Recap Notes: February 4, 2018
Teacher: Skip Heitzig
Teaching:"The Destructive Harvest of a Bitter Heart"
Text: Hebrews 12:14-15Path
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:
- Bitterness Begins with Small Seeds (vv. 12-14)
- Bitterness Requires Right Soil (v. 15a)
- Bitterness Develops Deep Roots (v. 15b)
- Bitterness Produces Bad Fruit (v. 15c)
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
PracticeConnect 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)?
- 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?
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.