Community Group Study Notes
- Why is it necessary for us to get rid of bitterness? What are the consequences if we don’t?
- Interact with this statement: what has been done for you at the cross is greater than anything that has, or ever will be, done to you. In what ways will this understanding change our lives? What stands in the way of us believing that?
- What is one action step you can take with what you heard in Sunday’s message?
"Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?" (Matthew 18:33)
Alright, by a show of hands, whether you're in this worship environment right here in our Cross Point Campus or in the East Worship Center, show of hands, how many of you know someone who could be considered a bitter person put your hand up in the air? All right. That's a lot of us. All right. Some of you don't. Great, that's fantastic. But many of you do. In my mind, I'm going to, do you know anyone? Have you lived in just your house forever? Or whatever. I bet if I guessed, you would also probably be able to tell me, generally speaking, the reasons that those people are bitter.
If there's somebody that you really know, and you consider them to be a bitter person, you probably have some idea as to why they're bitter, some of the reasons around that. It's generally not really difficult for us to be able to see people that are bitter because of how they act and what they say and all that kind of stuff. But I wonder how easy it is for us to turn that dial back on ourselves and kind of look through that scope and whether or not we see ourselves inhabiting any bitterness in our own heart. Sometimes it's not quite as easy to see.
Now, bitterness results from a number of reasons, right? Bitterness can result from something that was said about us, it can be about something that was done to us, it can be about something that was taken from us, or it can be about maybe something we feel is owed to us. Any of those circumstances we can get into a place where we feel embittered, maybe toward people or maybe toward God, or maybe toward who knows. Like, for instance, if you got looked over or passed over for a job, you might feel embittered. You might be embittered about your employer, you might be embittered about the person who got your job, you're thinking to yourself, "Wait a minute, I'm better than they are. I'm smarter than they are."
And now you've got a growing bitterness inside of you, as a result of that. Or maybe you didn't make that dance team, or that sports team or whatever and somebody made it in your place. Or, you're second string instead of first string, and you're embittered toward the people that are in front of you, or you're embittered toward the coaches, or the captains, or the leaders, or the sponsors or whatever. We can all ind ourselves embittered. Or, maybe you have lost someone, maybe someone was taken from you in an illness or a tragedy, whether that was a family member or a friend or a spouse or something like that, and as a result you're embittered. And you're not sure exactly who, you might be embittered at. Maybe God, you might be embittered at them. How could they leave me? No telling, right?
There's all sorts of ways that we can find ourselves embittered, maybe we've been mocked, or we've been made fun of when we were younger, or maybe even when we're older. And as a result of that we've held on to some bitterness for people in our lives, who've kind of said things about us and said things to us. Maybe we've been taken advantage of. Maybe it was in a business relationship. Maybe it was in a personal relationship. And as a result of that, you've formed some bitterness inside of your heart. Maybe you think you know what, "I should be in a different place in life right now. I'm really old, that because of the things that I've done." And you look around at other people, and you think to yourself, "I can't believe that they have what they have, or they're doing what they're doing. And here am I in this place at this time in my life." And as a result, you're embittered about it.
It could be because you see people and you're like, "How did they find a relationship before me, I can't believe that this has happened." And now you've got bitterness growing inside of your heart. I don't know what it might be for you. I couldn't cover all those bases. But what I do know is this is there's a lot of bitter people in the world. There's a lot of bitter people and in this culture that we live in, which is an outrage culture, and, and I'm offended at everything culture, and I want to be angry about everything, culture, it's not really hard to find people who are embittered toward a bunch of other people, or maybe just embittered toward God.
But here's my concern. It's not about everybody else in the world, it's about you. My concern is, is when bitterness start seeping into the lives of Jesus people. I know that bitterness is going to be out in the world, because we basically live in a vast ocean of bitterness in the world that we live in, I get it. But I'm concerned when that bitterness starts sliding in to the people of Jesus. In fact, it's not a concern that I only share, it's a concern the apostle Paul had, even as long as 2000 years ago. When he was writing to some of the churches that he planted, and that he was developing and caring for, he was concerned about them growing bitter as well, because he knew what that was like inside of the human heart and how awful that was.
In fact, when Paul was writing to the church at Ephesus, I want you to hear his words and what he says in Ephesians chapter four. Says, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs. That it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every other form of malice." In other words, calm down. Get rid of all bitterness.
Now, Paul's exhortation to us, his command, to Ephesus and now by extension to us is pretty clear, right? We don't have to read into that, he says it pretty obviously, "Get rid of all of your bitterness, get rid of all of your bitterness. Now, he doesn't seem to in this particular text, he doesn't seem to outline why we should get rid of all bitterness. But all of us kind of innately know that we should, and we know it's not good for us. But for our purposes today, even though Paul did not necessarily expound on why we should get rid of it, I want to actually talk about it. Because if we're going to obey this command, to get rid of all bitterness, we need to understand why we're getting rid of it and then we need to understand, how we're going to get rid of it. Seems pretty simple to me. Why, and how.
Well, I've got just a handful of things that I've kind of traced through the scripture as to why we should get rid of bitterness that I think we should know. Even though some of this might be, we might go, "Yeah, we know it's bad, right?" But let me give you a few reasons from the passages of Scripture that I'm going to note that will help us understand that. Here's the first, why do we get rid of bitterness? Because bitterness is poison. It's poison. This is basically poison to our souls and by the way, it's poison to other people as well, when we don't get rid of the bitterness that's in our lives.
In fact, when Paul was writing another one of his letters, not this one to Ephesus, but when he was writing to the church at Rome. It's a really rich and deep book and when he was writing, kind of when we read chapter three, he's talking about both Jews and Gentiles, and that there's really no kind of special deal granted, just because you're Jewish. Because even those who are Jewish people, they're kind of, they're still warped by sin. Just like people who are not Jewish, called Gentiles are also warped by sin.
Then Paul speaks very, very emphatically very starkly about what people who are warped by sin end up doing and being. In fact, here's what he said in Romans chapter three. He said, "For we've already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. As it is written, "There is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who understands there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away they have together become worthless, there is no one who does good, not even one. Their throats are open graves, their tongues practice deceit, the poison of vipers is on their lips." And notice this, their mouths were that poison is are full of cursing and bitterness."
You see, Paul knew that those who are kind of separated from Jesus who are not walking according to what Jesus has called them to, have this poison of bitterness that is affecting their lives. And by the way, it affects the lives of the people that are around them. I don't know if we realize how much bitterness is a poison to us, but we better realize it. Now, recently, I was reading some survival tips on if you get bit by a poisonous state. It doesn't matter why I was reading it, it doesn't matter. I am occasionally on some covert operations. But nonetheless, it doesn't matter why I was reading these things. But I was reading some survival tips about if you get bit by a poisonous snake. And the survival tips were what not to do. The whole thing was like, "Don't do this if you get bit by a poisonous snake."
Of course, some of them seem to be reasonably obvious. Like they said, If you're with somebody who gets bit by a poisonous snake, "Don't start doing that suck and spit thing." It doesn't work. Don't do it. I know this for a fact. Because when I was in a lake in Georgia, one time I got bit by water snake, and then I swam back to the dock and found my stupid friend. Really, we were both stupid, but it was a group of stupid people. But he was one of them. And I was also part of that group. He threw me down and he started ... I swore I got bit right there, by a little water snake. I was sitting on a raft, and I got hit right there. And I was like, "What is that? And I scraped it off, then I'm like, "Snake!" And I swam back to the dock. My stupid friend Billy starts sucking and spiting. Right there, he go ... I've got nothing. It's not poisonous. It was a water snake. The only thing I've got to show for it is a massive hickey right here on my stomach.
Oh, man. Was that too much information? No, really? Here it is. It's right ... It's gone at this point. You don't suck and spit. So that was one of the survival techniques. But these were the two that caught my attention. Here's the first one. Don't let your heart rate get elevated. That makes perfect sense. I got a little copperhead over here, a rattlesnake, whatever, who just pounds me in the juggler, and I'm going to go ... Seems easy, right? You get hit by a rattlesnake and you're like, yoga pose. You're not doing that. And then here's the other one they said not to do. If you get tagged by a rattlesnake that's poisonous, don't chase him and try and kill him. Like, that would be the first thing on your mind.
You're going, "Wait a minute, I just got one in the jugular, and I'm starting to spout a little bit and I got poisoned, flowing through my veins. "Where is that little guy? I'm going to get him." Of course, you don't. And you know why you don't chase him to try and kill him? 'Cause it elevates your heart rate. But what's the problem? Listen, there's a real reason behind that. Why you don't want your heart rate elevated. It's because now, it is pushing in even faster way the poison through your blood to your heart. And you don't want that to happen. Listen to this, people who are consumed by bitterness, have let that bitterness be the source of what they do and as a result, that poison just keeps pumping and pumping and rushing to their heart until they have a heart of bitterness. See the thing with poison, though, like a poison of bitterness, it doesn't want to just stay in you. It wants to get out.
You may have heard the proverbial story about the guy who got bit by a dog. This was a long time ago before they actually had medications and treatments for the kind of rabies that you get. And it could kill you a super serious back in the day. Some of you may be able to remember a time before that was really treated. And so this man got bit by a dog. And he went in to the doctor and the doctor said, "Boy, I hate to break the news to you. You've got rabies and it's going to be fatal. We'll try and make it as comfortable as we can. But my recommendation to you would be, I'm going to give you a little bit of time, here's a pen and some paper, I'd start writing out, getting your things in order. And I would write out a will if you don't have one, because this is that serious."
And so the doctor, apologizes, says he sorry for him and the leaves. He comes back about an hour later and sees the guy in the room still. And he comes in and he sees him writing feverishly and the doctor says, "Well, at the very least, I'm really glad you took my advice and well, writing down who you are making your will out to. And the guy said, "I'm not write down anything related to I will, I'm actually writing down the names of people I want to bite." Now, it's a proverbial story didn't happen, that I'm aware of. But here's the thing, poison doesn't want to just stay with us, when we are embittered towards something, listen, this, we want to push that on somebody else. That's what happens to us. That's why bitterness is a poison. It's like a viper's poison that when we allow it, to just seep in, it starts to pump in our heart and form a heart of bitterness in us, and we don't want it to stay with us, we actually want it to touch other people as well. So it's not just bad for us. It's bad for everybody.
There's a second reason that we need to get rid of bitterness, it's because it's sinful. Our texts that I just read a moment ago kind of tells us that in no uncertain terms, look again in verse number 30, it says, "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." And then it says, "Get rid of all bitterness." In other words, the idea that we are hanging on to bitterness, do you know what it does? It grieves the Spirit of God. This is one of the things in the context of what we're reading, that grieves the Spirit of God. And as a result, it's sinful and we have to make sure that we pay attention to that because it can actually hold us captive. That's what sin does. Sin puts us in chains, and our bitterness will put us in chains. If you don't believe that, I can tell you what the apostles told someone that they noticed this in.
It was a guy named Simon the sorcerer. You read about him when you're reading in Acts, chapter number eight. There were some things going on, Simon the sorcerer was in Samaria and there were some things going on in Samaria where Simon had been involved in kind of the dark arts side of the world. And he had done some pretty remarkable things, not from the power of God, but from a different power. Simon was also known by the people there as the great power of God. Can you imagine if that was nickname? The great power of God? You'd be full of a whole bunch of things at that point. And so he would do his thing but then Philip, as you remember, one of the disciples was in Samaria and he was preaching the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, and people started believing the message of the gospel, and they weren't listening to Simon the sorcerer anymore. In fact, the Bible says, "Simon, the sorcerer believed." Now we find out he was believing with a caveat. He was believing because he wanted something. But he did so called believe also in the Gospel.
Well, now there were these great things happening in Samaria where people were coming to faith in Jesus Christ, and word got back to the apostles. And so Peter and another one of the apostles came to Samaria and they started sharing with all the people that were there. But what they found out is, even though they had believed the message of the good news that they had not heard, that they could receive the Holy Spirit. And so Peter and the apostles laid their hands on people and prayed for them, and they received the Spirit. Remember, this was the beginning of the church and this was kind of a very first act, and they were receiving the spirit.
Notice what happened after that occurrence in Acts eight. It says, "When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles hands, he offered them money. And he said, 'Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.'" In other words, he wanted to buy that power. Peter answered, "May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money, you have no part or share in this ministry because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness, and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness, and captive to sin."
Peter the apostle recognized that being full of bitterness, that you are captured by sin. You see, bitterness is sinful, and bitterness is poisonous, but I also remind you of something that's pretty obvious. Bitterness is destructive, bitterness is destructive. In fact, when we look at our passage, kind of our focal admonition that Paul gives us, here's what he says, "Get rid of all bitterness." Now, when he uses this term here, get rid of, when we break down that particular phrase, in the Greek language, you could also translate it this way, pull up and do away with.
Now, that sounds like something you do with weeds or roots. That's why it shouldn't be a shock to us that in the context of Scripture, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, we see bitterness pictured as a root. In fact, notice what's said in Deuteronomy, chapter number 29, "You yourselves know how we lived in Egypt, and how we passed through the countries on the way here . You saw among them their detestable images, and idols of wood and stone of silver and gold. Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today, whose heart turns away from the Lord our God, to go and worship the gods of those nations. Make sure that there is no root among you, that produces such bitter poison."
That's why the writer of Hebrews said this, in Hebrews chapter 12. See to it, that no one falls short of the grace of God, and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many." The picture that we have in Deuteronomy and Hebrews is this, is that this idea of bitterness is pictured as a root. And it's a root that's actually placed in a wrong source. See in Deuteronomy was talking about idolatry, it was talking about putting your hope or putting your trust in a different source other than the Lord God, you're putting your trust in an idol. And he was talking about they were made of wood, and silver and gold, and all those kinds of other and they were detestable to God. But they were placing their roots in a wrong source.
Let me tell you this, if you put your roots into a bitter source, it's not going to turn out very well at all. Or maybe we could simply say it this way, when we put our roots in the wrong source, we are destined for destructive bitterness, that's where we're headed when we put our roots in the wrong source. In fact, if you put your roots into bitter water sources, you're going to end up with bitter things that come out on the tree, because the root is actually what is nourishing the rest of the tree. Or let me break it down. Super simple. You ready? Bitter root equals bitter fruit. How simple is that. A bitter root equals bitter fruit.
By the way, you can reverse those two things, too, because when you look at some people's lives, you can see bitter fruit in their life. You know where that comes from? A bitter root, that's where it comes from. Because there's been a root that's been planted in waters that are bitter, and as a result, they're going to get bitter fruit from it. This is why we have to do away with bitterness. It's not a shock to me, that in the culture that we live in, which is full of bitterness, we basically live in a sea of bitterness, everybody is upset, angry, bitter about something, we're all offended about everything, we're all angry about everything, we're all outraged about everything. In that kind of culture, it's not a shock, we cling to our bitter roots. We like our bitter roots, we somehow think that that's going to be good for us.
You know what I've noticed in the Bible, that from time to time, the things that we hold on to other than God, God will actually use those to judge the world with. In fact, when you start looking through the book of Revelation, and you see these judgments that are handed out by these angels, they're angelic judgments, kind of known as the trumpet judgments, these angelic trumpet judgments. When you look at the third one, notice what it says in Revelation eight, "The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch fell from the sky, on a third of the rivers, and on the springs of water. The name of the star is wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter."
Isn't it interesting that that's a part of the judgment, you want to hang on to bitterness, you want to live in bitterness against God, and against everybody else, God is actually going to turn things bitter, that is going to be a part of the judgment of the world. That's what that word wormwood means. It means bitter. That's kind of where that comes from. Here's the thing, if we live in a culture of bitterness and we live in a world full of bitter water sources, how in the world do we get rid of bitterness? If really, the world around us is just a bunch of bitter water sources, how do we get rid of bitterness? We already know that we should, because it's poison, because it's sinful, because it's destructive. We know why we should get rid of it. But now we're asking the question, how? Because everything around us seems like a bitter water source. So how do we get rid of bitterness in that kind of cultural context?
Well, here's the thing, we can't on our own. But there is a story tucked away in the Old Testament that I think can give us some hints and some instruction as to how we can get rid of bitterness. It was the time where Israel had already been freed from captivity. They had now left Egypt, Moses was leading them, they had gone through the Red Sea, and they were singing songs of their deliverance. Remember Miriam Moses' sister was singing songs of deliverance, and they sang these songs, but then they started trekking in the wilderness and realized they didn't have anything to drink. You remember that? They were thirsty.
Here's where the story picks up. It's in Exodus 15, it says, "Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea, and they went into the desert of Shur. For three days, they traveled in the desert without finding water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. That is why the place is called Marah. Marah in Hebrew means bitter. So the people grumbled against Moses saying, "What are we to drink? So here's the deal they're in a life threatening situation, they don't have anything to drink. They had just come out of this great deliverance, that God has delivered them from the captivity of Egypt. They have now come across the Red Sea. God has taken care of their enemies, they're making their way in hopes making their way to the promised land. And now they don't have anything to drink for a day, for two days. Now, for three days.
This is a desperate scenario. They come upon a place full of water, and they're like, "Yes, we've got water to drink." And they sip it and it's bitter and they're like, "Oh, come on." Here's what's happening now. You've got bitter people standing next to bitter water. Bitter people. You know what they're thinking "I can't believe Moses, we should have gone back to Egypt. We had water there. We had some food. We had to work like slaves. But we had water and we had food and now I don't know what we're going to do." Because we see that happen in their lives, all through the time that they're in the wilderness.
So now we've got this heart of bitterness that's starting to form and you've got bitter people standing next to bitter water. But here's the beauty, God doesn't sit idly by, God begins to go to work. And notice what he says. "Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood, and he threw it into the water and the water became fit to drink. And there the Lord issued a ruling and instruction for them and put them to the test. He said, 'If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes. If you pay attention to his commands, and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on all the Egyptians, for I am the Lord who heals you.'"
Now you're saying, "Okay Jerry, I thought that we were actually trying to get to how I can get rid of bitterness. And I'm not actually seeing it at this point." Because here's what happens. You got better people standing next to bitter water, and Moses cries out to the Lord. And here's what the Lord does. The Lord shows Moses a piece of wood, and Moses takes that wood and he throws it into the water, and the water becomes fit to drink. It becomes sweet. There you have it. You say, "Okay, what does that mean?" Well, God revealed himself to be the one who heals. By the way notice that when he finishes that statement, Moses doesn't say about God, that he's the one who heals the water. He says, he's the one who heals you.
That his concern is about the people. Now he does heal the water in order for the people to be healed. But God reveals himself as Jehovah-Rapha, the God who heals. Now this was an incredible time in the life of Israel and this event was a provision for Israel. But listen carefully. This event was also a foreshadowing of what was to come. This was not only provision for Israel right there to meet their need. But it was also a reminder of what was to come. Here's why. Because you know, that Israel would move on from this place, they would wander in the desert, they would die, many of them bitterly, complaining about everything that happened.
But there was another generation that made it into the promised land. They got into the promised land, they took a lot of the land, they were thanking God for that. But then they were like, "Wait a minute, all of these other nations around us, they've got kings, and we don't have kings. And so we want a king." And so then they kept whining about that, God ended up giving them a king, even though that was not really the point. Because God was a king even though he was invisible, he was still the king of everything. So God gave them a king, so they had some King, some of them were good, some of them were bad, most of them were bad. Not all of them were good. And the good ones would lead them back to serving God, loving God, paying attention to the word and the bad ones, would take them into idolatry and worshiping other gods and doing those kinds of things.
So Israel was on this kind of love-hate relationship with the God of Israel and it was a big, humongous mess. Here's what was happening, the people were starting to getting bitter because they ended up becoming captives both to Babylon and to Syria then later after that, Rome moved in, and now Rome was overseeing everything. So you've got all of these people that are kind of developing this bitterness in their hearts. Why is this happening? Why did they get to do this? Why aren't you acting and now you've got this whole sea of bitterness that's really not only consuming them, but it's consuming the whole world. You've got an entire sea of bitterness in this world, and here's the thing, God doesn't sit idly by while there are bitter people standing next to bitter waters. God acts.
In that moment, he sends his Son who's born of a virgin, very God, a very God. God with skin-on fully God, and fully man. a 100% God and a 100% man at exactly the same time. Two natures within one man, neither nature, basically conceding their attributes. Fully human, fully divine at exactly the same time, which makes him 100% god man, born of a virgin, lived a sinless life and of all the people ever born to a woman in the history of Earth, no one was as deserving of worship and honor and praise as the sinless spotless son of Almighty God, no one, yet he was the most reviled.
The prophets told us that was going to happen, right? Remember what Isaiah said in chapter 53, "Who has believed our message and to whom is the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. And he had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him. Nothing his appearance that we should desire Him, He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering and familiar with pain, like one from whom people hide their faces, He was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Of all the people ever born to a woman, the Son of God should have been the one who was most worshiped most honored, most blessed, yet he was most reviled. But he was acquainted with bitterness, yet he was not bitter.
He absorbed all of that, because what happened is that when that son of God ended up realizing what was going on, and he knew this, this is what he knew as the Son of God. He knew where he was headed, and when he was in a garden of Gethsemane and he was praying, "Father, if this cup could pass from me." What cup is he talking about? He's talking about the cup of bitterness, the cup of God's bitter wrath that he would drink down to its dregs. "If this cup could pass from me, but nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done." And he realized he was being given the bitter cup of the sinfulness of humanity and he took that all the way as he carried a cross to a bottom place of a hillside where he was going to be crucified. And while on that cross, guess what he was given bitter gall to drink, because it was indicative of everything that he was walking through, and dealing with and going through.
So God was not suddenly sitting idly by when you have bitter people all over the world, standing next to better water sources all over the earth. But instead, what God did is he wood and he planted it in the sea of bitterness, so that on that wood a sweet savior would take all of that bitterness, and he would change the bitter water into sweet water. This is what God's intent was. Now, when we look to Jesus and we realize that that sweet savior took all of that bitterness that that wood that God planted in the ground would be, listen to this, would be overwhelmed and drowning and dripping with the bitterness of sin, when we turn our faces to that sweet Savior, it can change everything for us. We too like the waters of Marah can be healed.
You see that's what Peter said. Peter said this way about Jesus, "He committed no sin and no deceit was found in his mouth. And when they hurled their insults at him, he didn't retaliate. When he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He Himself bore our sins in his body on the wood so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness. By His wounds, have been healed."
You see, the wood of the cross was soaked with the bitter waters of sin, your sin, mine. Our bitterness, our rebellion, our sin. But the one on whom the cross fell, the one whose body was placed upon this wood is the one who makes the bitter waters sweet. only he can forgive, only he can release us of our bitterness. You see, no matter what is said about you, no matter what is done to you, no matter what is taken away from you, no matter what you think you're owed, it starts to fade, in the light of what the sweet Savior has done on the bitter cross.
Maybe I can say it to you, I want you to remember this, what has been done for you at the cross, is greater than anything that will ever be done to you. What has been done for you at the cross is greater than anything that has ever been, or ever will be done to you. You see, this is why we can let go of bitterness, ladies and gentlemen, this is why. Hear me, listen to this, your bitterness has to reside somewhere. And you're either going to let it reside in your heart, which is going to poison you and be destructive. Or, you can let it reside at the cross where Jesus has taken it and where the sweet Savior has made all things bitter become sweet, because he has absorbed by his own life and his own death and his own substitution on our part, he's absorbed at all. So you've got a choice, do you want to let that bitterness live in you? Or do you want that bitterness to remain at the cross? This is what we have to let go of.
There was a book that I saw story in, a guy named Tim Kimmell wrote a book called Little House on the Freeway, it's from years ago. But in it, he told the story of the Japanese occupation of Korea back around the beginning of the 20th century. I don't know if you know the history surrounding it but it is stark and it's hurtful. Those who lived or grew up in Korea know a lot about the history of that because around the beginning of that time, the Japanese were kind of colonizing Korea, and they were forcing many Koreans to change their names and make them sound Japanese, which was hurtful to them culturally. Also, by the time we got to the time of the great World War, World War II, the Japanese forced the Korean women to be comfort women, for the Japanese soldiers, in essence, sex slaves.
This is one of the hardest things that any Korean has ever had to get over because they developed a deep bitterness toward the Japanese people for all that they had been through and all that had been done to them. One of the first things that the Japanese started doing was they were cracking down on churches in Korea. They were boarding up churches and they were sending home missionaries because they wanted to colonize this and make it kind of Japanese culture. In one particular scenario, one of the Korean pastors was asking one of the police chiefs in that community that was getting Japanese because they had taken over the community. He kept asking him could we meet in our little white church on a Sunday and he kept getting rejected over and over and over again. But finally, the Japanese police chief agreed and said, "Okay, you can do it."
So they all gathered and they started telling all of their other friends that "We're believers in Jesus that hey, we're going to be allowed to worship today." And they went in on that Sunday. If you know anything about the Korean church, they're singing people. They got in there and they began to sing. What they didn't realize is while they were in the church, the church was being barred and locked and kerosene was being poured all over the building. Once that flame was lit, and the building started to become on fire, some of the people started trying to get out of the windows of the church, these Korean believers. But they were hearing gunshots as people were trying to exit the window and they came back in because they realized that they're dead if they leave.
The pastor knowing that this was it, we're done here, there's no way out, the building is on fire. He led his people in singing. And the song that he led them in was this song, listen. Could you imagine the testimony of those words ringing out as they were in a burning building, never come out again. At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light and the burden of my heart rolled away. It was there by faith I received my sight and now I am happy all the day. They were all incinerated, the building and the people were ash.
You can imagine that the Koreans who were left were embittered, friends, family members, relatives, they're burned to the ground. There was a bitterness toward the Japanese that was very hard to overcome and deal with. But a number of decades later, now with Japan, mostly out of Korea. Some Japanese pastors were coming through Korea preaching and teaching Christians, they ended up coming upon this exact place where the Koreans had built a memorial in the same place where the church wants stood. And the memorial told the story. When these Japanese pastors were reading the story, they were overcome with shame and grief. Remember, this was an Asian context. And it was a shame and honor culture. They were overcome with shame for their country and what had happened. And they ended up going back to Japan, these Japanese pastors, and they shared with some of their other brothers and sisters in Christ, what had happened that they didn't realize, even though some of them weren't even born during that time.
And they ended up over in Japan raising 10 million Yen, which was about $25,000 to rebuild that little white church. They sent the money through the proper channels and said, this is a gift that we want to give and then they rebuilt the church. And when they were doing a building dedication for this church, there was a contingent of Japanese pastors and Christians who came over to Korea to be a part of this day. But even then, you could still tell that there was a tension. That the Japanese were sitting on one side and the Koreans were sitting on the other side. Because this was one of the most embittering acts that has ever happened to the Korean people.
While they went through the service, the Korean pastor, thanked the proper people, and thanked the Japanese folks and thanked everybody that was there and made all of the proper acknowledgments, but there was still this separation. Then when they were getting ready to leave the pastor after telling the whole story again, of what had transpired and how this was so meaningful. He said, "I want us to sing a song as we leave." And the song they sang was at the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light and the burden of my heart rolled away. It was there by faith, I received my sight and now I'm happy all the day.As they sang those lyrics, the defenses of everyone started to fall. And the usually unemotionally showing Japanese and Koreans began to weep, and they met each other in the middle as they sang about the cross. And on that day, heaven gave reconciliation and allowed their bitterness to leave in light of the cross.
You see, ladies and gentlemen, there's only one way to get rid of our bitterness, and it's when we give it to the sweetest Savior who got on bitter wood to save our soul. When we look at what Jesus has done for us, nothing that's ever been done to us will be greater or more powerful than that. I'm wondering if maybe Jesus wants you to be free of some things you've been holding on to in bitterness. And if so, I think today would be a day to get rid of it. Let's bow our heads together.
If you don't have to move around or get up, I'd appreciate you not doing it just out of courtesy to the people around you. But if you're here and you've got something in your heart, I don't know where it came from. I don't know why it happened. Something done to you. Something said about you, something taken from you, something you felt you were owed. I want you to look at that in light of the cross and ask this question of your own heart, where I'm I going to leave this bitterness? I'm I going to leave it in my heart to keep poison me? To keep being destructive? Or I'm I going to leave it at the cross? Your choice.
What I want to ask you to do is as a sign as a physical, tangible way of demonstrating that some of you probably have some business to do with Jesus, where you're going to lay this, we're going to release this to him. Well, I want you to do that. And in just a moment, I'm going to ask you to get out of your seat and I'm going to ask you to come forward in this room and in the East Worship Center and just come down front and kneel and pray. Then in a moment, I'm going to pray over you because you need to get rid of all of your bitterness. It's sinful, it's poisonous, its destructive, not just to you, but to others.
So I'm going to ask you wherever you find yourself, if this is something you need to deal with Jesus, about, go ahead and slip out. People will excuse you. It's no problem. Slip out and come down here and just kneel down and take an opportunity to pray. I don't know where it came from. I don't know how it got there, but I know you want to leave it. You don't want to hold on to it. Come on down. Just take a knee where you are. I'm going to pray with you and over you in just a moment. Same thing in the East Worship Center. If it fills up in here you can just pause where you are in the aisles. That's fine. Just take a knee there.
Father, you see every heart, whether we are kneeling down front, or in an aisle or even in our seats, all of our hearts are laid bare before you, you see everything. We don't want to allow for the bitter, poisonous root of bitterness to grow in our hearts. Because we know when we do we're not living out what you designed us for. You have made us to abide in the pure vine of Jesus, so that we will bear much sweet lasting fruit. Not rotten, poisonous, tainted fruit. So would you help us to put our roots into the sweet water of Jesus so that we might have fruit that remains.
Lord, I pray for each one of these who by indication of their coming down here have said they want to lay their bitterness down. I don't know where it came from. It could be from years and years and years ago. Some may be embittered to a people who aren't even living anymore because of things done to them. But I pray you teach us how to forgive and how to look first to what Jesus has done for us on the cross. Because what you have done for us, Lord Jesus in your death, and resurrection is greater and more powerful than anything that will ever be done to us. So I pray that you would teach us what it looks like to forgive, not only in this moment, but on a daily basis. What it looks like to get rid of our bitterness, because it's going to it's going to find a home somewhere either in our hearts lodged away or at the cross where the sweet Savior has died for it and to rescue us and deliver us from it.
So would you give grace to every single person in this room in the East Worship Center who are saying that they're going to lay this down and tomorrow when they get up, and they're reminded of it again, would they lay it down again and Tuesday, when they get up and they're reminded of it again, that they would lay it down again, and would do that every day until you release them. It's hard to stay angry and bitter with people that we pray for. So I pray you would help us to pray if there's those who have made us bitter, and that we would choose to look first at what Jesus has done for us, and then look at them through the eyes of Jesus.
So would you free them in a way that only you can buy the power of what you have done on the cross, taking our sin and shame and rising from the dead to overcome it. So by the power of your Spirit, would we lay this here and leave it not pick it up again and allow it to grow. I ask in Jesus name, amen.
Here's what I want us to do we're going to be walking out in just a second. But I want you if you're down here, if you're out in the seats, I want everybody to stand to their feet. Stephen, I still hear you playing that song. Tim, lead us in that verse and chorus we just sang and let's sing it together. See, ladies and gentlemen, this is what the cross does is it gives us the power through Jesus to release our bitterness, to let it go. If you're here and you've never come to a place where you've actually been transformed by Jesus, been forgiven, set free, made new, born from above but I hope before you leave today, that you'll make your way into the Fireside Room and let one of our pastors or prayer partners talk to you about what it means to begin a relationship with Jesus Christ to know that you can have life eternal in him. No greater decision that you'll ever make in your life.
So Father, may you pull up every root that is inconsistent with the vine that is Jesus and may you allow us to live lives that have determined that we are going to leave our bitterness at the cross, that you might fill our hearts with love and we might demonstrate to the world around us the power of the sweet savior who took on bitter wood to rescue our souls. Glorify your name in our lives, we pray in Jesus name. Amen