Being an Englishman, Theo enjoys working in his garden, especially in the Spring when everything is new and fresh. Flowers are in bloom, flora and fauna are in full twitterpating mode, the trees in the orchard are displaying the promise of fruit.
Like Theo, it’s a joy for my wife and I to sit on our patio in the morning with a cup of coffee, or in the early evening after dinner, watching the orioles and hummingbirds in the trees, enjoying the fragrance of roses and jasmine, and marveling at the beauty of God’s creation. We just love our garden, and work in it constantly to make it as beautiful as we can.
Did you know that “gardening” is the very first job God assigned to man? God “planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there He put the man he had formed” (Gen 2:8). God commanded him to cultivate (work) the ground and to watch over it.
When Adam planted a tree or shrub, a tree or shrub would grow without the hindrance of bad soil, weather conditions, or weeds. Imagine that, no weeds! Sadly, because of Adam’s sin work would be––well, work! It would no longer be weed free.
Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life (Gen 3:17).
God went on to say that the ground would produce thorns and thistles, as well as food good to eat (vs 18). To get more of the latter Adam would have to remove more of the former. This would take sweat and toil all the days of his life.
No one likes to weed gardens, but it is a chore that must be done in order to grow vegetables, or flowers, or any kind of produce. However, it is a task that, once finished, brings joy and a sense of fulfillment, of doing that which pleases God.
What’s the point of all this? Is this just a reminder to get out into your gardens and get your fingernails dirty weeding crabgrass?
The old saying, “ A stitch in time saves nine” not only applies to mending torn garments, but also to weeding gardens. Get those weeds before they multiply. It’s a saying that also applies to sin. Sin, unless rooted out, will grow like weeds. As an unweeded garden will become unproductive, even useless, so an unweeded life will be unproductive in the kingdom of heaven (Matt 13:22).
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus used radical language when it came to weeding out sin. He said,
“if your right eye makes you stumble, gouge it out, and throw it away from you” (Matt 5:29).Then He said,
“If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off, and throw it from you. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell” (vs 30).
Wow! This is radical stuff. Surely Jesus must be joking. I would have lost both eyes and hands years ago––probably in the first week after becoming a Christian!
Although I believe that Jesus is using hyperbole to make a very important point, what He says shows how serious He (God) is about our sins.
In the context of Jesus’ teaching, an unweeded lust will flower into adultery; if not in a physical sense, certainly in a heart sense. An unweeded anger will blossom into an act of murder; if not with stick or stone, certainly in our heart.
Does Jesus really mean that our angry thoughts toward our neighbors, or toward our family or church members, is really like committing murder?
If I listen to His teaching honestly, then the answer is yes. The heart is where adultery and murder first take root.
Jesus commands us to do radical surgery to remove that thought, word or deed. Cut it off! It’s not about the hand or eye, it’s about the heart! For everything we do flows from the heart (Proverbs 4:23). A blind man can still lust, and a man without a hand can still commit murder. No, we must weed out sin where it takes root, in our hearts.
How do we do this? By working hard at it, of course.
What!? I thought we were saved by grace and not by works. We are. And we must always keep this truth in front of us. Because of grace I have the incredible privilege of being one of God’s children. I can enter into His presence and fellowship with Him, because of what His Son Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross. Because of the resurrection, I can walk in newness of life by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. I no longer have to sin.
Even so, wretched man that I am, I will sin.
The Apostle John says, “When we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us.” The word “confess” in the original language (homologeo) means to see a thing as God sees it. When I think or speak an unkind word, I must see it for what it is. I must see it as Jesus sees it––the root of murder.
I must confess it.
I must deal with it at once.
Paul says we are to put to death the deeds (actions) of the flesh, and yield our members to righteousness (Rom 6:13). More radical words. Not only are we to cut it off, or gouge it out, we are to kill it!
In practice this means seeing a thing for what it is, its ugliness, its devastating potential. Then confessing it, and turning from it to God (repentance). If the thing rears its ugly head again, then kill it again. Confess it, again. Turn to God again, and again, and again. Keep weeding.
And remember: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). When we sin we mustn’t let Satan condemn us, or cause us to doubt. Our sins have been completely dealt with at the cross. Jesus took all of our condemnation, removed all of our guilt and punishment, clothed us in His righteousness.God be praised! Now, if we want our lives to be fruitful, to be pleasing in His sight, then we must get out the trowel and get to work on those weeds!