Sunday, July 5, 2015

Poisoned by bitterness

“A clear and innocent conscience fears nothing.”  Queen Elizabeth I

When people balk at praying with boldness, I usually find out that it’s because something inside of them is holding them back. Being bold with God feels wrong when you know that you aren’t right with Him. I’m always so proud of the people who finally come clean and deal with those inner barriers, and who learn to use their faith in power. I suspect this is why a lot of Christians would rather timidly pray their “wish list” and hope for the best when it comes to answers. Praying with determination and conviction feels awkward with a nagging conscience.  

In order for a person to “exercise” bold faith with a guilty conscience he has to deny the presence of his sin. But living in denial is piling sin upon sin, and it doesn’t take long before that hidden evil catches up with him. This is why pastors and leaders who are caught in adultery or addictions or fraud create such damage to the Church. They pretend to be spiritual leaders, stand in the pulpit and preach the word of God when they know their lives are defiled, exert great effort to hourly and daily deceive their churches and families, and in the end sin exponentially more just for the sake of appearances. They are men with no fear of God, and devoid of the Holy Spirit.

But other inner sins that most people struggle with are even easier to hide. Grudges and bitterness are just as paralyzing to faith as robbing a bank. The problem is that they are so much easier to justify, ignore, or explain away. And the same piling of sin upon sin happens when we refuse to deal with them. Sometimes our bitterness even extends to God. We can be resentful that He didn’t answer a prayer that we had hoped for, that He removed someone from our lives that we loved, or that He just seems so far away. We want Him close, but are angry with Him at the same time, putting us in a no-win state of mind. The devil snares us like a fly on a spiderweb—the harder we pull, the more entangled we get. It reminds me of Paul urging us, “lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” (Hebrews 12:1).

Think of how you feel before God: when you pray, when it’s time for church, or during your daily grind. Do you feel entangled, stuck or unmotivated? Do you feel like your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling and falling back down at your feet? It could be something small that’s keeping you from being totally free: bitterness, unforgiveness, a grudge, resentment, a negative attitude towards God. Any and all of these can be washed away if you are honest and earnestly seek His inner healing. Then you can run the race set before you in boldness, strength and victory. You can finally experience peace, and be able to face battles from any direction because your conscience is clean and nothing can condemn you any more. You can have the assurance that your prayers are effective, that the spiritual world is changing and moving because of your faith, and that answers to prayer will materialize in front of you.  It’s a win-win situation, what God has always wanted for you. 

For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.  (Acts 8:23 HCSB)

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