Two new resources are being added to our site for you to enjoy. Derickson’s Notes on Theology and Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof will be available on our resource page in pdf format. These are very valuable tools to help you study God’s Word on various subjects. Enjoy!
Bitterness is a terrible sin that afflicts many people. It is the type of sin that seems to spring up, although in reality it has long lain dormant in our lives. No one grows up wanting to be a bitter old man or a bitter old lady and yet so many people in today’s society are bitter. Teenagers, young adults, senior citizens, both inside and outside of Christendom can become bitter. Warnings in Scripture abound about this insidious sin:
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. Ephesians 4:31-32
Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; Hebrews 12:14-15
Sometimes guilt is confused with bitterness. Guilt is what we feel when we sin. Bitterness is what we feel when others sin against us. Bitterness is almost always based on someone else’s sin against us, whether that sin was real or imaginary. What do I mean by this? Imaginary sin is when we think someone said or did something against us that they really didn’t do. We get bitter waiting over an apology that will never come because we only thought we were harmed.
Some sins against us are real. Bitterness is not concerned with how big the sin is, it is based on how close it is to you. It does not depend on how great the evil was, it depends on how close the offending person was to you. Bitterness is directly related to those people we are (or were) closest to.
Hebrews 12:15 describes bitterness as a root. Roots are mainly underground. They are rarely seen. The effects of roots though, that can be readily seen. They break up sidewalks, roads, water pipes. They extend deep into the ground and spread out over a wide area. Roots drink in nourishment and eventually a sprout comes up above ground. Later a plant grows and bears fruits or seeds.
The fruit that is born bears a direct relationship to the root producing it. Apple seeds grow apple tree roots that support apple trees which bear apples. A bitter root in your heart will grow deep and wide, supporting, sprouting and producing bitter fruit. We are told that bitterness defiles many people. That word for defile means to make people filthy. Bitterness spreads like a wildfire, consuming families, workplaces, churches and classes of people. The Bible says we have to get rid of it. Why? Because bitterness, is not only defiling and hurtful, it is also unspiritual – straight from the devil. James 3:14-15 says: But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. If not gotten rid of quickly, bitterness will result in evil practices which will defile both you and those around you.
Before you can get rid of bitterness, you must recognize it. How can you tell if you have a root of bitterness in you, waiting to spring up? Bitterness remembers details. You have thousands of conversations in your lifetime. How many of them do you remember in detail, word for word? Not only the words, but the intonation, inflection, gestures and facial expressions of the other party? Most of the ones we recall are those we feel sinned against by. Memory is helped by review, review, review. A constant reviewing of slights, real or imagined, leads to bitterness. I see this over and over in divorce counseling and family counseling. Conversations from years back are replayed in great detail when a party is hurt but positive conversations are fuzzy in the related details.
In order to get rid of bitterness we have to recognize, admit, and confess we have a problem. And the problem is with us – not the other party. Many times, I hear people say, “I’m not bitter. I just get my feelings hurt easily.” Really? Oversensitivity leads to resentment which turns to bitterness very quickly if not dealt with. You see, bitterness is just resentment that has been held on to. It is resentment that has festered and rotted.
We must recognize how insidious bitterness is. How evil it is. Bitterness always wants to blame the other person, the one who has hurt us. We don’t deal with the sin of bitterness so long as we think continue to think it is the others person’s sin. “When he quits lying” or “When she stops doing this” or “When they apologize to me for…” What if the other person never stops, never apologizes, never even recognizes that they have hurt you? Are you going to be resentful and bitter forever? A Christian cannot. He or she must forgive others even as Christ forgave us for sinning against Him.
When bitterness takes root even an apology will not get rid of it. Bitterness is always the sin of the bitter person alone, unrelated to anyone else. You and you alone choose to remain angry at another and withhold forgiveness. Christ went to the cross for us before we repented of any sin. We were unworthy and undeserving of this kindness and we are to show that type of grace and mercy to others.
In order to eradicate bitterness from my life I have to see that it is evil, satanic and that it is my sin and my sin alone. I do not get rid of it through the other person apologizing. I do not get rid of it if the other person stops their actions or if they die. I do not get rid of it any other way except calling it a sin against a holy God, confessing it and receiving His forgiveness.
If this is not done, bitterness will devastate you spiritually. If you have unresolved bitterness in your life then you are not right with God. You are not walking according to His Spirit but according to your flesh. It will devastate those closest to you. It will infect family, friends and your brothers and sisters in the church.
In Galatians chapter 5 the fruit of the Spirit is listed. Such things as love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, and godliness are mentioned. When you are bitter towards someone you withhold love and you don’t feel joy around them. You are in turmoil, no peace. You are not patient with them nor are you gentle with them. You are not walking in the Spirit. Galatians goes on to say we reap what we sow. Bitterness halts spiritual growth altogether. Remember, if you are not walking in the Spirit then you are not growing in the Spirit either.
Bitterness also destroys you emotionally. Bitterness will lead to discouragement and paranoia. You develop a victim mentality, believing that person is always out to get you. Eventually you may believe that about everyone else as well. You become negative, critical of others, always finding some fault even when they do something well. You become judgmental of their motives and secretly wish them ill, hoping they fail at whatever they try to do.
After admitting our bitterness, confessing it to God and asking His forgiveness, we need to pray for others. Not about them, but for them. To pray that God draws them close to Himself and they become great instruments for Him to use. Think of those people you don’t get along with, those you don’t particularly care for. Can you pray this for them? If not, check your heart. You might have a root of bitterness lurking, waiting to spring up.
Light In The Darkness
10 Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God.11 Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.
There are times in our lives when, as Christians, we are called to serve God in the midst of darkness. There are times when it is difficult to see very far ahead. Like driving on a dark highway on a moonless night in the middle of a rainstorm, our lives sometimes feel as if we are going nowhere fast and we are not sure if we will make it to our destination.
It is interesting to me that many Christians desire to be “overcomers”, but do not want much to overcome. We want to go to heaven, but we do not want to die to go there. We want our faith increased, without having to rely on anyone. We want all good times, all the time, and that is simply not how life works. Life is filled with melody and misery, high times and hard times. You may be experiencing a dark time right now, what many saints of the past termed “a dark night of the soul.” You may be at a point right now where you aren’t able to make sense of what is happening in your life. There are times, seasons in our lives, where we have studied the lessons, learned our formulas, memorized the promises of the Bible and think we have it all figured out — and suddenly we are plunged into a deep, deep darkness.
What do you do when the lights go out? When deep darkness comes into your life?
It has been said that in school one learns the lessons first and tests second. In life, we take the test first and learn the lessons second. Hopefully, today you will come to see that there are lessons to be learned when the lights go out.
Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God
In this verse, the Bible is talking about a faithful servant of God. This person loves and fears God. He or she is being obedient. This is not a backslider or someone who has wandered off from God. This is an active Christian who loves the Lord and is being obedient to God’s voice, yet they are in a dark place.
There is a distorted idea out there that once a person becomes a Christian it is all honey and no bees. Not true. It rains on both the just and the unjust. There are tens of thousands of Christians who love God and are obediently serving Him who are experiencing dark times. Over a hundred thousand are martyred across the globe annually.
Job said, “God has put darkness in my path” (Job 19:8) Habakkuk exclaimed, “How long shall I cry out and you not hear?” (Hab. 1:2) John the Baptist sent messengers to Jesus from the cell in which he was imprisoned asking Him if He really was the Messiah. Each of these godly men came to a point in their life that they did not fully comprehend. They experienced a time of darkness, when they did not understand what was happening to them nor why God was allowing it.
When you are in darkness it doesn’t necessarily mean you have sinned or that you are outside of God’s will for your life. It might be that God has put you in a dark time so that His light shines brighter and you can see Him more clearly.
Faith is like film. It is developed in the dark. We grow the most spiritually when we are forced to look to Jesus alone for help. You will never know how much you need Jesus until Jesus is all you have. As Christians, we are called to live by faith – not by explanations. Our verse tells us to trust or lean on the name of the Lord. Even when tough times come. If you do not have the conviction that God is good all the time then you will not stand when darkness falls. Job said – “even if He slays me I will trust in Him.” When walking in darkness we must trust, lean on, God and His promises – which never fail.
When you are in the dark you don’t need explanations. You need God. An explanation sometimes makes things worse. Sometimes God removes all the answers to give us Himself. A relationship with Him is more important than reasons. In his blindness, John Milton wrote Paradise Lost. In prison John Bunyon wrote Pilgrim’s Progress. In exile, John wrote Revelation. In the dark, God develops our faith. Never doubt in the dark what you learned in the light. The test of our character is what we do, how we react, in the dark. God is still God when the darkness comes. He is still reigning on His throne. He still works out things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
Some things, some truths in life, are only learned in the dark. For example, have you ever said, “the stars are out tonight?” Did you know they are out in the daytime but you cannot see them because of the sun’s brightness? There are some treasures, some beautiful things that are only revealed in the dark.
Psalm 148:3 says the stars are there to praise the Lord. Do you have a star in your darkness with which to praise God?
Here are some treasures of the dark. In the light, we see things that are near. In the dark, we see far away – light years away into outer space. We may think our brightest thoughts in the day, but we think our deepest thoughts at night. In the light, we see more clearly. In the dark, we see further. There are some aspects of our future God reveals to us in the dark. If you are praying for God to reveal to you what is next up for your life, be prepared for dark times so that He can show you things that are far off. Just ask Daniel and John about that.
Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.
There is a danger in the dark that Scripture warns us about. One of our most dangerous temptations is that we will be tempted to light our own fire. That is the warning of verse 11. If God has placed darkness around you, then you need to wait on God to remove it. It is better to be in the dark with God than to stand alone in man-made light. Do not ever give into despair during dark times. Darkness cannot overcome light. Remember, you don’t open a door to let darkness in. You open a door to spill out light.
If light has been removed from the situations in your life, then God, in His wisdom, has allowed it so that your faith can be developed and so that He can show you a glimpse of the future. If God is the One who has placed darkness in your path than do not be so foolish as to light your own fire. A man made fire is deceptive. It is not a sure guide to follow. God says that if we light our own fire in the middle of a God ordained darkness we will suffer.
Abraham and Sarah could not wait. Abraham created his own fire with Hagar to produce Ishmael. Untold centuries of suffering have followed his decision. Has darkness come into your life? Are you waiting on God or trying to light your own fire?
Even in the darkest of nights the sun will still rise and chase it away. Eventually God’s light will shine again and the lessons you learn in the dark will last for all eternity. You will see things and know truths that you had never seen or known before. Weeping may endure for a night says Psalm 30:5, but joy will come in the morning.
Remember this, when you are walking on a sunny day, feeling the warmth of the sun’s rays, those rays are 8.3 minutes old when they reach your face. Even though you feel the sun’s warmth, you have never experienced its full intensity. The sun’s surface temperature is approximately 10,000° F. Its inner core is in excess of 27,000,000 °F. You have felt her warmth but not her intensity.
Likewise, we can feel the warmth of God’s presence but we haven’t experienced the full intensity of His glory yet. There is coming a day when we will, but now we only see a fraction of it. When the lights go out God is still there, shining. He wants to give you a star to praise Him more. Our trials become stars in order to praise the Lord. When the lights go out, develop your faith, lean on the Lord, trust in Him and you will see further than you ever have before.
Many times, whenever I preach or write on various subjects, someone will invariably say, “why don’t you just preach Jesus? No Old Testament stuff, just preach Jesus.” My answer to them? No one can know Jesus Christ as He really is if you only know Him as the Redeemer of the New Testament. We must preach Jesus as He truly is – all of Him – or we preach another Jesus than the Bible speaks of.
Jesus was Creator before He became Redeemer or Savior. He became our Savior dying on the cross and rising from the grave on the third day because of mankind’s sin. Much, if not all, of that sin is mankind’s rejection of God’s Word, the denial of Him being the Creator. One truly “preaches Christ” when he first of all preaches Him as Creator.
The great message of Christianity is that the just shall live by faith, speaking of them that believe, to the saving of the soul. But what is this saving, living faith? The faith of which Hebrews speaks of is outlined in chapter 11. It is the faith of Abel, offering an acceptable sacrifice. It is Enoch’s faith, pleasing God in obedience. It is Noah’s faith, believing and acting on God’s Word. It is the faith of Abraham, stepping out on God’s promises. But, first of all, it is foundational faith. It is the faith by which “we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear”, Hebrews 11:3.
Any meaningful faith for salvation must be founded on God’s special creation of all things. The saving gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is founded on creation. The very last reference to the gospel in the Bible is found in Revelation 14: 6-7: “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.”
The angel has the everlasting gospel and its message is for people to worship the One who made heaven and earth and the sea and the fountains of water. The gospel is much more than the cross and the resurrection, it also includes the coming kingdom and God’s great creation. Without creation, the gospel has no foundation and no logical end. The gospel is the good news that Jesus came to save who? Those who were made in God’s image on the earth and who are now marred by sin. What is the end purpose? So that mankind will live with God and enjoy Him forever in His Kingdom. Death first entered God’s finished creation when Adam sinned. Now that Christ is risen, the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul is seeking to assure young Christians at Corinth of the validity of the gospel. He preached to them that which they had believed. In verses 3-11 Paul stresses the witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus. In verses 12-19, Paul says, because Jesus rose from the grave it guarantees a future resurrection to all who have hope in Christ. But then, Paul goes further, In verses 20-28 he says that Jesus’ resurrection restores man’s lost estate, reverses the consequences of Adam’s sin, conquers all enemies of God and destroys death itself. In verses 29-34 Paul says this promise not only gives assurance of eternal life, but strength for godly living and triumph over persecutions and opposition. And then, in verses 35-49, Paul ties it all back to creation.
Everything is tied back to creation. Biological, physical, human – all aspects are discussed. Every individual creation of God has been designed with its own marvelous structure for its own divine purpose, as it pleased God to make it like He did. Since each individual creation is distinct it could not have “evolved” from any other.
I am so amazed at so-called Christians who accept as fact Christ’s resurrection from the dead but not the Genesis record of creation in 6 days. Jesus said, “from the beginning of creation God made them male and female,” speaking of mankind. Not after 18 billion years of cosmic history or 4 ½ billion years of earth’s evolution but on day 6.
Psalm 115:16 tells us the very purpose of earth’s creation was that it should be a home for the children of men. A person cannot believe Christ’s words and reject Moses’. Listen to Jesus in John 5:46-47, “For had you believed Moses, you would have believed Me, because He wrote of Me. But if you believe not his writings, how will you believe My words?” In the book of Revelation, Jesus says, “I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.”
The Apostle Peter, not too long before his martyrdom, wrote a remarkably prophetic passage about the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. Listen to the words of 2 Peter 3:3-6,
“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers walking after their own lusts saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? Since the fathers fell asleep all things glorifying God continue as they are from the beginning of creation.” For this they willingly are ignorant of – that by the Word of God the heavens were of old and the earth standing out and in the water; whereby the world that was then being overflowed by water perished.”
Scoffers arise, those who dismiss the Bible as fairy tales or myths, denying special creation. They replace sudden, special creation by God with uniformity and evolution. They willingly deny a universal flood. Anotherwords, they will deny the Genesis account of creation and the flood and in doing so deny the truth of John 1:3, 1:10 and Hebrews 1:2 which state that God created the world through Jesus Christ.
Creation is a non-negotiable doctrine. What a person believes about creation, about the origins of the earth and mankind, will influence what they believe about the meaning and purpose of life. So many of the great founding fathers of science knew this. Kepler, Galileo, Pascal, Newton, Boyle, Breuster, Faraday, Kelvin and others believed that they were glorifying God as they probed and discovered His marvelous works.
Understand this, belief in the Genesis account of creation is necessary for a correct understanding of who Jesus is as the Bible presents Him. To believe in another Jesus, one who did not create the world in 6 days, one who did not create man in His image, one who is not Lord over creation because you believe He was not the Creator, is to send yourself to hell.
Salvation is found in the Jesus of Holy Scripture, not the Jesus of one’s imagination. Salvation is found in believing in Jesus as He is presented in the Bible, not as we wish He was presented. He is either the Creator Lord or He isn’t. You cannot straddle the fence on this issue. The New Testament simply will not allow it. From the Gospels to the letters of Peter, Paul, and John, Jesus is clearly presented as the Creator Lord.
At the beginning, I said that many times I am asked, “Why don’t you just preach Jesus?” I do. I do preach Jesus. I preach Him creating the world in Genesis as part of the Godhead. I preach Him throughout the Old Testament sustaining the world He created. I preach Him in the New Testament redeeming the world He created. I preach Him in Revelation coming back to claim the world He created. What Jesus are you preaching?
Eve – A Mother to be Honored
There are a lot of good examples of mothers in the Bible. In the Old Testament, we have Hannah, Ruth, Bathsheba and Jochabed, to name a few. The New Testament gives us Lois, Eunice and Elizabeth. All of them had great strengths. The two greatest mothers, in my opinion, were Mary and Eve.
Mary, of course, was picked by God to give birth to, care for and raise Jesus. She was a woman of the highest moral character under tremendous pressure. How would you like to be responsible for parenting God’s Son? She did an outstanding job and we talk about her a lot, especially around Christmas time.
Eve, though, she was the very first mother. There was no one to teach her how to be a mom. From pregnancy to childbirth she had no idea what to expect. It had never happened before. Holding her first baby – she had no help, no frame of reference, no example to follow. She had never been a baby, a child, a teen so she couldn’t even begin to know what to expect. She had to figure it out all by herself.
She was the first mother to experience the joy of seeing her children grow, of learning how to crawl, walk, talk and run. Eve was also the first mother to see the consequences of her actions play out. She was the first to experience the heartbreak of seeing a child reject the faith and rebel. Some of you reading this have known that pain. Some of you have children or grandchildren or siblings who have walked away from God,
Eve was the first to experience the pain of losing a child. Some of you may have also experienced this. Mother’s Day is hard for many people as they remember those children who have died and many times the church has been insensitive to your pain. Stillbirths, miscarriages, infant deaths, deaths of children at any age – whether by accident, disease or even abortion weigh heavily on the heart. We expect, as parents, to die first. We don’t expect to have to bury our children. Eve had to bury Abel and live with the knowledge that another of her children, Cain, had murdered him.
Eve was also the first to see her children marry and leave home. She was the first to experience the excitement of grandchildren. She was also the first to lose her home. She lost Eden, a paradise. Some of you may have lost homes, through tornadoes, fire, divorce, bankruptcy or job loss. It is not easy picking up and starting over.
Can you imagine Eve’s life? Only Adam with her. No girlfriends, no mother – not until her own daughters grew to adulthood would she have another female adult to talk with. Can you imagine how lonely she must have been in those early years? These are some of the reasons I vote her as the greatest mother of all time.
But what does that mean for us now, in 2017? Well, let’s think for a moment. Who taught Eve how to be a good mother? Who was there for her, to tell her what to expect, what to do? God, Himself, was her resource. God was her first resource and all the resource she needed.
That is a big lesson for today. God is always enough. When he is all you have you come to realize that He is all you need. There is nothing He doesn’t know, no question He cannot answer. There is no problem, no situation that He is not willing and able to help with. Do your kids have you at wit’s end? Call on Him. Are you not sure what is going to happen next? Call on Him. Think you cannot go one, that there is no way out? Call on Him. He is more than enough.
The stories of the Bible are true stories written for our example. They are there for us to learn life lessons. The story of Adam and Eve reveals to us real people in real situations. They were the first to encounter things we take for granted today. They had each other and God. That was all. That was enough.
So many times, we feel as if no one understands what we are going through. We feel that our problems are bigger than anyone else’s problems. We feel alone, vulnerable and overwhelmed. By reading the Scriptures, we see people who faced the same problems and we find a God who meets their needs and helps them overcome their problems.
We fail, many times, to see God as a God who is present with us at all times. He walks with us, offering us His wisdom, strength and knowledge. He cares if a baby is colicky and cries night after night, keeping us awake. He cares if a child is pushing our buttons, or if a spouse is bitter and angry. He cares when we feel lonely even among a group of people.
God had to teach Adam and Eve how to parent. They didn’t learn it from a book. They didn’t have parents to teach them. They didn’t learn it from watching monkeys or cows. God taught them. That is how involved He is with us. He is never too busy. He wants us to communicate with Him. You will not bother Him by asking for help. He is willing and able. The God of the Bible is always helping us – even with the smallest things. He makes ax heads float so aa person can return a borrowed tool. He turns water into wine at a wedding reception so a young couple will not be embarrassed. To know that God is with us and that He cares is an anchor for our life that holds us fast. When Jesus says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you”, it is not just words, it is reality.
Psalm 46:1 says “Our God is an ever-present help in times of trouble.” No place is without God. He is there at our celebrations, the births, weddings, holidays, birthdays and reunions. He is there at times of sadness, in hospitals, at funerals, battlegrounds and prisons. He is there in the normal, boring, mundane days. He is with you today, wherever you are. His Spirit is moving to and fro, softening hearts, bringing understanding of His Word to us.
We need to come to understand God as Eve did. She understood He was her ultimate resource. She had to lean on Him in every aspect of her life. If she wanted to know how to be the best person she could be, how to be a great spouse, how to be a great parent, how to do anything – she had to go to God and seek His help, His wisdom, His leadership. So, too, do we need to be that dependent upon God. You may pick another woman from the Bible to nominate for the greatest mother but in my book Eve is the one. May we all learn from her example.
This is a good story of what VOM is starting to do for North Korean orphans
Source: The Voice of the Martyrs