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.
— Hebrews 12:15
One of the most powerful verses in the New Testament is Hebrews 12:15. It says, “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.” I want you to especially notice the words “looking diligently” in this verse. This phrase comes from the Greek word episkopos, taken from the two words epi and skopos. The word epi means over, and the word skopos means to look. When these two words are compounded into one word as in Hebrews 12:15, the word means to look over or to take supervisory oversight.
The word episkopos is the same Greek word translated “bishop” in First Timothy 3:1. As you know, a bishop has oversight or responsibility for a group of churches. As the chief overseer for those churches, it is the bishop’s responsibility to watch, direct, guide, correct, and give oversight to the churches under his care. As long as he serves as bishop, he will be held responsible for the good and the bad that occurs under his ministry.
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Hebrews 12:15 uses the word episkopos to alert you and me to the fact that we are the bishops of our own hearts. The use of this word in this verse means it is our responsibility to watch, direct, guide, correct, and give oversight to what goes on inside us.
As the bishop of your own heart, it is your responsibility to guide, direct, and give oversight to what goes on inside your emotions and thinking. You alone are responsible for what you allow to develop inside your head and heart. Like a bishop, you are personally responsible for both the good and the bad that occurs within your thought life.
Why do I make this point? Because we are often tempted to blame our bad attitudes, bitterness, resentments, or feelings of unforgiveness on other people. But the truth is, we are responsible for our own emotions and reactions! If a person does something that has the potential to offend us, God holds us responsible for whether or not that offense takes root in our minds. We can choose to let it sink into our souls and take root, or we can opt to let it bypass us. We are not able to control what others do or say to us, but we are able to control what goes on inside of us.
It is that “inside” part — the part you control — that God will hold you responsible for. Why? Because you are charged with a personal responsibility to oversee what goes on inside your soul. That means you have the last word. You are the one who decides whether or not that wrong settles down into your soul and starts to take root in your emotions.
Anger is an emotion that comes and goes. You choose whether or not irritation turns into anger, anger into wrath, wrath into bitterness, bitterness into resentment, and resentment into unforgiveness. You choose whether these foul attitudes and emotions take up residency in your heart or are booted out the door!
When the devil comes to tempt you with an annoying, hounding thought about the person who offended you, at that moment you have a choice whether or not to let it sink in. You are the only one who can give permission for these attitudes to make their habitation in your mind and emotions. If you’re filled with bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness, you permitted the devil to sow that destructive seed in your heart and then you permitted it to grow. Remember, you’re the bishop of your own heart!
There is only one reason weeds grow out of control in a garden — because no one took the proper time and care to uproot and remove them. When the garden is choked by weeds, the gardener can’t complain, “I just don’t know how this happened! How did this occur right under my nose?” It occurred because he was being irresponsible with his garden. If he’d been exercising the proper amount of diligence, he would have known that weeds were about to get the best of him. His lack of diligence is the reason his garden got into this mess!
Hebrews 12:15 says, “Looking diligently.…” It takes diligence to keep your heart in good shape. The only way you can stay free of the weeds the devil wants to sow in your “garden” is to be attentive, careful, thorough, and meticulous about the condition of your own heart. Don’t expect others to take care of your heart for you either. It’s your heart!
Also, don’t make excuses for the rotten attitudes that fill your thoughts about people who supposedly did you wrong. Even if they really did commit a wrong against you, was it necessary or beneficial to permit the devil to fill you with putrid feelings of bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness? Get over it! What good does it do to let the offense fester inside you until you are inwardly eaten up by its bad memory?
As long as you blame everyone else for the bitterness that rages inside, you’ll never walk free. The only way you can get over the offense and walk free of your emotional prison is by accepting responsibility for your own heart.
If someone deliberately sows bad seeds in our “garden” in an effort to hurt or destroy us, God will deal with them. But if we know bad seed has been sown in our hearts and we just ignore it, allowing it to take root and grow unchecked, God will deal with us.
- God will hold others responsible for what they do to us.
- God will hold US responsible for what we allow to go on inside our minds and hearts.
- We cannot answer for the actions of other people.
- We will answer for our inward responses to what others have done to us.
Since the phrase “looking diligently” is from the Greek word episkopos, implying that you are the bishop of your own heart, what are you going to do about the negative and wrong attitudes that are trying to take root in your soul right now? Are you going to let them fester, take root, and begin to produce bad fruit in your life? Or are you going to take the initiative to rip out those attitudes by the roots so your heart can stay free?
Never forget that you are the bishop of your heart. It is your heart, and you are the only one with the authority to decide what does and doesn’t go on inside of you. In light of this truth, what are you going to do about the situation you are facing right now? Forgive and let it go, or hang on to that grievance and let it grow? The choice is yours!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, help me keep my heart free of offense! You have given me authority over my own will, mind, and emotions, so I know I have the authority to tell offense that it has no right to dwell inside me. I refuse to blame everyone else for the mess I’ve allowed to grow inside my heart — and today I am asking You to help me, Holy Spirit, to quit making excuses for the wrong attitudes I’ve permitted to grow in my life. With Your supernatural help, I am making the choice to repent, to turn from these destructive thoughts, and to replace them with thoughts and words of kindness for those who have caused me hurt or grief in the past.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that I deal diligently with my heart to keep it in good shape. I don’t make excuses for rotten attitudes that try to fill my thoughts about people who have wronged me. Even if they really did commit a wrong, I refuse to let the devil use it to eat me up and ruin me. I am the bishop of my own heart, so I refuse to let wrong attitudes fester, take root, and begin to produce bad fruit in me!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. Is there any feeling of bitterness, resentment, or unforgiveness that you have held on to and allowed to grow in the soil of your heart? Has the Holy Spirit been trying to convince you to forgive and to let it go?
2. If the Holy Spirit is dealing with you about forgiving someone, what are you going to do about it? Will you resist the Spirit’s dealings and develop a hard heart, or are you willing to forget it and go on with your life?
3. When you hear that a person who hurt or wronged you is being blessed in his job or in some other way, can you rejoice with that person — or do you find yourself inwardly seething that he isn’t being punished because of what he did to you? If you can’t rejoice with him, it’s probably a good indicator that you have some unresolved issues festering on the inside that you need to take to the Lord!