? Consider what it does to you. You are instructed, “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled. (Hebrews 12: 15)

The operative diagnostic word is “you.” Bitterness deteriorates the personality, destroys healthy emotions, and drains spiritual vitality. Notice that all the negative things it does, it does in the life of the bitter person, not the person with whom one is bitter. It is self-destructive.

The object of your bitterness may be miles away or even dead. Nevertheless, they hold you as much of a slave as those lorded over by Egyptian slave masters. You are a puppet of the object of your bitterness, be it God or a person.

Perhaps you have been wrong, however bitterness will not rectify the wrong.

There is an ageless truth worth committing to memory. “Bitterness does more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to the one on which it is poured.”  Bitterness is self-imposed punishment.

Hebrews 12:15 shouts a proper warning: “Watch out that no bitterness take root among you, for as it springs up it causes deep trouble, hurting many in their spiritual lives.”

Did you note the operative expression, “deep trouble.” For who – – – you. Such is not just spiritual guilt, but physical self imposed physical problems.

Science has opened the door of understanding regarding the physical impact of mind over body known as the “psyche,” to produce various reactions in the body, known as the “soma.” By combining the word for mind and the one for body, we get our term “psychosomatic.” It speaks of the influence of the mind over the body. Invisible emotions such as bitterness can produce significant and serious changes in the body.

Bitterness is only one of several negative attitudes that bring widespread changes in a life. There are three obvious influences. Bitterness, along with these other negative attitudes, can influence blood flow to an organ, the secretion of glands, and a change in muscle tension.

An illustration of how an emotion can influence a person is the result of being embarrassed and the face flushes red.

Obviously, embarrassment illustrates a change in blood flow. Have you ever seen an embarrassed person’s face become red? The emotion did it.

The reverse of the principle regarding bitterness can influence your body significantly by forgiving and burying bitterness with the Lord’s help. Ask Him.

Bitterness a Root With a Bitter Fruit – Part One

Ephesians 4: 30 – 32

Jesus wants to help you overcome the most common sin among Christians today. If He can enable you to have victory over the most common of sins, He can enable you to overcome any.

Bitterness is considered by many to be the most prevalent sin among Christians. Do you know any bitter believers?  Have you ever been bitter?  Are you presently harboring any bitterness?

In the New Testament the word for bitterness comes from the word “pikria.” It refers to a person who has become cynical, caustic, sarcastic, hostile, or resentful. It manifests itself by the person becoming negative, unhappy, and critical. Does that remind you of anyone?

We become bitter when we feel God, circumstances, or someone has wronged us, and we can’t do anything about it. We get angry and refuse to forgive. By harboring this anger, we become bitter. 

Dwelling on this past perceived injustice, we develop a negative and critical outlook. Soon everything and everyone seems wrong and worth criticizing. Bitter people build a mental dossier on the failings of others. This outlook causes the bitter person to look for little things about which to make snide, cutting comments, sarcastic remarks, and unkind statements.

Often an experience causing bitterness years ago takes root in a life and influences the rest of that person’s life. It may cause general bitterness or simply bitterness toward persons or things that remind the person consciously or subconsciously of the root cause. 

Often bitterness is felt toward God. When it is, most frequently it is expressed indirectly. Maybe as a child something traumatic happened that you prayed would not happen. Anger toward God arose. Over a period of time bitterness sprouted. It is hard to get your hands on God and exercise vengeance against Him. Therefore, the church becomes the target. Maybe it is even God Himself and the reaction of bitterness is expressed in a denial of His existence.

Every person has hurtful or negative experiences. It is up to the individual as to how to react. A bitter person tends to think their bitterness is the result of someone else. Actually it is a fault in their reaction. It is an improper reaction.

Bitter people often are resentful when it is suggested the only way to free yourself from bitterness is to forgive. An attitude of why should I offer the offended a “Get out of jail free” when it is they, not me, who caused it. In forgiving another it is actually you who is freed. Until you do forgive, the offender has you in the prison of guilt. Good news, you have the key, forgiveness. Let it go. Get your grudge off the lease and forgive as gratitude for the forgiveness the Lord offers you.