Sanctification, Sin

The Garden of Weedin’

It’s that time again. Spring. Time to survey the damage winter did to the yard and get it back in shape. Sandwiched in between last week’s several days of rain and the multiple days of thunderstorms predicted for this week, were a few beautiful days that were just perfect for tackling the jungle that once was my back yard. Yikes. I could have lost a kid in all that grass.

Much to my dismay, when I got up close and personal with the overgrowth, I discovered that, once again, the army of weeds I spend every spring and summer fighting off had made significant advances into the yard. It also seemed to have secured the perimeter of my fencerow with a tall and nearly impregnable line of defense.

Heaving a sigh, I remembered what one gardener friend told me last year. The best way to fight off weeds is to get the grass really healthy and growing so it will choke out the weeds and reclaim the yard. Sounded reasonable to me. And familiar, too. Where had I heard something similar to that before? The idea tickled my brain as I hauled out the mower.

As I began shoving my trusty mower through that mess, it hit me. Weeds….choking something out. There was something about that in the Bible.

Ever notice how many of Jesus’ parables and illustrations include references to farming, plants, and other aspects of agriculture? The “Lord of the Harvest” gave us wheat and tares, fig trees, mustard seeds, vineyards, and of course, the parable of the sower scattering his seed.

Ah, that’s what it was. The parable of the sower. Remember him? He went out to seed his land, and the seed ended up finding its way not only to the good soil he had prepared, but also to some rocky soil, the roadside, and a patch of thorns (which the New Century Version translates as “weeds”):

Some other seed fell among thorny weeds, which grew and choked the good plants. Matthew 13:7 (NCV)

That’s exactly what was going on in my yard! The grass wasn’t yet strong enough to choke out all the weeds, the weeds were choking out my good crop of grass. They were also making my fencerow look awful, so I finished up the mowing, and, mentally assessing our temperamental edger, decided to clean off the fencerow by hand.

As I began yanking at those pesky plants, God reminded me that we all have weeds in our lives that need to be pulled up. So just what constitutes a “weed” in our spiritual lives? Well, Jesus was kind enough to explain that in Matthew 13:22:

And what is the seed that fell among the thorny weeds? That seed is like the person who hears the teaching but lets worries about this life and the temptation of wealth stop that teaching from growing. So the teaching does not produce fruit in that person’s life. (NCV)

Jesus compares the weeds to two things: “the worries about this life” and “the temptation of wealth”.

“The worries about this life” could cover just about anything. It could be a financial struggle, a wayward child, a difficult marriage, a hostile work environment, or even a painful past that we’re striving to put behind us. Any situation we deal with that looms so large, it blocks out our view of Christ and prevents us from trusting Him to handle it. Anything that takes our eyes off Him, tempts us to focus only on our circumstances, and derails the teaching God is trying to manifest in our lives.

“The temptation of wealth” could also cover a lot of areas in our lives. First Timothy 6:10 tells us that “the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil…”. Evil. In other words, sin.

“A root”. Hmmm…interesting.

Well, I was certainly dealing with plenty of roots. When it comes to weeds, it doesn’t do much good to simply pull the leaves off or snap the stem in half. For some reason, weeds– at least the ones in my yard –seem to take this as a challenge to grow back. You have to pull weeds up by the roots in order to get rid of them.

Likewise, if there is something in our lives which “stops [God’s] teachings from growing” or prevents God’s teachings from producing fruit in our lives (see Matthew 13:22 above) we need to have the Master Gardener root out the instigating problem rather than plucking at its leaves ourselves.

For example, if you’re struggling with being a workaholic, you can break off part of the stem of that problem by cutting back on work a few hours a week, but the root of the problem may be that you have made work an idol in place of God, that you don’t trust Him to provide for your needs, or that you are loving yourself and your work more than your family. If those root problems aren’t dealt with you will likely fail in your efforts to cut back on work, or something else, such as a hobby, may spring up to take the place of those hours you would have spent at work.

As I continued to work, I noticed that some weeds were very easy to pull up and some were quite difficult. The easiest to pull seemed to be the weeds that had taken root in the decaying leaf matter on top of the soil rather than in the soil itself. The difficult ones were the ones that had been growing for a long period of time. Some of their roots were over a foot long. These roots had made their way far from the visible plant and into another part of the yard, which meant they were affecting much more than just the immediate area around the plant itself.

And so it is with our spiritual weeds. The best time to deal with sin or turn a troubling situation over to God is early, before it has a chance to take root, because once it does, it’s going to be much harder to deal with and it’s going to begin to affect more and more areas of our lives.

Dealing with sin or difficult situations pre-emptively is even better. Flee temptation before you have a chance to give in to it. Determine to commit your works to the Lord and acknowledge Him in all your ways, and you will avoid some of the heartbreaking circumstances that might otherwise come your way.

As I struggled with one particularly stubborn weed, I noticed that its roots were intertwined with those of a couple of other totally different weeds. As I pulled at the one I was working on, the others were coming up as well.

When God pulls up those really difficult weeds in our lives, we will often find that He is simultaneously uprooting other sins and situations that have become enmeshed with the primary one. Sometimes when this happens to me, I feels like God is “piling on” and wish He would just work on one thing at a time in my life!

By the time I reached the end of the fencerow, I was sweating, my back was killing me, and I had broken two nails, despite the gardening gloves I was wearing. Pulling weeds is not a day at Disney World. It’s tough work!

But as I stood back and surveyed the results of my efforts, I saw that the fencerow no longer looked trashy. It looked clean and neat. Something any gardener would be pleased with. And, something else had happened that I hadn’t even noticed until that moment. As the roots of those weeds came up, they naturally tilled the soil.

It was moist,

loose,

rich;

the perfect condition for good seed to be sown by the Master Gardener.

Doctrinally Sound Teachers

Quoth “the Raven”…

The following are quotes from 20th century evangelist Leonard Ravenhill. I enjoyed them and thought you might too.

“If weak in prayer, we are weak everywhere.”

“Men give advice; God gives guidance.”

“Are the things you are living for worth Christ dying for?”

“A sinning man stops praying, a praying man stops sinning”

“The only reason we don’t have revival is because we are willing to live without it!”

“God pity us that after years of writing, using mountains of paper and rivers of ink, exhausting flashy terminology about the biggest revival meetings in history, we are still faced with gross corruption in every nation, as well as with the most prayerless church age since Pentecost.”

“The Church used to be a lifeboat rescuing the perishing. Now she is a cruise ship recruiting the promising.”

“The opportunity of a lifetime must be seized within the lifetime of the opportunity.”

“My main ambition in life is to be on the devil’s most wanted list.”

“If Jesus had preached the same message that ministers preach today, He would never have been crucified.”

“Entertainment is the devil’s substitute for joy”

Apologetics

There’s No Such Thing as an Atheist ~ The Final Chapter

There’s No Such Thing as an Atheist  Part 1  Part 2

So, if our minds know God exists, and our hearts know God exists, where does that leave the so-called atheist or agnostic?

Well, like I said before, there’s no such thing as an atheist, only a rebellious human being.

If a person knows God exists, as we all do, and yet refuses to acknowledge Him or submit to His authority, he is by definition, rebelling against God. The Bible describes it this way:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness…….For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened…….For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. Romans 1:18, 21, 25

This refusal to acknowledge the truth about God will not last forever, though. As my husband puts it, everyone is either a member of the “Believers club” or the “future believers club”.

so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:10-11

The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God ” Psalm 14:1a

Considering that we know God exists and that we will all have to acknowledge that one day anyway, atheism and agnosticism are foolish belief systems.

Apologetics

There’s No Such Thing as an Atheist~ Part 2: The Tell-Tale Heart

There’s No Such Thing as an Atheist Part 1  Part 3

 

Another way that we instinctively know God exists is the pre-programming of our hearts. Just as some computers are sold with certain software already installed, we come with the software of God’s law already installed in our hearts:

For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, Romans 2:14-15

It’s called a conscience, and we’re all born with one, whether we’re raised in any particular religion or not. We know when we’ve messed up. How do we know? We feel guilty or ashamed.

Somehow, guilt has gotten a bad rap these days. Don’t believe the hype. Guilt is good; a gift of God, even. Not long ago, I heard a popular television preacher telling the thousands of people in his church that, “God doesn’t want us to feel guilty.” While it’s true that a Christian need not be plagued by feelings of guilt over things for which he has already asked and received God’s forgiveness, initially, when we do wrong, we most certainly should feel guilty.

God has lovingly designed us with a sense of guilt and shame in order to draw us to Him. Guilt is to our relationship with Christ what a toothache is to our relationship with the dentist. The toothache tells us something is wrong with a tooth, it needs to be fixed, and we’d better get to the person that is qualified to fix it right now. If no one ever felt guilty, no one would ever see his need for salvation and turn to Christ in repentance, without which, salvation does not take place.

So, how do we make the connection between our conscience and the God who created it? How does our having a conscience prove that God exists? Well, it does require some introspection, but for anyone who will take a few minutes to sit down and think about why he feels guilty over his wrongdoing, the answer will become apparent.

We know that feelings of guilt and shame do not stem only from participating in criminal activities. Most of us are law-abiding citizens, and yet we have still felt guilt over wrongdoing which may have been perfectly legal. Ironically, by the time someone commits an actual crime, he may have suppressed his conscience so many times that it has become seared and he does not experience feelings of guilt for what he has done.

Alright, if we’re not breaking the law and still feel guilty over some particular behavior, could it be that we feel guilty because we’re hurting someone? Well, generally speaking, we certainly should feel guilty if we hurt someone’s feelings or reputation, or if we disappoint or betray them. But, how would that explain our feelings of guilt over things that have no apparent effect on others, or that no one knows about? What about that piece of gum you stole from the store as a kid? How about that test you cheated on in college?

“Wait,” you may say, “the kid stealing the candy and the student cheating on the test aren’t feeling guilty, they’re feeling afraid that they’ll be caught and will have to suffer the consequences.” True, guilt and fear of being caught usually go hand in hand, but they are definitely two separate feelings. We know this because we can feel fearful of consequences for performing actions we know to be right. Ask any good Samaritan who helps someone despite the fact he knows he might be sued later, or a missionary who knows he may be harmed if he shares the gospel, or a German who hid Jews from the Nazis during World War II. Fear of getting caught and guilt over wrongdoing are two different things.

So what other explanation could there be for the guilt we feel over our wrongdoing which is not breaking the law, not hurting anyone, and which no one else will ever know about?

because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. Romans 1:19

Our hearts know, even if we don’t want it to be true, that there is a God.

Apologetics

There’s No Such Thing as an Atheist ~ Part 1: The Battlefield of the Mind

There’s No Such Thing as an Atheist Part 2  Part 3

There’s no such thing as an atheist. Or even an agnostic, for that matter.

An atheist is someone who says there is no God. An agnostic is someone who says we don’t or can’t know whether or not there is a God.

I recently heard someone say that there are no atheists, only rebellious people. The more I think about that statement, the truer it rings. Why? Because it is impossible not to know there is a God.

It first enters our consciousness that there is a God when we simply look around at our surroundings. The Bible says:

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. Romans 1:20

All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. John 1:3

It’s as simple as looking around and saying, “Wow. Look at all this stuff. How’d it all get here?”

The other day, I was involved in a discussion with a non-Christian who was wondering how anyone could possibly disbelieve evolution. Laying aside all the details, I believe the thing that most bothers many Christians about the philosophy behind the theory of evolution as well as the Big Bang theory is that, in many cases, these theories are not an attempt to describe how God might have created the universe, but how the universe might have come into being without God.

It couldn’t have. There’s no way.

We know this, not only through the attributes of the things we’re observing – that the botany, biology, chemistry, astronomy, physics, etc., of Earth work too well together and are too intricate and complex to have happened by mere accident or coincidence – but also in the way we think about the things we’re observing.

Have you ever looked at anything – your car, your dishwasher, your computer, your favorite painting – wondered about its origins, and come to the conclusion that it simply materialized of its own volition out of thin air? Of course, you haven’t. We don’t think that way because that goes against every iota of life experience we’ve ever had. If we see an object, we know someone made it. Our experience feeds the logical way we think about this relationship between an object and its maker.

In addition to the overwhelming scientific evidence and intricacies, and our life experience which God has provided to show us that He made this place, Romans 1:20 (above) tells us that the design of our brains is pre-programmed to make the connection between creation and Creator. We could not be “without excuse” if we were intellectually incapable of comprehending the relationship between the two, nor if we had not been created to think logically and rationally, deducing conclusions from the evidence available to us.

Our minds bear witness to the existence of God, in that:

  • since there is such an intricately detailed, well designed creation, it must have been made by an intelligent, powerful Being.
  • all of our life experiences lead us to the conclusion that if something exists, someone made it.
  • our minds think logically and deduce conclusions from the evidence we observe.
  • we have intelligence and are able to comprehend the relationship between a creation and its creator.