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. Hebrews 12:15
Hebrews 12 begins by talking about setting aside sin and fixing our eyes on Jesus. In 12:4 it says, “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” It continues by explaining that if we are disciplined by the Lord, it means we are His children. Verse 11 declares that if we submit to God’s discipline we will “yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness, for those who have been trained by it.”
If we don’t set aside our sins and weights, resisting to the point of great pain, and if we don’t submit to God’s warning lights, a few things could result. One is that we continue to run, but we are so weighed down that the Christian life is a burden and a chore. Another is that we experience God’s spankings over and over until we learn our lesson. God will discipline His children until they are trained by it. A third option is that we fail to obtain the grace of God, which sounds awful.
“Failing to obtain the grace of God” could mean that those who never submit to the commands and path to holiness that God gives us really are not believers. They could be called “professing Christians,” who think they are secure because they go to church or because of some past spiritual experience or good work. Hebrews is written to those people, urging them to not be presumptuous about their standing with God.
“The root of bitterness” really isn’t about not taking care of resentment and festering bitterness in your heart, though that’s a good thing to do. It is a reference to Deuteronomy 29:18 that states: “Beware lest there be among you a man…whose heart turns away from this day from the Lord our God to go and serve the gods of those nations; lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit.”
How can this root of bitterness and unbelief spring up in a body of believers and defile many? Deut. 29:10 answers this by describing “one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.’”
You could be pressing into God, yearning to be set free from the ugly consequences of sin that has wreaked havoc in your life, coming to church with an attitude of worship and desperacy. And then you sit by a person who is rarely moved to sing or worship, that never really has read the Bible, doesn’t bear fruit in keeping with repentance, and who kind of communicates to you to ‘knock it off.’
Don’t let their stubborn and unbelieving heart deter or defile you. Grab a hold of the grace of God by setting aside your sins and weights, resisting sin to the point of great personal pain and loss, and submitting to God’s hand of discipline. Pursue holiness so that you may enjoy God’s grace, yielding a peaceful fruit of righteousness.
*Image from Mick Holt