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By J. W. Jepson, D.Min.Life In Christ Center, 3095 Cherry Heights Road, The Dalles, Oregon 97058
copyright © 1998 by J. W. Jepson
All rights reserved, including the right to grant the following permission and to prohibit the misuse thereof:The Author hereby grants permission to reproduce the text of this article, without changes or alterations*, as a ministry, but not for commercial or non-ministry purposes.
*Permission is given for publication of excerpts and condensed versions.
(First published in The Pentecostal Evangel, March 14, 1982)
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I shall never forget that brief moment as long as I live. It happened many years ago, but it stands out sharply in my mind as though it were only last week.
I was a student at what is now Bethany Bible College. At that time the school was in San Francisco, and some of us were assigned to conduct a service in a mission on Howard Street.
As was our custom, several of us stepped down from the platform at the close of the sermon and began talking with the men, urging them to accept Christ.
I approached a man who appeared to be in his early thirties. His eyes flashed cold steel. When I invited him to accept the Savior, he shot back at me angrily, "Will that get my $20,000 that my wife skipped out with?"
For a moment I was taken aback by such a retort, but I recovered and attempted to impress on him the importance of accepting Christ. It was to no avail. All he would talk about was what his wife had done to him. Bitterness had poisoned his soul. It was enslaving him, consuming him, destroying him.
The world is full of bitterness. Masses of people are drowning in resentment, hate, and anger. They are indulging in self-pity, consuming it greedily while it in turn consumes them. Their bitterness finds expression through cruel, slashing words.
Television dredges up bucketfuls of it to provide a feast for those who relish its vile flavor. Its poison turns marriages into nightmares, robs people of sleep, saps the vitals out of body and soul, looses the specter of fear, fuels the crime rate, fills prisons, and populates the caverns of hell.
The Psalmist prayed: "Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked; from the insurrection of the workers of iniquity: who whet their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter words" (Psalm 64:2,3). "Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness" (Romans 3:14).
Bitterness is no plaything. It is a killer, a lethal poison in the soul. We cannot be right with God while we knowingly cherish its venom and allow its dark passions to rankle within us.
Hebrews 12:15 warns us to look "diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled."
The whole issue of our salvation is at stake in this matter. We cannot at the same time be loving and bitter, bound and free, holy and sinful, right and wrong, saved and lost. The one excludes the other.
"Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.... But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth" (James 3:11, 12, 14).
The Word of God commands us: "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice" (Ephesians 4:31). This order is imperative, vital.
So is Colossians 3:19: "Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them." Deal with those feelings. Dialogue them out. Face them. Bring them to the Cross. Put self-pity to death. Kill bitterness before it kills your marriage, your family, your church, your life, your soul.
Flee to Christ. Throw yourself on His grace and mercy. Let Him cleanse you from bitterness and make you "unto God a sweet savor of Christ" (2 Corinthians 2:15).
The antidote to bitterness is to feed our minds on the Lord. The Psalmist records his experience in Psalm 104:34: "My meditation of him shall be sweet." We need to drink of the pure, sweet waters of God's presence and feed our souls on God's Word which is "sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb" (Psalm 19:10).
How sweet are thy words unto my taste!" the Psalmist declared. "Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth" (Psalm 119:103).
To clear up hard feelings and break down barriers, we can take a cue from Philippians 4:18. Paul wrote: "I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God." Send some flowers or cookies and a kind note. Then prayerfully follow it up with a sincere and gracious phone call. Give the grace of God a change to work.
Turning to James 3, notice verses 17 and 18: "But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace."
That's what happens when people let the peace of God rule in their hearts. It's the happy result of letting the Lord have His way.
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