Sanctification, Sin

Throwback Thursday ~ The Garden of Weedin’

Originally published March 31, 2009

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.

Guest Posts

Guest Post: How to Do Biblical Self-Counseling

If your theology pretty much matches up with mine (as outlined in the “Welcome” and “Statement of Faith” tabs) and you’d like to contribute a guest post, drop me an e-mail at MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com,
and let’s chat about it.

How to do Biblical Self-Counseling
by Lara d’Entremont

I can be far too dependent upon others for growth and change. When a problem, question, decision, or sin becomes apparent in my life, my first step is to run to the comfort of others and seek their help. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this; believers within the body of Christ are meant to support and build one another up. Galatians 6:1-2 says, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ” (NASB).

However, the book of Galatians doesn’t end there. If we keep reading, we find an interesting exhortation: “For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. For each one will bear his own load.” (vv. 3-6).

So while fellow believers are to help, support, exhort, and encourage us, there comes a time when we must bear our own load and deal with our own sins. While your fellow sisters in the faith may be able to point sin out to you, give you advice to overcome it, keep you accountable, and pray for you, there comes a point where you need to step up and actually do something. We cannot rely on other people to change us and fix our issues. We need to do biblical self-counseling.

This is what Paul called, “Working out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). In other words, this is our side of sanctification. In realizing all this, I was intimidated. If you are feeling that same overwhelm, don’t panic; I have a few steps to help you.

Step One | Choose an Issue to Work On

It may be tempting to become distressed by all the sins in your life and feel hopeless (at least that’s what I often experience). But we can’t allow that to discourage us. Instead, simply choose ONE issue to attack.

Once you choose your sin or issue, find a journal and write out this problem in detail, explaining what it is, when it shows up, what causes it, and why you should stop it. I would also suggest doing some biblical research and finding a few Bible verses to support your decision and writing them down to memorize in the future.

At this point, you should also be confessing to those who have been effected by this problem, especially God. He’s the one our sin is truly against, and we must own up to it. Remember, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9 NASB).

Step Two | Create a Thought Journal

You will want to create a thought journal in which you track when the problem shows up. Here is a list of things you could include in your thought journal:

  • The temptation/sin/emotional issue
  • The circumstance:
    • What happened?
    • Who was involved? What did they do and/or say?
    • How did you respond? (To the people and/or situation)
  • The unbiblical thought & response
    • What did you want in that situation?
    • What did you get that you didn’t want in that situation?
    • What were your sinful thoughts in this situation?
    • What was sinful about how you responded? (provide Scripture)
  • The biblical thought & reaction: (provide Scripture for each answer)
    • How could you have reacted biblically?
    • How could you have changed your thinking to be biblical?

Answering questions like these will help you to see if there are any common denominators in your problem and help you root out the true root sin. For example, you may realize that your anxiety comes up whenever there’s a financial issue, which then leads you to realize that you love money too much. Knowing that, you can now better attack the sin; rather than managing your anxiety symptoms, you can work on loving money less.

If you would like a journal for your specific issue, you can find a few like that here.

I suggest keeping this journal during the entire process so you can see how you are improving on the issue as you go.

Step Three | Develop a Plan of Action

Now that we have a sin to attack and are learning what the root cause may be, we need to determine a biblical plan of action.

Start with choosing a few Bible verses to memorize. People sometimes undervalue the power of memorizing Scripture, but it is a great tool for overcoming sin. The Psalmist knew this: “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11 NASB).

Important Side Note: Please make sure you don’t take a random verse and rip it out of context. Instead, study the passage and make sure it means what you have interpreted it to mean. This will also be helpful in both your memorization and conquering your issue.

Along with the Bible verses, find some biblical material to read on the subject. When I was working at my anxiety, I read Trusting God by Jerry Bridges, which taught me why I did not need to fear but instead trust God wholly. I suggest looking for resources on ACBC’s approved reading list.

Through doing those steps, you should be able to create a put off (sins to stop) and put on (righteous actions to start) list. If you were struggling with anger, your list may look like this:

Put Off:

  • Angry outbursts
  • Impatience
  • Listening to angry music
  • Hitting things
  • Unkind words

Put On:

  • Kindness & patience
  • Trusting God with how people react
  • Praying in moments of anger

Finally, find at least two or three accountability partners to keep you on track. This doesn’t mean confessing to two people who will never bring this up again. Find people who will be intentional and love you enough to ask, “Did you sin today? Did you remember to put on patience?” Find people who will remember you in prayer and are mature in their faith to provide biblical guidance.

Step Four | Rely On God

At this point you’re probably feeling one of two things:

  1. Easy enough! I’ll be on my way to overcoming this sin on my own in no time.
  2. It’s too much! I’ll never be able to do all this on my own.

Neither of these feelings are biblical or helpful to the self-counseling process. Consider Paul’s words to the Philippians: “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (2:12-13 NASB).

To the person who thinks this is easy and will be finished before the end of the week, remember that you are a depraved sinner incapable of change on your own. You are utterly dependent on God in this. That means it’s in His timing and His power. So put off your pride and conquer your sin with reverent “fear and trembling” knowing that it is “God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

To the discouraged person, you are right that you cannot do it on your own! Congrats on humbly recognizing your own inability. Now, find courage and confidence, because you have the Holy Spirit working in you. Consider 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” Find your boast in your weakness, realizing that your ability to conquer sin is found in the power of God.


Lara d’Entremont is a child of God, a wife, and Biblical Counselor in training. Having been made new by God and completely transformed by Him, her desire is to point others back to that same gracious Saviour. Find more of Lara’s writing at her blog, Renewed in Truth.


ALTHOUGH I DO MY BEST TO THOROUGHLY VET THE THEOLOGY OF THE BLOGGERS WHO SUBMIT GUEST POSTS, IT IS ALWAYS POSSIBLE FOR THINGS TO SLIP THROUGH THE CRACKS. PLEASE MAKE SURE ANY BLOGGER YOU FOLLOW, INCLUDING ME, RIGHTLY AND FAITHFULLY HANDLES GOD’S WORD AND HOLDS TO SOUND BIBLICAL DOCTRINE.
Sin, Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday ~ When Animals Attack

Originally published December 15, 2010animals-attack

Dear Mom and Dad-

Thank you for not getting me a pet monkey when I was a kid, even though I begged and begged for one.

Love,
Michelle

Lately, and I’m not sure why, I have become fascinated with a television show on the Animal Planet channel called Fatal Attractions. It’s all about people who keep dangerous exotic animals as pets. Usually, the pet owner ends up dead by the end of the show, hence the title. It’s not a program for the faint of heart.

People keep the strangest animals – venomous snakes, giant lizards, bears, and, yes, even apes – despite the fact that they are known to be dangerous. Now, if you grew up in the ’70s and ’80s like I did, you might remember that there was a spate of movies and TV shows at some point back then – B.J. and the Bear, Cannonball Run II, etc. – that featured cute little chimpanzees and their human companions. So, you might be thinking what I was thinking the other day when an episode of Fatal Attractions focusing on pet chimpanzees came on: “How could those adorable little animals be dangerous?”. They wear hats and overalls, give hugs and kisses, and even communicate in a rudimentary way. My parents told me the reason I couldn’t have one was that they carried germs and that they would stink up the house.

Well, apparently, chimps are much more sinister than smelly. Even when people have taken them in as babies and raised them as their own children, many chimps, upon reaching adolescence, have turned violent and attacked their owners or others.

Moreover, the way they attack is particularly gruesome. Snakes will bite whichever of your body parts is closest. Bears flail their paws around indiscriminately, mauling whatever is in their pathway. Chimpanzees, however, attack systematically. They focus specifically on severing small appendages (ears, eyes, nose, lips, fingers, toes, and genitals) first, before moving on to a more “macro” assault on their victims.

Interestingly, most of the story lines on Fatal Attractions follow the same pattern. The pet owner is somewhat reclusive and secretive about owning the animal – in many cases, because the species is illegal to own or has been illegally obtained. Some owners have even refrained from calling 911 when attacked out of fear that the animal will be confiscated.

Additionally, the fatal attack usually comes after months or years of much smaller assaults. A nip here, a show of aggression there. Those closest to the pet owner warn him repeatedly that the animal is dangerous, but he refuses to listen, thinking that the small attacks will be the extent of the animal’s aggression. He believes he has control over the animal and that the animal respects, loves, and trusts him enough not to hurt him.

And, on this show, he always turns out to be wrong.

When it comes to sin, are we any different than these pet owners? First Peter 5:8 says:

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

At first, sin looks more like a cute, cuddly lion cub. It’s small. It seems harmless enough. We have control over the situation. And besides, who could resist a little nuzzle with something so adorable?

We keep the cub a secret because we know we’re not supposed to have it, or maybe because others just wouldn’t understand how it’s really OK to keep it, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

Time goes by. The cub gets bigger. It’s not so cute anymore, but we still love it and can’t let it go. We ignore the warnings that lions are dangerous. It begins to show signs of aggression from time to time, but we still think we’re in control. And then, eventually, comes the final attack.

The extent of the damage depends on one thing, and one thing only – whether or not we have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

Just like the victims who refused to call 911 out of fear that their animals would be confiscated, a person who has never turned away from his sin and cried out to Jesus to be saved from it will die a horrible death. His physical death may look peaceful, but it’s in the afterlife of Hell that Satan will devour him for eternity.

The person who is saved won’t die that eternal death in hell, but he will bear the scars of his sin in this life. Maybe he’ll just lose a finger; maybe he’ll be horribly mutilated. His ministry might be destroyed, or maybe his marriage, his business, his reputation, or a friendship.

You see, on the episode of Fatal Attractions dealing with chimps, the victim didn’t die. The chimp tore off his nose, lips, ears, and fingers, and gouged out one of his eyes, in addition to doing other damage. The man is still alive, but he will be horribly disfigured for the rest of his life. He can still function and have a purposeful life, but he will never be able to get back what he lost.

And so it is when we cuddle up with sin and it eventually turns on us. When we repent, God is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us, but the scars remain for the rest of our lives. He can certainly still use us, but we can never get back what we’ve lost.

What to do?

But resist [Satan], firm in your faith, 1 Peter 5:9a

Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
James 4:7

Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 2 Timothy 2:22

Run. Run for your life.