Bitterness 1. Believers are warned to be on guard against any root of bitterness. HEB 12:15; EPH 4:31-32. A. Bitterness: “The quality or state of being bitter: a. to taste; b. to the mind or feelings; c. deep sorrow or anguish of heart; d. animosity, acrimony of temper, action, or words; e. intensity of frost or cold wind.” (1) Of particular concern is bitterness as regarding animosity, acrimony of temper, action or words. (2) Acrimony: “Biting sharpness to the taste or other bodily sense; pungency; irritancy; acridity. arch. 2. Sharp or irritating bitterness of disposition or manner.” B. This is not an issue to be trivialized. It requires DILIGENT looking, whether that be through self-examination or through watching out for this danger in others, i.e., corporately. C. The phrase, “springing up” denotes germination and growth. This is an issue which is best handled by pre-emergent treatment (preaching, warning, repentance) lest it break through the surface, grow and cause trouble. D. If it does manifest itself and cause trouble, MANY will be affected by it. 2. There is a doctrinal aspect to this. DEU 29:18-19 c/w HEB 3:12. A. Gall and wormwood are noted for their bitter quality. DEU 32:32; ACT 8:23; PRO 5:4; LAM 3:15. B. Apostasy and heresy tend to spread their infection. 2PE 2:1-2. (1) One heresy will tend to adversely affect the way one interprets other scripture. GAL 5:7-9; 2TI 2:16. (2) Unchecked heresy in the church will spread and overthrow the faith of some. 2TI 2:17-18. 3. There is a personal, spiritual and moral aspect to this. A. Depravity is characterized by a mouth “...full of cursing and bitterness” (ROM 3:14). B. One can be in bitterness about oneself: failings, perceived failings, etc. (1) Left unchecked, bitterness about one's own failings can result in a sense of futility that devolves into an abandonment of any legitimate attempt to do well. (2) Such a depressed spiritual condition is likely to entertain evil thoughts against others who are perceived to be successful or better. (3) Such a depressed spiritual condition will eventually manifest itself publicly and become a corrupting influence on others. (4) Self-bitterness like this needs to be countered early with the hope of the gospel towards sinners. a. Failings are part of Christian experience until Christ's return. 1JO 3:2. b. The promise of forgiven confessed sin must be claimed. 1JO 1:9; PSA 32:5. c. Reject the devil's lie that you are defined by your failings. You are defined by Christ in you, as much (or more!) as the darkness and the light were collectively called “day” in GEN 1:5. C. One can be bitter against or about others. (1) Husbands are expressly warned to not be bitter against their wives. COL 3:19. (2) David was the object of the bitter words of the wicked. PSA 64:2-4. (3) Bitterness can be owing to underlying issues like envy. JAM 3:14. a. King Saul was a textbook case of bitterness sprung up from a root of envy. b. Saul perceived that David was a better man than himself and so made it his mission to destroy him. 1SAM 18:7-9, 14-17. (4) Other roots from which bitterness towards others can develop are heart-sins such as pride, jealousy, lust, covetousness, hatred, lack of mercy, etc. (5) The Greek word from which “bitterness” in HEB 12:15 is translated is “pikria” which Strong's Dictionary defines as “acridity (especially poison), literally or figuratively.” a. DEU 32:32-33 shows a connection between “bitter” and “poison.” b. Mind how the bitterness that Paul's enemies had towards him defiled others by poisoning their minds. ACT 14:2; GAL 4:15-17; ACT 15:24. c. If the wicked will not repent or cannot refute the doctrine or conversation of the righteous, character assassination is a common default tactic. D. The greatest danger is when one is bitter against God. (1) This is a terrible condition in which one perceives his best Friend to be his enemy, his selfless Savior to be a selfish taskmaster, his Giver to be a withholder, his Just Judge as a capricious tyrant, his soul's Lover to be his tormentor. (2) The irony is that God is none of these negatives. It is our deceived analysis of circumstances that paints Him so blackly. 4. Here are five major categories in which bitterness against God tends to arise: A. “God didn't make me the way I would like to have been made.” B. “God let something happen to me that wasn't fair or that I didn't like.” C. “God put me under rules and limitations that crimp my style.” D. “God dealt with someone differently than I think He should have.” E. “God didn't give me what I asked for.” 5. All of the above five categories of bitterness have a common root: “My will is not dominant; it should be.” DAN 4:35 c/w ISA 14:13-14. A. “God didn't make me the way I would like to have been made.” (1) This is a matter of the clay striving against the Potter. ROM 9:20. (2) God reserves the right to exercise discrimination in His creation. JOB 39:13-17; EXO 4:10-11; REV 4:11. (3) Cracked or weak vessels may be specifically made that way for His glory. JOH 9:1-3; 1CO 1:27-29. B. “God let something happen to me that wasn't fair or that I didn't like.” c/w EZE 18:25. (1) This is another example of the clay striving against the Potter. (2) Sometimes this is really a matter of us blaming God for the consequences of our own bad choices. PRO 19:3; ISA 8:21. (3) Job's trials prompted him to question God's justice but God's answers were stronger than Job's objections. JOB 34:23; 40:6-8. (4) We do well to consider that it is better with us than we deserve. PSA 103:10-11. C. “God put me under rules and limitations that crimp my style.” (1) This is the philosophical basis of atheism and Darwinian evolution. (2) God's rules and limitations are for our own good, that we be saved from the consequences of our own depravity. GEN 11:6-8 c/w GEN 8:21. (3) God's rules and limitations were originally very few (one). Man's sin is what multiplied rules and limitations. D. “God dealt with someone differently than I think He should have.” (1) This is another facet of “...The way of the Lord is not equal...” (EZE 18:25). (2) Consider the parable of the hired laborers. MAT 20:1-16. (3) Consider the parable of the talents. MAT 25:14-15. (4) Consider Jesus' response to Peter. JOH 21:22. (5) Consider that God is more merciful than men. 1CH 21:11-13; LUK 9:53-56. (6) Consider that God's ways and thoughts are superior to ours. ISA 55:8-9. E. “God didn't give me what I asked for.” (1) Consider these people to whose prayers God said, “No.” a. Moses prayed to enter the promised land. DEU 3:23-28. b. David prayed for his baby's life. 2SA 12:15-20. c. David desired to build a house for God. 1CH 28:2-6. d. Paul prayed for removal of a thorn in the flesh. 2CO 12:7-10. e. Jesus prayed that the cup of suffering be taken away. LUK 22:42. (2) Perhaps it's a matter of “Not yet, my child.” We are taught that we don't always get what we pray for right away. LUK 18:1-8. (3) Perhaps sin confounded the request. ISA 59:2. (4) Perhaps it was a self-gratifying prayer that was best not rewarded. JAM 4:3 c/w PSA 106:14-15. (5) Perhaps God was sparing you from something which you could not bear because of weakness or immaturity. 1CO 10:13. (6) Perhaps God did answer your prayer but you received it in vain. 2CO 6:1. (7) Perhaps you were looking for God to do your will rather than seeking His will, praying accordingly and submitting. 1JO 5:14-15; MAT 6:10. F. All bitterness towards God may be summarized as being an ignorance of and/or a lack of submission to His will. 6. Bitterness with God Who is invisible will be fleshed out in everyday life in ways that are very visible. A. Somebody is going to feel your pain and since God is untouchable, the next closest target will be those around you. B. Family, friends and brethren are likely to be deemed as God's co-conspirators against you. C. Everyday injustices and inequities will be deemed as more ways that God is making your life miserable. D. The mouth begins to fill with cursing and bitterness (ROM 3:14) because the heart is filled with cursing and bitterness. LUK 6:45. E. Hatred or malice towards our fellows makes believers into liars. 1JO 4:20. F. Remember HEB 12:15. This bitterness will defile others. 7. We do well to consider our Lord Jesus Christ. HEB 3:1-2; 12:3. A. Jesus was the Eternal King of glory born into a poor family in His incarnation. How fair was that? B. Jesus was thrust on the scene in the midst of political uncertainty, legal corruption and spiritual deception amongst those who should have known better. C. Jesus was ill-received of His own people to Whom He had been sent. ROM 15:8; JOH 1:11. D. Jesus' own disciples given to Him of the Father were often disappointing. MAR 16:14. E. Jesus never married, never enjoyed marital sex, never begat natural children. F. Jesus lacked a parsonage. MAT 8:20. G. Jesus was misquoted, misunderstood, falsely accused, condemned though innocent. H. If ever a man had cause to gripe against God for seeming inequities, it was Jesus. I. But Jesus was perfectly resigned to God's will from the beginning to the end. LUK 3:49; JOH 5:30; 6:38; HEB 10:5-7. J. May Christ's example be sufficient to counter all bitterness.
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