Reading & Using God’s Word – The Difference

Hebrews 5:14 “But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”

The constant usage of Gods Word is crucial to growth and maturity in the faith. Our measure of maturity depends on how less or how more we USE the Word Of God in our daily life . It doesn’t say ‘those who by constant ‘reading’ but by constant ‘using’, which means read and apply.

We use something to do something. Like I use my toaster to toast bread and rice cooker to cook rice. While I am aware that these gadgets are used for a particular purpose and even know the procedure having read the user manuals, yet how will I know they work unless I actually use them? Someone once said to me that if we keep electronics unused for long they turn into junk. Usage is extremely important. Similarly if we invest in buying expensive Bibles and showcase them as part of our home or office decor it won’t do. It won’t do even if we go the next step and spend hours just reading them. We must learn to use in our daily life what we read from God’s Word.

The Bible is the most effective utility tool because with its constant usage the user learns the most important principle of life – to discern between good and evil. That is the wisdom of the mature. That is Godly wisdom. That is being transformed into the image of God. No instrument on the face of the earth is as powerful and as effective, and yet how many of us actually know how to use it? Paul says that people who were supposed to be eating solid food were still being fed on milk all because they did not know how to use this tool effectively. (Hebrews 5:12)

It is not enough to read the Word and gain knowledge. The knowledge that is gained has to be put to work constantly. It doesn’t say occasional usage but constant and that means ‘in a flow’ without interruption. Our daily life is a constant flow of some activity or the other in our waking hours. Applying the Word or using it constantly in those daily activities provides a training opportunity to know good from evil. “Discerning’ is the word used by Paul . What does that term mean? The dictionary meaning is ‘ the ability to obtain sharp perceptions’. In another place – ‘Discernment is the ability to grasp, comprehend, and evaluate clearly. It means we can see the true nature of things; it allows us to distinguish between what is real and what is imitation.’

Discernment is the prized possession of the wise as mentioned in the Proverbs. We are to exhibit maturity through training ourselves to discern good from evil from the Word’s viewpoint. There are several shades of evil around us which are garbed as good and on the surface do not seem harmful.

How would we know if God approves of what we do? By learning to use the weapon of His Word practically every day. 2 Timothy 2:15 . The simple minded, spiritually challenged (read spiritually handicapped ) Christian will buy a lie without having the wisdom of discernment because they have not been trained through constant use of the Word also referred as a double edged sword. One of the biggest such deceptions going around is the prosperity gospel which does not preach Christ crucified and His offer of discipleship , it preaches to put your trust in a Benevolent Christ who is waiting to bless you with all earthly blessings, health, wealth and happiness. A mature Christian learning to apply the truth of following Christ through obedience to His command of denying self, taking up the cross and following after Christ will be able to discern if such a Gospel is from God or the devil. But someone who uses the Bible rarely in daily application stands in danger of being deceived . It is not just about discerning truth from lies in the doctrinal aspect but in all aspects rather. The Word is active and alive . It has life. It is not just words meant to be read for our spiritual knowledge. It actually is alive . It works just like a motor that comes to life when you switch the ignition on , and which turns into a powerful moving machine used to transport you from one place to another. The Word is active when we begin to use it. It does its work of cleansing, pruning and renewing our minds and hearts to ultimately transform us into the likeness of Christ.

The Word of God teaches us to choose right over wrong every time . It cannot make a mistake . It is infallible. Other machines can be faulty but with this one there is divine guarantee that it is flawless and perfect. Learning to use it will never let you go wrong. The psalmist in psalm 119 vs .. says 2 Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart—they do no wrong but follow his ways. Note that he doesn’t say “read “ His statutes but “keep” which means do or apply or observe them in a practical way. They do no wrong. They are being made perfect.

A seasoned worker or sportsperson will have little or perhaps no flaws in the way they work or play as they have learned the techniques perfectly as opposed to amateurs .

The difference between pros and amateurs with regard to using the Word of God is pretty much the same. Some have been introduced to the Word maybe several decades ago but they still fumble with the techniques due to lack of regular usage although they may have read the Bible faithfully everyday for all those years. While there are some who have learned to apply on a constant basis whatever they read from the Word. There is no doubt that over time they become mature , their mistakes are fewer as they grow and they are aimed at perfection. They are becoming pros who are in turn used by the Lord to further His work.

Scripture Passage references :

Hebrews 5: 12 -14

In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Proverbs 3:21-24

My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck. Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble; when you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet”

2 Timothy 2:15

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

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Not I But Christ

Sharing the lyrics of a song that echoes the longing of a disciple of Christ.

Not I, but Christ, be honored, loved, exalted;

Not I, but Christ, be seen, be known, be heard;

Not I, but Christ, in every look and action;

Not I, but Christ, in every thought and word.

◦ Refrain:

◦ Saved from my sin and myself, dear Lord,

◦ Saved to be filled with Thee;

◦ Self crucified, so now not I,

◦ But Christ, that lives in me.

Not I, but Christ, to gently soothe in sorrow;

Not I, but Christ, to wipe the falling tear;

Not I, but Christ, to lift the weary burden;

Not I, but Christ, to hush away all fear.

Not I, but Christ, in lowly, silent labor;

Not I, but Christ, in humble, earnest toil;

Christ, only Christ—no show, no ostentation;

Christ, none but Christ, the gath’rer of the spoil.

Christ, only Christ—no idle words e’er falling;

Christ, only Christ—no needless bustling sound;

Christ, only Christ—no self-important bearing;

Christ, only Christ—no trace of “I” be found.

Not I, but Christ, my every need supplying;

Not I, but Christ, my strength and health to be;

Not I, but Christ, for body, soul, and spirit;

Christ, only Christ, here and eternally.

Christ, only Christ, ere long will fill my vision;

Glory excelling soon, full soon I’ll see—

Christ, only Christ, my every wish fulfilling—

Christ, only Christ, my all in all to be.


I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

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Stop And Smell The Roses!

Recently my husband took up gardening as an interest and is growing a variety of flowers and veggies at home . He spends most mornings nurturing and tending to his plants in both our front and back yards. I, on the other hand do not have a green thumb and am unable to share his interest. But every few days he calls me out to the front yard and asks me to enjoy the flowers in bloom especially the roses . There are almost ten variants and each is a joy to behold. In the midst of morning chores, those few moments spent to stop and smell the roses sets a lovely tone for my entire day .

This morning I’m reminded that our life in Christ is not a drab, dull or boring journey as some portray it to be , but rather, it is an exciting journey filled with the fragrance and beauty of Christ.

Do we have in us the love, joy and peace from God our Father that grows day by day? It will do us good to do a self-check , as these attributes are proof of the presence of the eternal life that Christ has promised to those who follow Him.

There is real enjoyment in Christ. which comes from living in Him and, in restful assurance that He is in charge of every detail of our lives when we are submitted to Him totally. Even details that are in the future which we may be unaware of !

Sometimes we become so preoccupied with responsibilities at work, school or home that we miss savouring this fragrant beautiful life promised to all who walk in faith .

Every difficulty and problem however complex, can be removed or solved through complete dependence on our Lord . It is but our natural instinct to find ways to get out of our difficulties and solve problems on our own. But remaining still in the middle of such situations and trusting in the Lord to bring us out , results in savouring the beauty of the Lord’s divine / supernatural interventions in our otherwise grey lives. This, coupled with choosing to do the Father’s will over our own every time fills us with the fragrance that is of Christ and which is acceptable to God the Father! This is faith at work .

Building such faith day by day , is marked by “awe” moments and “wow” moments that are beyond our understanding and have their designs from the Lord of our faith! In the end the beauty and fragrance of our Lord is seen and felt by all who cross our path .

( 2 Corinthians 2:15 ; Psalms 90:17)

Following Christ in faith is not a mundane, boring ride , but a beautiful journey where you get to stop and smell the roses all the time !

Galatians 3: 26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

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Receiving encouragement

The journey or quest that we are in as disciples of the Lord Jesus is marked by seasons of sowing , fruitfulness, harvest and rest .. the beauty lies in experiencing Christ , savouring Him and enjoying Him in every season , described by Apostle Peter as “ growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He has given us the exclusive privilege of getting to know Him experientially every moment of every day.
Through every season that we enjoy in this exciting journey of being discipled by our Lord, our biggest comfort is His encouragement received through close personal communion and fellowship with Him.

Ian Vincent

The person who honors God by spending time alone communing with him receives his encouragement primarily from God.

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Joshua 22 – An Altar of Witness





 An Altar of Witness   

It is  most natural to form assumptions from what we see on the outside even before we know what’s on the inside.  Often, such assumptions are far from the truth, and actions stemming from these can be disastrous.   Joshua 22  has God’s blueprint  to deal with misunderstandings or wrongly formed assumptions in a godly, biblical way!

In the referred passage of Joshua 22 :  The time of war had temporarily ended and Joshua allotted each tribe their portions in the land of Canaan, which they had conquered with the Lord’s help.  The  tribes  of  Reuben and Gad along with the half- tribe of Manasseh (a.k.a. the Eastern tribes)  were returning back to their allotments eastward across  the Jordan. They had the blessings of Joshua who was sending them back fully-loaded to settle into their homes and begin living with their families, in the land that God had given them as their inheritance.  His parting  instructions to them were to  hold fast to God, and love Him with all their heart and obey all His commands.

They left and crossed the Jordan. And they built a grand altar there.

Building an altar could mean several things. But when their brothers back  on the western side heard of it, they set out to wage war with them. (Hearing from a third source caused them to conclude the worst possible scenario)  – that their  brethren in the east  had gone against God’s command to Moses –  that no other alter  be built to make offerings and sacrifices  except that which already existed at the Tent of Meeting in Shiloh. (Leviticus 17:1-6)

Handling Conflict

Thankfully, when the western tribesmen crossed over,  they acted in wisdom first. Instead of fighting their eastern brothers, they had a face-to-face dialogue with them, with Phinehas the priest, grandson of Aaron being their spokesperson. And it turned out that there was a misunderstanding. The altar was not built to compete with that in Shiloh, or to dishonor God’s commands, or to act in unfaithfulness toward Him as was concluded earlier. But it was built only as a memorial and a witness for the coming generations to say that  Israelites on both east and west of Jordan worshipped the same God.

Responding to Wrong Assumptions

The Eastern tribesmen began their response to Phinehas with these words…””The Lord God of gods, the Lord God of gods, HE KNOWS THE TRUTH” ( Joshua 22:22). They were sure what they had done  was right before God. How often have we faced situations when we too were misunderstood and then said, “but  God knows the truth”! The path of discipleship is costly, and at times, we are misunderstood for the things we do and say and what we stand up for. Our Lord was misunderstood to the point of being called a glutton and a drunkard Matt 11:19 . He was never perturbed when misunderstood by people because He did not live before men, to gain their approval;  but before the Father, and His approval was all that mattered to Him.

 And… If We’ve Misunderstood…..

On the flip side, many of us are guilty of  misunderstanding our brothers /sisters, concluding wrongly and also acting on them.

How did Phinehas handle his assumption that the Eastern tribesmen had sinned and grieved the Lord?

During the dialogue between  both parties,  Phinehas  did not accuse in a harsh tone even though, he too had misunderstood his eastern brothers. Instead he reminded them of the consequences of unfaithfulness to God and he also offered a way out. If we wish to confront those  we think are  opposing the Lord or dishonoring His name, we  can do so with a motive to help ( if it turns out  that they have acted in foolishness). Phinehas, who had thought that the eastern tribes-people had wronged God,  invited them to come and live with the tribes on the western side of Jordan just so that they don’t fall into the grave sin of being unfaithful to God.This invitation was made not without a cost. It would mean lesser land area for the rest of the western tribes. But just to see their brothers free from any kind of sin, they were willing to make that sacrifice. Too often, we lack such willingness. We are ready to tell people to stop sinning but are not willing to help them if it costs us something.   This was a godly  method of confrontation.

But, confronting with a motive to accuse, put down or project someone  in bad light is the exact opposite of the Phinehas way, the biblical way.


Godly wisdom prompted Phinehas to voice  his  concern for God’s honor and holiness,  and confront in gentleness and love, making an attempt to reconcile before attempting to make war.

In the end,  he was met with the most surprising, God honoring  response  which caused the others to retreat in gladness and peace.

The altar  was named ED – which means a witness.  Our God is witness to all that we do, and HE KNOWS.


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Lesson Learned From A Missed Exit


Last week we were driving one late evening on the new four-lane highway ( a.k.a. Outer Ring Road)  that encircles our city. We normally take the exit closest to home. My husband usually never misses the exit but on that day he was distracted due to a bout of sneezing, so, he not only missed it but drove past the next closest one. We ended up going a long distance in the wrong direction, all the way to the airport. After a few anxious moments, we finally made a U turn and began the long drive back. It took us an extra hour to reach home. The funny thing was,the atmosphere in our car changed totally after we realized we missed the exit. All of us including our daughter who was in the back seat became very alert, wanting to make sure we were on the right track back home. This was the second incident in two months where we missed our way. The first one happened when our older son Joel was driving me to my parents’ on the same highway. He took a wrong turn ( at his mom’s suggestion) , and we ended up at my parents’ three hours later, exhausted and relieved to have reached our destination finally.


The recent-most incident gave me time to reflect on the course of our life’s journey. I was reminded that it is a costly mistake to miss an exit or take a wrong turn on the path of life. It costs us time ( a precious resource) to realize we missed the turn  and decide to turn back and get on the right track again to reach our destination. It is painful, time consuming and can cost us much. Sometimes we do not realize we have taken a wrong turn until long afterwards. In my life I lost several precious years and kept wandering in a maze. But our Lord is merciful beyond our understanding..When we decide to take a U turn and get back onto the right track and seek His help and guidance, we get it from Him in full measure.
In Psalm 32:8 .the Lord says “ I will instruct you and TEACH you in the way you are to go. I will counsel you with My loving eye on you. ” The Lord has promised to instruct us and teach us in the way we are to take. I think the key here  is to have a teachable and learning spirit. Of the Israelites He sadly said in Mark 4:12 ” ….they are always hearing but never understanding .” I confess I am a very slow learner and it is taking My Master’s unlimited patience to teach me. Learning also is a two-way street which requires cooperation from the learner. While some learn quickly others take more time. But in the end,  all that matters is whether we have learned to walk in the way God wants us to or if we haven’t.

When we learn constantly from our Lord then the chances of missing the way or taking a wrong turn are next to nil. And I believe that is how He wants it to be for us. However if we have missed the way, there is no need to despair.. for there is hope in our Lord..hope to be guided back onto the right track again and to be led by Him through  the rest of the journey.

Brother G.H.Lang, whose writings have made a deep and profound impact upon my life , in his book Divine Guidance writes in detail on the theme of being guided by our great God while on this earthly journey. He says,  that, while God is more than willing to lead us through this life and to our future destination in heaven, He does so, when we walk in humility, by faith and with patience. I’ve paraphrased it from his book here:

1) Humility. “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. Psalm 25:9.” To be able to hand over the driving reigns of our life into the Hands of the Most Able requires an acknowledgement that we are not capable of reaching that destination on our own. It requires humility to do that. And those willing to be guided by God must humbly acknowledge and surrender to His leading and to His guidance. And the end result is a journey filled with His  blessing,peace and joy in abundance, a far cry from the fleeting happiness that a self-willed, self directed life may bring.

2) Faith. It is by faith that we are led of God. To be able to experience His guidance requires faith on our part. Faith sees what is unseen and trusts without wavering. For example, if we were to cross desert territory and had no clue how to cross it, wouldn’t we be relieved if an expert guide of the desert offered to take us across? We would rest secure in the knowledge that we found someone who can take us across. Doubting the guide’s ability would lead to worry, panic and fretting – exhibiting a complete lack of faith. Those of us wanting to be led of God need to exhibit the same kind of faith that  a  non-doubting desert traveler has on his guide. We may go through rough terrain at times, but our final destination must be our goal coupled with the knowledge that our Guide is able to help us reach it safely.

3)Patience. Being led by God in all matters of life on this journey is a training ground where our patience is developed. Moses, who led the children of Israel out of Egypt into the promised land would stop when he was asked to and move when he was told to. Impatience or hurrying up  can lead to wrong decisions and heavy losses. Those willing to be led by God need to wait on Him, and wait for Him. Sometimes, it may seem He is delaying but one thing  which any seasoned and mature follower of Christ will testify to, is,  that God is never late. Even though it may seem He is.

Martha, whose brother, Lazarus had died and at whose tomb the Lord arrived four days later, cried out saying “Lord, it has been four days. If you had come earlier, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:21) How many Martha-like accusations are we guilty of? The Lord was four days late according to her, but in His plan, He was right on time. He was there to glorify the Father and Himself through the raising up of his beloved friend Lazarus from the dead.

Being led and guided by the Lord on life’s journey is the highest earthly privilege He offers to us, His children by faith in Christ. Using that privilege to the end of our lives will guarantee our entry into the heavenly city, of which we have been given citizenship and which is our final destination.(Philippians 3:20 , John 14:2-3 Rev 3:12 ) Losing that privilege through lack of faith, humility or patience will have its corresponding, irrevocable consequences. (  Hebrews 12:17, John 12:48Hebrews 11:6Matt 7:21-23)

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The Sin Of Bitterness Retards Spiritual Progress

Sweetness and Bitterness are opposites, and both can’t be contained in the same vessel. A fountain that springs forth sweet,  fresh water cannot also give out bitter water. It is the same with us. How often do we let bitterness ( over what someone has done or said to us), permeate to the core of our beings? The Scriptures have clear instructions on not allowing bitterness to fester in us . Most often we overlook this ‘sin’ of bitterness, not considering it a sin at all,  and keep it in the sidelines, taking into importance other ‘bigger’ sins that need to be abandoned and forsaken as part of our sanctification process . But when we are truly desiring to live under the authority and Lordship of Christ, we cannot let bitterness remain.

Here, I am led to share with you an article on ‘ Freedom from Bitterness”that  touched me deeply and helped me confess this ‘harbored’ sin to the Lord.  I do believe this was ordered divinely to show me how deeply I lacked in this area, and on confessing and forsaking it before Him, I am now confident of His sweetness to fill my cup.

How to be Free From Bitterness 

by Jim Wilson

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. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 4:31-5:2).

In our text we are instructed to get rid of all bitterness. Before we begin discussing how and why this must be done, it is crucial to realize that the basis for all our actions in this regard must be what Jesus Christ has done for us on the cross. In all our actions, we are to be imitators of God.  In the Old Testament, there was a woman whose name meant Pleasant. Her name was Naomi and she had moved from Israel to another land with her husband and sons. But her husband had died and within the next ten years both of her sons died. She made some comments to her recently widowed daughters-in-law about it.  Ruth 1:13b: “… it grieves me very much for your sakes that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me!” She was comparing in order to determine who had the right to be more bitter.  And in Ruth 1:20-21: “So she said to them, ‘Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?’” Her bitterness was toward God. It was God who had taken away her husband; it was God who had taken away her sons, and she held it against Him. Five times in these three verses she held God accountable for her bitterness.

There are many people like this today. Not only are they bitter, they enjoy being bitter. They somehow like it, and they feed on it. They wouldn’t know what to do if they got rid of it; they wouldn’t have a purpose for living. They like being bitter.  We know people like that in the world, and we know people like that in the church. It is easy to recognize when somebody is bitter. You can see it in the eyes and in the lines of the face — even if the person is young. You can see it in their mouth, you can see it when they’re smiling or laughing. They are bitter and you can see it. You can hear it in the tone of their voices. You can hear it when they protest that they are not bitter. The bitterness is central and pervades everything.

There are bitter people in the Bible besides Naomi. In fact, there are quite a few. For example, Jonah was a bitter man. The Lord said to him, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?”  “I do,” he said. “I am angry enough to die” (Jon. 4:9).  He thought he had a right to his anger. I like being angry. God, you are wrong to forgive people. I don’t want you to forgive people.  People enjoy holding things against other people. But our text requires us to remove all bitterness and to maintain a tender heart. Here’s the question: Is it possible to be kind, compassionate, tenderhearted and yet bitter at the same time? These are all interior attitudes. Tenderheartedness, by definition, involves a tender heart. Bitterness is also on the inside. But it is not possible to have two different, contradictory attitudes on the inside.  Paul says to get rid of all bitterness and to be kind and compassionate one to another. Therefore, the bitterness must go. But before it can be removed, it is necessary to know what it is — and that it is there.  It is relatively easy to see when other people are bitter. But it’s not so easy to see it in ourselves. It is therefore important to have a good understanding of the Bible’s definition of the problem.  Let us suppose that a Christian commits a sin. He tells a lie, for instance. Now when he tells this lie, does he feel guilty or does he feel bitter? The answer is guilty. When we sin, we feel guilty. It is straightforward. Now let us suppose that someone told a lie about this same Christian and spread it all over town. What does he feel now — guilt or bitterness?  Guilt is what we feel when we sin, and bitterness is what we feel when others sin against us. The very definition of bitterness points to the action of another. If we had committed the offense, we would feel guilty and would know that we had to confess and forsake our sin.

We might not confess the sin, but not because we did not know what to do. But what do we do with the guilt of others?

Bitterness is always based upon someone else’s sin—whether real or imagined.  Consider the imaginary sin first. Many times we can be bitter toward someone for what he said, when in reality he did not say it. We heard a false report, and now we are bitter. We wait for an apology which he cannot offer. Shall we remain in bitterness the rest of our lives because he never says he is sorry for something he did not do?  Incidentally, many bitter people cannot imagine the possibility that they are bitter over imaginary sins. As far as bitterness is concerned, the other person’s guilt is always real. For such a person trying to be free from bitterness, it is acceptable for them to assume the real guilt of the other person, so long as they get rid of their own bitterness.

But what about genuine sin? There are many bitter people who really were mistreated by the offender. So how do we deal with a genuine offense?  Bitterness is based on sin that somehow relates to you. It is not concerned with how big the sin is; it is based upon how close it is. For instance, if some great and gross immorality occurs in Iran, Iraq, El Salvador, or Columbia, what do we do? We read about it, but we will not feel guilty. We read about it, but we will not feel bitter. We might be appalled or amazed, but we do not feel guilty, and we do not feel bitter. Nevertheless, it was an awful sin, and someone actually committed it. So it does not depend on how great the evil is, it depends on how close the other person is to me.

Bitterness is related to those people who are close.  Who are likely candidates? The answer is simple: fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, children, boyfriends, girlfriends, roommates, immediate superiors, immediate subordinates, co-workers, business partners, and maybe some other relatives — grandparents, uncles, and others. There are even many people who are bitter against God.  We do not get bitter towards evil outside of our own immediate contact. Bitterness is based upon somebody else’s sin who is close to us, and who did something to us. It might be minor. It does not have to be great, it just has to be close. Does he pick up his socks? No? Can you get bitter over that? Well, no, but what if he does it 5,000 times?

You may think you have a right to be bitter. But the Bible does not grant anyone the right to be bitter. The text says to get rid of all bitterness.  See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many (Heb. 12:15).  Here it describes bitterness as if it were a root. A root is something that is underground and cannot be seen. But there can be visible evidence of its presence, as when sidewalks are lifted.  Roots do other things. The fact that you cannot see roots does not mean they are not there. Neither does it mean you will never see them. They drink in nourishment, and they do not stay roots. Eventually they come up.  The fruit that is born bears a direct relation to the root producing it. The roots of an apple tree provide us with apples. If there is a bitter root, it will bear bitter fruit.  That is what this verse is saying. Beware lest any root of bitterness spring up, cause trouble, and defile many people, which means to make many people filthy.

Have you ever seen bitterness go through a church? Bitterness can go through a congregation like a prairie fire. It can go through the work place or a dormitory. Why is this? Somebody decided to share. He was bitter, let the root come to the surface and bear fruit. He shared it and many people became bitter. The author of Hebrews warns us about this. He says beware of missing the grace of God. When you allow it, bitterness comes up and defiles many people. It makes many people filthy.

What happens to a person if he keeps bitterness on the inside for many years? What happens to him physically? Can he get physically sick? Suppose it is bitterness toward some member of the family. He’s kept it inside, he has not shared it. He has not defiled many people — he has kept it down inside. When he keeps it inside for some years, he finally begins to hurt. He goes to the doctor and the doctor says, “You are right, you are sick. But your sickness is not the kind I deal with. I am going to send you to the other kind of doctor.”  So he sends him to the psychiatrist, and the psychiatrist agrees. “Yes, you are sick all right. And I know why you are sick. You are sick because of 20 years of bitterness towards your father. You have kept it suppressed all these years and it’s just rotted out your insides. You have kept this poison within and this acid on the inside has made you just physically ill. So what I want you to do is I want you to go home and share it with your father. Why keep it in and get sick? Let it out. Get everybody else sick.”

So the world has two solutions. Keep the bitterness in, and make yourself sick, or let it out and spread the sickness around.

God’s solution is to dig up the root. Get rid of it. But this takes the grace of God. A man must know the Lord Jesus Christ to be able to do this. He is the source of grace.  The world’s solutions for bitterness shouldn’t be used by Christians. When Christians copy the world, they have two poor choices. The Bible says to get rid of all bitterness. You must not keep it in and you must not share it. Surrender it to the Father, through the Son.  But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice (James 3:14,15).

When I was a young midshipman at the Naval Academy, I thought that the pettiness and jealousy I observed would give way to maturity. I thought the higher you got in rank, the more mature you became, the less this sort of thing occurred. But as I grew older I found out that the jealousy just got more intense. Bitterness accumulates. Unless there’s a solution to it, people do not get less bitter with maturity. They get more bitter over the years. It gets worse and worse.

And if you harbor bitter envy, evil practice will result. It does not come from heaven. It is straight from the pit and is of the devil. Every evil practice results from this attitude. As should be obvious, we have a real problem.

How do we get rid of bitterness?  Before we can get rid of bitterness, we have to realize that we are bitter. How can we tell if we are bitter?  One good rule of thumb is this: Bitterness remembers details. You have had thousands of conversations in your life, most of which you have forgotten. But this one took place five years ago, and you remember every single word, his intonation and the inflection of every part of his voice. You know exactly what happened — which means you are bitter.  Someone might object and say that it is also possible to have a good memory of a wonderful conversation. Is this possible? Yes, but not likely. Why is this? Because memory is helped by review, review, and more review. People do not usually mull over the wonderful things as much. But they do go over and over and over the bad things.

I have done quite a bit of counseling with people who are in the process of getting divorced. I have known some since the time they were married, at a happier time in their life. But at the time of the divorce they cannot remember a single happy time. All they can remember is that which they have gone over and over. They are bitter.  This doesn’t mean there were not happy times. It just means that they have concentrated on how right they were and how wrong the other person was. If someone has a sharp, detailed memory for things which happened years ago when he was a child, or a young man or woman, and that memory is at all accusative of anyone else, then it is an indication of bitterness. And the solution for bitterness is to get rid of it.

I had a wonderful experience one time in Dallas, Texas. I was speaking on a Saturday night at the home of an old friend. Because I was going to be in Dallas, I wrote notes to several people that I’d known from different parts of the country at other times, and they showed up at this home.  My host asked me to speak on bitterness, which I did. Afterwards, a couple came up to see me. I had known them eight years before in Pullman, Washington. The wife came up to me and said, “We have been married for eight years. The first year of marriage I was so bitter toward my mother that I laid it on my husband every single day. Our first year of marriage was just awful because I kept sharing this bitterness toward my mother with my husband.”  She then told me that seven years ago I had spoken on bitterness and she had gotten rid of hers. One day she saw another woman who was really bitter towards her mother. She thought, “I can help that woman. I can share all the common experiences. I went to her to share this, and I couldn’t remember any of the details. My detailed memory had gone. All I could tell her was I used to remember things, and I do not remember them anymore.” The Lord had really taken care of her bitterness.  Another time I was teaching a four-week course on marriage. I had put a notice in the paper and did not know who would show up. A woman came who had been referred to the class by a doctor. She came in and I can honestly say that I have never seen anybody more bitter in appearance in my life. She had forty years of accumulated bitterness. She got rid of it that night and made an appointment to see me the next day at the bookstore where I worked. She came in the store, and I did not know who she was. She looked so different. I had just met her the night before, but she was clean inside now.

What is the problem? Why is it we do not get rid of bitterness?  In order to get rid of it I have to bring it back to my own heart. We need to bring the realization of bitterness back to our own hearts. Instead, the temptation is to look at the offender. Look what he did. That is the nature of bitterness. In order to get rid of it, I need to recognize it is my problem before I can confess and forsake it.  But you say, “I am not bitter. I just get hurt easily.” But the symptoms of getting hurt are very close to the symptoms of resentment. Do you know what instant resentment is? You might say. “It is not bitterness — it is just hurt feelings.” But there is a close relationship between being hurt and being resentful. Someone gets hurt and he gets resentful.

There is another very close connection between resentment and bitterness. Resentment turns into a deep bitterness.  Bitterness is just resentment that has been held on to. It has become rancid and rotten. It is kept in and it gets worse. The links in the chain continue. There is a connection between bitterness and hatred, and a very clear biblical identification between hatred and murder. What I am saying is that hurt can lead to murder. Some might object that this teaching is too strong. But the strength of it is from the Bible.

What we want to do is make it apparent how sinful bitterness is. The bitter person must first recognize that he is bitter, and secondly, that it is a gross evil. Again, the reason people do not deal with this sin is that they think it is the other person’s sin. The devil says, “Well, when he quits lying, or he quits doing this or that, or when he says he’s sorry, then you will feel better.”  But suppose he does not quit? Suppose he never quits? Are you going to be bitter the rest of your life because someone else insists on being in sin? That does not make any sense at all. You may say, “I will forgive him when he says he is sorry, but not until then. I have a right to my bitterness until then. When he says he is sorry, I will forgive him and everything will be fine.” You keep this wall of bitterness up, and one day he comes to you and he says, “I’m sorry.” Can you now forgive him? No, because bitterness doesn’t forgive.

In order to forgive this person when he says he is sorry you have to be ready before he says he is sorry. And if you are ready to forgive him before he says he is sorry, then it doesn’t depend on whether he says he is sorry or not. In other words, you get rid of bitterness unilaterally. It does not matter what the other person does.  Earlier the point was made that bitterness seems to stem from the other person’s sin — real or imagined. That is only how it appears.

In reality bitterness is a sin that stands alone. The bitter person decides to be bitter independently of the offender.  But you say, “No, he sinned against me, and when he says he is sorry everything will be fine.” But this is not true.  I’ve known situations where an apology was offered and the person is still bitter. Suppose the offender is dead and cannot apologize. I know people who are extremely bitter and the bitterness is toward their parents who died years ago. But the bitterness has not died. Bitterness is the sin of the bitter person alone, unrelated to anybody else.  One time I went to the Walla Walla State Penitentiary to spend the day with the inmates. It was around Christmas. I spent about six hours there. During the afternoon, I was in maximum security, talking about and teaching evangelism.  This one fellow asked about reaching the really hard-core criminals. I thought he was really interested in such evangelism and talked to him about it. Then I spent time in minimum security, protective custody and other places. In the evening I was back in maximum security, and thought I’d talk on this subject of bitterness. I figured there were probably some bitter people there.  This same fellow who asked about evangelism in the afternoon asked me another question. He said, “How can you get rid of bitterness towards somebody who beat up your three-year-old son unmercifully?” So I told him how, and then I said, “You know, when you get rid of your bitterness you can help this person so that he won’t beat up other little kids.”

He said, “No, this guy cannot be helped.”

I said, “Sure, he can.”

“No, no.”

“Why not?”

“He is not with us any more.”

This inmate had murdered him. He had murdered him because of what he had done to his three-year-old son— that’s why he was in prison. But even though he had killed the man, he was still bitter. In other words, expressing it did not get rid of it.  When somebody else says he is sorry, it does not get rid of our bitterness.

The only thing that gets rid of it is confession before God because of the Lord Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. This is the only solution. We must not keep it and we must not share it with others. There is only one thing to do and that is to confess it as a great and evil sin. We must be as persistent in the confession as necessary.

Once I was speaking at Monterey, California, at the U.S. Naval Post-Graduate School. There was a man there who had a great reputation as a Bible teacher. He was a line officer in the Navy, but he had been passed over for the command of a submarine. He did not have command of a submarine and he was bitter. I spoke on confession of sin and bitterness, and he was really wiped out. He came and saw me and got rid of this bitterness. The next morning, his wife said to me, “I’ve got a new husband.” He had been bitter toward the Navy. But it was his sin, not the Navy’s.

Amy Carmichael has a note in her little book If. “For a cup brimful of sweet water cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, however suddenly jolted.” If it is full of sweet water and is jolted, what will come out of the cup? Sweet water. If you gave it a harder jolt, what’s going to happen? More sweet water. If someone is filled with sweet water and someone else gives him a jolt, what will come out? Sweet water. Jolts do not turn sweet water into bitter water. That is done by something else.  Jolts only bring out of the container what’s already in the container. If you’re filled with sweetness and light, and you get jolted, you’re going to spill sweetness and light. If you’re filled with honey, the honey will come out. If vinegar comes out, what does that prove? It shows what was already in the container. In other words, much bitterness is not based upon what the other person did at all. It is the result of what we do and are.

Many years ago, I was working in our bedroom at my desk. My wife, Bessie, was reading in bed. Whatever I was doing wasn’t going well. Bessie said something to me and I turned around and let her have it. It was something unChristian. She looked at me in amazement and got up and left the room. I sat there thinking, “She should not have said it. Look what she said. Look, look, look.” I did that for around 10 minutes, maybe longer. I was bitter toward Bessie, but all she did was jolt the cup. What was in the cup came out of the cup.  If I had been filled with sweetness and light, it would not have made any difference. I sat there and thought about what she did. I knew better, because I had already learned this truth about bitterness. Still, I thought about her “sin” because there is enjoyment in accusing the other person. Some people do this for years.  I sat there for a while and then got up and went over to my side of the bed, got on my knees and said, “Lord, I was the only one at fault. It was my bitterness and my sin. I am confessing it, forsaking it, and please forgive me.”  I got up off my knees and said, “But look what she said.” I got back on my knees.  “God, I’m sorry for what I did. I accept the responsibility. It was my sin and mine only.”  I got up off my knees and said, “God, you and I know who is really at fault.” I knelt back down. I stayed on my knees for 45 minutes until I could get up and not say, “Look what she said.”  I do not remember now what she said, and I do not remember what I was doing at the desk. I do not remember the details. The only thing I remember now is getting up. But I also know that if I had not taken care of the bitterness I would know to this day exactly what she had said. That is the nature of bitterness.  In order to get rid of it, I have to see that it is evil and that it is my sin and my sin only. I do not get rid of it through the other person saying he is sorry. I do not get rid of it if the other person quits or dies. I do not get rid of it any other way except calling it sin against the holy God, confessing it and receiving forgiveness.

The difficulty is in getting my eyes off the other person’s sin. But just the fact that I think it is his problem shows that it is not. If it were his problem, and I was filled with sweetness and light, and not bitter, then I would be concerned about the other person.  I could say, “That poor guy! Look what he did. If I did something like that, I would feel awful. He must really feel awful. I think I will go help him.” But if that is not my response then I am bitter, and it is my sin, not his.  I believe that this sin is a major hindrance to revival in this country. When Christians start confessing their sins, they will be able to forgive the sins of others.


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