“Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. (Matthew 13:7 ESV)
“As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. (Matthew 13:22 ESV)
By natural birth I am a fallen, sinful, broken man. By God’s grace in Jesus Christ I have been grafted in to the kingdom of God (Romans 11:24), yet that wild, unfruitful, weedy nature needs constant cultivation and pruning to make it grow straight and bear fruit (John 15:1-2).
Tending to my soul is like trying to cultivate a garden in a jungle when I am not even sure what is a weed and what is a valuable crop plant. If I am occupied bringing one sin under captivity to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), when I turn around another has sprouted wildly and is choking the life out of my crop.
In the garden around our house we wage a continual battle with weeds and overgrown hedges. The weeds I hate most are the overgrown prickly ones such as blackberry. But, although blackberry grows obscenely fast, smothers other plants, is horrible to cut back and nearly impossible to kill, the worst harm it can do is to scratch me or my kids. Foxglove, on the other hand, is pretty to look at, soft to touch, easy to pull up by the roots and not too invasive. It can also kill me or my children if we were to eat any part of it! It kills by going straight for the heart.
There are things which sprout and grow from the sinful nature in my soul that are nasty, prickly, noxious and everyone rightly hates them. These weeds must be constantly and ruthlessly chopped back and every attempt be made to kill their roots (Matthew 5:29-30). Then there are other things that can grow, such as a habit of passing on ‘interesting information’ about others (Proverbs 18:8), preferring the company of ‘my type’ of people (James 2:1-4), being ‘mindful’ of the wrong done to me by another (Hebrews 12:15), or being quick to ‘discern’ the weaknesses of other people (Matthew 7:1-5). Such things do not look so nasty as lust or anger, but they will nonetheless poison my heart and should be uprooted whenever I find them taking root. I am very thankful that God is a master vinedresser and knows how to remove the unfruitful, sinful branches from me.
“… and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. (John 15:2 ESV)
Image: Foxglove photo courtesy of wikimedia commons