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Overcoming Bitterness by Rev. Doug Leaman (Banner 3/19)
Have you ever been wronged by someone who is close to you or by someone you care a lot about? What was your automatic response? Ephesians 4 has wonderful and profound insight about the inner life of man. The practical aspects of the Christian life flow out of the initial theological chapters. Sanctification follows salvation. Chapter four teaches that becoming more like Christ on the daily level of heart, mind and hands is a responsibility that is guided by putting off the old sinful habits and putting on new Godlike patterns of living. Faithful men have been teaching the power of developing good habits and leaving old ones simply because that is what the text teaches. Interestingly, neuroscience is finally catching up to biblical exegesis. Soon, everyone will be talking about the transformative power of habit. The PET scans show that habits of thinking change the brain! Ephesians 4:31 tells us to put off all bitterness and instead be kind, tenderhearted and forgiving towards others. This is exactly how Jesus lived His life, and Ephesians 5:1 tells us to imitate God as His children. Naomi, Jonah, Joseph’s brothers, Rachel and many others became bitter, and bitterness is still a huge problem for God’s people. Marriages, families, churches and even nations are destroyed because of it. When a Christian sins he knows guilt, but when he perceives that others have offended him he is tempted to get bitter. Bitterness is a deep and entrenched wound that can poison the soul, and we are now seeing how it negatively impacts the neural pathways.
Joseph is a good example for us. His brothers hated him and left him to die; the cupbearer forgot him, and he was betrayed by people in power. Joseph, however, was not controlled by men or circumstances. He interpreted life theologically. He knew that God’s sovereign will controls all the affairs of life. He knew that God and others owed him nothing for naked he came from the dust, and naked he would return. Thinking true thoughts (correct theology) kept bitterness from becoming deep roots of soul-controlling poison. No institution can withstand jealous bitterness. It is a powerful evil that brings division and destruction. How can you avoid this venom of the soul? Like Joseph, God’s people need to let theology guide their life. Supremely, they need to look to Jesus who though sharply betrayed, ignored, and sinned against by men gave His life in order to love and serve the very ones who so intensely afflicted Him. The best way to avoid bitterness is to be a person who constantly reflects on the amazing grace of God given to them on a daily basis.
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