Preacher's Pulpit by Dr. Joe Tims

Choose to Change #5: Forgiveness over Bitterness

Eph 4:32


What is the worst sin that a Christian could commit?

Murder? Adultery? Homosexuality? Incest? What would it be?

Although these are awful sins, and many others might be noted, which would be the worst?

God's Word makes it clear that from God's perspective there is no distinction made concerning sin.

James tells us that the smallest infraction of God's law is the same as breaking all of God's law.

(James 2:10) "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all."

So from the Lord's viewpoint sin is sin, but with that in mind, we also need to realize that some sins have greater consequences to us here than others.

Jesus told us that if we hate someone in our heart we are guilty of murder, but no one has been sent to the electric chair for hating another person.

So, let's rephrase the question. Instead of asking what is the greatest sin that a Christian can commit, we need to ask what is the most destructive sin that a believer can commit.

As a Pastor in my experience, the most destructive of all sins is bitterness.

Bitterness destroys people, families, and churches.

Bitterness is an attitude that refuses to forgive offenses.

Like a cancer, it grows until it destroys everything around it.

(Heb 12:15) "Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of god; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;"

The opposite of bitterness is forgiveness.

Forgiveness is an attitude that honestly acknowledges an offense and then dismisses it on the basis of God's forgiveness of us.

(Eph 4:32) "And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."

Bitterness holds on to an offense, but forgiveness brings release.

So the challenge is to choose forgiveness over bitterness.

How can we do that?

What if the hurt is deep and the pain is great?

We must understand the basis for forgiveness so we can choose to forgive.


A. God forgave us when we did not deserve forgiveness. (Rom 5:8) "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

1. Many folks believe that only good people will go to heaven...WRONG!

2. Only bad people will go to heaven; because there is none good no not one! (Rom. 3:10)

3. We need to understand that we are not forgiven because we deserve to be forgiven; it’s just the opposite!

B. God forgave us on the basis of His grace, not our works.

1. It's not what I do or do not do that earns God's forgiveness.

2. We have been declared forgiven by our faith (our trust in God's Word). (1 John 1:9) "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

3. If we could do anything to earn God's forgiveness, then forgiveness would not be a gift but an obligation or debt that God would owe to us.

C. The application.

1. We are commanded to forgive others even as God has forgiven us.

2. How has He forgiven us?

3. When we didn't deserve it.

4. On the basis of grace, not works.


A. Family relationships provide a great potential for bitterness.

1. Joseph was Jacob's favorite son; he made that very clear.

2. Joseph's brothers were bitter over the way their father treated him.

3. Their bitterness grew to develop into action against him.

a. They plotted to murder him.

b. They wound up selling him into slavery.

c. They lied to their father about what happened to him.

4. Bitterness often leads to destruction of families.

B. God's work in Joseph's life.

1. The famine in the land caused Joseph's brothers to come to Egypt in search of food.

2. The man they had to deal with was none other than Joseph.

3. When Joseph revealed his identity to them they were frightened at what would happen.

C. Joseph was ready to forgive his brothers.

1. He recounted to them how that God had brought all things together for good.

2. What his brothers had done was wrong, but God took the wrong and used it to accomplish His will. (Gen 50:20) "But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive."


A. Acknowledge the hurt.

1. Forgiveness is not the same as denial.

2. Sometimes we try to deny that we are hurt by someone.

3. We may distance ourselves from certain individuals and act like nothing has happened.

4. But that isn't forgiveness.

5. Joseph told his brothers, "You thought evil against me..."

6. If we do not acknowledge the offense, then we cannot prepare ourselves to forgive.

B. Don't leave God out of the hurt.

1. Often our first response will be 'Why did this happen to me?'

2. Our focus is on ourselves and the pain that we feel over the situation.

3. We need to realize that God is not unaware of what is happening to us.

4. We should consider and ask ourselves what is God trying to accomplish through this event?

5. God can take the worst things that happens to us and use them for His eternal purpose in our lives. (Rom 8:28) "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose."

6. This verse doesn't mean that everything that happens to us will be good; it means that God will use it for good. (good = conforming us to the image of His Son)

C. Acknowledge our own sins and receive God's forgiveness.

1. Remember we are to forgive as we have been forgiven.

2. We need to receive God's forgiveness before we can begin to forgive someone else.

3. Our willingness to forgive others is an evidence that God has forgiven us.


The choice is ours. We can choose to remain bitter over what has happened in our lives, or we can choose to forgive.

Think what it would have meant if Joseph had chosen bitterness.

What about us?

Are there hurts that we have denied.

Offenses which we have held on to?

Acknowledge them, release them and begin to experience the freedom that comes from choosing forgiveness over bitterness.

REMEMBER: (1 John 1:8-9) "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."