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.

Mark Bible Study

Mark: Lesson 6

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Mark 4:

Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it.Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain.And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

10 And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that

“‘they may indeed see but not perceive,
    and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.’”

13 And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? 14 The sower sows the word. 15 And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. 16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. 17 And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. 18 And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 20 But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”

21 And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? 22 For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. 23 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” 24 And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. 25 For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

26 And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 27 He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. 28 The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

30 And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. 34 He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him.37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider

1. Briefly skim back over Mark 1-3, noticing major events and themes and what these events and themes tell Mark’s gentile audience, and us, about who Christ is. What is the theme, or main point, of chapter 4? What does it tell us about the nature and character of Christ?

2. What is the main activity Jesus is engaged in (sleeping, praying, teaching, preaching, healing, eating, etc.) in verses 1-34? In verses 35-40? In one sentence, summarize the central truth Jesus was teaching in verses 1-20, 21-25, 26-29, 30-34, and 35-41. What is the difference between the way Jesus taught in verses 1-34 and the way He taught in verses 35-41?

3. What is a parable? How many times is the word “parable” used in chapter 4? Examine verses 10-12, 24-25, and 33-34. What did Jesus say about why He taught in parables? Look at these verses through the lens of verses 14-20. What is the difference between the ability of the “good soil” hearers to understand the parables and the ability of the “bad soil” hearers to understand them? (11-12) What do verses 9 and 23 mean? Is Jesus talking about literal, physical hearing or understanding and accepting? Why did Jesus make absolutely certain (34) His disciples clearly understood the explanations of the parables?

4. In your Bible, find and examine the cross-reference(s) for verse 12. Would “those around Him with the twelve” (10) have been familiar with the Old Testament passage Jesus was quoting? What was happening in Israel at the time these Old Testament passages were written? Knowing the history of Israel, what would Jesus’ disciples have inferred that Jesus was saying about the spiritual condition of those who would dismiss and fail to understand the meaning of His parables?

5. There are four parables in this chapter. How many of them revolve around seeds? What does Jesus say the seed represents in each of these parables? (14, 25, 30) What other passages teach spiritual truths through the illustration of seeds? Why might Jesus have chosen agricultural parables when teaching the people?

6. Why might Jesus have wanted to leave (35-36) the already assembled crowd? What do verses 35-41 teach us about Jesus’ authority over creation? What would this authority have demonstrated to His followers, and Mark’s gentile audience, about Jesus’ equality with God? Compare Jesus’ initial reaction to the storm (38) with the disciples’ initial reaction (38,40)? What does the question, “do you not care,” (38) reveal about the disciples’ faith, their understanding of Jesus’ love for them, and their understanding of Jesus’ earthly mission? How did Jesus use this incident as a “teaching moment”?

7. How do each of these parables and the calming of the storm fit with, undergird, and flesh out Jesus’ “mission statement” in Mark 1:15: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”?


Homework

In Mark 4, we see Jesus teaching in two different ways: formal teaching through instruction and parables (1-34) and taking advantage of a teachable moment (35-41).

Not all of us are called to formal teaching, but we all have moments during our daily lives when we can seize circumstances and harness them into an opportunities to share the gospel with a co-worker, apply Scripture to a situation with our children, or model Christlikeness to the watching eyes of strangers.

Think back over the last week. Was there a situation you could have used as a “teaching moment” with someone? Reflect on how you might do things similarly or differently if that situation arises again, and ask God to help you be on the lookout for more teaching moments this week.


Suggested Memory Verse

And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
Mark 4:41

Wednesday's Word

Wednesday’s Word ~ Luke 12

luke

Luke 12:

In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees,which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.

“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.

“And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledgebefore the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. 10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. 11 And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully,17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

35 “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36 and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! 39 But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

41 Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?” 42 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? 43 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.44 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 45 But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. 47 And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating.Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

49 “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! 51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

54 He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A shower is coming.’ And so it happens. 55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will bescorching heat,’ and it happens. 56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

57 “And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? 58 As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison. 59 I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny.”

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers