Bitter Root, Bitter Fruit


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Hebrews 12:14-15 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: 15 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;

In the days before medicine had found a cure a certain man was bitten by a rabid dog. As a result the man contracted rabies, at that time a fatal and incurable disease. The Doctor told the man as solemnly as he could to “Get your affairs in order – there is nothing we can do”. The man asked for paper and pen, and began to write furiously. The good Doctor left, and came back a while later to find the man still writing. He said, “It’s good to see you working on your will.” The bitten man replied, “I’m not working on my will. This is a list of people I plan on biting before I die!”

A bitter heart cannot find happiness. The word “Bitter” comes from an Old English root which means “to bite”. Bitter people are those who have been hurt by others – perhaps even – they think – by God. They have allowed the pain of the hurt and the negative anger to ferment in their soul until they become spiteful, biteful people, caustic and sour. In our text the King James text uses two words to warn against the bitter heart:

Looking diligently

Do you see it in verse 15? This is actually one word in the Greek: ἐπισκοπέω episkopéō, (pronounced ep-ee-skop-eh’-o) which means to carefully and diligently watch or oversee so that it does not enter in, to beware, to look out for. The Apostle Peter used the same word when he warned the Pastors of the Church against false teachers, saying:

1 Peter 5:2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind …

That phrase “taking the oversight” is the word episkopéō, (pronounced ep-ee-skop-eh’-o). Guard against the evil. Look out! Pastor A.W. Tozer said once that there are a number of words that will NOT be found in Heaven, words like “look out”. While we are on this earth we – even if we are saved – are creatures subject to failure. One of the most dangerous things that we can fall into is the bitter heart.

Bitterness Can Set In When We Get Our Eyes Off Of Jesus

We read at the beginning of our text:

Hebrews 12:1-3 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

Somebody’s Watching You!

As we run that race of life as Children of God we are to understand that we are to be light in the midst of this devil’s fallen world. We will not be treated fairly. We will be mocked, and we will be unfairly judged. There will be others who are not running the race toward Heaven, but whose soul purpose is to pretend to run so as to try and trip us up. These are agents of the devil, not children of God. Children of God love one another, and guide one another to race so as to bring glory to God. Children of Adam – also known as Children of Lucifer – serve no purpose other than to disrupt our race, our course, and cause us to fall.

We are surrounded by “so great a cloud of witnesses”. People watch what we do. People listen to what we say. People watch how we run our race. The Lord tells us to ..

lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus

We are to be GRACE ORIENTED in our lives. Bitterness causes us to fail of the Grace of God. Bitterness makes us ineffective in our calling, and trips us up or defiles us so that we cannot do that which Christ wants us to do.

I have known Pastors, Deacons, and great Teachers who have fallen into the trap of bitterness. They got their eyes off of Jesus and became walking wounded, unable to do any good for the Lord.

How many of you have ever heard of Franklin Pierce? I must admit – red faced and embarrassed – that I never heard of Franklin Pierce until this week. Who was Franklin Pierce? He was the 14th President of the United States, a northern Democrat that saw the Abolitionist Movement as a threat to the unity of the United States. Pierce was a bitter man. He was married to a wife that suffered illness and depression most of her life, and all of their children died while young. Just before Pierce’s inauguration his last child died in a train accident. Pierce could not imagine how God would let such a thing happen. He refused to to place his hand on a Bible during his swearing in as President, choosing instead to use a Law book. His policies as President are recognized by most historians and scholars as contributing to our eventual Civil War. Pierce drank heavily most of his life, and died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1869. To date historians and scholars rank Pierce as one of the worst and least memorial of the U.S. Presidents. A bitter heart leads to a bitter, unblessed life.

When life hurts us, let us look unto Jesus. Jesus did not have an easy path. In fact, Jesus could have easily become bitter. We are told:

Hebrews 12:3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

What did Jesus do? He left Heaven to come to this earth to save us. He was born in the lowest of places, a baby in a manger. Before He could ever walk He was hunted by Herod, a spiteful and bitter King who was never satisfied. This evil man killed all the babies in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16-18), fulfilling the prophecy of Jeremiah 31:15. When Jesus began His earthly ministry He was not welcomed by the religious leaders of the day. He was attacked at every point, even accused of being evil for healing people on “the sabbath Day” (Matthew 12:12; Mark 3:4; Luke 6:9). When Jesus was “taken” in the Garden of Gethsemane at the end of His earthly ministry He was betrayed by the kiss of a friend who betrayed Him, Judas Iscariot (see Luke 22:48). This was foretold by the Lord in Psalm 41:9. Jesus knew that Judas was going to betray Him, because He said:

John 6:70-71 … Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? 71 He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.

When Jesus stood in front of the Jewish Ruling Council, the Sanhedrin, they hired liars to offer false testimony about Him. When Jesus was taken to Pilate the Governor he said:

Luke 23:14-15 … Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people: and, behold, I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him: 15 No, nor yet Herod: for I sent you to him; and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto him.

Neither Pilate nor Herod found fault in Jesus, yet still ordered His execution because the religious leaders incited the people to violence. As Jesus hung on Calvary – beaten, bloody, tortured beyond belief, so much so that the Scripture says:

Isaiah 52:14 .. As many were {astonished} at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men:

How many indignities were heaped upon our Lord? How many terrors did He go through? And yet, never was He bitter. Never was He hopeless, or eaten up of anger. But as He hung on that Cross what was ever before Him was the finish line, the glory of God the Father and the salvation of a people unto Himself. He prayed though in anguish and in humiliation:

Luke 23:34-38 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. 35 And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God. 36 And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar, 37 And saying, If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself. 38 And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

Jesus never wavered for the joy set before Him.

The Root That Leads To Bitterness Is A ME Centered Life

Hebrews 12:14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:

What seed can plant the fruit of bitterness? It is a ME CENTERED life. Most people become bitter because:

1. Of What Is SAID About ME (Slander).
2. Of What Is DONE To ME (Bullying).
3. Of What Is TAKEN From ME (Theft).

If you belong to Jesus and are doing the best you know how in serving Him, you need to be more concerned about what Jesus says as opposed to what the world says.

The darkness will never like the light.
Cain will always seek to kill Abel.
Goliath will always despise and try to overthrow David.
Daniel will always find himself in a pit of lions.
Joseph will be attacked by jealous brothers.
Lucifer and the Lord Jesus will never be One!

Jesus told us in:

Luke 15:17-21 These things I command you, that ye love one another. 18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. 19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. 20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.

1. When SLANDERED What Shall I Do? Jesus was slandered, and we who serve the Lord Jesus will be slandered. What are we to do? Jesus said:

Matthew 5:11-12 Blessed are ye, when [men] shall revile you, and persecute [you], and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great [is] your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Jesus tells us that rather than focus on the slander, praise God for what is being said. Evil will always say bad things about the righteous. Now Beloved, DO NOT BE SELF RIGHTEOUS. God despises self righteousness, and considers such tings to be a smoke in His nostrils. The self righteous …

Isaiah 65:5 Which say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou. These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day.

If you are living for Jesus as a holy new Creation then as much as possible, live at peace with all (Romans 12:8). But understand that the lost do not have the light of Christ. Understand also there may be lost people on the roll of the Church! Do not allow what others say about you to cause you to be bitter. Look unto Jesus. As He was slandered and reviled…

1 Peter 2:22-23 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:

When Jesus was verbally attacked and slandered He did not come back with an evil foul mouth. He did not allow bitterness to enter His heart and thus pollute His thought process. No, but Jesus blessed those who cursed Him, and advised we who are His Children to:

Matthew 5:44-45 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

When Jesus was slandered He trusted that the Father would one day make all things right, that all things worked together for good, controlled by the Almighty.

2. When BULLIED What Shall I Do? When Jesus was struck by His accusers He did not REACT but He ACTED. He controlled how He responded. This is what He tells us to do. When you are hit, your old man leads you to strike back. Yet if you strike back you become part of the problem rather than the solution.

Act And God Is In Control
React And You Lose Control

The Apostle Paul had one of the hardest ministries ever in Church history. A Jew who was originally on the Ruling Council of the Jews, Paul was regarded as a traitor to Israel and in the beginning was mistrusted by the Church. The Apostle said:

2 Corinthians 4:6-11 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. 8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; 10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. 11 For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.

The Apostle saw himself as an earthen vessel, continually overseen by the Potter Who is God. He saw His life as a dedicated bowl or pitcher, dedicated to the Lord Jesus Christ. As a result the Apostle refused to allow his life (his bowl) to be filled with bitterness. He wanted his life to be filled with Jesus. Rather than strike back when a lost person struck him, the Apostle Paul trusted that God would bring it all out for His glory and for the blessing of God’s Kingdom. This is what Jesus told us to do. When bullied heed the Master’s words:

Mathew 6:38-39 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Love will win the heart, not one upmanship or vengeance. Love like Christ has shown us will win the world for Him.

3. When We Are ROBBED, What Shall I Do? Jesus told us:

Matthew 5:40-41 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

Jesus wanted us to understand the difference between the eternal and the temporal. All things that we see and touch right now are temporal, temporary, and will one day pass away. The reality of your salvation and the sonship that accompanies it is eternal.

Stuff is just stuff.

One of my favorite movies is an old John Wayne movie called Angel and the Badman. It’s a wonderful story where the gunslinger Quirt Evans (played by John Wayne) is hurt and nursed back to health by a Quaker family. The daughter of the family named Penelope (played by Gail Russell) falls in love with Quirt. As Quirt is recuperating in the Quaker home he sees a sign on the wall. He says:

That {sign} on the wall: “Each human being has an integrity that can be hurt only …by the act of the same human being. and not by the act of another human being. Is that Quaker stuff? You mean nobody can hurt you but yourself?”

Penelope says “That’s what the Friends {Quakers} believe.” Quirt asks, “Are there many of you Quakers?” She replies, “Very few.” To which Quirt retorts, “I sort of figured that.”

The way of the world is that is someone takes from me, then I will take from them. But the Way of Christ is to live a life of sacrifice. The Apostle said:

Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

The stuff we have is just “stuff”. If someone robs us of TIME, then what would this matter to a child of Christ. Eternity is ours. We will live beyond this life, into eternity with the Jesus Who loves us so. In Jesus’ Jerusalem the conquering Roman soldiers had the right to ask you to provide cover for them, and to carry their packs for them for up to a mile. Jesus told His listeners that if they wanted to be light, provide cover – ample cover – even to the Roman enemy. If they demanded that you carry their pack for a mile, carry it for two. Do so not out of compulsion, but because this is what LOVE DEMANDS. It’s like that wonderful song Love Is Not A Fight, that states:

Love will come to save us, if we’ll only call
He will ask nothing from us,
but demand we give our all!

The heart of our faith is love in action. To avoid bitterness, consider stuff just to be stuff. Serve the Lord Jesus. Do as He says. Give, and God will give, more than you can imagine.

This is what our God expects us to do. May Christ’s Holy Spirit guide you as you live out your purpose in Him! Amen!

About bibleteacherorg

A searching Pastor, I am looking for a people who love the Lord and love one another. Daily I pray for the Church. Most of what the world sees today is not the Church, but clubs pretending to be the Church. God is calling to Himself a people willing to be righteous, not self righteous, serving not served. I am called to pastor God's people, those who want to change the world by willingly and willfully following Jesus Christ. Only God is able to change the world, and we must follow His Christ. He is able! Praise His Name! Come quickly Lord Jesus!
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