Whenever I am in the garden, usually pulling weeds, I think of sin. My sin in particular. As I was out there pulling weeds on the weekend, I was reflecting on the whole process of faith and growing to be more like Christ. I thought of how our pastors under the Holy Spirit tend and water our seed of faith by the Word of God. I also remembered the Holy Spirit working tirelessly, convicting me of sin and pulling those weeds out. It amazes me the way God has designed this sanctification process.
In 1 Corinthians 3:6-9, Paul writes:
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.
As God’s field, we are in the process of being transformed into the image of Christ- how fantastic! It isn’t strategy by man, it is God who gives the growth.
With each weed I pulled, I felt a degree of satisfaction. I also realised how much easier it is weeding in the Northern Rivers than it is in the dry North West. With above average rain falls, our new home region experiences rapid growth (of anything) and the fertile soil meant the weeds almost leapt into my hands (I did say almost!) As I gardened I learnt a few lessons:
1. The Watering of the Soil Matters
Firstly, I quickly noticed that how moist the soil is matters. In the process of being refined by the Holy Spirit there is some responsibility on our behalf to ensure we are getting watered by the Living Water (John 7:38). As in verse 6 above, “Apollos watered” (1 Corinthians 3:6), so the Corinthian church were being fed by the Word of God as taught by Apollos (and Paul through his letters). They were being taught, admonished, trained in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16) by the Word of God and the teaching of their pastors. It made me think- how am I being fed? Am I being watered daily by the Word of God? Am I being taught by those who lead and guide me in righteous living by explaining the Word of God to me and modelling how to obey it? If so, when the Holy Spirit convicts us, we will have well-watered soil and will work with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to get those weeds of sin up quickly (by the roots), before they are able to be really established. We will be thankful for correction as we thirst after the Living Water and desire to be more like Him in all we think, do and say.
2. The Weeds Are All Different
Secondly, I thought on how the weeds are all different. Lately, the common phrase “every sin is the same” has been bandied about a lot. Unfortunately this statement is mostly incorrect and unbiblical. All sin is the same in that it needs the forgiveness found in the grace of Jesus’ blood. All sin is the same in that it is forgivable (unless it is the sin of rejecting Jesus up until death- see Mark 3:22-30). But the consequences are different, as are the degrees of punishment. While we are under the new law of grace, it does not give us a free ride (Romans 6:1). Sometimes we willingly sin; other times we sin by not realising it. One is worse than the other. Jesus in John 19:11 spoke of ‘greater sins’. In Matthew 23:23, Jesus also speaks of ‘weightier matters of the law’, showing that in God’s eyes, there are some sins that are more evil than others. If these sins fester, they grow into deep rooted sins and become distracting to our walk with God and impact out witness to glorify Him with our lives. Saying that spitting on someone is the same as killing them would be incorrect, yet both sins need the forgiveness of Jesus (for more see John Piper or Zach Lee). We don’t want to be self-righteous, but we do want to recognise sins for what they are, all the more looking to Jesus. Sometimes, it just so happens we have a plank that is preventing our ability to grow.
3. God is Making Us Beautiful In Him Time
It is easy to talk about sin and start feeling guilty. This isn’t the point. Sin points us to Jesus and makes His grace taste all the sweeter. There is no way in this earth that we will be free of it- but we are to be encouraged! God isn’t finished with us yet! As the Holy Spirit works in me, refining me, I can take heart that while it may be painful for the moment, one day I will be presented spotless and radiant as a gift to my Saviour and Lord. Let us keep at it, encouraging each other to grow in our faith and be refined in our righteous living, to bloom more beautifully for God’s glory.