Bitterness, defined is: anger and disappointment at being treated unfairly; resentment.
And a deeper study reveals that underneath bitterness is PAIN. And from pain unresolved, stems fear, not love.
We can be bitter, angry, disappointed on an emotional, spiritual, or physical level.
Evidences of Bitterness
- • We may be bitter about abuse we’ve experienced
- • We may be bitter about any situation where we felt we were given an unfair treatment
- • We can be bitter toward our parents for how they treated us
- • We may be bitter about problems in the church, people who’ve let us down
- • We may be bitter because someone we trusted, loved…rejected us, turned us down
Either way, it stems from a resentment, pain, disappointment because we didn’t get justice, or at least our sense of what “fair” looks like.
You and I often deal with bitterness in a way that seems right to us. Tell me if this sounds familiar:
somebody does us wrong and we gossip about it, stew over it, wall off, get bitter…
We know we can’t be angry, wrathful, so we feel pretty good about being bigger than the other person…
we don’t lash out at them. Victory for God, right? But in our heart is a bitter feeling toward that person.
Unresolved. We will “forgive,” but we won’t forget—after all, they owe us something. They better not do it again.
They have a mark on their record with us—but who’s counting?
Maybe we aren’t even that far. Maybe we’re still stuck on avoiding them, cutting them off.
We’re mad and they need to know it because they have to notice I’ve pulled back from them.
After all, they deserve it.
I’m right. Maybe they’ll ask me why I’m ignoring them. Then, I can let them have it. Justice.
But you see, here’s the problem. Bitterness FEELS right because it FEELS like JUSTICE.
Ephesians 4: 31-32
31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
At Tahoma, our Principal talks a lot about “Stretch Learning”---that our job is to challenge our students to learn new things- not just teach the same old thing nor to make school a place where students are comfortable just going through the motions: “High bar, high support”—nothing worse than learning the same thing every year or having a class that’s so easy it’s a joke or that you can be absent multiple times and still have a great grade. There’s no VALUE in that.
Let me suggest that as we simply go back to the example of the early church, we need to set our bar a little higher. How?
- Examine our sense of devotion to God
- Examine our sense of devotion to the church
- Examine our dedication to each other (their context: in adversity, need)
2 Corinthians 13:5-7
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
It’s not an accident that this early church thrived---they were “on fire” for God and each other. They "(Acts 2) 47 prais[ed] God and [had] favor with all the people."
I don’t see grumbling, complaining, pessimism, apathy…that DEVOTION is attractive. And there were cultural and language barriers---go back and look at that list of Jews and various nationalities—within Judaism there was hierarchy, there was class issues, there was racism…
You don’t get a growing church without FOCUS on Jesus Christ!
Our bond is NOT accidental nor should it be taken for granted. You are my BROTHER. My SISTER. Jesus is MY BROTHER. You know how special that is? Walt, from the Lord’s Table, often talks to us about how our DNA has been changed—we are new creatures in Christ, all pumping the same blood---connected as family when we as Jew, Gentile, male, female are all ONE in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:26-27)
Memorial Day: we praise and remember the sacrifice of our service men and women. But that victory in sacrifice was modeled by the one true perfect Jesus Christ and for as much as I love my country, America was not God’s purpose- or any physical kingdom. The equality and freedom we seek for the United States is actually found in Christ.
Galatians 3:29 29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.
Heirs. Heaven. Together. Shaking hands. Laughing. Praising God. We made it…Here we are…Hey there’s..
6 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready;
You ever been to a great party? I mean the excitement, the food, the preparation, the people you see- the Jews knew what a wedding party was like---it was “off the chain”---you have a party invite to something that will blow your mind! I mean all these heroes, people in the Bible, quite possibly grandparents you didn’t know you had---friends, relatives…all there: light, no sin, no death, no pain…
We must keep our focus.
In Luke 12, Jesus has just been telling his disciples to beware of the “leaven of the Pharisees” and to “no fear those who can kill the body”--- “acknowledge Christ before men”---and then somebody in the crowd yells “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” (13)
15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
Luke 12 seems like a random sequence of events, but I believe the thread through Jesus’ teaching is all about FOCUS. People will try to sell you a brand of religion. Fear will keep you from expressing your faith, evangelizing like you need to be. The stuff of this world will distract your focus.
You keep your focus. Last night, our family went out to the movies and afterwards, this little boy was running around the movie theater, and smashed right into Audrey—obviously, it made her upset—and the kid didn’t even stop, say he was sorry, or change his behavior. He just ran without his “head on a swivel” right?
I got to thinking about that in this lesson—some of us run without a focus. Some of us lack DEVOTION to Christ and his church. Some of us, perhaps at times or even consistently don’t DEVOTE ourselves to the behaviors of the New Testament pattern. We can often quote the scriptures, but as we walk by faith, become hearers of the word and not necessarily DOERS. Let’s Hear and DO Christianity. Stretch yourself.
Otherwise, we’re like that rich fool. His focus was on the wrong stuff in life. What’s your focus tonight? Is it on the business of being a body part…or are you a missing pancreas? Is it on the business of saving souls and seeing the world the way God does: saved, unsaved? Is it on your own need to confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God?
The only thing that matters is the moment you stand before Jesus. The Bible says Every knee shall bow and confess that he is Lord. Mt 10:32-33- he who confesses me now, him will I confess before my father who is in heaven, but he who doesn’t confess me now, I won’t confess before my father who is in heaven.
Lot going on, but Keep Your Focus on Him—follow Jesus---care about what he cared about---align with Him---and that Grace and Peace that Paul uses to open his letters? You’ll find it. God’s grace through your faith= peace that passes understanding!