Breaking the Bondage of Bitterness [Brochure]

Breaking the Bondage of Bitterness by John A. Kaiser
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Full Text of This Product

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Galatians 5:1

Bitterness is bondage. It is the opposite of grace. Though the verse quoted above particularly relates to the bondage of legalism, it also applies to bitterness, because bitterness has the character of legalism in that it is also judgmental. A bitter person is also a judgmental person.

In the beginning of Hebrews 12, we are directed to be “looking unto Jesus,” but later in the chapter, in verse 15, we are also directed to be “looking lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.” Our sight is to be fixed on Jesus, but we are also to be on our guard regarding this insidious evil.

Bitterness is a pervasive and invasive problem. We detect it in others from their speech. They complain about their boss, their brethren, their circumstances, their disappointments, their employment, their husbands, their wives, etc. But this verse does not specifically say that we are to look for bitterness in others. I need to start with myself. Am I bitter—about anything? Am I contributing to the defilement of any—or “many”? If I am the least bit bitter about anything, why am I bitter?

 

The Cause

Bitterness is very destructive, and yet very subtle. It is a work of the flesh, but it is more than that. In Deuteronomy 29:18, God uncovers the root of bitterness:

“Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood.”

Gall and wormwood are bitter. Spiritually, gall represents the bitterness that originates within us. Physically, we all have gall bladders and occasionally taste the bitterness they produce. Wormwood is literally a bitter herb, and it represents ingested bitterness. But the root which sustains them both in our own hearts is idolatry.

Idolatry! In my heart? Yes, it is very possible. If it could not be there, we would not be warned to watch for it. In this connection, Ezekiel 14:3 should be very searching to us: “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart.”

Bitterness is linked to idolatry—a secret idol in the heart. This idol may be our family, our feelings, our perceived rights, our plans, our reputation, our self-image—but an idol willfully cherished.

You have probably heard somebody say, “I’m offended.” We do take offense, but we do not have to do so. We are just as responsible for how we receive as for how we give. Taking offense is a choice—a deliberate (or habitual) choice. Likewise, bitterness is a choice. See Ephesians 4:31.

Most of us are familiar with the story of Job in the Old Testament. He suffered much, and he complained much. We might have said to Job, “Job, you are bitter.” And he might well have replied, “I can’t help it.” As far as I know, he never said such a thing; and I am glad, because it would not have been true. Bitterness is a choice.

Bitterness is a choice—a matter of the will, and of real responsibility. That is why we are warned against it. I may hear bitterness in another’s voice, but God has put my own heart-gauge right under my nose and centered it between my ears. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” Bitterness is a matter of my choice, and my choice may affect many.

 

The Consequences

Bitterness has exceedingly bitter con-sequences for those who keep it and dispense it. In Deuteronomy 29:18, God warned His people; and in Jeremiah 8:14 and 9:15 we find the consequences of His people’s many years of willful bitterness.

“Why do we sit still? Assemble your-selves and enter into your fenced cities, and let them be silent there: for the Lord our God hath put us to silence, and given us water of gall to drink, because we have sinned against the Lord.

Therefore, thus saith the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel; Behold I will feed them, even this people, with wormwood, and give them water of gall to drink.”

Bitterness breeds bitterness. The con-sequence of cultivated bitterness is more bitterness. That is the consequence to our-selves; but bitterness also affects others. It is a contagious cancer.

Bitterness often expresses itself in the criticism of another. And such criticism may be somewhat just, but it may also corrupt the hearts and minds of those near and dear to us. We unconsciously “offend these little ones.” We stumble because we are not humble; and in our stumbling we stumble others and bring them down with us. And the damage done to them may be much greater than we may imagine.

 

The Cure

What is the alternative to bitterness? Bitterness is linked with a lack of grace; so, it is grace that we need. Going to the end of Hebrews 12, verse 28, we find these wonderful words:

“Wherefore, we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.”

We are so readily occupied with circumstances and offenses—things which will all soon pass away. Let us have grace. How much better! And we can have as much grace as we want—and as much as we need.

Yes, we have richly received grace in connection with our salvation; but this is practical grace. And it is also a choice. “Let us have grace.” And it is significant what accompanies and characterizes this practical grace— “reverence and godly fear.”

Reverence is a heart attitude which recognizes and appreciates God’s supremacy—who He is, and His authority and absolute right to order every detail of my life.

Godly fear is a spiritual mindset which recognizes and reckons on God’s omnipotence, wisdom, and love—His awe-some power and His constant engagement and wonderful ways in my life.

It comes down to this: Bitterness or brokenness. The bondage is broken when the will is broken. I may hide my idol in my heart, but I will not be able to hide my choice for long. Bitterness begets bitterness. And grace begets grace. Let us have grace!

The Apostle Peter wrote two epistles to people who were no doubt greatly tempted to be bitter (read them and see). In 1 Peter 5:5, he reminds us that “God ... giveth grace to the humble.” And then he concludes his epistles with these words:

“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever. Amen.” 2 Peter 3:16

JAK