Discover the Book - May 7, 2008


Say NO to Bitterness Daily


Bitterness Leads to Intense Inner Torment


Jesus said that we hand ourselves over to the torturers (v. 34) when we embitter our hearts against someone. Those who live in the gall of bitterness imprison themselves in an emotional concentration camp, and become the victims of immense internal torment.


Nurturing bitterness is as foolish as drinking poison, or diving into a dark pit. Our refusals to forgive wall us into solitary confinement, and bitterness becomes our tormentor. Jesus warns that any believer is a candidate for this unspeakable emotional and mental torment when bitterness-producing-unforgiveness is practiced.


Do you see now why Paul lists bitterness first in the lineup of Spirit-grievers? Do you see why he says “put away ALL bitterness”? He says it is so deadly, so painful, so quick to spread that it must be dealt with right away.


A bitter person is cut and punctured by the words or actions of others. Those wounds untreated by the healing grace of a tender-hearted-forgiving-attitude become a source of malignant poison. So this wound infects the wounded person with bitterness, a hurtful condition that touches every part of their life. As Hebrews 12 warns us, bitterness spreads throughout a person’s life until everything in them gets defiled by bitterness.


Hebrews 12:15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; NKJV


One of the telltale signs of a wife or mother being hindered in living out her grace-energized role is when she feels “hurt” by her husband or children. Those hurts can quickly get infected and become resentful feelings which always grow into bitterness.


We Must Say NO to Bitterness Daily


·        Bitterness imprisons a believer’s emotions. Failing to forgive another will imprison a believer in their past. Bitterness nurtures pain and keeps it alive, never allowing the wound to heal. The longer the hurt is dwelt upon the more our anger is fed, resentment grows, and joy is extinguished. Forgiveness-energized by grace, opens our prison doors and sets us free from our past.


·        Bitterness poisons a believer’s life. Bitterness is not just a sin; it is an infection that poisons our speech making it biting, cutting, sarcastic, and slanderous. Bitterness poisons our emotions making them violent, unpredictable, intolerant, vengeful, and ungodly. Bitterness poisons all relationships making them void of affection, devoid of love, and emptied of kindness. The writer of Hebrews warns, “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled” (Heb. 12:15). Forgiveness-energized by grace, replaces bitterness with love, joy, peace, and the other fruits of the Spirit (cf. Gal. 5:22-23).


·        Bitterness opens believer’s lives to Satan. When Paul warned believers about improper anger he mentioned Satan’s horrible presence in Ephesians 4:26-27, “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.” When Paul similarly charged the Corinthians he again joins Satan’s destructive influence upon believers who leave open this strategic door as he wrote, “Whom you forgive anything, I forgive 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” (2 Cor. 2:10-11). The Bible clearly warns that unforgiving-based-bitterness offers the most ground that Satan gains in our lives. Forgiveness-energized by grace bars that avenue of demonic attack.


·        Bitterness closes a believer’s life to God. Remember how soberly Christ spoke in the Sermon on the Mount? “If you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matt. 6:14-15). Jesus was not saying that believers lose the completed, past forgiveness of salvation. He was warning that bitterness robs them of their ongoing relational forgiveness with God the Father. We cannot be right with God when unforgiving of others. Forgiveness-energized by grace always restores us to the place of maximum blessing, returning us to purity, and the joy of fellowship with God.


God wants believers to avoid bitterness so much, that He constantly emphasizes the importance of forgiveness in Scripture. There are no less than seventy-five different word pictures about forgiveness in the Bible. [1]


[1] These points adapted, paraphrased, and drawn from MacArthur, John F., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Ephesians 4, (Chicago: Moody Press) 1983.

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