James Merritt - Root Canal
Bitterness is harbored hurt hidden in the heart. Let me just tell you why I'm kind of passionate about this. Of all the range of human emotions that we can enter into, fear, depression, lust, anger, whatever, the one that I'm absolutely deathly afraid of is bitterness. Bitterness scares me. Bitterness frightens me. And the reason why I fear bitterness more than anything else is because I have learned that bitterness destroys its own container. The person that gets hurt the most by being bitter is the bitter person themselves. And there's a little passage in the Scripture.
If you brought your Bible this morning, or if you have an iPad or an iPhone, there's a little book in the Bible called Hebrews. It's not a little book. It's relatively a big book, but just a small passage in the book of Hebrews. It's about four, five books, six books, right back from the end of the Bible. I want you to turn to Hebrews chapter 12, and there's a little passage of Scripture where the author of Hebrews talks not just about the reality of bitterness, he gives us the secret to the removal of bitterness. And I, I just want to stop, and I just want to say this to some of you in this room. I realize right now walls went up everywhere. I get it.
You're sitting there right now and you're saying, "Hey, wait a minute, big boy. Just wait just a minute. You don't know what I'm dealing with, you don't know what was done to me, you don't know how I was mistreated, you don't know how I was abused, you don't know what I'm dealing with. Don't stand up there and tell me about my bitterness. You've not been where I've been". You're exactly right. I get it. But I will tell you this, if you want to live a wasted life and a ruined life, you keep stewing in your bitterness, because I'm going to tell you one thing right now, and I challenge you to challenge this if you think you can, there is nothing positive that ever comes out of bitterness; nothing. It doesn't make you feel better; it makes you feel worse. It doesn't lift you up; it tears you down.
And, oh, by the way, you may want to get even one day, let me give you a little secret, you never get even. You never get even. So, I really want to help you today, so I'm going to ask you to put the walls down. Put your dukes down. Look, you're free to go. You can walk out a bitter person like you walked in. I just want to help you try to understand why that's not the best choice for you. Now, some of you are sitting there and saying, "Help me. Pastor, I've tried to get rid of it. I really want to rid of it. I what it's doing to me. I just can't do it". Well, the author of Hebrews says you can, and he tells us exactly how. Now, let me just stop. This is not going to be an easy message. Not today. This is tougher than tithing, okay? This is a hard one, all right? So, but I want to share with you three things that I promise you, and I've had to practice these in my own life, three things if you'll do, you can get rid of this poison called bitterness.
Number one, "You've got to go to the heart of your bitterness". You've got to go to the heart of your bitterness. Now, let's look in Hebrews chapter 12, verse 15, here's what the author says. He says, "See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God". Let me just stop there. I don't know exactly all that means, but whatever it means I don't want to do it. I want all the grace of God I can get. "See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no 'root of bitterness' springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled". That's what I love about the Bible. God is the master psychologist. There's never been a better psychiatrist than God, never a better counselor. You know why? God created the mind. God created the heart. God created the soul. God created the spirit. God knows you better than you know you. And God says, "I know the problem with bitterness".
And so, first of all, he tells the author of Hebrews, "I want you to call bitterness a root," because you won't understand bitterness until you understand it's just like a root. Now, think about a root. A root is something that's beneath the surface, right? It's impossible, you can't see it, it's invisible to the eye, but that root is just as real as the tree. That root is just as real as the plant. Now, there's something else that bitterness and a root have in common. Even though a root is not very far from the surface, it stretches very deep into the soil. And what you'll find is the root of bitterness, though it's never far from the surface of your lips or your life, you'll show it. You got a hair-trigger temper, you're always negative, you're always critical, you're always finding fault, you're always believing the worst about people, not the best. It's all because of that bitterness. It's right below the surface.
And every now and then it comes out, 'cause you just can't help it, but it reaches deep into the soil of your heart. And what the author of Hebrews is saying is bitterness, just like a root, a root has to have two things: you got to have a seed and you got to have soil. Now, what is the seed of bitterness? The seed of bitterness is whatever it is that makes you bitter: the person that fired you; the spouse that walked out on you; the man that abused you; whatever it may be, that is the seed of your bitterness. The soil is the heart. The root of bitterness always plants itself in the heart.
Now, here's the truth of the matter. Bitterness is a root that you can't see, but it always bears fruit that you will see. Interesting. It's a root that you can't see, but it always bears fruit that you will see. See, bitterness will find its root in your heart, but it will bear its fruit in your life. It will be seen. You're impatient, hair-trigger temper, very critical, always faultfinding, can't get along with people. It's because of that bitterness. And so, the first thing the author of Hebrews says is this, "You've got to get to the root of your problem. You've got to go to the heart of your bitterness," and bitterness is always a problem of the heart.
As a matter of fact, I thought about this the other day. You know, this is kind of interesting. Have you ever noticed how very few bitter people will ever admit they're bitter? How many times you've had this happen? How many times have you ever touched somebody's nerve? I mean you've really hit a raw nerve in their life. And boy, before you know it, their eyes get big, their veins pop out, they start breathing heavy, their voice is raised, and they start really going at it, and then they'll go "But I'm not bitter". Sure, you're bitter. What's down in the well comes up in the bucket. Not far from the surface. So, the root you don't see but the fruit you do see. So first of all, you got to get to the heart of your bitterness.
Number two, "You've got to see the hurt of your bitterness". Now, again, I warned you this is going to get tougher, not easier. See the author of Hebrews warns us, he said, "If a root of bitterness springs up," if you remember what he said. He said, "It causes trouble". A bitter root always bears bitter fruit and the root of bitterness is no different. Bitterness will affect every part of you. It will affect you on the outside, it will affect you on the inside, it will affect your relationship to God, it will affect your relationship with others, it will affect your relationship with yourself.
Now, let me explain to you what I mean by that. Let me just tell you how bitterness affects you. Bitterness, first of all, will affect you mentally. As the root of bitterness grows, it will take up more and more of the soil of your heart. Bitterness never lies dormant. Bitterness is not benign. Bitterness is malignant. It's kind of like a cancer. It's always growing, it's always relentless. And you know, a really virulent cancer takes over every organ of your body. It goes to the brain, goes to the lungs, goes to the kidneys, it goes everywhere in your body. That's exactly what bitterness will do. Bitterness is an emotional and spiritual cancer. And what you'll find is, when you're really bitter, here's what's interesting, you take that person you're bitter against everywhere you go.
You can't get away from that person. It's almost like you have a mental picture in the billfold of your mind. You think about them, you think about how you can hurt them, you think about how you can get even with them, you think about all the bad things you wish would happen to them. You spend waking moments of your life thinking how can I really make them suffer for what they've done to me? Because the brain says, "Until you get this thing right, until you get this thing resolved, don't worry, I won't let it go. I'll make sure you go to sleep with it, I'll make sure you wake up with it, I'll make sure you walk with it, I'll make sure you live with it, I'll make sure you eat with it, I'll make sure you breathe with it. We will not ever let it go until it's resolved".
It'll affect you mentally. It'll affect you emotionally. Any doctor will now tell you they know that bitterness acts just like a depressant. Matter of fact, you know, I got to thinking about this the other day. I met tens of thousand people in my life and in my ministry, and a lot of wonderful people. But it hit me the other day, you know, there's one type of person I have never met in my life and I bet you haven't either. I have never met a happy, joyful, bitter person. Have you? I've never met anybody that says, "Hey, man, how you doing"? "Oh man, I'm just so bitter, it's wonderful. You ought to join me. There's nothing like it. It's just awesome".
Bitterness helps you enjoy your vacation more. Bitterness gives you an appetite. Bitterness helps you sleep better. I have never met anyone that came into my...and really, nobody's ever walked in my office and said, "I am the happiest person in the world because I'm so bitter". There are no happy, bitter people out there. I'll tell you what they are. They're cynical, they're faultfinding, they're critical, they're negative, and if they're honest, they battle depression. I'll tell you something else you'll find about bitter people, bitter people tend to be emotionally distant. A bitter person is kind of like a porcupine. Got a lot of good points, you just can't get close to 'em. You know what I'm saying? I mean, that was pretty good. I kind of like that.
But anyway, look, bitter people, listen, bitter people find it hard to emotionally connect. And you know why they find it hard? Because they're so emotionally disconnected in their own heart. They can't even connect to themselves because they're so bitter and they're so angry. You'll find that bitter people, you'll find something else. You'll find that bitter people who are really bitter, they're not just unforgiving people. You know what else is affected? They become ungrateful people.
You say, "Well, why do you think that's true? Why is bitterness like kryptonite to gratitude"? I'll tell you why. You cannot be grateful to God for what he's done for you as long as you're bitter towards someone else because of what they've done to you. You can't do it. You cannot be grateful to God for what God has done for you, as long as you are bitter towards someone else because of what they have done to you. See, that's why bitterness is so dangerous. That's why I'm so afraid of it. Somebody said that bitterness will cause you to burn your house down to kill a rat. It's true. It's like being an emotional suicide bomber. You want to hurt others, but you wind up killing yourself. It will affect you emotionally, it will affect you mentally.
Let me tell you this. It will affect you physically. You know, the human spine is an amazing thing. You ever watch these bodybuilders in the Olympics? It's amazing how these small guys in the Olympics who weigh 150 pounds, can lift 500 pounds. They can lift three, four times their weight. It's unbelievable. The human spine can carry a tremendous load. The body was never created to carry a grudge. The body was never created to handle bitterness and to handle a grudge. As a matter of fact, doctors now know, they have now documented there are over 50 diseases ranging from ulcers to high blood pressure that's directly caused by bitterness.
Think about that. There are people that are paying astronomical doctor bills not because there's a physical problem, but because there's an emotional, and a mental, and a spiritual problem caused by bitterness. It's physical. Matter of fact, there were two famous doctors. Certainly, you may have heard of them: one's named Frank Minirth; one's named Paul Meier. It's called the Minirth Meier Clinic. They are wonderful believers; got a great clinic out in Dallas. They researched a few years ago, they researched 10,000 people who were burned out. They were so burned out, they quit their jobs. Some of them were so burned out, they left their families. Some of them so burned out, they were just ready to commit suicide.
They interviewed 10,000 of these people. They diagnosed the top three reasons why people burn out and they were, by their own admission, they were shocked at what they found. They assumed what most all of us have always assumed, that the number one reason people burn out is because of stress, because they're overextended, because they got too much to do and they can't get it all done. And they said, "Nope, that's the third reason people burn out". I thought, "Okay, what's the second one"? They were surprised. Second reason people burn out is because they're type A personalities, they're workaholics, they're perfectionists. Nothing's ever good enough, so they'll burn the midnight oil even when they don't need to, so they burn out.
Well, you've already guessed it. They were amazed when they found that the number one cause of burnout was bitterness. The number one cause of people burning out in their jobs, burning out in their families, burning out in their life, the number one reason was because they were unwilling to forgive someone that had done them wrong, and they were unwilling to let go of a grudge. That was the dominant cause. Bitterness will affect you mentally, it will affect you emotionally, it will affect you physically.
And bitterness, we've already seen will affect you spiritually. Because listen to what the author of Hebrews goes on to say in verse 14 before he got to verse 15. Listen to this, he said, "Strive for peace with everyone," try to be at peace with everyone, "and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God". Now, I want you to listen. If you don't hear anything else, listen to what he just said. He said if you're a bitter person, I guarantee you three things are true about you right now. And if you say they're not true, you're a liar.
The author of Hebrews said if you are a bitter person, number one, you don't have peace on the inside; number two, you don't have holiness on the upside; and number three, you're not gracious on the outside. And he's right. You examine your life. You don't have peace on the inside, you don't have holiness on the upside, you're not gracious on the outside, you don't look to God, you don't love God, you don't live for God like you should because you're bitter. And what's the result. Listen to this. He says in verse 15, "And by it many become defiled".
See, here's another reason why I'm so afraid of bitterness. I might could handle bitterness if I knew the only person that bitterness would hurt would be me. Now, I'm the primary person that hurts, but I'm not the only person. Bitterness never hurts one person. I'm watching 'em before my very eyes right now. I'm watching it happen. I'm watching a marriage destroyed by bitterness. I have seen friendships ruined by bitterness. I have seen churches split over bitterness. I have seen lives ruined by bitterness. And I just want to say something right now, because I know again, I know walls are going up some, maybe, you've bring it down, then you bring it back up, bring it down, and I know suddenly you're probably really upset that I'm talking to you because you think, "You know, you just don't know what you're talking about. You're not sitting in my chair, you're not wearing my shoes".
I just want to say this to you, if you walk out of here and you don't deal with your bitterness, and there's going to be a choice, if you walk out of here, or walk out of our other campus, or you turn that computer off, and you say, "Nope, I'm going to keep living my old, bitter life," I'm just telling you, you're going to waist whatever life you have left and you're going to ruin whatever life you have left. 'Cause there's one thing nobody can argue with, so don't even try, there is nothing positive that ever comes out of bitterness. Nothing.
So number one, "Go to the heart of your bitterness". Number two, "See the hurt of your bitterness". And then here's the last one, it gets tougher, "Remove the hate of your bitterness". Now, here's how the author of Hebrews puts it. He says, "See to it," that's you. This is on you, you can do this. "See to it that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many". All right. Let's go back to the metaphor. If you've got a root that's causing problems, then there's only one way to deal with it. I've got some guys back here that do my yard work. They know what I'm talking about. When you've got a problem and it's rooted, there's only one way to deal with it. You got to get a shovel, you got to dig it up, you got to cut it out, you got to pull it up and you've got to get rid of it.
Let me help you get rid of this root of bitterness in your life. My hands are... I got velvet hands. Okay, I'll be real sweet. Be okay. And by the way, I don't take insurance from Medicare, I'd do it for nothing. All right, look, the first way you deal with bitterness is you got to forget it. Now just stay with me, because I don't mean what you think I mean by that. But the first thing you got to do is you've got to forget it. You've got to take whatever it was that painted that root of bitterness in your heart and you got to bury it. Paul puts it this way in another passage. He says, "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and slander, be put away from you along with all malice".
Now, he put this in order for a reason. He says, "You have wrath"? "Yep". "You got anger"? "Sure do". "Clamor"? "Yep". "Slander"? "Yeah". "Malice"? "Yeah". "You're negative? Faultfinding? Critical"? "Yep, that's me". He says if you don't get rid of that you're going to be this. So, the first thing you've got to do, he says here's what you got to do, "Let all bitterness," and here's the phrase, "be put away from you". That word for put away means to dispose of. It means to get rid of. It means to dig a hole and it means to bury it somewhere. You've got to get rid of it. You notice what Paul is saying is you've got to get that get even feeling out of your heart because you're never going to get even anyway. So, you've got to get that get even feeling out of your heart. You've got to bury that. Whatever caused that bitterness, go bury it in an unmarked grave and forget where you buried it.
Now, let me tell you what I don't mean by that. I'm not telling you, you just had to forget what they did to you. You will never forget what they did to you. You can't do that. I get that. I'm not saying you got to forget the hurt they caused you. You won't ever sometimes forget. Sometimes those feelings of hurt will come back. But here's what the author of Hebrews, this is what Paul says you can do, he says once you forgive that person, the next time Satan tries to dig that hurt back up, and the next time Satan tries to dig that memory back up, and the next time Satan tries to dig that anger back up you, just take it and you bathe it in the warm water of God's grace. And then you give it a shower in the warm water of your forgiveness. I am no longer going to remember and focus on what somebody did to me. I'm going to remember and focus on what God has done for me.
Now, I'm telling you that works. I'm telling you right now that works. And I'm just telling you right now, you want to burn the rest of your life, and burn the rest of your energy, and go to bed every night, and stew and gripe and complain, and think about what somebody did to you, you go right ahead. But you are wasting your time and you are wasting your life and you're ruining yourself in the process. Instead, forget it. Forget what someone's done to you and start focusing on what God has done for you. 'Cause I will tell you this, I don't care what you come up and tell me someone has done to you; it can't compare to what our heavenly father has done for us. It cannot. Joseph made that decision. He said, "I'm going to remember what you have done for me".
So number one, you've got to forget it. Number two, you've got to forgive it. Now, you go to any counselor; you can pay a lot of money to do this. I'm just going to... I'll save you a lot of money. I'm going to help you. You can go to the most expensive counselor in Atlanta, Georgia, sit down and say, "I got a problem with bitterness. You have a cure for it"? He's going to say, "Yeah". I can tell you what the cure is in one word, forgiveness. There's no other antidote to bitterness. None. The only antidote to bitterness is forgiveness. And someone defined forgiveness as giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me. Now, if you don't, here's what will happen, watch this. If you don't the author of Hebrews says, "You will fall short of the grace of God".
Now, what did he mean by that? Here's what he meant. Until you go back to the cross of Jesus Christ, and you remember how the grace of God has forgiven you, you will never forgive anybody else. In other words, you'll never forgive someone for what they have done to you until you both realize and experience how God has forgiven you for what you have done to him. Now, let me just talk, put it to you this way. I'm going through a situation right now in my life. Very few people know it. Some of you do. It's tough, one of the toughest situations I've ever been through in my entire life, ever. My faith is being tested like never before. I have to get up every day and ask myself, "Do you really believe what you've been preaching all these years or you just been talking"?
And I do believe it, and I do practice it. Not saying it's easy, but I do. But I want to tell you something, I just made up my mind, I am not going to ever be bitter towards someone who has done something wrong to me, until what they have done wrong to me is worse than what I have done to Jesus. I'm just not going to do it. And nobody is capable of doing anything worse to me than what I have done to Jesus. And if you don't believe that, you don't understand sin and you don't understand what we did to Jesus. So, I just made up my mind. I said, "Okay, you know what? There's a place for righteous anger, there's a place for indignation. That's all good and that's all fine. I am not going to be bitter".
The great pastor, Charles Pritchett put it this way. He said, "Go to the cross to learn how you have been forgiven, and then stay a while to learn how to forgive". "Go to the cross to learn how you have been forgiven, and then stay a while to learn how to forgive". So, as we wrap all this up, just listen one more time to verse 14, "Strive for peace with everyone," you, that's on you. "Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord". That word, "strive," means to pursue, to get after it, to be aggressive, to take the initiative. Now, here's where it gets real hard. You're bitter. "Yeah, you better believe I'm bitter". Someone's done you wrong. "Yeah, you better believe they'd done me wrong. If I told you what they did, you'd say, 'You're right, they did you wrong.'"
Okay, I get it. The author of Hebrews says if you're the one that's been wronged and you're the bitter person, you take the initiative to end the war. You take the initiative to sign the peace treaty. You take the initiative to rebuild the bridge. You take the initiative to restore the relationship. Now, let me just stop. You say, "I can't do that". Now, you're going to love this part of the sermon. If you hated every part of it except this one, you're going to love this one. You're sitting there and you're saying, "I can't do that". You ready for this? You're right. I agree. You can't do it. Some of you have tried. Didn't work. You know why? Because it takes two to forgive. It takes you and Jesus. "No, sir; no, ma'am, you're not going to forgive that spouse on your own. It ain't going to happen".
Excuse my grammar; good theology, ain't going to happen. No, you're not going to forgive that person that sexually abused you as a child. Not by yourself. Not going to happen. No, you're not going to abuse that business person that left you holding the bag, and left you in debt thousands and tens of thousands dollars, and they got off scot-free. No, you're not going to forgive them on your own. It takes you and Jesus. But here's the bottom line and we're through, here's the bottom line. So, you walked in here today or you walked into our campus at Mill Creek, bitter. And let's just be honest, you're bitter, so you walked in here bitter. I can't control how you walked in because you've already walked in. I can help you control how you walk out.
So, here's the bottom line and then we're done. You can be full of bitterness and empty of Jesus, or you can be full of Jesus and empty of bitterness, but you can't be both. Your heart's not a duplex, and Jesus says, "I'll take one side, you can put whatever you want on the other side". He says, "Your heart's a throne, and if I'm not sitting on the throne, I'm out of here. So, either bitterness goes and I stay or I go and bitterness stays. One of the two has to go". So you could leave full of bitterness and empty of Jesus, or full of Jesus and empty of bitterness, but I just want to warn you before you make your decision because I've seen it in my own life, I've seen it time after time, after time. My brothers and my sisters, bitterness is no way to live and bitterness is no way to die. The only way to live is as a forgiving person, and the only way to die is as a forgiven person; and you can do both by the grace of God.