Battling Bitterness with the Gospel of Grace

“Strive for 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; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled” (Hebrews 12:14–15 ESV)

This section comes on the heels of the section of scripture (Hebrews 12:3-13) that encourages the reader to endure their difficult circumstances and to view them as God’s loving, fatherly discipline.  He calls them (and us) to strive or work towards being peaceful with others and toward holiness – without which no one will see God.  We know that we are positionally holy because of the perfect life and atoning death of Jesus, but we are also called to live holy lives – to see our outside begin to match what He is doing inside.  The community aspect of our faith comes in to focus in verse 15, as we are called to make sure that no one in the community of faith fails to obtain the grace of God – that is everyone in our community understands and embraces the grace that God extends to the elect.  We are called to preach and press the gospel constantly in our lives and in our churches.

“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;” (Hebrews 12:15 ESV).  Press the gospel and grace, bathe yourself and your community in it and make sure that there is no “root of bitterness” among you.  This is the same Greek phrase that the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) uses in Deuteronomy 29:18:  “Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the LORD our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit,” (Deuteronomy 29:18 ESV).  When our heart turns away from God and looks to created things as the object of its worship, bitterness is the common byproduct.  Why?  Because we feel entitled to goodness and blessing and we aren’t getting what we think is due us.  Bitterness indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of grace and it is contagious in a community of faith.  When you find yourself struggling with anger or bitterness, the answer is not “just stop it,” or “try harder.”  The answer is to beg God to help you with your unbelief (Mark 9:24) and to help you to see His spectacular grace (undeserved approval) afforded to you, the chief of all sinners.  Grace is not owed to us, but is freely given in the person of Jesus.

Pursue peace and holiness as a community; in order to do this we must keep the gospel of God’s grace as the central component in our minds or else unbelief & idolatry can sneak in and produce bitterness in our lives and in our communities of faith.

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