Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me again, saying, “Go, take the scroll that is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll. And he said to me, “Take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.” And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it. It was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter. And I was told, “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.” (Revelation 10:8-11, ESV)
The gospel. How sweet it is. You see, I've always known I've been broken. Not merely broken, but broken in a really nasty way, what the Bible calls sin. It is so nasty that I can't bear to look at it. I fail people, I fail God in so many ways. I fail and hurt the people who are the most important in my life. My wife, my children, my friends, those who count on me. I know I've been broken since I was little. But brokenness doesn't begin to describe it. Sin is more than brokenness. Sin is the willful spite to turn against God and place myself first.
As bad as I am, I remember the sweet discovery that Jesus paid for all my sinfulness, past, present, and future. The sweet, sweet discover of the gospel. I recently reread John Bunyon's Pilgram's Progress. I cried as Christian stood at the cross because Bunyon nailed my thoughts as Christian stood there. The relief of the burden falling off my shoulders of all the nastiness, my shame, my guilt, my sin.
I have an ache. I'd love for my friends to know this sweet gospel. It is sweet to the taste -- I can't think of anything sweeter. But I've had friends get upset about the gospel, who refuse to hear anything more about the gospel. If they continue down that path, they will die forever. This isn't a lights out, no more consciousness type of death. It is a death facing the wrath of God.
Many Christians have deeply cherished family that don't know Christ, who refuse to listen to anything about Jesus. These family members have been those who contribute to the family, who are there for the holidays, when kids are sick, through thick and thin. Sometimes they turn to the gospel, but there are others that don't. That is the bitterness of the gospel.
Sweet and bitter. So sweet is the salvation of ourselves and family and friends. How bitter it is to see others we deeply care about tossing away the gospel, they bridge to life that they cannot begin to imagine -- in exchange for a death too horrible to contemplate.
John was given a scroll that was sweet in the mouth, but bitter to the stomach. I think I understand. We cannot shrink back from sharing Christ with others around us. Others will discover the sweetness. But there will be a bitter aspect to seeing others walk away.