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The Bride and Christ

Part 5: A Bitter Root

Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church

(11/22) Day by day we all face rude drivers, inconsiderate neighbors or co-workers, disobedient children, unexpected bills… and it is those triggers that can make the calmest and most peaceful among us… just a little hot under the collar. And you know it's okay to get angry, but we’re not supposed to let it get the best of us. So now it’s confession time… I admit it… I lost it Friday night… I blew my top… so I’m working on this too. Life happens… relationships challenge us, but you see here’s the deal, its okay to get angry, but unbridled anger initiates the "fight or flight" response. Unfortunately, neither the fight response (the screaming, clawing, scratching, or hitting) nor flight response (just bottling it all up) is healthy or productive. For that matter, experiencing feelings of anger on a regular basis can lead to headaches, indigestion, heartburn, high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes.

You know, sometimes you’ll hear married couples say, "We never fight." What that means is, "We don’t talk, because we live parallel lives." Or that means, "We’re roommates and not soul mates." Or what that means is, "We’re lying." Because every time you have an intimate relationship, a companionship, or a friendship, you’re gonna have some conflict… you’re gonna have some disagreement… and occasionally you’re gonna have a fight. So, the question is not, are you going to fight… the question is… are you going to have a good fight or a bad fight?

Are you going to give the devil a foothold… are you going to grieve the Holy Spirit of God… or are you going to glorify God with your words and actions?

These words sung by many children are all too familiar to adults today. "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me." Those words provided comfort and a sense of resistance against the hurtful words of the childhood bully. You see words are so powerful, they sink into the soul of a child like a deadly poison, crushing, and bringing about a slow painful death of that gentle spirit within them.

The Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow says, "A torn jacket is soon mended, but hard words bruise the heart of a child."

In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul commands that our words build others up according to their needs. He warns us to replace anger and bitterness with kindness, compassion and forgiveness. In fact, he even goes as far to say, that as a forgiven people we too need to be a forgiving people. So, for those of you who are married or engaged, for the rest of our time together here’s what I’m going to ask you to do. Reach over and hold the hand of your fiancé or your spouse. And if you refuse…

then you really need this message. So, go ahead and hold their hand and we’ll begin the reconciliation process.

Let’s read together in Ephesians 4:25-32: "Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." NIV

1. Putting off falsehood.

Like all of our relationships, marriage relationships are in transition, they are moving, and shifting. Every marriage is either getting better or getting worse… either getting closer or further away… Every marriage is sliding one direction or another, and I would say the same is true for friendships and every other relationship… they’re moving… they’re transitioning… and either getting better or getting worse.

Now what we just read in Ephesians really reveals the heart of God for all of our relationships. And he says it this way in verse 25, "Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor…" (Ephesians 4:25). So the first thing we need to do is be honest about our sin; and if someone’s sinned against us, we need to be honest about that. So don’t shift the blame. Don’t lie. Don’t make excuses. Don’t ignore it. Don’t try to diminish it. And don’t make it a bigger deal than it is. Tell the truth. Let’s be honest!

And now here’s what it doesn’t say… it doesn’t say "Never get angry." There are some who say that there are emotions that are godly and emotions that are ungodly. The truth is that God has all the emotions and expresses every one of them in holy ways. He does… he gets angry… he covets… and he is a jealous God, just to name a few. So every emotion has the potential of being good, but every emotion will lead us to sin if we don’t control it and instead allow it to control us.

The Bible tells us this in Galatians, that one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is self-control… Here is what it says in verse 22, "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23).…self-control. Now, this is something, to be honest with you, that’s been an issue for me my whole life. I grew up with a lot of anger in me, and I didn’t know how to control it, meaning, I would snap and get angry. I’d say something I shouldn’t. I’d do something I shouldn’t. But then I met Jesus… and more and more, the Holy Spirit began convicting me. More and more the fruit of the Spirit was being manifested in my life. And that’s what he’s talking about… self-control.

So you may be angry, and you may even have a good reason for being angry, but don’t let it lead you into sin. When you let your anger control you, you’re basically saying, "They sinned against me and therefore I’m going to sin against them." And you know that doesn’t make things any better; it doesn’t… it only makes things worse.

What are you angry about? Who are you angry at? Don’t give the devil a foot hold!

2. Giving the devil a foothold.

In a day, when people were laborers, fishers, and farmers, when the sun rose, you would get up, when the sun went down, you’d go home, because your day was over. When it says in verse 26, "Do not let the sun go down while you’re still angry," what he’s saying is deal with the sin quickly. Don’t let days go by. It’s okay to go for a walk, to pray, to calm down, and to work it out. That’s okay. But if you’re sleeping on it, if days are passing, you’re giving an opportunity for the devil, and it says don’t.

So we need to deal with that offense… and not give the devil a foothold. You see if the sin comes between you… then the devil’s come between you… and the longer you wait, the worse it gets and the more he destroys. And maybe today, some of you are thinking about that certain issue… you know what those issues are… and you know there’s an issue of unforgiveness. It’s a grenade in your life. The pin is pulled, and it’s sitting there. And every once in a while, you get near it, and it just blows. The conversation blows up. You go into the spin cycle. All of a sudden, it’s just right back to the same debate, the same flaring tempers, the same emotions, the same hurt feelings, and no resolution. So you’ve resolved to just walk around the landmine. You don’t talk about that. The key is to watch what you say.

That’s why verse 29 says, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen" (Ephesians 4:29). You’re supposed to talk. When you go to tell the truth, you’ve got to remember to speak words that build others up, not tear down… words that invite, not push away… words that give hope, not cause you to lose hope.

So you may need to stop in those moments and recognize… "What you’re about to say is not from the Holy Spirit." Amen! I know, because I’ve been there and done that too many times. So we need to stop and pray, "Holy Spirit, help me. I want to say this right. I want to have the right tone. I want to use the right words. I want to help. I don’t want to be an instrument of the enemy to destroy our family."

You see if you don’t deal with the anger, the offense, in a godly biblical way, here’s what happens: bitterness creeps in. All you need to do to become bitter is not to forgive. And that’s why verse 31 says, "Get rid of all bitterness" You see, what happens with bitterness is that it grows. It’s like cancer in a body. It continues to grow, and multiply, and destroy.

All of our relationships will either get bitter or they’ll get better. At the time, we may try to justify our bitterness, because something bad was done. But often what we don’t realize is that not forgiving is also a sin. It’s not just the one who had been sinned against, but the one who was sinning, and it wasn’t just a problem with that person, it was a problem with Jesus, and that’s exactly where Paul goes.

In verse 32 "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."

3. Forgiving one another

Here’s what we need… for those of us who struggle with bitterness… we need to change. Change and it’s better. She repents of her sin… He repents of his sin of bitterness… he repents of his unforgiveness, because Jesus died for it, so we don’t need to kill one another. Jesus took the shame… so we don’t need to shame one another. Jesus rose from the dead… so there’s new life for us.

I want you all to have relationships that are getting better and better. Being someone who knows what it’s like to be angry… who knows what it’s like to fly off the handle… I can tell you it destroys relationships. You may have been sinned against. You may have been hurt. You may have a reason to be angry. They may have done a horrible thing.

And the Scriptures redirect us, saying, "Forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Aren’t you glad that Jesus didn’t come to the earth on a mission of vengeance? Aren’t you glad that, right now, the exalted, resurrected, seated on a throne, Lord Jesus Christ is not making plans to destroy you out of bitterness?

You see, there’s no person who’s ever walked the earth who was sinned against more continually, grievously, and wrongly than Jesus Christ. Yet we killed him in our pride, he goes to the cross, and he says, "Father, forgive them..." (Luke 23:34). Forgive them… Jesus makes forgiveness possible. He suffers, he’s shamed, he bleeds, he dies, and he forgives. And for us as a Christian, it’s hypocrisy to say, "Jesus, forgive me of my sin; but, Jesus, I won’t forgive them of their sin, because my sin against you is not nearly as bad as their sin against me."

To receive forgiveness and not give forgiveness is the essence of hypocrisy, and it’s putting yourself on the throne of God. Its you saying, "Forgiven. Not forgiven." That’s God’s job, not ours. Our job is to forgive and to leave them to God, not to judge them as God. Today, what are you bitter about? Who have you not forgiven? What have you not forgiven? This isn’t easy, but I assure you it’s vital to our most important of all relationships… and that is our relationship with God.

We’ve got to get rid of that bitter root. It takes a sinner to repent. It takes a victim to forgive. It takes two people to reconcile. The only way your relationship is going to be endure, is if repentance of sin and forgiveness of sin are practiced. The Bible says it this way. "See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many" (Hebrews 12:15). Without repentance and forgiveness bitterness grows… it will get bitter.

Now, forgiveness is not… waiting for someone to acknowledge their sin, apologize, and repent. Forgiveness is not… a one-time event. Forgiveness is not… reconciliation. You may have offered your forgiveness, but until they’ve repented, reconciliation is not possible. Repentance takes one. Forgiveness takes one. But reconciliation takes two.

So, the goal is to do your part, to repent, to forgive, and to pray for the other. Hebrews says to dig up the root of bitterness. So dig it up. Don’t let it grow. Today, if you’re here with someone you’ve sinned against, repent to them. If there’s someone that’s not here, find them and repent to them. If you’ve been sinned against, forgive them… forgive them. This is the process by which we dig up the root of bitterness, so that the fruit of the relationship would be life and not death.

So now you need to respond… to do something with this. Are you a Christian? Have you ever repented of your sin to Jesus and asked his forgiveness? If not, you need to do that. You need to become a new person, not just a better person, but a new person.

If you’re here with someone that you’ve sinned against or you’ve been offended by, you’ve got to confess those sins and forgive one another, and like James 5:16 says, to "pray for one another". Work it out… cry it out… get some closure… and forgive!

I’m a forgiven sinner, and by the grace of God, I want to be a forgiving sinner as well. Today, we celebrate because we’re forgiven, we celebrate because the final word is not condemnation, but salvation. Jesus didn’t just die, he also rose, and he hears prayer. He forgives sin. He reconciles people to himself and to one another. And that’s what we celebrate.

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