These are notes on the sermon, Win The Battle Over Bitterness, preached by Pastor Joseph Prince on Sunday, 7 November 2021, at The Star Performing Arts Centre, Singapore. We hope these sermon notes will be an encouragement to you!
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Pastor Prince begins the service with the story of Jacob’s life.
Jacob’s life was given prominence in the book of Genesis. He was the son of Isaac and the grandson of Abraham. Though Jacob cheated his father to get the firstborn blessing, the Bible records his life as one filled with faith.
At River Jabbok, God changed Jacob’s name to “Israel,” meaning “prince of God.” One would think of this event as the crowning achievement of Jacob’s life. Instead of being known as “Jacob” (meaning “supplanter” or “grabber”), he became a “prince of God,” and this change of name marked his life. However, this change of name is not what the Bible records as his greatest achievement.
In Hebrews 11, which is the chapter known as the “hall of faith,” we read this about Jacob:
“By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.”
— Hebrews 11:20–21 NKJV
“By faith Jacob . . . blessed each of the sons of Joseph” — The account of his faith recorded in Hebrews 11 is the act of pronouncing the blessing over his grandsons, Ephraim and Manasseh. When Joseph brought his sons Ephraim and Manasseh before his father Jacob to impart the generational blessing of Abraham, Jacob crossed his hands when blessing them. Joseph had positioned his firstborn Manasseh on the right side so that Jacob’s right hand of blessing (the firstborn blessing) would go to him. But Jacob, under the power and influence of the Holy Spirit, crossed his hands and gave the firstborn blessing to Ephraim instead. This is to show us that the undeserving will receive God’s blessings.
God loves to bless your children. This act of blessing children is singled out in Hebrews 11 when it records Isaac blessing his children and Jacob blessing his grandchildren.
Abraham was another man of great faith; in fact, he is known as the father of faith. There was a time when he and his wife, Sarah, were barren and in old age. Although Abraham had everything a man could want (e.g. material wealth, a beautiful wife), what he longed for was a son (Gen. 15:2).
Children will fill your heart like material goods cannot. God is the possessor of heaven and earth, yet God sent His Son for the purpose of providing for all of us the sacrifice of Jesus Christ—that by Him, we might be adopted as sons of God. This way, God provided adoption and sonship unto Himself. God has myriads of servants in angelic form excelling in power and strength and has the option of creating more universes, but that didn’t satisfy His heart—He wanted sons.
Similarly, we all need objects of love and not just material things.
For us believers, we have found the object of love that fills our heart in the person of Jesus Christ.
For those who are troubled about how Jesus thinks of you because of something you did, you need to know that Jesus appeared to His disciples in the upper room—the ones who had left Him when He needed them most. Without rebuke or reproof, Jesus gave them peace and showed them His hands and sides that had been pierced at the cross for them. This is a picture of the finished work; it is the divine receipt that all our sins are forgiven. Because all your sins have been punished on Jesus’ body, God who is holy can never judge you for your sins ever again.
When the disciples saw the Lord, they were glad. Peace always comes when you see His finished work, and joy comes when your heart is filled with Jesus in all His glory, beauty, and excellency. He is the perfect object of love for your heart that no human idol can ever satisfy. When you carry the spirit of sonship, you will not go around doing good in order to please the Father, but you will do what pleases Him because you love Him. Nothing satisfies God’s heart like His sons, and you are one of them.
We may be living in times of shaking, but as a child of God, you don't have to be shakable. God, who knows the beginning and the end, can put you at the right place at the right time so that you are not shaken. While you will encounter people who are smarter and or more capable than you, they will see you end up in a better and higher place because of God!
We can expect good things to happen to us because we are no longer living under the law, but under grace. Grace is not a message, it is not a doctrine, but it is the gospel.
There is a huge difference when you live under the law and when you live under grace. It is vital to know that because of Jesus’ finished work at the cross, we are now in the dispensation of grace.
“Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.”
— Hebrews 12:14 NKJV
“Pursue peace with all people” — Once justified by faith, you have peace with God (Rom. 5:1). However, it is also important for us to pursue peace with all people. While this passage was written predominantly to the Hebrews (the Jews), we have the same Holy Spirit that speaks to us today, talking to us Gentiles who are born again.
There are times when people want us to compromise our faith, and in those cases we should not compromise. Apart from this, we are called by God to pursue peace with people and not to live in strife or bitterness with people.
“holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” — This is referring to having a revelation of the Lord, and not about maintaining one’s salvation through holiness. Hearts are purified when people hear the good news that all their sins have been forgiven, and that is how they become holy. Grace teaches us to be holy and leads us in a life of holiness (Tit. 2:11–12). Let us live our lives wanting to have a fresh revelation of the Lord every day!
When we think of sin, the most predominant type that comes to mind is sexual sin. All types of sin are wrong, but the sin that people generally consider to be the most “overt” sin is sexual sin.
There is a connection between sexual sin and bitterness. Bitterness is the opposite of peace, which we talked about earlier.
“ . . . lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.”
— Hebrews 12:15 NKJV
“root of bitterness springing up cause trouble . . . by this many become defiled” — This portion refers to someone with a root of bitterness going around defiling many others. In our modern-day context, this can include doing things like posting negative, defamatory things about others online, and when people read these posts, they get defiled. If you are constantly reading negative comments online, you are imbibing someone else’s mixture of bitterness, and their bitterness gets into you.
VIDEO: A video is screen showing a gold bar covered in mud is washed clean by running water over it. This is a picture of how even though we may be defiled by the world (the mud), the way to remove that defilement is to come under the washing of the Word. The gold bar never lost its value when it fell into the mud. Likewise, we are like the gold bar, and we never lose our righteousness before God.
“Lest there be any fornicator (‘pornos’) or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.”
— Hebrews 12:16 NKJV
“fornicator” — This word is “pornos” in Greek, which refers to sexual sin outside of marriage. When there is a root of bitterness, sexual immorality is produced. When God created sex, He ordained it to be enjoyed within marriage, where there is maximum fulfilment. Sex is meant to satisfy you completely—emotionally, spiritually, and physically.
For those who are married: Our marriages are all works in progress. It is wise to pray for our spouse instead of allowing bitterness to come in. The more we receive the revelation of how Christ loves us completely and forgives all our faults, we will be able to love our spouse better and better.
“Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright” — Esau was Jacob’s older twin brother. Esau lived for his body and sold his birthright to Jacob, who offered him food when he was hungry. Although the way Jacob obtained the firstborn blessing was wrong, he was promised the firstborn blessing even before he was born. The Lord gave the prophecy to Rebekah that Isaac would bless Jacob with the firstborn blessing and that “the older would serve the younger.” Jacob only needed to rest and he would have received the firstborn blessing in God’s timing.
“And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.”
— Genesis 25:28 NKJV
“he ate of his game” — Esau pleased his father by being a hunter (Gen. 25:27). By his performance, Esau tried to earn his father’s blessings. When you depend on your performance to earn blessings, bitterness is standing by to get you when you don’t receive recognition.
Pastor Prince gives an example of someone serving in church who does not get recognition or appreciation from their leader. He encourages us to serve the Lord with our eyes on Him, knowing that He sees all things. The Lord doesn’t look at the quantity of our actions, but the quality of them. He weighs our hearts and motives.
“For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance (‘metanoia’), though he sought it diligently with tears.”
— Hebrews 12:17 NKJV
“repentance” — This word translates to “metanoia” in Greek, which means “changing or renewing one’s mind.” This verse does not mean there was no place for Esau’s repentance (or that there was no place for him to be forgiven), but means that Esau found no place to change his father’s mind.
“sought it diligently with tears” — Esau was actually not repentant about selling his birthright, the firstborn blessing. He found no place to make his father repent about giving the firstborn blessing to Jacob, though he sought the blessing diligently with tears. His tears were for the blessing, not tears over giving up his inheritance. Inheritance goes beyond life and to eternity. For one moment of pleasure (food), he sold it off to his brother, and then cried bitter tears.
“looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God;”
— Hebrews 12:15 NKJV
“looking carefully . . . fall short of the grace of God” — What does it mean to fall short of the grace of God? It has all to do with law and grace. The phrase “looking carefully” is “episkopéō,” meaning “oversight.” This means that we are to look out carefully for others so they don't fall short of God’s grace. Long before sexual sins and bitterness take root, people fall from grace. As believers, although we permanently stand on favor ground, we can still fall from the atmosphere of grace by having a law-mindset. It is only the grace of God that produces peace and holiness in us.
Mount Sinai versus Mount Zion
Mount Sinai represents the law for that is where the law was given. Mount Zion represents grace for that is where the Holy Spirit descended and where the early church was born about 2,000 years ago in the upper room.
“For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore.”
— Hebrews 12:18–19 NKJV
“blackness and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet” — When God gave the law, there was fire, tempests, and loud trumpets.
“you have not come to the mountain” — This is Mount Sinai, a mountain that caused all to tremble with its fire and palpable blackness. This scripture was written to the Jews, telling them that God had moved mountains (from Mount Sinai to Mount Zion, from law to grace), and that they should no longer go to Mount Sinai. Notice that God is not mentioned in the verses describing Mount Sinai.
“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels . . . to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant.”
— Hebrews 12:22–24 NKJV
“Mount Zion . . . the city of the living God” — At Mount Zion, we see God’s name being mentioned.
“Jesus” — Jesus’ name is also mentioned in this verse.
God has married holiness and grace together, just like how “water” and “being wet” are always together as one. Just like you cannot be in water and not be wet, you cannot be under grace and not produce holiness.
We want people to have peace with one another, within their families, in the church, and in our country. The key to having peace is staying in grace.
If you are a pastor or leader, even the leader of your household, it is important to have oversight (“episkopéō”) of the people whom the Lord has entrusted to you. Watch over them, watch over your children. Notice in the way they speak whether they are under grace or under the law. If they are constantly stressed out, worried about their performance, feeling demanded from, then they have a law-mindset. You can gently lead them back to grace, which is all about God’s supply.
The law is all about demand, and grace is all about supply.
The law demands righteousness and if it does not find in you, then it must curse you for it cannot bend to help you.
But grace supplies what you need. It is God who works in you both the willingness and the performance of His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13). While the law demands perfect obedience, grace supplies the gift of righteousness.
If you wake up every day thinking you’ve got so much to do, you are demand-minded. You may understand the theology behind law and grace, but you are not seeing God's supply practically in your life. Experientially, you are not under grace.
During the feeding of the 5,000, the disciples found a boy who had five loaves and two fish and the disciples told Jesus how small that amount was. But Jesus saw His heavenly Father’s supply. That is why He could thank His Father for the food, and little became much in His hands. He saw the supply first, then everyone saw the manifestation of supply and rejoiced.
When you pray for someone to be healed, don’t just see the person’s physical condition, but see the supply of healing that Jesus has purchased through His finished work. When you lay hands on people, don’t look to yourself but toward heaven where there is abundant supply.
At Mount Sinai, God demanded righteousness, and told the people not to come near lest they die. At Mount Zion, God supplies righteousness, and invites us to come boldly to the throne of grace. Even when you fail, God invites you to come near to Him.
During Jesus’ earthly ministry, He didn’t go around condemning sinners, prostitutes, and tax collectors, but He showed them grace—undeserved favor! He said to all those who were weary and heavy laden that He would give (supply) them rest (Matt. 11:28). That is grace!
How to parent your child under grace: As a parent, you are helping your child develop and it is inevitable that your child is “under demand” to grow into a person of character. But you can offset this sense of demand on them by using words of supply. For example, instead of saying, “You must forgive your friend at school! Don’t hold unforgiveness in your heart!”, you can tell them, “I know you have it in you to be forgiving. I’ve seen it. I believe that is who you are.” This reinforces their sense of identity instead of causing them to feel like they are being demanded to have something they don’t have. This is how you help your children be supply-minded!
When we look at Mount Sinai and Mount Zion, there are huge differences between the two.
“For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched . . .”
— Hebrews 12:18 NKJV
“touched” — Mount Sinai is a palpable mountain.
“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels.”
— Hebrews 12:22 NKJV
“heavenly Jerusalem” — Mount Zion is the heavenly Jerusalem, the kingdom of God which cannot be seen or touched. However, just because it cannot be seen doesn’t mean it is not real. It is unseen but eternal. The things which are seen are temporal, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Cor. 4:18).
The same goes for your blessings in Christ. In the present, they might yet be unseen. But we can open our spiritual eyes to see them and claim them by faith.
On days you wake up feeling like God is a million miles away, remember that the truth is that He loves you and is always with you. You do not have to be led by your emotions or what you may see in the natural.
“. . . that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest.”
— Hebrews 12:18 NKJV
“burned with fire . . . blackness . . . darkness” — At Mount Sinai, we see a misnomer, where darkness and fire exist together, along with a tempest (a storm with lightning and thunder). Exodus 19:16–19 also tells us that at Mount Sinai was fire, darkness, and tempests.
When God speaks, He doesn’t speak to you with tempests or signs and wonders, but He speaks in a still, small voice. Just like lovers speak to each other softly, God speaks to us softly from the inside. God doesn’t have to yell at you through physical signs to communicate with you. He’s close to you, leading you with the presence or absence of His peace.
“and the sounds of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore. (For they could not endure what was commanded: ‘And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow.’ And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, ‘I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.’”
— Hebrews 12:19–21 NKJV
“I am exceedingly afraid and trembling” — On Mount Sinai, there was darkness and trembling. People were afraid. When you listen to a mixture of law and grace, you feel an atmosphere of darkness, trembling, and fiery judgment. This happens because your eyes are both on yourself and Christ, and once your eyes are on yourself, the devil will shoot fiery darts of condemnation your way.
While there is judgment mentioned on Mount Sinai, there is no mention of God there. Today, we are situated on Mount Zion, a place that is heavenly, and God’s name is mentioned for the first time here in this passage. Wherever you go, there is an innumerable company of angels, and the kingdom of God is here with you (Heb. 12:22).
Pastor Prince shares his encounter with a lady he met on a plane who had a phobia of flying. After sharing with her that he believed that the plane would land safely due to him being a child of God, and sharing with her about how wonderful and secure life is as a believer under God’s grace, that lady became a believer too!
Pastor Prince shares a testimony about a man who was freed from a 40-year addiction to pornography when he heard about God’s grace and established himself in it.
Be established in grace. It is the atmosphere where bitterness will not rise up and bring you to fornication. Stay in the atmosphere where you are conscious of God’s presence.
When you tell people that there is no more condemnation because of Jesus, you are not giving them a license to sin. You are empowering them to see that they are not being confronted by the law, but seeing a loving Savior. When they see how loved they are despite their faults and shortcomings, they will not want to sin wilfully.
At Mount Sinai, all those who worshiped the golden calf were killed by the Levites. In the Old Testament, there was no option for the sinner but to be killed. But when Jesus came down the Mount of Transfiguration, the father of a demon-possessed boy cried out to Him for help. Instead of judging the boy, Jesus cast out the demon and saved the boy. To judge the sin and love the sinner—that is grace!
The law punishes the sinner with the sin. Grace removes the sin and saves the sinner.
When the Israelites left Egypt, they did not build the golden calf with the gold they had brought out of Egypt until they were under the law. Once they were under the law, they broke the first commandment by building and worshipping a golden calf (an idol). The law does not bring about holiness. It is when you are under grace that sin shall not have dominion over you (Rom. 6:14).
“Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.”
— Galatians 5:4 KJV
“Christ is become of no effect unto you” — When Christ becomes of no effect in your life, it’s terrible because Christ is your holiness, power, health, and life.
“whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace” — How does Christ become of no effect in your life? Not when you sin, but when you are trying to obtain righteousness from God by your self-effort. That is when you fall from grace.
When your spouse is feeling pressure from the demands of life, shower them with supply by showing them grace through your actions and words. Most importantly, when you feel the demands of life weighing heavily on you, look to the Lord for supernatural supply for every need.
“to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.”
— Hebrews 12:23–24 NKJV
“the spirits of just men made perfect” — God is on this mountain, and He is telling you that the greatest security you can have is that you are made righteous and perfect through the cross. It’s not because God has swept your sins under the carpet, but because Jesus has borne your sins completely on the cross. When we come to God, the Judge of all, we come as righteous men made perfect, and it all happens on Mount Zion (grace).
“Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant” — On Mount Zion, Jesus can be found, for He is the Mediator of the new covenant of grace.
“blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel” — The first murder in the world happened because of religion—how two brothers, Cain and Abel, approached God differently. Cain was performance-centered, while Abel was grace-centered. Due to Cain’s jealousy over God’s acceptance of Abel’s blood offering compared to his produce offering (bloodless offering, a picture of self-effort), Cain killed his brother. Blood has a voice, and Abel’s blood cried out to God for vengeance. But Jesus’ shed blood speaks forgiveness, redemption of the lost, restoration for the child that has gone astray, and speaks of your health, healing, and wholeness. Today, Jesus’ blood cries out for your blessings.
Man did the worst act by taking God’s greatest gift of His Son and crucifying Him. But God took the most wicked act of man and made it the greatest act of redemption for all men. When the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side, the blood and water that came out cleansed and redeemed us from sin.
“See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, ‘Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.’ Now this, ‘Yet once more,’ indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire.”
— Hebrews 12:25–29 NKJV
“do not refuse Him who speaks” — Don't reject grace or refuse the voice that speaks grace. The blood of Jesus is always speaking good things. For those who reject Jesus and His grace, there is no more salvation for him.
“whose voice then shook the earth” — The voice of the law at Mount Sinai only shook the earth. When the voice of grace speaks, it will shake both heaven and earth—it will shake even where evil spirits are.
“removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain” — The voice of grace will make nothing of whatever is man-made; all those things will be shaken into oblivion. Only whatever is of Christ, of the Father, and of grace will remain. We desire for our children, families, and ministry to remain unshakable.
“let us have grace” — The phrase “let us have” is in the present active voice, which tells us that we are to actively possess, meditate, hold onto grace. We are to actively preach grace and live in grace. People want reverence and godly fear, but they can only come by grace.
“For our God is a consuming fire” — Everything else that is not of God’s grace will be consumed by God’s fire.
Pastor Prince closes the service by detailing how chapter one to eleven in the book of Hebrews gives a comparison of how Jesus has brought us all a better life and better things through His grace. He also encourages us to wake up every day being conscious that God’s grace brings His supply for all our needs that day. Even when there are demands placed on you, you don’t need to get short-tempered. Instead, see and declare that you have God’s wisdom and supply!
“Heavenly Father, I thank You for this wondrous gospel, this amazing good news, that You loved me even before I knew You and You sent Christ to die on the cross for all my sins. It is all finished, my sins have been judged, I have been forgiven through the cross. The blood of Jesus that speaks better things is now imparting those things into my life. I confess that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior. I believe God raised Jesus from the dead and I stand forever in the risen Christ before God. In Jesus’ name, I am saved forever. Amen.”
“Father God, I do not know what the future holds, but I know You’ll be there. I ask You right now, for this coming week, grant for me and my family that we be completely protected from all evil, from all harm, from dangers, from temptations, from the powers of darkness, and from the evil one. Grant that we always be at the right place at the right time. Thank You for crowning us with a shield of favor everywhere we go. Thank You, Father, that Your presence is always with us, to lead us, guide us, never to condemn us. We thank You for that friendly voice, that inner peace that leads us into Your success for this week, in Jesus’ name. And all the people say, amen! God bless you.”
We hope these sermon notes blessed you! If they did, we encourage you to get the sermon and allow the Lord to speak to you personally as you watch or listen to it.
© Copyright JosephPrince.com 2021
These sermon notes were taken by volunteers during the service. They are not a verbatim representation of the sermon.
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