Six Essentials in Christian Ministry: Essential #3 Grow in Grace, Not Bitterness

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. (Heb. 12:15)

How can we miss the grace of God? We may be surprised how easy it is to do so! When the Scriptures are taught, when the sacraments of the Lord’s Supper and baptism are practiced, when the church fellowships together, it is still possible for us to sit around with our fingers in our ears.

The phrase “root of bitterness” in this verse draws its language from Deuteronomy 29, in which Moses warns Israel about their hearts: “Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit” (v. 18). This is someone “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’” (v. 19, emphasis added). James echoes this warning with the command to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22, emphasis added).

When we hear without really listening, then we end up having all the trappings of Christianity while worldliness is still rooted in our hearts. Envy, bitterness, anger, rage, and despondency begin to make our souls impervious to what God really wants for us. We must pull these destructive weeds up by the root and instead let the grace of God fill our hearts so that we can be hearers and doers of His Word.

This article was adapted from the sermon “Essentials of Christian Maturity” by Alistair Begg.

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Six Essentials of Christian Maturity: Essential #2 – Pursue Harmony and Holiness

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. (Heb. 12:14)

“Strive” is an appropriate translation for the imperative here. It communicates concentrated, vigorous effort. The author is saying, I want you to pursue this with the passion of a hound pursuing a fox. And the fox we are to pursue is the twofold goal of harmony and holiness.

Maintaining peace requires serious striving. Christ purchased peace, and “he himself is our peace” (Eph. 2:14). Discord is inevitable in our fractured age, even in the church—but this is no reason to give up! We strive to grow in harmony and to shed the burdens and sins that hold us back from it. Jesus Himself told us, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). We won’t have perfect harmony before Christ returns, but in reliance on the Holy Spirit, we can be a small taste of heavenly community.

And how do we foster such harmony? Well, holiness provides the steady framework, the fertile soil, for the harmony that we enjoy. As we grow in holiness together from the shared wellspring of the Holy Spirit at work in our hearts, we will also grow in harmony with one another and with God. Neither harmony nor holiness is an optional extra. They come from the work of Christ’s Spirit in us and thus are evidence that we really belong to Him.

This article was adapted from the sermon “Essentials of Christian Maturity” by Alistair Begg.