Pastor Jerry Locke
Another Sermon Series by Pastor Jerry Locke

4445 Hodgkins Rd. Fort Worth, TX 76135

Webmaster's Note: A Selection of 24 Single, Stand Alone Scripture
Sermons by one of our outstanding Independent Baptist Preachers,
Brother Jerry Locke, of Fort Worth, Texas. Enjoy!
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20 - Single, Stand Alone Scripture Series
Hebrews 12:15 - "The Most Powerful Single, Stand-Alone Scripture on Bitterness"

Introduction - Single, Stand Alone Scripture Series
The Bible contains powerful:
Books...Genesis, John, Romans, Revelation
Passages...Genesis 1; Psalm 23; Isaiah 53.
Verses...Too Many to List

Most all Scripture needs a context for correct interpretation. Isolated verses are often the source of misinterpretation and ultimately heresy. The fact is, most Bible verses are not intended to stand alone.

But there are some single scriptures that are so powerful, so clear, so complete that they are able to stand alone. There are three things we are intending to do with each of these “single, stand alone” scriptures.

Memorize...Psalm 119:11 “Thy word have I hid in mine heart that I might not sin against thee.” We will assign the scripture a week in advance to memorize.

Message...Organize and discuss these single scriptures.

Meditate… Psalm 1:2 ”But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.”

20 - Single, Stand Alone Scripture Series
Hebrews 12:15 - "The Most Powerful Single, Stand-Alone Scripture on Bitterness"

A young preacher was preaching in the absence of the pastor. An old man had the job of introducing him and rather apologized that the beloved pastor was not speaking. “This young man is not the real preacher,” then looking over to a window in the auditorium that had been broken and patched with a piece of cardboard, he continued, “He’s like that piece of cardboard there. He’s just filling in.”

Well, the young preacher got up, not even realizing that was a terrible introduction, and really preached to the surprise of everyone, including the old man.

The old man came to the conclusion of the service and very apologetically said to the church. “Folk, I was wrong about this young man. He is a real pane!”

Folk here are the two options when we are hurt by people.
(1) Forgive and receive God's grace and power and love and be better by it.
(2) Refuse to forgive and become dried-up old piece of human flesh who is consumed with bitterness!

“Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled,” Hebrews 12:15.

I want to speak to you today on "THE ROOT OF BITTERNESS."

The Watching to which we are called. “Looking diligently...” Be on the lookout! Too much of the time we go through life carelessly, with little thought of attitudes we pick up and actions we take.

The Warning to which we must heed. “Lest any man...” That’s you and me. That’s any of us. That’s all of us.

The Wandering of which we are capable. “Fail of the grace of God.” The grace of God never fails us, but we can fail of the grace of God. Can you see the difference? You can never blame God for your situation. God has made available to us everything we need to follow Him and to do His will, but we can fail to take advantage of what God has made available. Grace is receiving good at the hand of God which we do not deserve. The slightest little bit of goodness that comes our way is more than we deserve.

This verse warns us about bitterness.

The Condemnation of Bitterness.

I do not have a good report to give of those who have determined to remain bitter. People who are bitter actually become victims of their own hate.

Ahithophel, an otherwise intelligent and influential man, but with bitterness a fool in every sense of the word, 2 Samuel 17:23. His name means “brother of foolishness.”

Haman, in the book of Esther, ended up being hung on his own scaffold of bitterness. He had meant it for Mordecai, Esther 7:10. Haman dreamed about seeing Mordecai dead, but never dreamed his bitterness would put a noose around his own neck.

The Elder Brother was the real tragedy of the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. He was bitter at his brother’s return. He was bitter at His father’s forgiveness. He was bitter because he never had a party thrown for him.

It is said of Simon the Sorcerer in Acts 8:23. "I perceive that thou art in a gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity."

Some see bitterness as a minor irritation — like a mild rash. My friend, it is actually a deadly cancer. We don't feel comfortable with adultery, stealing, murder and the like. But we often allow bitterness to go unchecked. Bitterness is a sin. It is a mark of the unsaved. Knowing how evil and wicked bitterness is, it still shows up where it is not welcome or wanted.

Bitterness comes out of our mouths. Romans 3:14 says, “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.” Job 7:11, “I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.”

Bitterness comes out in our marriages. Colossians 3:19, “Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.” The fires of divorce are being fueled by bitterness. Sometimes the better half is really the bitter half.

Bitterness comes out in our ministries. Churches have been known to face and fight bitterness. One young preached was told after be had been on the scene at a new church a few weeks, “You're the first pastor that both sides of the church likes.” Paul said to the Christian church at Ephesus, “Let all bitterness be put away...” Ephesians 4:31.

Everywhere you turn in Scripture, either in people or in principles, bitterness is soundly condemned as a behavior not suited for the child of God. Bitterness blows out the candle of joy and leaves the soul in darkness.

2. The Germination of Bitterness.

So what is bitterness like?

Bitterness is like a Root.

The root of bitterness grows underground (not seen, out of sight). Your real spirit is not in your plastic smile or your extended hand. It is what goes on in your heart. Seldom do you find anyone who will admit that they are a bitter person. They will either deny it or disguise it. A bitter person is hypersensitive, ungrateful, insincere, holds grudges, and has mood swings.

It flourishes in dirt. The dirtier the dirt the better for bitterness. Almost any kind of dirt will do. If you can find some character flaw in the person about whom you are bitter, your evil conscience is eased for the moment and you don’t feel you are wrong.

It's tough like a root. And once the root has taken root it is hard to uproot. If you think digging up a root of bitterness is easy, think again.

Bitterness can develop Rapidly. We are taught in this verse that bitterness can “spring up.” A. T. Robertson, the Greek scholar says what is pictured here is a “quick process.”

Bitterness can happen at any given moment if we allow it to take root in the soil of our soul. One Sunday, almost thirty years back, I was greeting folk like I always do and a dear, elderly lady in the church looked particularly nice, so I complimented her on her hair and how nice she looked. I had no idea what I had just done. She was not back in church that night for the evening services (she was a deacon’s wife and always there) and word got to me that I had hurt her feelings.

I went by the next day and asked what was wrong. She told me Sunday was the first day she had worked up enough courage to wear her new wig and then I had to say something about it. She flipped her wig! I apologized for any misunderstanding, but she ended up leaving the church. She is now in heaven (without her wig), and I am sure she has got all that right by now. All of that happened so quickly. One day she was in church and everything was fine. The next thing I know she and her husband headed to another church for better treatment. I wanted to send a note along with their request for a church letter for the next pastor to avoid any innocent compliments, but I didn’t.

3. The Devastation of Bitterness.

"Troubles you." This word means “to annoy.” Something begins to bug you. It's not what you eat, but what eats you that matters.

A man and his young son were in the car when the boy asked, “What are we doing?” The dad said, “Son, we need to go to the drug store to get some more pills for mama’s colitis.” The little boy replied, "Who's mama been colliding with now?"

A woman had been bitten by a dog and there was a real possibly of contracting hydrophobia. The Dr. suggested, "Seriously consider writing your last wishes." The Dr. gave her a pen and some paper. After some time the Dr. returned and asked. "Is that your will you are writing?" She answered, "No! It's a list of people that I want to bite!"

Troubled people cause trouble. Hurt people hurt people.

Dr. S. I. McMillen, in his book "None of These Diseases," lists 51 diseases caused by emotional stress. And there is no greater stress than an unforgiving spirit and the bitterness that goes along with it. Listen to Dr. Millen.

“The moment I start hating a man, I become his slave. I can’t enjoy my work any more because he even controls my thoughts. My resentment produces too many stress hormones in my body and I become fatigued after only a few hours of work. The work I formerly enjoyed is now drudgery. Even vacations cease to give me pleasure. It may be a luxurious car that I drive along a lake fringed with the autumnal beauty of maple, oak and birch. As far as my experience of pleasure is concerned, I might as well be driving a wagon in mud and rain.

"The man I hate hounds me wherever I go. I can’t escape his tyrannical grasp on my mind. When the waiter serves me porterhouse steak and French fries, asparagus, crisp salad, and strawberry shortcake smothered with ice cream, it might as well be stale bread and water. My teeth chew the food and I shallow it, but the man I hate will not permit me to enjoy it . . . The man I hate may be many miles from my bedroom; but more cruel than any slave driver, he whips my thoughts into such a frenzy that my innerspring mattress becomes a rack of torture,” (pp. 73, 74).

Several years ago I was asked to be with a man’s family at the hospital while he had cancer surgery. Tom Field had raised three girls and later in life divorced, and married Betty. Betty had loved Tom and was a good wife to him. Tom’s three grown daughters had refused to recognize Betty as their father’s wife for years. That day when I entered the hospital room the spirit of bitterness and tension was so real, it could not be ignored.

I greeted everyone and then Tom asked me to pray. I prayed a prayer that day that I had never prayed before, nor since. I remember it so plainly. I said, “Dear Lord, you know the need that Tom has as he faces this surgery for this cancer. But, Lord, before we ask you to do anything for Tom physically, I pray you will deal with the cancer of bitterness that has destroyed this family for years.” By that time I was watching and praying, wanting to back toward the door. When I closed my prayer and looked up, everyone in the room was crying and those three daughters moved across the room and for the first time hugged Betty and asked for forgiveness.

People are troubled by bitterness. Those who are bitter wreck their own lives. They destroy their joy, their friends, their peace, their testimony, and their power with God.

Someone has said, “Bitterness is the poison we drink hoping the other person will die.” The fruit of bitterness is an acid that destroys its container.

4. The Contamination of Bitterness.

The Number who are contaminated by bitterness, "many."

The Nature of those who are contaminated. They are said to be "defiled." This word means to stain, become dirty.

One bitter person can do more to destroy the church than several Spirit-filled soul winners can do to build the church.

Dale Carnegie, "one of the Old Testament prophets," tells of a trip to Yellowstone National Park. It was in the day when there were plenty of Grizzly bears and people could sit at a distance and watch them eat. Carnegie noticed as he sat in the grand stands that there was only one other animal that the giant Grizzly allowed to eat with him - the skunk. He said he thought about it for a while and then it came to him why. "The grizzly knew the high cost of getting even!"

When your heart is bitter, God will not be real to you be. Why? Because hatefulness and holiness do not dwell in the same heart. And without holiness you will not see the Lord, Hebrews 12:14.

5. The Eradication of Bitterness.

Great research teams are looking for cures: cures for cancer, cures for heart disease, cures for strokes, cures for diabetes. I suggest we need to find a cure for bitterness.

There are three steps to eradicating bitterness:

Let God Reveal It. Sometimes people say, "I know my heart, there's no bitterness in me." Truth of the matter is you don't know your heart. God's Word tells us, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" Jeremiah 17:9. A deceitful heart cannot diagnose a deceitful heart. You need to let God the Holy Spirit do radical surgery.

Let Grace Remove It. A response of bitterness is never right when someone has done something wrong to you. You need to ask God to forgive you, and He will by His grace. If someone has wronged you, cut the root of bitterness down and forget it. By the grace of God, bury that hurt in the grave of God's forgetfulness. Justice is God giving us what we deserve, mercy is God not giving us what we deserve, grace is God giving us what we don't deserve.

Let Good Replace It. Hebrews 12:14 says, "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." You cannot be holy unless you follow peace with men. It is so worth it when you forgive. But, you say, "Look what they've done! I am not going to let them off the hook." Well, they are not on the hook - you are! When you forgive, you set two people free and one of them is yourself.

You will discover that your life is more joyful when you uproot your bitterness. If God gave us justice, every person reading this would die and go to hell. Thank God for His mercy that removes His hand of punishment from us. Praise God for His grace that gives us a brand new life!

One outstanding example of forgiveness occurred when Corrie Ten Boom met a former Nazi Officer who had abused her and her sister during imprisonment, assisting in the death of other prisoners. He told her he had become a Christian and proceeded to ask Corrie to forgive him. As he reached out his hand towards her, Corrie resisted. Then, in obedience to God, as she extended her hand towards him she felt the surge of the Holy Spirit pour through her in a supernatural act of forgiveness.

Chuck Colson tells the story about a Mrs. Washington who, during a graduation ceremony for inmates completing a Prison Fellowship program, swept to the stage to wrap her arms around a graduating inmate, declaring "this young man is my adopted son." Everyone had tears in their eyes for they knew that this young man was behind bars for the murder of Mrs. Washington's daughter.

Accounts like this are amazing! How could people like Corrie and Mrs. Washington endure such great injustices and then turn around to forgive the villains? Actually, all they did was purely obey the command: "forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you,." Ephesians 4:32.

Phillip Yancey wrote: "Forgiveness is another way of admitting, 'I'm human, I make mistakes, I want to be granted that privilege and so I grant you that privilege.' "

Forgiveness cancels a debt someone owes us and restores relationship. It is the only solution in a world ridden with sin and evil to help us start over with people and with God.

We learn about real forgiveness at the foot of the cross where Jesus Christ shed His blood to pay for the sins of the whole world. That is God's kind of forgiveness - free, sacrificial, no cost on our part. When we experience His forgiveness we want to obey Him like Corrie and Mrs. Washington, extending that forgiveness to others.

God's love and grace is the power behind forgiveness, granting us supernatural power to forgive others, the power to overcome resentment, the power to redeem relationships and show God's love to a hurting world.