THE POISON OF BITTERNESS
Our lesson begins with what happened after Philip had
preached the Good News to
Acts 8:14 Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them,† 15 who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit.† 16 For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.† 17 Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.† 18 And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money,† 19 saying, "Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit."† 20 But Peter said to him, "Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money!† 21 "You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God.† 22 "Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you.† 23 "For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity."† 24 Then Simon answered and said, "Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me."
The word bitterness has several meanings:
1. It can refer to plants that produce inedible or poisonous fruit.
2. It can refer to the emotional state of a person who shows animosity, anger, envy, resent or jealousy.
In our text, we can see that Simonís bitterness was that of envy because when he saw what the apostles could do through the laying on of their hands he wanted to be able to do it to, and he even offered them money to purchase it, but Peter rebukes him and tells him how he had been poisoned by his bitterness and how it has bound him and brought him back to sin.
Peter calls this bitterness poison and I like that description because anything that you do that will cause you to sin is poisonous and we all know what happens if we fail to treat the poison, we will get sicker and sicker and eventually we will die. The same is true when it comes to sin. If we continue to allow the poison of bitterness to remain in our life then we are going to become more and more spiritual sick until we find ourselves separated from God and if we die physically in that stated we will be separated from God forever.
However, there is antidote and Peter told Simon what it was. He is told to repent and to pray. Now we are not told if Simon ever took the antidote, but is implied that he did since he asked Peter to pray for him. If he had not been interested in repenting, it is very doubtful that he would have asked Peter to pray for him.
So, our lesson this morning is about the poison of bitterness. The first thing I want to look at is some of the things that cause bitterness.
James 3:13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.† 14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth.† 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic.† 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.
These two things envy and self-seeking will defiantly cause bitterness. However, I believe the main foundation for bitterness is self-seeking because when you are self-seeking, this means that you are the center of your universe because everything revolves around you. Every decision that you make and everything you do is prefaced with the thought, what will this do for me.
When you make yourself the number 1 priority in your life, it will cause you to become bitter at others because you donít want others to be better off than you. When a person is self-seeking they are usually very prideful and arrogant.† These characteristics go hand and hand. When you become arrogant and prideful your life will be filled with strife as,
Proverbs 13:10 By pride comes nothing but strife
Being self-seeking is a huge problem in our society today because we are being taught over and over again that we should take care of ourselves first and then worry about others if we feel like it, which is a direct contrast to Godís Word because Paul said,
Philippians 2:3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.† 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.† 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,
Life is so much better when we can get over ourselves and realize that we are not the center of the universe. When we get off our high horse, we can take great pleasure in thinking of others even when it doesnít benefit us.†
The second thing James said cause bitterness was envy and again I believe that envy comes from being self-seeking because a self-centered person will look at what someone has and they will wish they had it. Now there is nothing wrong† with wishing you had something someone else has, but when you have bitter envy, it will cause you to have animosity and you will begin to despise that person and in some instances you may even do harm to them because of your envy and jealousy of that person.
Proverbs 14:30 A sound heart is life to the body, But envy is rottenness to the bones. †
I donít care who you are you can always find something that someone else has that you donít have. Maybe they have the prettiest wife or the most handsome husband. Maybe they are richer than you or have the most talented kids. Maybe they are better at sports than you or they are smarter than you and the list go on and on, but what you need to realize is that it doesnít matter if you donít have it all. Instead, you should learn to be content with what you have been blessed with from God.
If everyone we are exactly the same and had the same things this would be one boring world. God created us in such a way that we have our own individual talents and unique circumstances. As Christians, we must learn to have the attitude that Moses had in,
Numbers 11:26 But two
men had remained in the camp: the name of one was Eldad, and the name of
the other Medad. And the Spirit rested upon them. Now they were among
those listed, but who had not gone out to the tabernacle; yet they prophesied
in the camp.† 27 And a young
man ran and told Moses, and said, "Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the
camp."† 28 So Joshua the
son of Nun, Moses' assistant, one of his choice men, answered and said,
"Moses my lord, forbid them!"† 29
Then Moses said to him, "Are you zealous for my sake? Oh, that all the
LORD's people were prophets and that the LORD would put His Spirit upon
them!"† 30 And Moses
returned to the camp, both he and the elders of
These 2 men were prophesying in the camp and Joshua didnít like this idea and he wanted Moses to forbid it. Now if Moses had been self-seeking, he could have became angry that someone else was doing his job, but Moses was not like this, instead he was happy that these 2 men were doing this and he even wished that all the people could do this. This is the attitude that we should have because as James said,
James 3:16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.
Now that we have looked at some of the causes of bitterness, letís talk about the impact of the poison of bitterness.
Briars are very difficult to get rid of because their root will grow many feet under the ground and when you cut down a briar and will simply grow up from another place from that root. Even if you get to root and chop it up, if any of it remains behind it will continue grow.
This is how the root of bitterness can be because when we are poisoned by bitterness its effects will run deep and long and it will show up in all kinds of places. We need to understand that once we unleash our bitterness on others, what we say cannot be taken back and the damage is done.
I read a story about how father wanted to teach his son this lesson because his son was always calling his younger sister mean names and doing mean things to her. So, every time he was caught doing this to his sister his father made him go drive a nail into a beautiful piece a wood he had bought. As the days went on, it didnít take long for the board to be filled with nails and the father showed his son all these nails that represented all the times he had been mean to his younger sister and the young boy begin to understand how mean he had been to his sister, but his farther had another lesson for him to learn, so he told him to remove all these nails from this beautiful piece of wood, and he did. When he was finished he told his son to look at the holes and the damage that the nails had done to the board after they were removed and the Father told the son that his meanness to his sister was just the nails and this piece of wood because every time he was mean to her he caused great damage and even when he said he was sorry for what he did the damage was still left behind because even when something is forgiven the damage of our words and actions remains behind.
We need to understand that being bitter is wrong, and it will not help anyone when we act this way. Bitterness can destroy our relationships with others because when we are bitter we are going to rub them the wrong way and not just once, but we will continue to do this until it gets to the point where your friend or loved one no longer wants to have anything to do with you.
Not only does bitterness affect those around you, it also affects you. Those who are poisoned by bitterness are some of the most miserable people that you will ever meet because they are never satisfied and they always want more and more for themselves. They cannot maintain healthy relationships with spouse, family members or their friends because bitterness will get in the way every time. So, nothing good ever comes from being bitter.
Another place the bitterness can cause negative things to happen in when bitterness is allowed to enter the Lordís church. This is why Paul warned Timothy,
†2 Timothy 3:1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:† 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,† 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good,† 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,† 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
When Paul wrote this, these things were happening in the first century and they are still happening today. Now some get confused on what the last days are, but Peter in Acts 2:14ff clearly states that the lasts days began in the first century and we are still in the last days today. Paul tells Timothy and us to stay away from those that are lovers of themselves along with the others sins are listed.
We should certainly keep bitterness out of the Lordís church because if we do not it can cause all kinds of problems and it will disrupt the unity of the church. It can take our attention of what is important and cause us to fight battles that we should not be fighting.
Now think about this, do you want to be responsible for causing the Lordís church to become dysfunctional? When the Day of Judgment comes and the books are opened and you are standing before Jesus, what answer can you possible give to justify your bitterness toward others or how it hindered the church to grow for a season?
So as Christians we must strive to keep bitterness out of our life and out of the church and we should focus our attention on how we can build the church up instead of tearing it down.
For our final point this morning I want to look at some ways that we can learn to overcome the poison of bitterness.
Hebrews 12:14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:† 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;
We are given two ways that help us get bitterness out of life and these two things must be done in order to see the Lord.
First, we are to pursue peace with all people, which is completely opposite of what a bitter person will do. If we focus our efforts on getting a long with folks, instead of being jealous or angry with them, then we are not going to have much room for bitterness. But before we can accomplish this, we must first become at peace with ourselves and accept who are and realize that world does not revolve around us. Once we realize this, it will make it possible for us to be at peace with ourselves and with others.
Second, we are to Pursue holiness, which literally means sanctification. The way we do this is found in,
1 Peter 1:22 Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart,† 23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever,
So the way that we can pursue holiness or sanctification is by obeying Gods Word and living by it. If you will allow the Word of God to be your guide on a daily basis I firmly believe that you will be able to defeat the poison of bitterness because you will learn how bitterness affected others in the Bible and the consequences that came from it, and when you use Jesus as your example you will see how He always put God first and He was always concerned about those around Him. When you see the compassion and love He had for you and the entire human race, it should inspire you to be the same.
Paul also wrote,
Ephesians 4:31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.† 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.
As Christians we must continue to grow and strive to keep bitterness out of our life, and we can do it. As Paul said we can learn to be kind to one another, tenderhearted and forgiving of one another by following Jesusí example.
Not only will studying Godís Word and following His example help us, we must never forget the wonderful avenue of prayer. If you will pray to God for help with the bitterness in your life, I believe that He will help you with it.
In a perfect world none of us would have problems with bitterness, but since we donít, most of us will probably have to deal with this sin, but one of the greatest gifts we have received since we have become Christians is the ability to repent and confess our sins before God. When we do this we can overcome the poison of bitterness just like Simon the magician was told to do by Peter that we talked about at the beginning of this lesson.
In this lesson we have learned what bitterness is and what causes it, its impact and how we can overcome it and I hope that if you have bitterness in your life today that you realize that God doesnít want you to be bitter and if you continue down the bitter path you are going to find yourself miserable and separated from God.
So, I hope you will make the decision today to start pursing peace with those around you and pursuing holiness by living your life for God based on His Word.