Rocks on a String
Being bitter is like throwing a rock at someone else only to have it come right back at you. However, there is another way.
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Before we get started this morning, I wanted to speak a little bit to the vision of our church and what we’re trying to do here.
If you’ve been around here, even a short time, you probably know something about our vision.
Our vision: Is to be a people, being changed by God, to change the world.
And we’re going to change the world.
I know some of you don’t really believe it when we say it, but we are.
Renovation Church is going to change the world.
In just 4 years, God has already used us to reach 175 people for Christ!
And we’ve started 2 new churches out of Renovation.
Our goal is to start 10 churches by 2022.
Churches that are also going to reach hundreds of people for Christ.
We’re reaching people and changing lives in Haiti…and starting this summer in Africa. And in more places in the future.
Our church plants are going to reach into even more countries and reach exponentially more people for Christ around the world.
I’m not joking with you. Because of the people of Renovation Church, the world is going to be changed.
But before we get there, we’ve got to take a step back.
For those of you that serve here (which is part of what we’re about (this thing’s a row boat, not a cruise ship…Not about being served, it’s about serving), But if you serve here, you know that we repeat the vision every week.
But one of our leaders pointed out to me the other week, that there’s a word that a lot of people skip.
And it’s “to be a people BEING changed by God to changed the world”
See, we believe that the Renovation process in our soul…is a continual process.
God’s not done with you already.
It’s going to take a lifetime.
A lifetime of you surrendering to him and learning how to become more like Him.
And a part of that is learning as much as you can about his Book, the Bible.
And I’ve got just the way for you to do that.
This summer, we’re going to be continuing our “Renovation School of Theology Program” by offering, now, THREE summer classes.
(PUT UP SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY CHART)
Classes where you can really begin to learn the Bible, theology (the study of God) and more.
We’re offering Alpha, which will be led by our Director of Ministries, Rachel Puro…who’s phenomenal at it.
Alpha is the course that we ask you to start with as it provides a foundation to what being a Christian and living as a Christian is all about.
Alpha is actually a video course that’s been seen by millions around the globe. It is SO well done. You’ll love it!
The next Course we ask you to take (for those who have taken Alpha) is called Mining God’s Word, which will be taught by John McCormick this year.
John is a genius at this kind of stuff and makes me look dumb when he talks about it J
MGW will help you learn how to actually interpret the Bible and give you tools to study it.
It’s a fantastic class. We offered it last year for the first time, and I can not tell you HOW POSITIVE the reviews were of this class.
We had 50 people take the class last year, and they loved it! Just loved it!
And for those that took MGW last year, I’ll be teaching Theology 101, where we will be studying some of the major doctrines of Christianity in depth.
Like the doctrines of Scripture, the trinity, creation, and the person and work of Jesus.
You can learn more about some of the details in announcements today…
But I want you to know that we really value this “School” that we’re starting.
And we’re doing it for a reason.
We have so many new people coming to Christ that we feel a weighty responsibility to help you grow from an infant in Christ to a mature adult.
And a major part of that is YOU learning the Bible and what your faith is all about.
This is a major part of how you “grow-up” in Christ.
Listen, if you want to be a world-changer, you’ve got to continually be in the process of God changing you.
And a huge part of that is learning the Bible. Learning his truth.
And it’s SO important that you do that! So make a commitment to be changed to change…and grow in your knowledge of God this summer.
Just going to the lake and cleaning your garage this summer isn’t going to change the world. J
Do something that’s going to change your life to change lives this summer.
BITTERNESS IS LIKE A ROCK
Okay, thanks for letting me do that.
Let’s get into today’s message.
We’re continuing in our Future/Past series today
The basic crux of this series is that SO much of our stress and our pain is connected to either the future or the past.
And this morning I wanted to talk to you about bitterness.
Especially, the bitterness we hold in our minds towards things that happened to us in the PAST.
And I want to do so this morning by using two metaphors.
Rocks and Roots.
But before we do so…let me ask you some questions to get us started:
Because maybe you don’t even consider yourself a bitter person.
So, let’s all answer some questions first. Not necessarily pleasant questions, but questions nonetheless:
Who are you mad at?
Who’s hurt you?
Who’s sinned against you?
Who’s in your head so much they should be paying rent?
Who’s disappointed you?
Who’s said something that hurt you?
Now that everyone’s depressed, I think we can continue.
I just want you, as we talk about bitterness (and of course forgiveness today), to be thinking of some people.
Now, as a preface, this is a HUGE topic. We could do a 10-week series on it.
I’m not going to cover every situation today.
Every time I give a talk about this topic, I inevitably have someone come up to me and say, “Yeah, but you don’t understand MY situation, David!”
So, if I don’t hit your exact situation today, take it to God…talk to your small group leader about it, your house leaders…after all, they’re elders in our church.
Godly men worthy of giving good counsel.
Here’s the basic premise for today:
Whenever someone sins against you, you have two choices.
Not 3, not 4, not 5. Two.
You can get bitter about it.
Or you can forgive them.
Forgiveness leads to life, which we’ll talk about later..
But bitterness…resentment…whatever you want to call it…will weigh you down and choke you out.
Let’s talk about weighing you down.
Okay, so I imagine, that you, like me, have a list of people you can think of when I asked those questions earlier.
I wish I didn’t, but I do.
We all have people that did something to us in the PAST…but it’s still effecting our present.
We haven’t moved on from it. We’ve chosen bitterness instead of forgiveness.
Well, what does the Bible tell us to do, and why?
I want to take a look at 2 verses in Ephesians today, and I want to throw a similar verse from Hebrews in the middle of it. Okay? Deal?
Okay, let’s get started.
Or Renovation Church App!
This is a letter from one of the early church leaders, Paul, to a church in Ephesus, which is in Turkey.
And he’s in the middle of giving a bunch of practical advice. Let’s peak in.
(Ephesians 4:31) – NIV
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
He starts by saying, “Get rid of ALL bitterness.”
Maybe you were thinking it was HOLY and Justified to be bitter at that certain someone for what they did.
It’s okay to say that it’s wrong. Or to have even been angry at it. Or horrified at it.
But at some point, we’ve got to let go of being bitter about it.
Forgiveness is canceling the debt owed to you.
It’s putting it in God’s hands and saying, “I was upset, but I’m not going to hold this over them anymore. Forgiven. Done.”
Two weeks ago, when we were talking about worrying and the future, I mentioned that so many of us spend a significant part of our day worrying about the FUTURE.
Well, unfortunately, we spend just as much of the time angry and bitter at the past.
Someone lied to you, cheated on you, insulted you, said something horrible to you.
Maybe someone at work treated you unfairly, maybe a neighbor drives you nuts, maybe it’s something your sibling did, or your parents.
And what most of us do, instead of forgiving the person, we turn to bitterness.
And we keep playing the event over and over in our mind.
We keep thinking about what an idiot, or jerk that person is.
We gossip about them to our friends.
“And we let our past dominate our present, and ruin our future.
I don’t know who originally said this anymore, but one of my favorite quotes is: “Resentment, or bitterness, is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die”
For all the time we spend on it in our heads, it’s not very effective.
In fact it’s more like this:
(pick up backpack)
Every time you think these bitter and angry thoughts about the people who wronged you, you feel like you’re throwing rocks at them in your mind.
Like, “Ha ha! Jerk! He’s such an idiot!”
But, those rocks….are like rocks on a string.
Remember those kid’s toys where you could throw the little rubber ball on a string and it would come right back to you?
That’s what it’s like.
Every time your mind is going to the PAST, and throwing rocks at them, those rocks are on a string!
And they’re coming right back at you.
And going right into your backpack.
And weighing (get this!), NOT them, but YOU down.
And what happens is (because we love to stay in the past):
We just keep playing things like this over and over:
“I can’t believe she did that. How has she not apologized to me!” (put Rock in the bag)
“My boss is the most incompetent person in the universe” as you’re playing back something they said to you 3 years ago in the past (put Rock in the bag)
A week later, you play that same one again (Rock in the bag)
“My mom (I know, it’s mother’s day…but not everyone’s mother’s day is rosy)…my mom always favored my sister…like that time she…. (put Rock in the bag)
And what happens is: You THINK that your throwing rocks at the other person, but in reality, you’re just weighing your own soul down.
Rocks on a string.
You’re letting your past, dominate your present, and in all likelihood, unless something changes, ruin your future.
No one can make you bitter.
They’re responsible for their sin, but you alone are responsible for your bitterness.
This is one of the biggest differences I notice between those who are really following the teachings of Jesus, and those that aren’t.
For instance, I always notice this if I turn on the radio in the morning when all the Morning Shows are on.
It’s not even the lewdness or the language that really grieves me the most, it’s the bitterness.
Everyone is so angry at everyone else. For what they did.
They’re angry even at celebrities and people they don’t even know.
And it grieves me, not because I’m thinking, “How dare they!”
But because I’m wishing they knew there was another option. A better option.
Paul writes in the Bible in 1 Corinthians that “Love…keeps no record of wrongs”
But bitterness keeps detailed records…And files them with a lock and key…and stores 2 extra copies on their external hard drive and in the cloud.
And it’s weighing us down.
And the weight causes us to do even stranger things.
Look at our verse again:
(Ephesians 4:31) – NIV
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
It’s almost like, as the rocks we throw fly back in our face, and the load gets heavier with each rock we throw, that we resort to even crazier things
The load is getting heavier, and we’re getting more desperate by the day. (Put another rock in)
So we start acting out of that anger, desperation, and frustration.
And now our bitterness is turning into “rage” the Bible says.
Our favorite subject, to every one of our friends, is the person who hurt us
And malice…which is simply a desire to inflict harm on another person.
Sometimes, you’re so desperate from all these rocks you’ve been flinging in your head, that have really just been piling on you, that you’re thinking about harming the other person.
BITTERNESS IS LIKE A ROOT
I said earlier that bitterness can be explained with two metaphors. Rocks and roots.
That bitterness will weigh you down, AND...choke you out like a root of weed.
Let’s take a look at another Bible verse
(Hebrews 12:14-15) – NIV
14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.15 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.
We’re called to make EVERY EFFORT to live in peace.
And to make sure that no bitter root grows in our lives…
Why? Because the bitter root of the past is going to cause trouble and DEFILE many.
We may think our bitterness is an isolated problem in our heads, but trust me, it is not.
You’re leaking out on everybody.
Because bitterness is like a huge weed that’s choking your spiritual life…which is going to choke your ability to love people like Christ loved people.
Now, I personally know virtually nothing about gardening or landscaping.
But I have a house now, and we have some hydrangeas and bushes in front of our house, and I “attempt” to take care of them J
“Attempt” being the key word.
I don’t know much about it, but I do know, that if a huge weed starts growing next to them, that’s a problem.
Because the weed is going to try and choke them out.
Its root is going to go down in the ground and try and steal all the nutrients from my hydrangeas.
And that’s what bitterness is doing.
It’s stealing your mental energy, it’s stealing your love, it’s stealing your compassion, it’s stealing your life (like a bitter root!)
I meet people who tell me how they’re still mad about what somebody did to them in high school.
And they’re 35! Or 40!
How much of your life are you going to let bitterness choke out of you?
You’ve got two options? :
Bitterness…and get choked out like it’s UFC
This is another reason why Facebook can be a dangerous thing for some people.
It doesn’t have to be, but it can be.
You go on it everyday, and everyday you see that person from college or your old work that you are bitter towards, and everyday, it brings up these feels of resentment, and anger, and bitterness, and envy.
It’s not healthy
And the Bible uses the word “ROOT” for a reason.
Because just like you can add rocks, the ROOT will grow.
Unless you choose option #2, forgiveness, the root will continue to grow deeper in your sould.
It’s not going to fix itself!
When you just let bitterness fester for days and months and years, it just continues to grow.
I don’t know if you read the story in the paper a few years ago about the guy in South Dakota who killed his high school classmate?
He was mad at the guy for a prank he pulled on him in high school.
And he never let go of it.
And 55 years later, at the age of 73, he walked over to the guy’s house, opened his door, and shot him.
Here’s the thing:
When you hold on to bitterness and refuse to forgive, it’s like putting a blockade on your spiritual growth.
It will literally stunt your spiritual growth.
Because you’re essentially saying, “God, you CAN NOT have this part of my life. I WILL NOT obey you here. I know you say to forgive the past, but I will not”
Your spiritual flower is never going to fully grow if you say to God, “I’m sorry, but this is weed is going to stay here with me!”
Don’t let your past dominate your present and ruin your future.
Let the weed go.
Empty the rocks.
This is getting heavy!
Life isn’t meant to be lived this way!
Why would we do such a thing?
Let’s read the second verse in Ephesians now. It’s the next one:
(Ephesians 4:32) – NIV
32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
This is why we do it. This is HOW we do it.
We forgive…we let go of the bitterness…because Christ forgave us.
Because he died on the cross, for all of our sins.
Every single one of them.
Even the ones where we hurt other people.
You know the ones where other people have been bitter towards YOU…in their heads.
Oh…wait…you…knew that other people…are doing the same thing to you…right?
See, in the frustration of our weighed-down, root-trapped life, we start judging other people by standards we would never put on ourselves.
When we hurt others, we hope they’ll show mercy or grace.
“Forgive me…I’m human…don’t judge me…I’m not perfect!”
But when they hurt us…we’re ready to hang ‘em.
And if they don’t apologize.
Well, we’ll just stone them in our minds over and over and over.
But the reality of things is this: We deserving the stoning…
We deserve punishment.
We deserve death.
And yet…Jesus Christ, came to earth, and took our punishment for us, dying in our place.
And if we believe that in faith, he says H’ll forgive EVERYTHING we’ve ever done in the past.
And continue to forgive everything we’ll do in the future.
Out of love for us.
See, forgiven people, forgive people.
Pass on to others what Christ gave to you.
And if you do so, not only is it right, you will feel freedom.
If you can say to your friend who said those mean things to you, “Hey, when you said that, I was really hurt, but I want you to know, I forgive you”
You can start to loosen your foot from the root of bitterness that has been holding you down.
You can start to feel free again.
If you can say to your ex, “I’ve been so mad at you for so long, but I know we’re both to blame. And I just want you to know… I forgive you” (take rock out)
If you can say to your sibling, “Hey, I know we haven’t been close. I know it’s been rough. But I do love you. And I’m sorry for all the stuff. And I forgive you” (take rock out)
You’re going to start to feel free. Lighter.
(Take backpack off)
And you can implement this in your life. In the PRESENT. Daily even!
Forgiveness and bitterness is a two-pronged choice you face all day long.
When someone cuts you off on the road on the way to the work
You can say, “Oh that idiot! Learn how to drive. And stay mad at it. And tell all your co-workers all day about how you almost died thanks to lady who should have her license revoked!”
Or, you can simply say, “You know what, for all I know, that woman is rushing her son to the hospital. Or just got a phone call that she was fired. I don’t know. I forgive her.”
And move on. And live free.
Free of rocks on your back. Free of weeds pulling you down and sucking the life out of you.
So instead of letting your past dominate your present and ruin your future…
How about you let go of the past, so you can live in the present…and thrive in the future?
And then, let me ask you a few more questions:
Who do you need to forgive?
Who do you need to talk to?
How do you need to do it?
Face to face?
Maybe write a letter?
Maybe Skype if they’re far away?
Maybe they’ve even died. Maybe you need to go to their grave, and for your own sake, talk it out, and forgive them.
And here’s a tough one: When are you going to do it?
In fact, we’re going to do something kind of different this morning.
As we get back into worship a few minutes from now, I want you to grab the card that’s under your Bible.
Don’t look at it now, just look up here.
Wait to look until the music starts again.
And it’s going to say on it:
Who do I need to forgive?
How will I talk to them?
When will I talk to them?
Now, you don’t need to do this. And we’re not going to collect them on the way out or anything.
But I think so often we hear messages like this, and God starts convicting you someone you need to talk to, but we never actually resolve to do it, and we let it pass.
And I want you to make plans to resolve to do it.
So sometime during the last few songs, I want you to use the pen under chair and write some of this out.
And then take it home, and put it in your Bible or on your mirror or something.
And may God give us the courage to forgive messed up people, as He forgave messed up people like us.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.