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The Destructive Harvest of a Bitter Heart - Hebrews 12:14-15

Taught on | Topic: Bitterness | Keywords: anger, bitter, resentment, hurt, grace, pride

We all know someone who has become embittered in life. They have planted kernels of unresolved anger and resentment and have become entrapped by the overgrown jungle of the bitter fruit it has created. To choose the bitter path (and it is a choice) is to walk down a self-destructive road that banishes peace and promotes self-centeredness. Let’s consider several Scriptures and the four attributes of a heart poisoned by bitterness.

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2/4/2018
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The Destructive Harvest of a Bitter Heart
Hebrews 12:14-15
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
We all know someone who has become embittered in life. They have planted kernels of unresolved anger and resentment and have become entrapped by the overgrown jungle of the bitter fruit it has created. To choose the bitter path (and it is a choice) is to walk down a self-destructive road that banishes peace and promotes self-centeredness. Let’s consider several Scriptures and the four attributes of a heart poisoned by bitterness.
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White Collar Sins

White Collar Sins

We say we want to be holy, yet we tolerate sin on a daily basis, comfortable with its permeating presence in our homes, our relationships—our very lives. And while we view murder, lust, and lying as unbearably wicked, we trivialize gossip, gluttony, and envy. In the series White Collar Sins: Death in Its Sunday Best, Pastor Skip Heitzig challenges us to view all sin as destructive and recognize its painful consequences.

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Outline

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  1. Bitterness Begins with Small Seeds (vv. 12-14)

  2. Bitterness Requires Right Soil (v. 15a)

  3. Bitterness Develops Deep Roots (v. 15b)

  4. Bitterness Produces Bad Fruit (v. 15c)

Study Guide

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Recap Notes: February 4, 2018
Teacher: Skip Heitzig
Teaching:"The Destructive Harvest of a Bitter Heart"
Text: Hebrews 12:14-15

Path

We all know someone who has become embittered in life. They have planted kernels of unresolved anger and resentment and have become entrapped by the overgrown jungle of the bitter fruit it has created. To choose the bitter path (and it is a choice) is to walk down a self-destructive road that banishes peace and promotes self-centeredness. In this teaching, Pastor Skip considered several Scriptures and four attributes of a heart poisoned by bitterness:
  1. Bitterness Begins with Small Seeds (vv. 12-14)
  2. Bitterness Requires Right Soil (v. 15a)
  3. Bitterness Develops Deep Roots (v. 15b)
  4. Bitterness Produces Bad Fruit (v. 15c)
Points

Bitterness Begins with Small Seeds
  • In this text, the writer uses a metaphor: the Christian is running a race of faith.
  • The biggest challenge to our race and peace is people.
  • Sometimes people can be the chastening rod of God. But if we don't choose to see frustrating people as God's correction, we tend to see them as Satan's aggravation.
  • Bitterness is internalized anger that festers. It begins from a seed of anger planted by one who hurt you. When that pain goes untreated, it turns to anger, which turns to bitterness.
  • Hebrews 12 is a picture of discouragement that has planted a seed of hurt.
  • Pastor Skip gave Dr. Diamond's definition of bitterness: "a chronic and pervasive state of smoldering resentment." Notice two key words: chronic and pervasive. How is bitterness both long-lasting (chronic) and widespread (pervasive)?
Bitterness Requires Right Soil
  • We never have a need that can outstrip the grace of God. When we forget the grace of God in our lives, we become susceptible to bitterness.
  • We need to grow in grace or bad things will grow in us, like bitterness.
  • Sadly, some hearts are fertile ground for bitterness, and it becomes an essential part of their life (Naomi is an example; see Ruth 1:20-21).
  • Bitterness turns you into a perpetual victim.
  • When a hurt comes, don't let it take root in your heart. If you hold on to that hurt, the hurt will get a hold on you.
  • Probe: What are some types of soil in which bitterness takes root? Consider the following: mind, soul, relationships, work, family, and friends.
Bitterness Develops Deep Roots
  • Deuteronomy 29 warns not to turn your heart from God, "that there may not be among you a root bearing bitterness or wormwood" (v. 18). Wormwood is a reference to someone going back to paganism, someone who has forgotten God's grace and covenant.
  • People who let such seeds grow in the soil of their heart develop a root system that feeds on bitterness. These roots grow underground and are undetected—for a time. It grows through the roots to the branches, becoming stronger and moving from thoughts to words and actions.
  • Bitterness will choke off the fruit of the Christian's spiritual life. This is why Paul said, "Get rid of all bitterness" (Ephesians 4:31, NIV).
  • When bitterness hides in your heart, God will not be real to you because hatefulness and holiness cannot dwell in the same heart.
  • The remedy to bitterness: be grounded in love, built up in Christ (see Ephesians 3:17-18). Once we grow in the right root, we'll get the right fruit.
  • Probe: If you're comfortable with sharing, discuss a time you were bitter. How did it take hold of your heart, causing you to lose sight of the Lord?
Bitterness Produces Bad Fruit
  • Bitterness grows in two directions: toward you and toward others.
    • Toward you: Note the phrase cause trouble. It's like taking poison and hoping your enemy will die.
      • Bitterness is a form of emotional suicide. It slowly destroys hope and peace of mind.
      • Bitterness ruins your relationship with God (see 1 John 4:20).
    • Toward others: Note the phrase many become defiled.
      • Defiled is miainó, meaning to sully or taint. Bitterness contaminates relationships, costing more than you ever want to pay.
  • The words bitter and better start with b and end with -ter. The only difference is one letter: I. Bitterness focuses on I, me, and mine—the self. But better focuses on God and others. Life is better when you let go of bitterness.
  • Probe: Continuing your story from the previous section, what was some of the fruit from your bitterness? How did you resolve or how are you resolving the bitterness in your life?
Practice

Connect Up: One of the hallmarks of God's character is His holiness (see Psalm 99), so we're called to pursue holiness. In Greek, holiness is hagiasmos, meaning purification and sanctification. How do we pursue God's holiness? How are we sanctified when we pursue God's holiness, "without which no one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14)?

Connect In: Sadly, bitterness is found in the church, causing "trouble" (Hebrews 12:15).   What steps should Christians take to overcome bitterness in life and the church? One person recommended the following steps: forgive, make a plan, stop dwelling and retelling, seek grace, and seek help. ¹Discuss these five steps.

Connect Out: Because the Lord is our peace (see Ephesians 2:14), how shall we pursue peace with all people (see Hebrews 12:14)? What does a peaceful life look like in the world today? How can being an effective peacemaker (see Matthew 5:9) be a witness to a watching world?

¹ Dr. Greg, "Overcoming Bitterness: 5 Steps for Healing the Hurt that Won't Go Away," November 20, 2013, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithonthecouch/2013/11/overcoming-bitterness-5-steps-for-healing-the-hurt-that-wont-go-away, accessed 2/4/18.

Detailed Notes

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  1. Introduction
    1. Most people say they know a bitter person; few are willing to admit that they are a bitter person
      1. More people struggle with bitterness than we think
      2. Of all the human emotions, this is the one you should fear the most
    2. Bitterness is emotional cancer
      1. Bitter people are hard to get close to
      2. Anger that has morphed into something
      3. Cold, aloof
  1. Bitterness Begins with Small Seeds (vv. 12-14)
    1. The biggest challenge to your peace is people
      1. People can hurt us
      2. What we fail to see is that perhaps God is using those difficult people to get our attention (see Hebrews 12:3-6)
    2. Bitterness comes from a seed of anger planted by someone who has hurt you
      1. It germinates when something happens to you that you don't think you deserve
      2. Bitterness is internalized anger that festers
      3. All bitterness starts as hurt
      4. Smoldering resentment
  2. Bitterness Requires Right Soil (v. 15a)
    1. You can never outrun the grace of God (see Romans 5:20)
      1. You can lose sight of the grace of God
      2. When you forget how gracious God was to you, you cease being gracious to other people
      3. We need to grow in grace or bad things will grow in us, like bitterness
    2. Some people's hearts are ripe for growing bitterness, like people who hold on to things and never let them go
      1. If we hold on to the past, it affects the present and becomes an essential part of who we are
      2. Naomi was like this (see Ruth 1)
        1. Her name means pleasant
        2. She blamed God for the bad things that happened to her
        3. She identified herself as a bitter person by taking the name Mara
    3. Bitterness turns you into a perpetual victim
      1. If you are always the victim, you can justify your anger
      2. It's always someone else's fault
      3. Bitterness is really a form of pride
    4. When a hurt comes your way, don't let it take root in your heart
      1. If you hold on to it, it will grab hold of you
      2. People who do not deal with past hurts are critical, notice bad things around them instead of good things, are fault-finders and sin-sniffers, and put people down
  3. Bitterness Develops Deep Roots (v. 15b)
    1. The author of Hebrews referred to what God said to His people in the Old Testament
      1. Deuteronomy 29:18
      2. Referred to those who were superficially identified with God but returned to their pagan lifestyle
    2. People who let bitterness grow eventually develop a root system that becomes immoveable
      1. A root is hidden
      2. As it grows, hidden, it becomes stronger
      3. Ephesians 4:31
    3. People can be bitter toward many things and people
      1. Parents
      2. Churches
      3. Leaders
      4. Spouses and ex-spouses
        1. Bitterness destroys homes
        2. Colossians 3:19
    4. Bitterness is a big problem among God's people
      1. It holds back the power of God
      2. When your heart is bitter, God will not be real to you
        1. Hatefulness and holiness cannot dwell in the same heart
        2. Instead of letting bitterness grow, plant your life in better soil (see Ephesians 3:17-18; Colossians 2:7)
  4. Bitterness Produces Bad Fruit (v. 15c)
    1. The root of bitterness always grows in two directions
      1. Toward you as you harbor it
      2. Toward others who are defiled by it
    2. Bitterness is like taking poison and hoping your enemy will die
      1. It is a form of emotional suicide, a slow form of destroying peace of mind
      2. You are the one being corroded
    3. Bitterness can ruin your relationship with God (see 1 John 4:20)
    4. It grows toward others
      1. Acts 8:5-23
      2. The difference between bitter and better is I
  5. Closing
    1. We must surrender our bitterness to God
    2. Though Jesus was tortured and crucified, the cross was the best thing that ever happened to humanity
    3. God can use the bad things in our past to make us better
Figures referenced: Lady Astor, Winston Churchill, Stephen Diamond, Michelangelo, Raphael, Dr. Leon Seltzer

Cross references: Deuteronomy 29:18; Ruth 1; Acts 8:5-23; Romans 5:20; Ephesians 3:17-18; 4:31; Colossians 2:7; 3:19; Hebrews 12:3-6; 1 John 4:20

Topic: Bitterness

Keywords: anger, bitter, resentment, hurt, grace, pride

Transcript

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[MUSIC PLAYING]

Hello, and welcome to this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Church. We pray God uses this message to reach people around the world. If this message encourages you, let us know. Email us at mystory@calvaryadq.org. And if you'd like to support this ministry financially, you can give online securely at calvaryabq.org/give.

When you become bitter in life, you plant kernels of unresolved anger and resentment, and become trapped by an overgrown jungle of bitter fruit. In the message, the destructive harvest of a bitter heart, Skip examines four attributes of a heart poisoned by bitterness. Now we invite you to open your Bible to Hebrews Chapter 12 with Skip Heitzig.

Would you turn in your Bibles, please, to the book of Hebrews Chapter 12. We're in a series we've called White Collar Sins. And I've worn a white collar for the occasion. And we're studying something today that some of you might find very appropriate, in fact, something that some of you struggle with. In the 16th Century, there were two renowned artisans, who were both hired to beautify the Vatican in Rome. One was Michelangelo, the other was Raphael.

Michelangelo was a painter who fancied himself a sculptor. Raphael, of course, was the renowned sculptor. Both of them did very different tasks. Both of them were highly regarded in their own particular fields. But interestingly, a bitterness broke out between them, a rivalry broke out between them, so that whenever they would pass each other in the hall, or even meet, they refused to speak to each other.

Everybody could see it. It became a renowned bitterness. And the ironic thing is that both of them were doing this for the glory of God, doing it for the glory of God while holding onto bitterness at the same time. Unfortunately, when you get people that are that revered and renowned, that bitterness, that rivalry, everybody can taste it. It defiles so many people. And it becomes renowned. For example, Winston Churchill, everybody knows. Most people know that there was this long going, long ongoing rivalry between Winston Churchill and a woman named Lady Astor.

And they would often say things to each other publicly, even to put down each other. And it got to be really bad. So for example, on one occasion, Lady Astor said to Winston Churchill publicly, sir, if you were my husband, I would put poison in your tea. Unfazed by that, he turned to her and said, Madam, if I were your husband, I would drink that tea.

Most everyone can think of a bitter person. But seldom will you find someone willing to admit that they are a bitter person. And yet I think more people may deal with, struggle with a root of bitterness than we think. I will admit that when I was a young man, a young boy, I became angry, and that anger turned to bitterness toward my own father. He was a harsh man, not very gracious, very demanding, very exacting, and I struggled with that. And it became for a period of time very dark.

And God had to do a work. And God did do a work of restoration and reconciliation. But it was something that I struggled with as a young man. And I was reading a little article blog by a counselor by the name of Mike Dubose, who lived for years being bitter at his own father. He was angry and bitter because his dad left the family when Mike was a young boy.

He said he was talking to a counselor who said, you know, Mike, it's interesting that people from similar backgrounds, same circumstances as you, even within the same family can react different ways. For example, he said you might have one child like you become very resentful. At the same time in the same family, you might have a child who doesn't become resentful, but learns from it, and grows from it, and becomes better because of it.

So that set him on a path of healing. But Mike Dubose tells of a conversation that he had with a friend who is 70 years old. I'll let him tell the story. He said, we spoke about his bad childhood and how he still resented his father, who had been dead for years. You can imagine if he's 70 years old, his dad would have been gone many years before. I advised him to forgive and move on, but he said angrily, I will never forgive my father, even to the grave.

His dead father, said Mike, his dead Father and his negative childhood experiences were still haunting him and generating anger more than 60 years later. And he concluded by writing bitterness had taken deep root in his mind and his heart. Listen, of all the human emotions that are out there, this is one that you ought to fear the most because bitterness is emotional cancer. As one leader put it, bitterness blows out the candle of joy and leaves the soul in darkness.

Bitter people are like porcupines a bit. They may have many fine points, but they're very hard to get close to. And they're hard to get close to because they're harsh, they're critical, they're unforgiving, they're judgmental, they're sarcastic, angry. But it's more than just anger. It's anger that has grown into something, morphed into something. Or, they're like icebergs. They're very cold toward you. They're very cold-shouldered, aloof, act like they don't need you, they don't want you, they've got nothing to say, I'm good without you.

And like icebergs, most of the problem is underneath. You're only seeing the tip of the iceberg. The real problem is what's going on under the surface. Now, today we're dealing with the garden of your own heart, so to speak, what you allow to grow in your soul. So we're going to look at bitterness. And I want to show you out of this text the book of Hebrews chapter 12 beginning in verse 12 four attributes of bitterness. We're going to follow the stages of its growth from a small seed put into a certain kind of soil that nurtures and nourishes it, that eventually grows a root system, that eventually produces fruit.

So let's begin by saying that bitterness begins with small seeds. I'm taking you to chapter 12 of Hebrews verse 12 where he begins in this paragraph. "Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so what is lame may not be dislocated but rather healed. Pursue peace with all people and holiness without which no one will see the Lord. Looking carefully, lest anyone fall short of the grace of God, less any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble. And by this, many become defiled."

Now, this paragraph opens up with a metaphor of a racer, of a runner. It's something the author begins with in the first few verses of the same chapter where he says, let us run the race that is set before us. Now he returns to this metaphor. And now here is the runner on the track whose hands are drooping down. He's losing the proper form for running. He's becoming exhausted. And in his exhaustion, his knees get wobbly.

And in the very second verse, verse 13, he's veering off his own path, getting into the next lane, which can become detrimental, it can dislocate his own joints, or it can hurt a fellow runner. So the picture then is of a Christian, a believer running the race of faith who becomes discouraged. What is it that discourages the runner? People, because you'll notice that he says pursue peace with all people.

The biggest challenge to your peace is people. Of all the circumstances in life, people are the source of rattling your cage. Why? Because people can hurt us, they can upset us, they can offend us, they can affront us, they can ignore us. And all of those things hurt. However, what we fail to lose sight of when people hurt us-- and this is where bitterness begins, by the way, with that anger due to hurt. What we fail to see is that perhaps God is actually using those difficult people to get our attention, to use them as a course correction, to chasten us.

By the way, that is the context of the entire chapter. He starts with a runner metaphor, goes back to it. But in between, he talks about the chastening of the Lord. I want you to see a few verses. Look at verse 3. "For consider him--" that is Jesus-- "who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not resisted to bloodshed striving against sin--" implying that's what Jesus went through-- "and you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as sons." Here's the quote, "My son, do not despise the chastening--" that is chastising, that is correction, that is spanking-- "do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by him. For whom the Lord loves, he chastens, and he scourges every son whom he receives."

Now, when you lose sight of that fact that God could be using a difficult person to chastise you, to course correct you, when you start seeing people not as God's correction, you start thinking that they're the devil's aggravation. This can't be from God. It has to be from the devil. Well, maybe it's from God because he's chastening you. God can use those difficulties. But that word that the person says, that deed that that person does, it becomes a seed that is planted in your heart, that if you allow it to grow, leads to bitterness.

And I've noticed something. When people are discouraged, like this runner is here, when you are discouraged, you are most vulnerable to those kind of thoughts inwardly that lead to a bitter heart. So where does bitterness come from? It comes from a seed of anger planted by somebody who has hurt you. Bitterness begins to germinate when something happens to you that you don't think you deserve. I don't deserve this. I don't know why this is happening to me. I don't deserve this.

It's like the student who went to his professor in college very angry because the professor gave him a zero on his test. And he said, excuse me, I don't deserve this zero. The professor said, I agree with you. You don't deserve it. But it's the lowest grade I could give you. Now sometimes people want to hurt you. It's an intentional statement or deed. Other times it's not intended at all to hurt you. In fact, sometimes it's imaginary. You just are imagining this whole thing.

And yet, though they're not trying to hurt you, they hurt you. You feel slighted. Bitterness is simply internalized anger that you let fester over time. You hold onto it long enough, and the anger will change. It will morph into something else. And that is resentment and then bitterness. An article I found in Psychology Today, the author said, all bitterness starts out as hurt. And then the author says it festers into an anger. He continues, for anger and it's first cousin resentment is what we're all likely to experience whenever we conclude that another has seriously abused us. Left to fester, that righteous anger eventually becomes the corrosive ulcer that is bitterness.

So the picture in Hebrews Chapter 12 is discouragement has planted a seed of hurt, the hurt has turned to anger, the anger becomes resentment, and eventually, the resentment becomes bitterness. According to Steven Diamond, a PhD on this subject, he defines bitterness as a chronic and pervasive state of smoldering resentment. And I thought that was very picturesque, a smoldering resentment. And he said he regards this as one of the most destructive and toxic of all human emotions.

So bitterness begins with small seeds. But then it grows. And the second characteristic, the second attribute I want you to see is that bitterness requires the right kind of soil. So you look at something, and notice it in verse 15, if you don't mind. The author says looking carefully-- that means paying attention very diligently-- looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God.

Now, the truth is you can never outstrip or outrun the grace of God. The Bible says where sin abounds, grace overflows. But you can come short of it. You can lose sight of the grace of God. And when a person misses the grace of God in his or her life, they become susceptible to a life of bitterness. Why? Because when we forget how gracious God was to us, then we cease being gracious to other people. And why aren't we gracious?

Well, this is what you deserve. This is not what I deserve. We start forgetting just how merciful and gracious God was to us. So we need to grow in grace, because if we don't grow in grace, bad things can grow in us. And one of those bad things is this, bitterness. Now some soils are easier to plant things in than others. So it is with human hearts. There are some people's hearts that are just ripe, for growing a harvest of bitterness. And what kind of heart is that? People who hold onto things and never let them go.

If we keep ruminating on wrongs in the past, keep chewing on something that somebody did to us in the past, it begins to affect us in the present, and it becomes an essential part of who we are. It is our new identity. We are that hurt one. We are the victim. Let me tell you a story of somebody who was like that in the Bible. She didn't start out that way. Her name was Naomi in the book of Ruth.

Naomi is a name that means pleasant, agreeable, friendly. What a great name. Here comes Miss pleasant. I can see her coming down the road in Bethlehem smiling at everybody. Well, she gets married and has kids. There's a famine in the land of Israel in Bethlehem where she's from. That's the breadbasket of ancient Israel. It forces her family to go out and seek food in Moab, a neighboring country.

And things go from bad to worse. She loses her husband Elimelech. She loses her two boys Mahlon and Kilion. They both die. So she's bereft of three males in her family. All of that pain that occurs to her becomes a seed that grows in her heart, a seed of anger that becomes bitterness toward God. God is the only one left that she can blame, so she blames God.

So she comes back to Bethlehem because now there's food back in the land of Israel. She comes back to town. People see her, and they go, oh, look. Naomi's back. Miss pleasant is back with us. And listen to her response. She said, don't call me Naomi, which means pleasant. Call me Mara. The word means bitter. Now she's defining herself as a bitter person. Self-admission, don't call me pleasant. You call me bitter.

Now listen to why. For the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full-- not really true-- and the Lord brought me home again empty. The Lord has testified against me. The Almighty has afflicted me. Now in that little group of sentences, four times she blames God. Four times she says, I am bitter and it's God's fault. Four times she says I'm not happy and it's God's fault. She is now defined her very life by that destructive emotion of bitterness. And that'll happen.

Bitterness turns you into a perpetual victim, which is a bad place to be. But it's a very convenient place to be. Because if you're always the victim, you can justify your anger. I'm angry and I have a right to be angry. If you're always a victim, you hold onto that anger. You blame others. It's always somebody else's fault. You play the victim.

And if you analyze it carefully and biblically, you'll discover something. Bitterness is really a form of pride. Because in bitterness, you are saying, God, I don't deserve this. And by the way, it's not smart to pray, God, give me what I deserve, because what you deserve is far from what you may think you deserve. But this is a form of pride to say I don't deserve this. I deserve much better.

So when a hurt comes your way, if it's a word somebody says, if it's an action somebody does, don't let that take root in your heart. You can't let that thing continue to grow. Don't water it with self-exalting thoughts. Don't fertilize it with other people's sympathies. You've got to root it out, because if you hold onto it, it's going to grab hold of you and not let you go.

The world is filled with people who have not dealt with past hurts. And people who don't deal with past hurts, there's a profile that they eventually fit into. They are critical, they notice bad things around them, not good things, always they notice all the bad things. Not only are they hyper critical, but their fault finders. They're sin sniffers. Somebody is rotten around here. I can smell sin.

And when they talk about people, they can't help themselves. There's going to be a put down in that conversation somewhere. It's going to go negative. Bitterness is what puts a scowl on one's face and puts venom in one's words. It's bitterness that has grown. So it begins with small seeds. It requires the right kind of soil for it to grow. But the third characteristic, the third attribute is that bitterness develops deep roots.

Again, look at verse 5, 15-- excuse me. "Looking carefully, lest anyone fall short of the grace of God, lest any root of bitterness springing up causes trouble. And by this, many become defiled." Now this whole root of bitterness thing, the author of Hebrews didn't come up with this on his own. He is referring, I believe, to a text in the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 29 where the author is writing what God said to the people of Israel.

Deuteronomy 29, the Lord said, "there will not be among you those with a root bearing bitterness or wormwood. And the meaning of that in Deuteronomy 29 originally refers to those people who are superficially identified with the God of Israel, but they are going back to their old roots, paganism. They're leaving the covenant relationship, they're forsaking the grace of God, forgetting the covenant of God, and they're not bearing spiritual fruit. Their life is defined by a root of bitterness, not a sweet root, not one that grows good fruit.

Here's the larger point. People who let a seed like this grow in the soil of their hearts eventually develop a root system that grows, and grows larger, and grows stronger, and pretty soon becomes immovable. Why is it called a root? Because it's hidden. You don't see it. You walk over roots of trees all the time. They're growing underneath you. They're not apparent at first, at first. They will be apparent later on because the root is going to produce fruit. But at first, it's hidden.

And while it grows hidden, unseen, it grows stronger, and it can be destructive. I have this tree in the back of my house. And I've used it in many illustrations. But one thing that you need to know is that when it was growing early on-- and it's grown quite large-- I had people tell me you've got to get rid of that. This kind of tree can destroy houses. It can destroy foundations because the roots tend to be surface roots. And they can just break things up, and break foundations up, and break heating ducts up. But I love this tree. I haven't gotten rid of it.

Well, I have paid a consequence for it because my back porch shows a nice long crowning crack because one of the roots of that tree put it there. It can be very destructive. And so a root of bitterness will grow its tentacles around your heart, and choke off spiritual life, and choke off emotional life, and will dominate your life if you let it. And so Paul says-- no wonder he says this in Ephesians 3. "Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling, and slander, and every form of malice."

Some people are bitter at their parents. Some people are bitter at churches. Some people are bitter at leaders. Some people are bitter at their ex-spouses. Some people are bitter at their current spouses. Bitterness destroys homes. Colossians chapter 3 verse 19, Paul says, "husbands, love your wives. And do not be bitter toward them." Sometimes rather than a husband or wife being the better half, they're the bitter half.

And it's a big problem among God's people. I think bitterness holds back the power of God. Our life gets so clogged by this root system. We need to get Roto-Rooter in there now. Because the power of God is-- the drain is clogged. God wants to move, but our bitter hearts block him from doing that. See, when your heart is bitter, God will not be real to you. And that's because hatefulness and holiness cannot dwell in the same heart. They are exclusive.

So instead of letting that seed grow, and grow, and branch out a root system, you need to plant your life in better soil. Listen to Paul's words in Ephesians 3. "Being rooted and grounded in love." And again, in Colossians chapter 2, "being rooted and built up in him." So when you sink your life into the rich soil of God's love, and into that rich soil, and life of God's character, that's the soil. That's where you want to be plugged into.

In Ephesians 3, which I just mentioned, I'm going to read two verses in the New Living translation, Ephesians 3:17 and 18. Listen up. "I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God's marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is."

Wouldn't you rather live there? Wouldn't you rather be plugged into that kind of soil? So that it's inexhaustible-- oh, the love of God in all directions. Well, once you grow the right root, you'll get the right fruit, which leads us to the fourth attribute of bitterness. And that is bitterness will produce bad fruit. So it begins as a seed. You allow it to grow. You nurture it, you hold onto it, you ruminate over it, you chew on it, it grows, it develops a root system, and over time, it produces something. And it's always bad.

Would you look at verse 15 to see what he says? "Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God, lest any root of bitterness--" now watch this-- "springing up--" ah, now it's not hidden anymore. Now it springs up through the soil. And when you walk by it in the spring or summer you see it now. So that's what's happened this little tree of mine. Those little roots have not only busted through the concrete, every spring they sprout these little extra trees. It's like saying, we're here, and we're taking over. And it just springs up through the soil.

Now watch what it does. Springing up causes trouble. That means it causes you trouble. Some translations say troubling you. So first of all, the root grows in your direction. And then notice the second part. "And by this--" that is by it growing toward you and ruining you-- "by this many become defiled." So the root of bitterness always grows in two different directions, toward you if you harbor bitterness, and toward others who are defiled by it.

Bitterness is like taking poison hoping that your enemy will die. You go, good, I'm going to get that person back. Poison. When's it going to happen? And all the while, it's self-destructive. You're the one being corroded. Bitterness is a form of emotional suicide. It saps the peace of mind out of your life. Dr. Leon Seltzer said, "It can--" that is bitterness can-- "lead to long lasting anxiety and depression. It can precipitate vengeful or violent acts. It can create an attitude of cynicism. It can rob you of potential joys. It can interfere with healthy, satisfying relationships. And it can undermine your physical health."

Who wants that? That's what it does to the person who harbors it and dishes it out. It destroys that person. And let me add another one. It can ruin your relationship with God. It won't sever it. It won't take it away, but it will ruin it. First John chapter 4 verse 20, "if someone says I love God but hates another Christian or a brother, that person is a liar, for if we don't love people we can see, how can we love God whom we have not seen?" There's an old saying that goes, bitterness does more damage to the vessel in which it is stored than to any one upon which it is poured.

You think that that bitterness is going to satisfy your heart and get back to that person? It's really the damage is being done in you. Second, it grows not only toward you, but toward others. Notice that last part. It says by this-- that is by you, by it destroying you, by this, many become defiled.

I was reading the words of a pastor who said, I have a lady in my church, who's in her 80s. And 50 years ago, her aunt said something to her. It was very hurtful. And she held on to that pain to this day. And when she tells the story of what her aunt said to her, she tells it in such vivid detail and with such emotional outbreak, it's as if it happened to her yesterday. She is as emotional about what happened 50 years ago as it just freshly happened to her.

So he said 50 years later-- and she is still in the hands of the torturer. 50 years later, and she's still defiling many by the telling of those details that happen way back when. In the book of Acts chapter 8, it's a great story, but it's a sad story. It's a great story in that Philip left Jerusalem, and goes up to Sumeria, and he preaches the gospel, and people in Sumeria hear it, and they respond, they believe in Jesus, or a revival breaks out. And many people in that city are physically healed, miraculously healed. So the gospel goes out in great power.

The bad part is there's a guy in town in Sumeria named Simon the sorcerer, Simon Magus. And he had been tricking these people a long time. They all thought he was something special because he had all these wonderful working tricks. So in come the evangelists. They preach the gospel. People believe in Jesus. They get physically healed. Now they get top billing. And old Simon the sorcerer over here is like, nobody's watching my channel anymore.

So he gets all upset and goes to the apostles. He's angry, goes to the apostles, and he offers to give them money to buy the power of the Holy Spirit, it says. Hey, what does that cost? I want to do that trick. That's cool. And Peter turns to him and says, you are poisoned by bitterness, and you are bound by iniquity. See, the disciples, these apostles were getting more attention than Simon is. And he's angry, and he's bitter, and Peter nailed it, says you are poisoned by bitterness.

And then Peter says this. Repent. OK, now that I've exposed that root in you, turn from it, root it out, turn around, repent, that perhaps the thought of your heart would be forgiven you. The words bitter and better both start with B and end with ter. But what is the difference between better and bitter? A single letter. When you put I in that word, it's bitter. When you take I out of that word, it's better.

When you put I in it-- and that's always the problem, when it's always about I, me, myself, what I deserve you are prone to become a bitter person. When you take I out-- and it's not about what I want. It's what Thy will be done, Thy kingdom come, not I, but Him, you. Life gets so much better. And I know. I am absolutely certain that everyone here has something or someone in their background that they could use as an excuse to get bitter. It could potentially cause bitterness if you let it.

And that's why we need to bring it to the foot of the cross and say it's yours, God. I give it to you. I give my life to you. I lay my pain down before you. Because even those people who have caused such pain think of it as God's course correction. Because the author here uses Jesus as an example. Look at those mean people, those bad people who arrested Jesus, and treat them horribly, and put them on a cross. Yeah, but the cross was the best thing that ever happened to humanity. So the worst thing becomes the best thing.

Couldn't God do that with us? Couldn't all those bitter things that happened in the past actually make you a better person? Yeah, if you take I out, if you take I out and put Thy in there. It's all about Him, what you want, what you're doing in my life. Life gets so much better rather than bitter. Let's pray together. Let's ask, let's take those things before Him, let's leave them there.

And, Father, we come, and we want to tell you that, like everybody else, we deal with issues in our heart, issues of hurt. Some of us are hurt very easily. Some of us are a little bit dense, and we don't really get a clue when we're hurt. And that's probably good. But we're still vulnerable nonetheless, and especially when we're discouraged. And people have done things to us, and said things to us, and we felt ignored by some, not appreciated by others.

And some of us have had to deal with vile past experiences, horrible life-changing experiences. But, Father, by the grace of God, lest we come short of it, we say, God, you've been so good to us, so gracious to us. We don't ever want to come short of that or lose sight of it. But realize that since you have been so free to forgive us, would you by your grace give us the freedom to set others free by forgiving them, and not holding onto the past of what they did to us any more than we hold onto the past of what we've done to you. And you've forgiven us.

So, Lord, I pray that you would let us be rooted in good soil, in better soil, in your loving soil. Lord, I also want to pray for those who don't have a relationship with you yet. They've come. They've been invited by a friend or family member. And we want them to feel welcome. But more than anything else, we want them to go to heaven.

We want them to be forgiven. We want them to have a new life, a spiritual life, a life where they're enabled to do what they couldn't do in their own flesh. So, Lord, I pray that you would move some who have come into a relationship with you, where they realize how good you are and forgiving you are, as their sins are forgiven by their receiving Christ as Savior. So our heads are bowed, our eyes are closed, and I want you to think about your life.

Is there something in your life that has kept you back from a personal relationship with God through His son Jesus Christ? Maybe it's a past hurt. Somebody hurt you really badly. Maybe it's a past failure, on your part even. And you think, well, I'm not good enough, or I'm not perfect enough. Perfect, you're just at the right place then. Or, maybe you feel hurt, like by a parent. And you're thinking, why should I trust in God? He might let me down.

Let God prove that wrong. Whatever that pain is, let it go, and let something else grow in its place. Seek. Seek your roots deep into the soil of God's love for you today. So if you're here, and you don't know Christ personally, if you've never made a personal decision that, yes, Lord, I want you to be my Lord and my Savior, not just a religious experience, not just I go to church, or hang out with people who believe in God and trust in Jesus. I'll pray and I'll sing. But it's a personal relationship, a decision on your part to give your life to Christ, or maybe you've wandered from him.

You need to get back on track with him and enjoy that pleasant fruit, that newness of life, that lightness of heart. If that describes you, our heads are bowed, our eyes are closed, my head is up, my eyes are open. I will acknowledge as you raise your hand and you're saying, Skip, pray for me. I want to give my life to Christ today. I'm going to surrender right now to the Lord Jesus Christ. You raise your hand, and I'll acknowledge you.

I want to pray for you. I'd like to know who I'm praying for specifically. So you raise your hand. And you're saying I'm going to give my life to Christ. Now, God bless 'you on the left and right there and toward the back, all on my left. Anybody else? Anyone else? Raise your hand up. God bless you to my right, and you, and you in the back. Yes. It's so freeing to say, Lord, I want to step into freedom. I want to experience your love, your grace, your forgiveness. Bless you.

In the balcony, I see your hand. Now bless you and you right in the middle. So, Father, my prayer is, as is the prayer of my brothers and sisters, that real transformation will take place. In every life represented by that hand, there may be a background of pain or hurt. There might be a background of deep failure. But, Lord, the truth is you love them. And you sent your son just for this reason, to restore, and to set things right.

And I pray, Father, that these who have raised their hand would experience freedom inside, a freedom to think and see life and people differently, a freedom to view you differently, more than anything else, Lord, that they'll have new freedom and a life rooted in Christ as they experience your forgiveness of their sins in Jesus' name. Amen. Would you stand to your feet please?

As we sing this final song, I'm going to ask now, those of you who raised your hand, no matter where you are, would you find the nearest aisle by you, and walk this way, and let me pray a word of prayer with you when you come? As soon as you come up, everybody's here. I'm going to lead you in a word of prayer. It's the day when you give your life to Christ. I do this because Jesus himself called people publicly.

[APPLAUSE]

And you'll hear how we encourage you. We'll clap for you. You're so welcome here. You come and stand right here. That's good. Awesome.

[SINGING] Oh, come to the altar. The Father's arms are open wide. Forgiveness was bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Oh, come to the alter. The Father's arms are open wide. Forgiveness was bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Oh, come to the altar. Oh.

We're going to wait just another couple moments.

Oh, come to the altar. The Father's arms are open wide. Forgiveness was bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ.

It could be that when you come to church and you look at Christians, you might have the wrong thought that, well, those people have it all together. Those are perfect people. And I'm not a person who has it all together. Therefore, I can't come to God because I don't have it all together. You come to God as you are. He knows you don't have it all together. That's why Jesus came to get you all together.

So you come as you are. And if you're broken, good. You come and let God fix you. If your heart is busted up, let God pour his healing balm and make all things new. I have never yet met a family who is not a dysfunctional family, not one. We all got a background. We've got something, someone. God knows that. That's why he gives us the church, a brand new family.

And this is not a religious group, contrary to popular opinion. I am not a religious person. I think religion damages people. I think a real relationship with Jesus is what heals people. You just get real with God. And salvation begins when a broken man or woman admits I need your help. I need your help, God. That's where God meets us in our brokenness. So if there's anybody else, we're just going to give it another moment, and then we're going to pray and let you guys go. But anybody else, it's an opportunity. Seize it. Take it.

[SINGING] Oh, come to the altar. The Father's arms are open wide. Forgiveness was brought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Oh, come. Come, oh, come.

Yes.

Come. Come, come, come.

Now, if you don't mind, can I ask everyone who's come forward, will you just step this way a little bit? Just come on over here. Now it's just us. I'm going to lead you in a prayer, OK? This is very simple. I'm just going to pray out loud. I'm going to ask you to say these words of this prayer out loud after me. You say them from your heart. You say them to God. Prayer is a very simple thing. It's just talking to God.

So as I pray, you say these words after me, OK? In fact, tune us all out. Just tune God in and say, Lord, I give you my life.

Lord, I give you my life.

I know that I'm a sinner.

I know that I'm a sinner.

Please, forgive me.

Please, forgive me.

I believe in Jesus.

I believe in Jesus.

I believe He came to Earth.

I believe He came to Earth.

That He died for my sin.

that he died for my sin.

That He shed his blood for me.

That He shed his blood for me.

That He rose from the dead.

That He rose from the dead.

That He's? Alive right now.

That He's alive right now.

I turn from my sin.

I turn from my sin.

I leave my past behind.

I leave my past behind.

All the hurts and all the pain.

All the hurts and all the pain.

I turn to Jesus as my savior.

I turn to Jesus as my savior.

Help me to live for Him as my Lord.

Help me to live for Him as my Lord.

In Jesus' name.

In Jesus' name.

Amen.

[APPLAUSE]

Living a life of bitterness is to walk down a self-destructive road that banishes peace and promotes self-centeredness. How would you fight against bitterness taking over your life? Let us know. Email mystory@calvaryabq.org. And just a reminder, you can give financially to this work at calvaryabq.org/give. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Church.

Additional Messages in this Series

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Date Title   Watch Listen Notes Share Save Buy
1/14/2018
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Sin in a Three-Piece Suit
Matthew 23
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
Someone remarked that our sense of sin is in proportion to our nearness to God. We’re usually good at being aware of blatant wickedness, but what about less obvious infractions? Are we willing to point fingers at others for flagrant iniquity while coddling our own vices? The truth is that many are too Christian to enjoy sinning while being too fond of sinning to enjoy Christianity. My purpose in this series isn’t to condemn anyone. I hope to stimulate a heart for holiness for a fulfilled life and happy relationships. To start off this series, consider five characteristics of sin.
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1/21/2018
completed
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The Lazy Life of the Couch Potato
Proverbs 6:6-11;Romans 12:11
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
The first in our list of White Collar Sins will be laziness—showing a lack of effort or energy, the unwillingness to act or, in some cases, even care. Though many would smirk at this as being petty or trivial (after all there are much worse things in the world), the Bible itself addresses it as being substantial since many other lives can be affected by it. Laziness grows on people; it begins in cobwebs and ends in chains.
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1/28/2018
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Fighting the Green-Eyed Monster
Genesis 37; Acts 7:9-10
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
Some attitudes can go undetected, at least for a while. You can't see someone committing envy or having resentful thoughts. But envy is detrimental because it blinds us and makes it impossible for us to think clearly. It discolors everything around us and steals our peace. Some know what it’s like to be envied, like Marilyn Monroe who once quipped, "Success makes so many people hate you." But most of us from time to time struggle with envying someone else.
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2/11/2018
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Psst! Have You Heard...?
Leviticus 19:11-18
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
The sin of gossip has never made it into the same lists as murder and manslaughter. It's regarded as one of the "little sins" that even Christians are unwilling to avoid. But gossip is in the same family as murder because it assassinates a person's character. It destroys reputations, disrupts families, divides friends, and causes heartbreak. And the problem isn't just in the speaking but in the hearing as well. Let's look at a direct command not to gossip.
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3/11/2018
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Gluttony: Society’s Most Acceptable Sin
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
Overindulgence has become a hallmark of our modern American culture. Our bodies are constantly alive with conflicting desires and drives. The temptation to eat too much, drink too much, or indulge in any number of things is constant. And it is also trivialized. So what if a person eats a little too much? It’s his body! It’s her life! Or is it? How can we bring honor to God with our bodies? Is caring for them carnal, or is it a responsible activity of stewardship?
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3/25/2018
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When You Haven't Got a Prayer
1 Samuel 12:19-25
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
The great mission worker Hudson Taylor was often refreshed by times of prayer. His son noted, "For forty years the sun never rose on China that God didn't find him on his knees." Someone called prayer the gymnasium of the soul. When was the last time you had a good "workout"? Today we delve into the mysterious cooperation of the divine and the human and consider the last topic in our White Collar Sins series--prayerlessness.
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There are 6 additional messages in this series.