Transformation: Removing the Root of Bitterness

by Teri Williams
July 19, 2009

Notes from the teaching “Transformation: Removing the Root of Bitterness”
Podcast available

Note: All scripture references are from the NIV unless otherwise stated.

A.    In the 1st of 2009, we felt like the Lord was saying that there’s a shift coming for the body of Christ this year.
1.    From natural to supernatural; self focused to focus on the Lord ; from knowing God mentally to knowing God spiritually
2.    Coming to a true understanding of what it means to renew the mind by the power of the Holy Spirit
3.    From natural to SUPERNATURAL. We’re going to feel our need for the Holy Spirit

B.    First individual shift; but corporate shift coming.

C.    Transition is the place and time in pregnancy when what is already inside the heart emerges; what we’ve been carrying is born
1. Can be a time of Confusion and loss of FOCUS.
2. This is a natural process in our spiritual experience with Jesus.
3. It’s not something we’re going to “learn” how to do or have the Lord drop on us like a revival.

D. The mentality of Praying for Revival:
1. I heard Graham Cooke say in a message that the biggest desire of God was for inhabitation with his people but all his people continue to pray for is another move of God
E. Praying for revival is not a Scriptural answer for the problems in the body
1. Being in the Lord’s presence should have a profound affect on anything in us that needs deliverance, healing, stirring, etc.
2. This should be a way of life in the Spirit–constantly being touched by Him when we get off course or loose focus.

Excerpt from “The Deeper Life” by A.W. Tozer
“A religion, even popular Christianity, could enjoy a boom altogether divorced from the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and so leave the church of the next generation worse off than it would have been if the boom had never occurred. I believe that the imperative need of the day is not simply revival, but a radical reformation that will go to the root of our moral and spiritual maladies and deal with causes rather than with consequences, with the disease rather than with symptoms.

It is my considered opinion that under the present circumstances we do not want revival at all. A widespread revival of the kind of Christianity we know today in America might prove to be a moral tragedy from which we would not recover in a hundred years.”

F. No “revival” or move of God can fix what only God’s voice through relationship is meant to do.
G.    Experiencing God requires us to have an intimate relationship with Him  (Taste and see. Drink Him. Taste is a “sense”).
1. Worship is intimate.

Jn 7:37 On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him."

H.    The only way to release water out of us –by taking it INTO us.

I. Rather than asking for revival – ask for communion
1. Not something we strive for - place we are called to live in

J. Transition is the closest place to death
1. What is inside of us is coming out of us--- GOOD OR BAD.

K. We NEED THE HOLY SPIRIT. We need to USE our prayer langauage of tongues. We need the Holy Spirit in everyway God has given so we can be led into all truth and discern what is not truth.

1.    The Holy Spirit was sent so that Jesus could be IN US. “

Vision: (2 weeks ago)
I saw a dress. At first I thought it was a beautiful dress until looked closer and realized that the beauty was a deception. The fabric it was made from had been taken from old pieces of clothing: patches of bondage, self-centeredness, rebellion, and stubbornness. And on top of this fabric were pinned Polaroid pictures to cover the ugliness of the dress. There were pictures of children, houses, cars, friends, forests, flowers, blue skies, mountains, oceans, etc. I felt as if the pictures were all of “poses” or were like clipart bought off the internet. Some one else had taken the pictures.  “POSE” (2 meanings: to take a stance for a picture; to pretend to be something you’re not). Then I saw the dress begin to unravel at the seams. Pieces of the fabric were falling to the ground and the pictures with them. The dress was no longer going to be able to be worn.

Then the vision shifted and I saw a small child hiding behind a tree. Over time, the child grew up and I realized that he did not know that his whole body was bigger than the tree he was still trying to hide behind.

I felt like I heard the Lord say: Shift. Shift. And Shift. Changing gears. Changing clothes. Shifting from held hands to gripped hands. Prepare – Prepare – Prepare – tighten the grip in every way. Step in closer (saw a people standing side by side getting ready to play red rover). I heard someone shout, “Don’t let the attack through.” And then the Holy Spirit began to explain to me that as a body, we can only be responsible for those connections that people chose to maintain in heart and spirit. Those who choose to stay knit together through commitment. And those with would not release their idealistic expectations were going to have connections ripped apart until they let them go so they could see that the expectations were rooted in bitterness.

Shift. No more pretending that you’re in when you’re out. I heard—This is God’s kindness, a kindness that is given to lead us to repentance so that we can allow the Lord to deal with our self-focused mindsets that had resulted in roots of bitterness in our hearts.

I felt like he said that roots of bitterness needed to be uprooted so that the Lord can heal places in our hearts where we’ve been wounded.

I. Bitterness
A.    Many have had disappointment and disillusionment and have felt discontent. Circumstances have been hard and things have not turned out like we thought they would.

Proverbs 4:23 Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.

B.    If we don’t go into our hearts with a violent determination to deal with bitterness, it will not only kill the life in us, but also, destroy a part of something in everyone who loves us.
1.    Bitterness that is allowed to remain will result in us having to go through the same tests over and over again which were actually meant to be God-given opportunities for us to grow up and become strong in Him
C.    If we want freedom, we’re going to have to deal with it til it’s dead and the ground of our hearts has become soft again

D.    Bitterness will destroy the beauty of who you are with its poison.

E.    Cain and Abel

Gen. 4:9 Cain and Abel “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
        1. Cain was jealous of Abel. The Lord told him to rule over that jealousy.
        Instead he allowed anger to manifest.
2. Murder was the result of letting bitterness take root in his heart.

John 14:30 NKJ …for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me

F. We can’t allow bitterness to remain in us or the ruler of this world will have a hold inside our hearts. When we allow that hold, we are capable of the same kind of deception and murder (whether with our actions or heart) that drove Cain from every relationship he had

Hebrews 12:15 See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

Heb 12:15 Be careful that no one is deprived of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness should begin to grow and make trouble; this can poison a whole community (Jerusalem Bible translation)

G. A “root of bitterness” means that the root is bitterness (like block of wood)
1. Where did this image of a “root of bitterness” come from?

Deut. 29:18 Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or family or tribe, whose heart turns away this day from the Lord our God to go and serve the gods of those nations; lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit

2.    Bitterness is the result of our heart turning away.

3.    Anger, jealousy, etc. feed off one another. These things are manifestations of disappointment left unchecked. When others taste this fruit from our lives, we poison them
Deuteronomy 29:19 When such a person hears the words of this oath, he invokes a blessing on himself and therefore thinks, "I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way." This will bring disaster on the watered land as well as the dry.

H. He feels secure when he is not secure. He thinks that because he is part of the people who are in covenant with God that he is safe from God’s judgment.
1. We may think we are secure because of our past spiritual experiences or because of some present association with Christian people.

I. This is one of the main themes in Hebrews – to hold firmly to the end; to not let your heart become hard and poisoned by bitterness.

Hebrews 3:13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. 14We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.

Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

J. A “root of bitterness” is a belief that treats a relationship with the Lord as an automatic thing that does not require anything of our heart.
1. Esau had this kind of attitude about his inheritance. He didn’t think it was a big deal because he was the oldest son.
2. In the end, he could not repent. He cried a lot but it wasn’t the kind of sorrow that leads to repentance.

K. When we have this mentality, we blame all our problems on others.
We often fail to see that we are responsible for the way we’re responding to whatever we’re going through.

II. A Wounded Spirit
A. Bitterness is usually a wrong response to pain from a place or situation where we’ve been wounded

B. Many times the people or situation that we react to has become a scapegoat.
1. Sometimes people become victims of terrible ordeals and traumas—but it’s still how we respond to these situations and how we process our feelings that will determine if we remain wounded and have a victim mentality throughout life.

C. Having a victim mentality causes us to remain in the past. As much as we would like to think that the person or situation is continuing to harm and hold us back, the only reason we aren’t moving is because we are refusing to move.
1. Moving on from a traumatic experience is very difficult. We should allow ourselves to feel the hurt and to grieve.
2. This is the only way to be healed. But grief that does not lead to healing will destroy us and those we love.

D. When we don’t let ourselves release grief, our health suffers, relationships  suffer, and our souls will suffer.

E. Moving beyond a victim mentality does not mean that we forget our pain or that we are “over” whatever happened or hurt us.
1. It means that we acknowledge that Jesus has the power to heal.

F. Our lives are not in someone else’s hands –we belong to the Lord but we have to “cast our cares on Him in order to know the Care He has for us.
1.    Yes. It’s easier to remain in bitterness than to be healed. The pain become the clothes we wear---our identity. But it’s time to change clothes. To take off our garment of mourning and to put on the garment of Praise.

Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty  instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.
G. But what if I get up tomorrow and the pain returns? Then we will go to the Spirit of God again. This is relationship. It will take discipline to break the familiar spirit’s hold with grief and disappointment which has allowed bitterness to take root.

Is. 53:4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

H.    The word "sorrows" in this passage, actually translates: grief, pain, or affliction.
1. The purpose for Jesus giving His life for us was to take in his body our wounds and our grief.
2. That’s why unforgiveness and bitterness are so poisonous and destructive to any attempt to live by the Spirit.

I. Mourn---Yes. But mourn in the arms of Jesus, not in a pit alone. Receive his comfort, His care.

Matthew 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

        1. In order to be comforted, we have to mourn.

J. Denial: We aren’t able to release the wounded place through mourning so that you can receive healing. We’ve shut the door to it because it’s too much, too heavy, too painful
1. Victim mentality: the wounded place becomes an identity. We may begin to grieve but then feed off of the pain which gives us a false sense of control

K.  Going through the grieving process: Weeping. Releasing. Receiving. Only those who mourn can be comforted.

L. Everyone’s weeping, releasing, and receiving process will be unique in some way.

M. Mourning that does not move into receiving healing, is an identity with grief which produces– Fear (always fearing the lack of control of circumstances), victim mentality (expecting disappointment); and bitterness (self-focus; anger;)

III. Refusing the Bitter Drink 

Matthew 27:34 There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. 46About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"—which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"47When some of those standing there heard this, they said, "He's calling Elijah."
48Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49The rest said, "Now leave him alone. Let's see if Elijah comes to save him."

A. Why did Jesus refuse to drink the wine that had been mixed with gall when he was on the cross?

1.    The word gall comes from the Greek word that means poison or bitter. Later, he doesn’t refuse the wine vinegar.
2.    Perhaps someone was trying to help him to die quicker with the poison to relieve his pain

B.    He refused the drink because he didn’t want to die from bitter poisoning, but by pouring out his blood. His blood was required for sin’s debt. (John 19:34 – a soldier pierces his side and blood and water rush out)

IV. Forgiveness
Matt 6:12 – Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. forgiveness is natural to our spirits

A.    The real source of our struggle to forgive is that we don’t trust God to be Just in His judgments

Rom 12:17-21 Don't pay back a bad turn by a bad turn, to anyone. See that your public behavior is above criticism. As far as your responsibility goes, live at peace with everyone. Never take vengeance into your own hands, my dear friends: stand back and let God punish if he will. For it is written: "It is mine to avenge, I will repay," says the Lord. And it is also written: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Don't allow yourself to be overpowered by evil. Take the offensive--overpower evil with good!
Root – underneath / critical spirit – plant on top

B. Forgiveness – our salvation is based on it.
1. When we don’t forgive, God cannot hear our prayers. (talking to Him)

C. Forgiveness does not mean we have to become best friends with whoever wronged us. Indeed, we may never see or speak to this person again.

D. Medical perspective: letting go of bitterness can lower blood pressure, decrease stress, lower heart rate, reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, lesson chronic pain, and improve overall immune functioning

E. Forgiveness is not just excusing or accepting something someone did as right We don’t even have to like the person we are forgiving or reestablish a relationship with them. Sometimes it’s not even wisdom to go to the person to verbally say to them that you forgive them.
F. Bitterness is actually a result of anger at God and frustration from not being able to express it to him– He’s not here in flesh and blood.

1. Many times – leadership will become the scapegoat– representative of that “position”
2. Bitter attitudes toward: women / bad mother; Men/bad father; churches/abuse of power; friends, because you were betrayed; marriages, because you were raised in a broken home, etc.

G. My own experiences: I just didn’t stay bitter because I wanted the presence of God – and His presence heals and comforts and restores. His presence gives me discernment so that I won’t mistaken Him or a situation as representing who He is or EVEN WHO HE’S CALLED CHURCH LEADERSHIP TO BE.

My Journal Entry a week ago:
“I’ve experienced both perspectives: As a churchgoer and as preacher’s kid, I’ve been witness to all kinds of abuse of power and misrepresentation of God. I’ve had a front row seat to every perversion imaginable through the actions of church leaders. But as a church leader, I have experienced the resulting lack of trust and judgmental mentality of those who have been wounded.

Regardless of the failings of people, God still chooses to work through them. God is the one who works through church authority and regardless of how many have fallen or failed, He hasn’t chosen to do away with it just like he hasn’t chosen to do away with parents or marriage just because of those who go astray.”

H. A lot of us have come with emotional baggage from broken loyalties in the past (some have been vital relationships – fathers and mothers, friends we trusted with our deepest secrets or people who were supposed to be friends who misrepresented us to others putting a spin on things we said or did)

I.    There are countless examples in the word concerning the vital significance of our ability to daily practice repentance and forgiveness

J. Mourning that leads to comfort means that you have felt the emotions, you’ve processed them, and released them. They no longer have the power to hurt you. You are trusting in the Justice of God.

Ephes. 4:31-5:2 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

V. The Waters of Marah

Ex. 15:22-27 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. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah. 24 So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, "What are we to drink?" 25 Then Moses cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There the LORD made a decree and a law for them, and there he tested them. 26 He said, "If you listen carefully to the voice of 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 the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you." 27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.

A. Just finished singing about the army of Pharaoh being defeated. Go 3 days into a wilderness and now don’t have water – this is not a minor thing. It’s serious

B.    When the Israelites came to this bitter water they grumbled against the leader Moses who in turn cried out to God.

C.    Their physical journey was demonstrating the internal journey of life.
1-This was a test whether they would walk by the Torah and where they tested God – Is God with us or not

D. Our English translation isn’t clear concerning what God was doing here at Mara.
1. The root verb for the word “showed” (him a tree) actually means that God “instructed” or “taught” Moses a tree*
2. The root verb for “showed” is “Torah.” *

E. This was a test to give the people the opportunity to become transformed from bitterness, through receiving the provision of God’s instruction – His voice. 

1. Rashbam (a 12th century biblical commentator and Talmudist who wrote commentaries on the Torah) believed that this was where God gave the 1st commandment to the Israelites *

F. It was also meant to strengthen them so that they would believe and trust that God would be their provision in bitter places

1. Important: Others can’t replace what only God can fill. A lot of bitterness is the result of trying to get from people what only God can be to us

G. Every time Moses went to Pharaoh he says they need to go into the wilderness for 3 days journey to sacrifice to their God.
1. When the people needed water, God gave them the “Torah” – which is His voice. This is why the Torah is read three times a week (Monday, Thursday, and Shabbat) publicly so that they don’t go 3 days without ‘words of the Torah”* (Rav Alex Israel)

2. “A famous rabbinic saying states that “words of torah are compared to water” * (Rav Alex Israel article)

3. “We might say that Yahweh "torah-ed" Moses a tree.” (taken from Rav Alex Israel article)

H. The bitter waters of Marah just exposed the bitterness in their hearts. Their lifes as slaves in Egypt had been full of bitterness. Life was not fair in Egypt. They had suffered in every way and had become a bitter people.
1. So often, circumstances that are difficult reveal whats really inside our hearts
2. It’s easy to see that the Israelites needed deliverance from more than just Pharaoh

I. “Yahweh torahs Moses a tree in order to transform their hearts.” Hearing” God’s voice is like having God “torah” us a tree. His voice transforms our hearts—that was the point of the tree. The heal the people; not the waters.
1. He "made a decree and a law for them, and there He tested them. He said, 'If you listen carefully to the voice of Yahweh 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 the Egyptians, for I am Yahweh your Healer.'"

2.Being able to HEAR and know the Lord’s voice is crucial – It can mean the difference between life and death

J.    Whatever we’re experiencing in our lives, God wants to transform us, use us where we are, and redeem the situation for good.
1.When we cry TO God in the bitter places, He is able to somehow make the waters drinkable, to turn it into a resource for the next place we’re going in the journey.

K. We know that Jesus is our Torah, the Word that became flesh and transforms us into His image.

L. There are situations where the Water has been undrinkable. But if we want to be healed of bitterness, we’ve got to stop blaming and grumbling and let go of the Anger / disappointment / timing –of things not being how we thought they would be.

M. *Become strong or we will become bitter. We are “building” one or the other.

1. Being truthful with your heart and see where we are making others a scapegoat for the things we can’t control that have hurt us

2. Once we’ve been wounded, it’s easy to turn inward to try to protect ourselves
by closing ourselves off but if we do that, God can’t heal us.

A.    Bitterness:
1.    You won’t miss “direction” if you are in relationship with the Lord and with His body but it takes both

B.    The Cycle. 
1.    1st Wounding – you get wounded through disappointment or hardship or someone’s wrong doing – (like bad leadership where you work, etc.; or misrepresented by people who are jealous of you and criticize you. They damage your name (can’t damage your character).

2.    2nd Isolation: A bitter root needs isolation/ maybe difficult connecting or don’t want to hear advice when made up mind and you know it’s wrong. It doesn’t matter who you are: If we allow our wounded places to draw us into isolation, we WILL become deceived.

3.    3rd, to justify, begin to find wrong in others

4.    Begin to feel rejected; sounds funny because we’ve isolated ourselves

C.    Result: Hard heart; Blindness and deception

D.    To break cycle: We must practice cleansing our hearts through the blood of Jesus by forgiving and being forgiven– daily

E.     It’s small things become we don’t really think are such big things – critical attitude, etc, that beomce the roots of bitterness

VII. Becoming Strong is Hard Work

1 Samuel 30:6 David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the LORD his God.
    A. Distressed - bitter
1. Another translation: David encouraged himself in the Lord
2. It’s hard work encouraged – made himself strong. The discipline – daily. Working it out!!!

B.    Heard story about Salina Kosgei from Western Kenya won the 2009 Boston marathon She’s 32.

(Please read note at end*) Salina is the10th child of subsistence farmers; loved to run as a child but by her late 20s, her career was winding down. “If you're from a poor family in a poor country, you don't turn your back on a job like that until you've exhausted every alternative” (Miller). She has 2 kids in boarding school 2 hours away from where she trains. She lifts homemade weights and runs in place on an old truck tire and trains in the woods. Salina runs to provide for her family.

1. As I listened to the radio interview on NPR, I heard the reporter ask her if running hurts. She told him yes.
2. Profound revelation to me with training. We get so accustomed to trying to protect ourselves from pain that we become WEAK.

VIII. A Compassionate Friend

Ruth 1:3-5  Now Elimelech, Naomi's husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, 5 both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.

A. In vs. 20 Naomi actually says to call her Bitter. “Don't call me Naomi, " she told them. "Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. (Naomi means pleasant).

12 Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons- 13 would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters.

Ruth 1:13…It is more bitter for me than for you, because the LORD's hand has gone out against me!" 14 At this they wept again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-by, but Ruth clung to her. 15 "Look," said Naomi, "your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her."

B. God demonstrates through Ruth, “A COMPASSIONATE FRIEND” who He wants to be to us in bitter places

Ruth 1:16 But Ruth replied, "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me."

C. The Love of God overcomes and redeems all bitterness.
1. Ruth, a Moabite woman, would become the Great-Grandmother of King David, of the lineage of Jesus

Please Note:
1. Some of the information on interpreting Exodus 15, (the waters of Marah), came from an online article entitled “Thinking Torah: Beshalach - From Sea to Sinai – The Path of Faith” By Rav Alex Israel

2. Information on Salina Kosgei taken from an online article from NPR’s Marketplace entitled REPORTER'S NOTEBOOK: by Jon Miller

Teri Williams, 7/22/2009