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Because of some things that have happened in my past, I feel a need to share this lesson with you sisters. Even now I can remember vividly struggling to overcome bitterness in my life. I thought this lesson didn’t tie in at all with our lessons we have been studying but the more I think about it, these folks probably dealt with bitterness in their lives also. Think of all the deceit, lying, etc., that went on. Abraham & Sarah, Isaac & Rebekah, and in our last few lessons we have seen all the problems with Jacob & Esau.

In Ephesians 4:22ff we find some things we need to subtract from our lives.

Now, listen to what other versions have to say about bitterness.

BITTERNESS is that frame of mind which willfully retains (holds on to) angry feelings, ready to take offense and liable to break out in anger at any moment.

Webster – sharp or disagreeable – harsh, piercing.

Ephesians 4:31

  1. Bitterness – violent resentment against others.
    Wrath and anger ...
    This means a bad temper, violent anger or raging resentment. Anger or wrath springs from a desire of the flesh to strike out at anything that threatens self-interest. Anger is the attempt of the flesh to step in and take vengeance out of God’s hands.

  2. Clamor – intemperate speeches by which bitter wrath and anger vent themselves.

Waiting can prepare the soil of our heart for spiritual growth, but it can also provide fertile soil for the destructive weeds of bitterness. Hebrews 12:15 puts 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.”

Satan knows that when we become bitter the door is open for other sins, too. One of the problems of having the weed of bitterness in our lives is that other weeds usually grow along with it. Ephesians 4:31 “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”

BEWARE!! Satan wants you to become bitter. James 3:14,15 teaches us that bitter envy and selfish ambition are earthly, unspiritual and of the devil. That should be a clear warning to us to avoid becoming bitter.

Why is it so easy for that bitter root to grow in our hearts? When things go wrong in our lives, we often try to blame someone else. A football team loses an important game and the players blame the coach for calling bad plays. A couple divorces and each partner blames the other one for mistakes. Someone loses his job and he blames his employer. Some people even blame God for the bad circumstances in their lives. As long as we blame others for the problems in our lives, we direct our anger toward them and that bitter root begins to grow.

Bitterness can deny us joy and rob us of blessings.

Larry Richards, in his book, When It Hurts Too Much To Wait, says the following:
        This is one of the terrible things about bitterness – it so fills our hearts that there is no room for enjoyment of our blessings. Bitterness distorts our vision and we just can’t see the good things that are intended to remind us of God’s care.

If you and I can only tear away the thick vines of bitterness that have overgrown the windows of our soul, we can look out and see many blessings that God gives and the vision of blessings can fill us with a comfort that concentration on tragedy denies.

Someone will ask, “You aren’t trying to tell me that we have to get rid of ALL bitterness!?"

Paul, in verse 17 wrote, “I insist on it, ... Get rid of ..."
So now we understand more about bitterness, let’s see how we can subtract this from our lives.

The Gentiles, people of the world, LIED, GOT ANGRY & SINNED, STOLE, etc.

Evidently some of the Christians at Ephesus were doing these things also and Paul writes, “SUBTRACT THEM.” Get your thinking right and subtract these things.

Verse 30, The Gentiles didn’t have the Holy Spirit like WE DO!!!!! Don’t make Him sad by continuing to live like people of the world live.

Verse 32, FORGIVE
The only real strong medicine (antidote) for bitterness is forgiveness.

Do you think Jesus had reasons to be bitter? He certainly did; but, after all He went through, His prayer was “Father, forgive them.”

An unforgiving spirit is the devil’s playground. Forgiveness is not a one-time act. Not forgiving is a continuing sin. God will not forgive you if you do not forgive others!! You remember this: FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS AS WE FORGIVE OUR DEBTORS.

We read in Ephesians 5:1, BE IMITATORS OF GOD
Chapter 4:20 talks about “knowing Christ.”
Jesus said, “If you’ve seen Me you’ve seen the Father.” If we find out what Jesus did and how He acted and treated people then we can IMITATE GOD.

Can you and I (or you and a friend) have a close relationship if we’re never together and don’t communicate and work at knowing and understanding each other????
The better I understand God’s Word the better I know and understand God’s Son.
Then we can “practice righteousness.”

So, we’ve talked about some things we need to get out of our lives,
we’ve talked about the root of bitterness and
we’ve talked about ways to work at getting rid of bitterness.


Prayer: I have been hurt & humiliated by a certain person. You know who I mean God. You know too, that I am struggling to keep bitterness and hate out of my heart. But, it’s so very difficult to find the grace to forgive. Will you help me God?
I don’t want to crowd these bad feelings into the dark corners of my mind. I don’t want to deny to myself that I feel awful. But, I do want to forgive and get the hostility and anger out of my system. At this very moment perhaps someone, somewhere, is having a hard time forgiving me for something I said or did. I might have hurt that person without knowing it. So please, God, help me to forgive now. It would be terrible to harbor ill will against someone who might not even know she has hurt me.
Restore to me the JOY of Your salvation.

Jean McConnell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Ladies Bible Class, 29 January 2008

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