Hebrews 12:15-17 ESV
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;

As I sit at my desk and write these words, I have a tree removal company outside my home and they are removing three trees. All three trees are right next to the house. One of the trees, a pine tree has actually died, the other is simply to huge and needs to be dealt with. The third keeps aiming for the house and the roof. The thing is when we bought this house, 16 years ago, all three of those trees looked beautiful. At the time I had no idea that the day would come when those trees would be problems.

I learned a similar lesson to these trees over the years, albeit a downsized version of the lesson. It is the story of those weeds that spring up and when left unattended and given the freedom, they grow bigger and bigger and are more and more of a problem to deal with. In fact, beyond mere weeds, I have actually dealt with trees that simply stared to grow on their own. Somehow the seed would work their way into the middle of a bush and the next thing you know you have an unwanted tree growing in the most unwelcome place. The point is, the quicker I would deal with that tree the easier it was to remove, the longer I let it go, the worse the problem would become.

That is the story of our life is it not. Sometimes we don’t see the potential problems that are taking root. A relationship that appears beneficial, and over time we realize that relationship should have ended years ago. In fact that friendship should have never formed at all. It could likewise be a job. At first we were oblivious to the issues this job would cause us. Oh, we knew that the job required a few minor compromises, we just never saw what those compromises would grow into. That job meant you had to periodically work on Sunday Mornings, and before long periodically was every week. Eventually, you lost all connection with your church and your faith paid the price and got lost in the weeds.

In Hebrews 12, the Bible talks about the race the Christian is running, the importance of our focus in that race and our need to strive for holiness. Listen to what it says in verse 15.

Hebrews 12:15 ESV
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;

The choices we make today, will impact us tomorrow. The decisions we make today will take root and become the fruit we deal with tomorrow. Hebrews talks about the danger of bitterness taking root in our life. Where does bitterness come from? It comes from the weeds of anger, resentment, envy, hate and even entitlement. As these weeds grow up, the root of bitterness grows down and each of these attitudes are solidified.

Note though that the answer to the problem is also found in this very same verse.

“See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God.”

Did you HEAR that? I mean REALLY HEAR that? What a powerful and profound statement. Make sure that NO ONE, fails to obtain the grace of God. In all of your relationships, at home, work, school, church, the neighborhood, what should you leave with the other people you encounter and interact? GRACE! GOD’S GRACE! You see if that individual is receiving grace from me, than I won’t be leaving the roots of bitterness to grow in my own life.

In Galatians 5, Paul speaks to us about how simple this really is for the Christian. Paul speaks about the simplicity of the Christian Life and the simplicity of leaving grace in the lives of others. Think it’s not simple? Think again! Honestly it is as simple as being yourself. Let me explain, or should I say, let Paul explain.

Galatians 5:16-17 ESV
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

Do you see how simple it is to live the Christian life and give grace to others? It is as simple as walking in the Spirit and NOT the flesh. If I am walking in the Spirit, those around me will receive a healthy dose of grace everyday, and as a result bitterness will not be able to take root in my own life.

Now it is helpful to understand WHAT the flesh actually is. While I don’t have the time here to go into all the theological underpinnings of this, I can say very emphatically, the flesh is not your old sin nature. In fact today, and this may surprise you, but as a new creation in Christ you do not have a sin nature, but you are battling the flesh. What is it?

The flesh is the habits and practices of my old man. You know the old man, the one Paul says was crucified with Christ, buried in the grave and brought to nothing (Romans 6:6). The flesh is NOT that man, but how that man used to think. The flesh is also the strategies, philosophies and ideals of this world. It is the the mindset of this world in contrast to the mindset of Christ. Yet even more, the flesh is the reliance on my own strength apart from Christ. THAT is WHAT I am fighting today, and know this, the flesh is a WHAT not a WHO. The flesh is NOT me, it is that, that is opposed to me. WHO then am I?

Romans 8:9-10 ESV
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

So it is clear that for those who are NEW CREATIONS in Christ, we are NOT the flesh, we are actually IN the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is IN us. That’s WHO I am, and that’s why I say that showing grace and defeating the roots of bitterness is as simple as BEING YOURSELF. Which takes us back to Galatians 5 once more and a deeper understanding of just what the fruit of the Spirit is.

Galatians 5:22-24 ESV
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Do you see the fruit of the Spirit, that naturally grows out of the one who has their mind set on the Spirit. Do you see the fruit of the Spirit that can keep bitterness from taking root in our life? Do you see the fruit of the Spirit, the fruit that we want to BEAR and that we want to SHARE? Now I know that grace is not identified on this list as a fruit of the Spirit but believe me it is. This list is not exhaustive, it is just an example of the type of the fruit the Holy Spirit will produce in my life. The fruit that will keep the flesh at bay.

Note as well the person bearing this fruit, is also the person who has crucified the flesh. This simply means they have made the deliberate choice to pull up the unwanted weeds and pull out the destructive roots that they find growing in their life.

Those men who came to remove those trees outside my house, they are gone already. They were done in about 2 hours, all the mess cleaned up. They will return later in the week and grind out the stumps. Those trees were no match for those men and their equipment, and my flesh is no match for the power of the Holy Spirit at work in me. Yes the flesh may complain. The flesh may argue that we should keep those trees. Those trees have always been there. That cutting those trees down with be painful even costly, (and yes it was.) It was though, also worth it. It was worth it to take out the trees that should have been dealt with years ago. It was worth it to deal with the roots that were feeding those trees. It is always worth it to put the flesh in its place, exalt the Spirit and remind ourselves WHO we are IN CHRIST! And it is always worth it to make sure that NO ONE fails to obtain the Grace of God, the grace that is at the very core of Who I am in Christ! The Grace that is to be so freely given. Don’t let the flesh tell you otherwise.

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Bill