"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest." (Hosea 4:6)
"But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep." (1Corinthians 11:28-30)
"See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled." (Hebrews 12:15)
I see it constantly. And it is always tragic and sad. Unresolved bitterness is like a pandemic virus. It does not like to remain in the "host." I studied Virology in college as part of my pre-med course requirements. Viruses are nasty little things - they have one purpose - to take over, duplicate themselves, spread and destroy. They are the perfect infiltrator/killer machine. A virus lands on the surface of a cell, fooling the defenses into thinking that it is bringing something good - then, at the right moment, a probe extends from inside the virus and injects a piece of DNA or RNA into an unsuspecting healthy cell. The information carried in the virus's DNA allows it to take over the operation of the cell, converting it to a factory to make more copies of itself. Viruses are perhaps the clearest manifestation of the Fall that exist in the world.
Before you know it, the virus is everywhere, infecting the entire organism. Then it looks for another home. And another, and another. An epidemic becomes a pandemic.
Please, listen for a moment. This morning I felt strongly compelled to put this message together and it came to me suddenly and clearly. The verses I list above come together to provide some powerful revelation. Revelation brings Knowledge and God's knowledge can protect you from the strategy of the enemy which is to infect you and neutralize you.
When Paul instructs the Corinthians to examine themselves, he tells them that some are "drinking and eating judgment" unto themselves when they partake in the Lord's Supper. Everything appears fine on the outside. But under the surface, they are secretly harboring bitterness and unforgiveness towards each other. Some among the Corinthians were becoming physically weak and sick - and they did not understand why.
They were "perishing" or "being destroyed" for lack of knowledge. What was happening in Corinth? The verse tells us that they were not "judging the body rightly." What does this mean? The word translated "Body" refers to not only the Body of the Lord Jesus Christ - but also to the Church - their own fellowship - the local "body" of believers. Their lack of judgment concerning the nature of their union to Christ and to themselves was leading to sickness, weakness, and even death.
Have you opened the door to this in your life? Are you correctly understanding who you are and that you are part of a Body of believers? Perhaps you have already taken yourself out of fellowship and you feel justified in your judgment. God's Word calls you to examine yourself. Have you encouraged others in their bitterness? Have you heard entertained, nurtured, or welcomed accusations against other believers, pastors, or leaders in an unscriptural way? One of the most ignored verses in Scripture is Matthew 18:15-17:
"If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. "But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. "If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector." (Matthew 18:15-17)
Believers are destroyed, neutralized, they "perish" every day because they ignore God's Word. The Hebrew word rendered "destroyed" in Hosea 4:6 means "silenced, to cause to cease, to be silent, to destroy." Are you seeing it? How does the enemy destroy us?
The answer is "he silences your voice!" What is that voice? What is the first thing that goes when we are "destroyed" in this way? We stop speaking to God and we being listening to Satan. After that, we go into hiding. See the first 3 chapters of Genesis for a primer on how this works. Nothing's changed in 6000 years.
Our prayers cease, hearing ceases, and like Eve, we are seduced by the enemy and destroyed.
Many are even sick and weak and they can't figure out why. This verse provides REVELATION. REVELATION brings KNOWLEDGE, and KNOWLEDGE - God's KNOWLEDGE - is like an invisible anti-viral inoculation. It makes us immune to the virus of offense, gossip, slander, and bitterness. Knowledge, and discernment are like a heavenly flu shot. So many in the Body of Jesus walk in almost constant violation of Matthew 18 - they go and show the sin of the brother or sister to someone else. They hop over Jesus' clear instructions and make up their own verse. This is the same as altering the Word of God. There are dire consequences. Your health, your faith, your life.
Another closely related verse, and just as ignored and passed over these days is 1 Timothy 5:14:
"Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses." (1Timothy 5:19)
Today, in the Church, there is rampant ignorance and pandemic violation of this verse. I deal with this almost constantly. I can almost tell when someone has entertained an accusation against me and has taken on the offense. You can "feel" it. You can see the infection of bitterness on those who have "received accusations." At first, there's an iciness, then they stop coming to Church. The face changes, the joy leaves, the confidence and the relational "connection" is affected. Many times people will simply leave and don't say a word. Often those who do speak up are so caught up in the "root of bitterness" that their minds are made up.
Here is that verse from Hebrews 12:15 again - from Peterson's "The Message" translation:
"Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time."
This is a huge aspect of pastoral work. "Keeping a sharp eye for the bitter discontent." Notice the Scripture mentions the "root of bitterness" - it doesn't say "stem" of bitterness or "flower", or "branch" of bitterness. It says "root" of bitterness. Roots lie underground. They are unseen from the surface. But they are there. If you have a back yard and have at one time tried to remove weeds - you know the story. The root is not seen until it "springs up" - then suddenly, it is everywhere.
Are you keeping a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent?
I love the way the NTL translates the first part of that verse. "Look after each other so that none of you will miss out on the special favor of God." "Look after each other" - this implies that sometimes our brothers and sisters in Christ are unaware of the "bitter root of unbelief" that is there. Robertson, the great Greek Scholar, in his "Word Pictures in the New Testament" comments on this word and reveals that it is in the present active participle - the Greek word is "episkopeo" - to look around - to have oversight - constant, active, ongoing. If you have a garden, you know that it requires constant work. You must remain engaged.
Lastly, notice the end of the verse - why do we need to "look after each other?" The answer, as is often the case, is found right in the text.
So that "none of you will miss out on the special favor of God." My greatest concern and desire is to shepherd the flock of God which He has placed under my care and see that they don't miss out on God's Special Favor! Did you know that God has a special measure of Favor for you? An awesome divine destiny that is uniquely yours? But you can miss out. The Scriptures warn us not to "miss out on it." If we could not "miss out" on God's special favor, then God's Word would not be warning us of it. So many come to faith, but remain in infancy - they miss out on the "special favor" - the measure of Grace that God has made available.
This day, this week, this month, this year, say "no!" to the corrupt poison, the devastation that "bitter roots" can unleash. Remember who you are and who you are connected to. Don't "drink the cool-aid" of bitter roots.
It will take you out of the game.
All the best in the grace and mercy of Jesus.