Sunday service 18 April 2021 – The poisonous root of bitterness

Introduction Michael Ngubane
The strength of God’s children lies in serving the Lord together. If you have an opportunity to serve the Lord together again, use the opportunity. We want to serve our Lord. We thank God that He has kept us. We thank God for His wonders. God is at work.

The Radio Khwezi function was held here yesterday with visitors from the organisation that funded the new expansions at Khwezi. They marvelled at how well things are organised. What impressed them was the lack of friction at the station which is a problem experienced by some radio stations. Is such a thing possible if God is not present? They noticed that each Khwezi employee has a responsibility to make things work.

There is a program for the German as well as English listeners. There is room for expansion in the English programs and for Afrikaans listeners. Come with what you have. There are numerous ways in which to propagate the Gospel through radio, the internet, other media outlets. The radio has great potential for the gospel.

Thank you Reverend Stegen that you obeyed the Lord when He told you to start a radio station. We have experienced what God has and still wants to do through it. You never dreamt that your obedience would result in such a great work.

Yesterday I said to the visitors that I was afraid that future proposals by Khwezi might be rejected because they have sponsored Khwezi already. They said, however, that they like to support stations where progress is being made and that they would continue supporting Khwezi in the future. We thank the Lord for what He is doing and how He is helping us. Some people may feel that we are boasting but that is not so. We are very thankful to God that He has walked with us all this way. We appreciate God’s children who pray for this work and carry it in their hearts and with their hands. We can experience it.

Satan wanted to bury this place. It was his goal that people would speak of KwaSizabantu in the past tense. KSB was painted black in this country and across the world. Many lies were told about the evil of this place. May God be merciful to them that they may repent. If they do not, woe to them. God in His grace and mercy put this place in the palm of His hand to escape the storms. Rev Stegen said that when people aim to quench the fire, it is then that it burns more.

By God’s grace on 30 April, the new water factory will be officially opened. We pray that the Lord will keep us and that through it His name will be glorified. We thank God and look to the future with great expectancy.

Detlef Stegen
To God be the glory, great things He has done. Let your thanks come from your heart, not only from your lips. It is wonderful to have a heart that is united with the Lord in His efforts to reach your own heart and every other person’s heart.

Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden. Hebrews 13:17 Do you hear what the word of God tells us as members of the body of Christ? It is wonderful to have God’s word to direct us and keep us on the straight and narrow. It is wonderful to have leaders who watch over you as men who must give an account. There are many leaders who are not aware that they will have to give an account to the One who bought us with His precious blood.

I would like to read from Hebrews 12. God’s word is so rich that one does not have the time to go into every detail, but I would like to share something that has touched me deeply.

15 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

This word tells us to watch and be on our guard that no one misses the grace of God. Is it possible to miss the grace of God? Yes, we have all received grace upon grace, how then is it possible to miss the grace of God? …that no bitter root grows up – no root of resentment springs up. A poisonous root of bitterness. The root of bitterness can produce a vine which harms you, causes trouble and defiles many.

A root is something which you do not observe. It is hidden. It is like a seed that has been sown. Is there a seed that has been sown? Is there a bitterness that lingers, that is covered, that is not exposed in your life? It could be through something you have heard or seen. Your friend may have whispered it to you. You may have read something. All these things may have caused a root to begin sprouting. It shoots up there where Christ, the vine is, there where we should be attached and grow from. This bitter root springs up and competes with the true vine. This has such an effect on you. You might be ashamed of it and try to cover it, but it will grow. It will spring up. How will you hinder this bitterness that will suddenly grow in you? Jesus said that there is nothing hidden that will not be brought to light. Friend, hurry to the One who can rid you of that bitterness, lest this root produces a vine, and it becomes obvious to all – the bitterness that has been bred and brooded over - through a hidden root of poison.

Psalm 139, David writes amazing words: You know when I sit down and when I rise up, you discern my thoughts from afar. Are you aware of that? God perceives your thoughts from afar. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. Are you careful about what you say? Do you know that words can plant seeds in the person you speak to and you will have no control over what grows out of that life and the lives of others? 20 They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain. You might say that you do not misuse the Lord’s name, however in the New Testament it says: …let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from all iniquity. 2 Tim 2:19 If you sing about the Lord this applies to you.

Have you ever gone to someone and asked for help to part from a particular sin? God has given us leaders who watch over us as men who must give an account. Do not go to a counsellor who does not realise that he/she is watching over a person as one who must give an account. Your advice can have many implications for the person whom you are advising. If you receive advice, take it spiritually, eat it as spiritual food, do not take it in a fleshly way and reach conclusions in a carnal way. You spoil the work of the Lord for your own life and for those who hear you. Your counsellor might advise you to pray about speaking to someone and ask the Lord whether you should do it. What do you do? You say to that person that my counsellor said that I should say such and such. Do not spoil the goodness and spiritual blessings that God intended for you by you skewing and misusing it. You bring shame on the counsellor who is trying to help you. Be wise. We need to have wise words so that God’s verdict over our words is not that we speak with evil intent.

I was moved by the account of the spies who were sent spy out Canaan. We find this account in Numbers 14. 36 And the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation grumble against him by bringing up a bad report about the land— 37 the men who brought up a bad report of the land—died by plague before the Lord. Numbers 14:36 – 37

These were people who had been saved out of Egypt where they were slaves. They cried to the Lord for hundreds of years. Children, you may have not heard the prayers of your parents or the prayers of your mother before you were born, prayers that her unborn child would have God’s blessing. Mother, are you not praying that your children will be fit for the Kingdom or are you just happy to bear children to fill the world? Do you know the responsibility of a caring mother? Do you labour as a Hannah did when she said, ‘Lord, if only you would give me a child, he will be yours. I dedicate him to you even before I know about him?’

Children, how evil and bitter you can be! What poison you can be to your parents! While you are alive, you are so poisonous and cause such pain that your parents must bury you in their spirits to be able to retain their relationship with Christ. But the tears of your parents are just like dry biltong to you - they mean nothing. Your leaders have shed tears for you, child, that you do not know about. You do not have the foggiest idea about what is happening. You are only concerned about yourself. Parents reach a point where they say, ‘God, I have spoken enough, I have prayed enough, I have fasted enough, I can only give them into Your hands and Your care wherever they roam on the mountains and streets of this world.’

God heard the cry of these slaves in Egypt, and He chose a Moses whom others may not have selected. Moses was a man who could converse with God and intercede on behalf of the stiff-necked nation.

Moses had sent men to explore the land, 36 And the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land… Numbers 14:36 but it was actually God who had instructed Moses and said, ‘Moses, choose from the 12 tribes leaders whom you can send to the Land of Promise.’ God had the best land prepared for them. Did you hear over Easter what land the Lord Jesus has prepared for you? What Garden of Eden He has prepared for you? A land of forgiveness, a place where your sins can be forgiven, and you can forgive freely. Where you can love and experience love, where you can have joy and share it with others. All the good things that God gives, you can enjoy with others - the joy of having your sins forgiven, the joy of proclaiming the Gospel, the joy of being old and praying that God will stay with you. Where you walk and God is with you; He answers your prayers, He corrects you and you can admit that you are a sinner who has failed God and then you can run to that supreme sacrifice and cast yourself onto that altar, ask for cleansing and sanctification so that you can be pure and holy before our Saviour and Redeemer. This is the best life on earth – a purposeful and a blessed life where God blesses you and your descendants. Those who are unmarried – God blesses you and all the children whom you have won to Christ through the Gospel.

God chose them through Moses to spy out the land. After they had seen the reality of the land, their spirits differed in their reports. Joshua and Caleb said, ‘Let us go, God is with us.’ The other ten said, ‘God is not with us.’ They had seen the miraculous signs in Egypt and the desert, and they had tested the Lord ten times. They brought a report that made the entire community grumble against Him. A bitter root had sprung up in their reporting because they had rejected the land that the Lord was bringing them to enjoy. 20 Then the Lord said, “I have pardoned, according to your word. 21 But truly, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord, 22 none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the test these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, 23 shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers. And none of those who despised me shall see it. Numbers 14:20 – 23

The Lord said to Moses that He would annihilate the nation because of this but Moses pleaded on their behalf. God forgave them. Remember, how God spared Noah and his family, but the rest of the people were destroyed. Some people can pray and God listens. The Lord says, ‘The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.’ Number 14:18

What report is your life sending out at school, with your friends, with your secret friends? You have seen the miracles and experienced God’s mighty working. It is terrible to spread a bad report which people sometimes spread because of their own comfort, their own self.

Here is some text by Elisabeth Elliot whose husband was murdered by a heathen Amazon tribe. He was murdered with four others. Elisabeth had no bitterness. She allowed the words of Christ to ring in her mind and heart, and that seed was planted ‘Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.’ She later went as a missionary herself to that jungle for a good part of her life.

Human life is full of trouble which doesn’t come from the dust said Job’s friend, Eliphaz, nor does it sprout from the ground. Man is born to trouble. Compare your list of troubles with one famous man’s:

He had a difficult childhood.

Less than one year of formal schooling

Failed in business at age 22

Defeated for legislature at 23

Failed again in business at 24

Elected to the legislature at 24

His fiancée died when he was 26

Defeated for speaker at 29

Defeated for electorate at 31

At 33 married a woman who became a burden, not a help

Only one of four sons lived past the age of 18

Defeated for congress at 34

Elected to Congress at 37

Defeated for Congress at 39

Defeated for Senate at 46

Defeated for VP at 47

Defeated for Senate at 49

Finally elected president.

He was Abraham Lincoln, of course. When I looked at his list of setbacks, I wonder if I’ve ever had a problem. Adler said, ‘It is a categorical demand of the neurotic’s lifespan that he should fail through guilt of others and thus be freed of responsibility.’ That sobered me. Is my response to constantly lay the blame on somebody else? Is there always an excuse, a complaint, an inner whine!

May ours be the spirit of a 17-year-old Lady Jane Grey who prayed this prayer in her prison cell before she was beheaded in 1554:

Oh merciful God, be Thou unto me a strong tower of defence, I humbly entreat Thee. Give me await Thy leisure, and patiently bear what Thou doest unto me; nothing doubting or mistrusting Thy goodness towards me; for Thou knowest what is good for me better than I do. Therefore do with me in all things what Thou wilt; only arm me, I beseech Thee, with Thy armour, that I may stand fast, above all things taking to me the shield of faith; praying always that I may refer myself wholly to Thy will, abiding Thy pleasure, and comforting myself in those troubles which it shall please Thee to send me, seeing such troubles are profitable for me, and I am assuredly persuaded that all Thou doest cannot but be well, and unto Thee be all honour and glory. Amen (Elliot, Elisabeth Keep a Quiet Heart)

Let no root of bitterness produce vines of harm in you.  Why do we take our eyes off the wonder of Christ and Him coming to this world? What causes people to spread a bad report about God’s good intention? Why do we so easily forget what God says? Why do we despise obedience to God? The secret is (we have heard it over and over again), do not bury things in the secret place in your heart. Get it out and let that bitter root come out. Do not wait for it to sprout because it will spring up, poison you, and harm many around you.

Have ever been inclined to give a bad report? Keep your mouth shut. Hurry to the One who can cleanse the thoughts and intents of your heart. If you have spoken words - the only way is to reconcile and put things right. Go to those to whom you have spoken and given a bad report, where you have voiced your complaints and dig that root up. Say, ‘Friend, that seed which I planted in you is poison – let us pray that God will dig it out. I do not want to set God as my adversary. I do not want God uttering words over my life which are sore and painful and which I will have to endure the consequences of.’ May God be merciful to us.

Conclusion Albu van Eeden

Who are the main people who are used by the devil to start a root of bitterness? They are not the open enemies of the church. They are not the world. They are the lukewarm Christians. They are the Christians who believe that you cannot really have victory over sin. They are the Christians who believe that you can tolerate a certain amount of sin and defilement because nobody is perfect. They are the Christians for whom the internet has taken the place of God’s word and made them lukewarm.

It is profound that only in Revelation, at the end of the Bible, that God speaks out about the lukewarm. He says, So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. Revelation 3:16 Yes, there were the Egyptians, but they were not lukewarm followers of Christ. Yes, there were the Philistines, but the greatest enemies of God’s people were the Korahs, Dathans and Abirams, the Miriams who compromise. Those who say that you cannot be so radical – it is cult-like. You cannot believe that everything 100%, not 99%, must belong to God whether it is your finances, the person you marry, the job you do, everything must be in God’s hands.

A classic example is in the book of Nehemiah. He came to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls to their former glory (which is what happens in revival where God brings Jerusalem to its former glory and He builds the church to what it is supposed to be, to what the first church was like.) Do you know who their biggest enemy was, who was a thorn in their flesh? The Israelites who had been left behind when the bulk of the nation was taken into captivity. That was what was done in those days. The conquering nation took all the significant people into captivity in their country – the generals, the royalty. The people left behind were small, insignificant farmers. These people had no desire to be on fire and get Jerusalem to its former glory. They had little farms where they did their little things. They feared the world, the anger of the king of Assyria. So, when Nehemiah said, ‘Let us go full out for God, let us get the temple to its former glory.’ They said, ‘No, no, we are going to make the king very cross. They have broken us!’

Dear Christian, has the devil broken you? Has he broken you to a life of compromise, a life where you are afraid to stand out for fearlessly for the Gospel? Get rid of all the filth on the internet and the stories that consume 90% of the time you spend on this earth. Watch out for the lukewarm Christians because they will appeal to you, to what you can gain and to your selfishness. They will plant a root of bitterness in your life. Cursed is the person who carries a lukewarm spirit into the church of Christ. Only God can take that curse away if one day you might repent and ask God for forgiveness, otherwise you are a curse to the church of God.

If you look at the clothes the lukewarm wear, you will say they are ice-cold, but some of them still claim to identify with the Gospel and the Bible, and still be Christians. What? Are you going to allow a lukewarm Christian to tell you what to do and how to serve the Lord? If you allow it then you are useless in the kingdom of God and you will become a broken Christian like those Israelites were who said to Nehemiah, ‘Please do not start building, you will just cause problems for us.’

Thank God that Nehemiah paid no attention to them even though they tried. Nehemiah and Ezra went to great extremes later which I do not suggest we do today. They grabbed the women by their hair to pluck it out so that they would come to their senses. I wondered whether they were rather radical, but they realised this was the only way to get rid of the spirit of lukewarmness in the nation.

Are you still friends with lukewarm Christians? Do you still maintain contact? Do you still send text messages and chat to lukewarm Christians and allow them every now and again to throw in a remark here and there? You do not realise that all those little remarks are making you lukewarm - not ice-cold - but lukewarm. This is a curse in the church of Christ these days - people maintain contact with Christians who are lukewarm – those whom God has already spat out of His mouth.