I recently was privileged to speak at a church and share my testimony of how the Lord freed me from the bondage of bitterness. When I describe the process, I list 5 steps. Later a friend remarked to me that these 5 steps might be used for overcoming almost any sin. That got me to thinking, how would they apply in different situations?
Here are the 5 steps, related to overcoming bitterness:
- Repent of my sin. Realize that my bitterness is my sin, regardless of what others have done or the circumstances that surround me. Confess it to God.
- Choose to forgive those who have wounded or hurt me through the power of the Holy Spirit that mightily works in me. REPEAT 1 & 2
- Pray earnestly. Pray that I would change, that the Lord would increase my love for those people, pray for them in any way that I can think of: I pray for physical blessing, salvation, or sanctification for them. Ask others to pray for me and keep me accountable in this process.
- Choose Love. If possible (if the person is alive and not a danger to you), say or do kind things. Start small. Feelings catch up with our actions.
- Ask God to transform my mind. Work hard at accomplishing this through A. Believing truth and being aware of what I’m thinking about B. Living unselfishly (Be a fountain, not a drain) C. Cultivating thankfulness.
So I was thinking of some other sins that Christians fall prey to and many of them are linked in or associated with bitterness. What about someone with a bad temper? Anger is the doorway to bitterness and quick, intense anger is a characteristic of a bitter person. What about someone who’s unkind with their words? (Luke 6:45 Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.) Their words are an indication of sin in the heart; they are probably struggling with bitterness or anger to some degree. If someone is chronically selfish and can never see beyond their own interests, they are probably carrying around deep wounds and may blame others or God for that and have erected a firm wall of self-protection and self-pity. This is a very obvious characteristic of bitterness.
But here’s one that you could argue is separate – sexual immorality. This can cover everything from impure thoughts to inappropriate words to actions. The actions may range from viewing pornography to debauchery to adultery.
Step 1 – Repent of my sin. This is obviously always the first step for any sin. We run to our compassionate Savior who has paid the penalty that we deserve. We ask Him to forgive us and cleanse us. I John 1:9 says that He will!
Step 2 – Choose to forgive those who have wounded you. This may be applicable to sexual immorality if we feel that we were led into sin. If a father had dirty magazines in the house and a child was influenced or encouraged, they may harbor resentment for that. If a friend recommended sexual romance novels and you became hooked or someone suggested a particular website to visit, you may blame them for sending you down a slippery slope. Or what if a person enticed you to flirtation or an inappropriate relationship? What if you were tempted to adultery because your spouse wasn’t meeting your needs? We must choose forgiveness and take the responsibility for our own sin.
Step 3 – Pray earnestly. This is always necessary, to ask God to fill us with His Spirit and change us. Ask Him to change your “want to”, your desires. Ask Him to clean out your mind and heart, to erase inappropriate images, and to renew them. Ask others to pray for you and keep you accountable (James 5.)
Step 4 – Choose love (Galatians 5:14). I believe this is mostly applicable if your sin involves another person. If you are struggling with inappropriate attraction, ask God to give you a brotherly/sisterly love. Pray kingdom prayers for them, that they would be saved or sanctified. If you are married and your sexual sin has damaged the relationship with your spouse, choose to love them earnestly and well in the power of the Spirit. Living in a fantasy world makes it difficult to be satisfied with earthly reality.
Step 5 – Let your mind be transformed (Romans 12:1-2). This is a huge step in overcoming immorality. We must take our thoughts captive (2 Cor. 10:5), realize that we are at war in the spiritual realms (Ephesians 6:10-18) and that we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us and is at work in us (Romans 8:37). We must fix our minds on things above (Colossians 3:1) and think about the things of the Kingdom of God (Phil. 4:8, Matthew 6:33). We must be aware of what we’re thinking about and not let the enemy get in and plant lies, “it’s not so bad, you deserve this, you can’t help it, you can’t overcome…” We must fill our minds with truth and believe God’s Word. He promises to give us everything we need for life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3). This means we lack nothing!
So let’s fight whatever sin trips us up in the power of the Holy Spirit and give thanks to our loving Savior Jesus for complete forgiveness and no condemnation!