March 9, 2015
[Heb 12:15 NKJV]
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;
In my last devotional I touched on the issue of falling from grace. Interestingly we see a variant of that phrase in todays Scripture reading; however, the bulk of what I would like to do my devotional on today is centered around bitterness and its root.
We see in our Scripture for today that this “root of bitterness,” if allowed to spring up, will “cause trouble and result in many being defiled.” And so I have to ask myself, what is this “root” exactly, and how does it defile?
This verse seems to be directed at the church. Many of those in the Hebrew culture would have been familiar with the term “bitter” which was used to describe a plant that had poisonous properties. If ingested, these bitter plants would cause damage to those who had consumed them. And so the author of Hebrews (who I believe was Paul…listen here for my supporting conclusions), uses metaphorical language to describe something that would cause the church a large degree of harm.
Looking back on the Old Testament we find a similar language used in Deuteronomy 29:18 which says…
[Deu 29:18 NKJV]
“so that there may not be among you man or woman or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the LORD our God, to go [and] serve the gods of these nations, and that there may not be among you a root bearing bitterness or wormwood;
Here we see Moses referring to this brand of poison as idolatry and defiance to God’s covenant. It is the picture of unfaithfulness and captivity to the bondage of sin. Peter, who rebuked Simon the Sorcerer in Acts chapter 8, says in verse 23…
[Act 8:23 NKJV]
“For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.”
Simon was trying to buy the gifts of the Holy Spirit so that he could profit by their use for his own gain. This bitterness then could be described as self-seeking and sinful by its very nature. Like a weed, this root of bitterness, if allowed to flourish in the church will inevitably choke out any good produce.
When you think about the soil in which plants grow, you immediately recognize that plants, in order to flourish, require nutrient enriched soil, water, and sunlight. In a spiritual sense, the fruits of righteousness require an environment conducive to their growth. The problem is that the same soil our spirits require to flourish is the very same soil that allows weeds to grow. And so we see that church is often fertile ground for heretical doctrines to thrive in if they are left unchecked.
In the parable of the soils we see a great illustration which gives us a little insight into the roots of spiritual plants. In Matthew chapter 3 Jesus gives the parable of the sower.
[Mat 13:3 NKJV]
Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow.
[Mat 13:4 NKJV]
“And as he sowed, some [seed] fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them.
[Mat 13:5 NKJV]
“Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth.
[Mat 13:6 NKJV]
“But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away.
[Mat 13:7 NKJV]
“And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them.
[Mat 13:8 NKJV]
“But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
[Mat 13:9 NKJV]
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
If we look closely at verse 7 we find that some of the seed fell among the thorns and the thorns sprang up and choked them. This is the same kind of plant that has bitter roots. This same plant chokes out the life of the church and cannot be tolerated to prosper within the church.
A good farmer knows how to deal with these kinds of problems. Many farmers today will use chemicals to stop weeds from ever taking root. They will spray existing weeds with chemicals or natural products that kill the weeds but not the crops. Other farmers will simply pull the weeds up by their roots and destroy them. The idea here is that we must be diligent to rid the church of these bitter roots that produce defiled believers.
And so what causes these roots of bitterness to begin with. Every plant springs from a seed right? How could we best describe the seed that these roots spring forth from?
I would have to say that the seed of bitterness can be found in the attitudes of the heart. It is here that we find a desperately wicked source of evil that spawns bitterness and resentment if left unchecked. I believe that bitterness is anger that boils up on the inside of a persons heart which builds up pressure until it explodes in rage.
Bitterness spreads its ugly roots when we take upon a victim mentality. Here is what I mean; when we feel like we have been unjustly treated it angers us. It is this anger that festers inside of our hearts and infects our spirits causing us to act out in sinful ways. But we are commanded to reject bitterness at all cost. In Ephesians 4:31 we read…
[Eph 4:31 NKJV]
Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.
We are to put this kind of ungodly behavior away from us. In other words we are to uproot bitterness where it lives. It is vital that we do so before the root produces its vile fruit. In James chapter 3 we read…
[Jas 3:13 NKJV]
Who [is] wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct [that] his works [are done] in the meekness of wisdom.
[Jas 3:14 NKJV]
But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth.
[Jas 3:15 NKJV]
This wisdom does not descend from above, but [is] earthly, sensual, demonic.
[Jas 3:16 NKJV]
For where envy and self-seeking [exist], confusion and every evil thing [are] there.
[Jas 3:17 NKJV]
But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.
[Jas 3:18 NKJV]
Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
Keying in on verse 15 here we see some stark truth about the fruit of bitterness. James says that it is earthly, sensual, demonic! That is pretty harsh when you think about it. To think that when we act out in the flesh according to roots of bitterness, we are actually participating in the work of the demonic world. Ouch! So how do we root out bitterness from our lives?
Well, in order to root out bitterness we have to pluck it by it’s roots. If anger is the root of bitterness, we need to rid ourselves of it. But how can we help it if we get angry at something or someone? Anger is natural after all. That is correct. Anger is natural, but as believers we are called to live lives that are supernatural. When we find that we are getting angry about something or someone, we need to evaluate ourselves and determine if the cause of the anger is righteous; that is, something that is an affront to God, or if it is unrighteous; that is, something that is a personal affront to our delicate sensibilities. If we perceive a personal offense, we need to be quick to forgive and let grace have its perfect work. This is difficult to do, but not impossible. When we trust in the LORD and depend on the Holy Spirit to have His way in our lives, we start to hold these wicked thoughts captive.
I like what my pastor says about it. He says…
Don’t get bitter; get better!
What he means by this is; we should be ready to forgive others before they ever offend us. Just know that no matter who you are dealing with, they are going to, at some point, let you down. This is because we are dealing with imperfect, sinful people. Knowing this going into human relationships makes it so much easier to forgive others when they do, and they will, fail you.
The danger of not ridding bitterness before it spawns its evil fruit is that it will defile those who are infected by it. Getting rid of roots of bitterness will require you to get your hands dirty. You have to dig deep and make sure that it is all gone so that there is no chance that bitterness will blossom.
My wife had never seen the movie, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” starring Donald Sutherland. When it came on television I told her that it was a classic and that she ought to watch it. Looking back now I see a great illustration. If you have never seen the movie, here is the synopsis:
In deep space, a race of¬†gelatinous¬†creatures abandon their dying world. Pushed through space by the¬†solar wind, they make their way to Earth and land in San Francisco. Some fall on plant leaves, assimilating them and forming small pods with pink flowers.¬†These pods and flowers become the catalyst for the aliens to take over the host bodies and create their doppelg√§nger which roam about in place of their original host in a conquest to take over their newfound host planet.
And so as I think about this movie, I picture my wife when she get’s angry pointing her fingers at me and letting loose that deafening shrill that Donald Sutherland does at the end of the movie. The problem with bitterness is that it is like these aliens. It takes over its host and multiplies.
LORD, forgive me for the times when I have been bitter. I look around me some times and in my heart I say, “why does so and so get to do such and such and not me?” I think about ministry. My hearts desire is to be a pastor, and sometimes I get angry because it seems like I am getting passed up by others who don’t appear to take Your WORD as seriously as I do. So please forgive me when I feel this way. Help me to hold these thoughts captive. I know that You are leading me that direction and I will not faint. But why should I begrudge another for the work that You are doing in them. Remove any bitterness from me LORD so that I can celebrate the Gospel going out by way of other men who may be more or even less fallible than me. LORD I know that my aim should be to satisfy You. Let me be pleasing to You LORD. I look forward with eager anticipation of the day that You send me out, but until then, I am content with where I am, help me with my discontent. I love You LORD, my life is Yours. I pray this in Your name. -Amen