DO NOT BE DECEIVED BY LOOKS
Many of us are able to relate to plants. This is probably because they surround us, provide a source of food and oxygen and are a source of great beauty. Jesus was aware of this connection and made references to plants of one type or another during His ministry on earth. The growth of plants is influenced by the environment they are exposed to. Like plants, our growth as followers of Jesus is also influenced by the nature of the environment that we are immersed in. Chapter 13 of the Gospel of Matthew contains plant-based references such as, the parable of the sower (Matthew 18-23), the parable of the weeds (Matthew 24-30) and in a comparison of a mustard seed to the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 13:31-32). Through the parables of the sowers and the parable of the weeds we should be able to make the connection between desirable plants, undesirable plants and our lives.
AN ENVIRONMENT FOR GROWTH
Anyone who has a lawn or a garden will have noticed that changes have been taking place in the grass, shrubs and trees that have been largely dormant during winter. After a very wet winter, the edge of spring is upon us. The hope of warmer days and nights can be observed in the flower buds and new leaves that are now appearing on bare branches. The signs of new growth can also be seen in fresh leaves beginning to appear on deciduous trees. These signs represent new growth in response to changes in the environment. More light and more warmth.
DO NOT BE FOOLED BY LOOKS
There have been two changes that I have observed in my garden as the winter environment morphs into a warmer spring environment. Desirable plants are growing, but undesirable plants are also growing. Invasive plants such as onion grass and blue periwinkle are growing in an attempt to gain a foothold in my garden. The West Tamar Council publication, A Guide to Garden Plants that are Going Bush and Becoming… Environmental Weeds has been produced in a way that helps the reader to identify the offending plants and also provides advice on how to destroy them. The introduction reminds the reader “Don’t be Fooled By Good Looks!” Weeds are plants that become established in locations where they are not wanted. They are also plants that can become invasive and have adverse effects on the natural environment when allowed to get out of control. Examples would include plants such as Blue Periwinkle, Japanese Honeysuckle, Ox-Eye Daisy. These and other environmental weeds often have attractive foliage and flowers. They can been found in many gardens in the West Tamar area. The point to remember about such weeds is that although they are attractive, they are nonetheless harmful to our local environment. In the same way, there are activities that followers of Christ can choose to indulge in that they find enjoyable, and that make them happy. Commonly stated justifications for such activities usually go something like, ‘If it makes me happy how could it possibly be wrong?’ or ‘God made me this way, so why fight it?’. The teaching of Jesus makes it clear that this type of reasoning is flawed. Jesus compares the work of Satan as thorns that choke out growth in a Christian’s path towards becoming more like Christ.
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.
Jesus also refers to weeds that can be sown into our lives when we are not being watchful.
but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also.
ELIMINATING UNWANTED GROWTH
The good news about weeds is that there are ways to eliminate them. This is not always an easy process and sometimes requires that the weeds are dug up by the roots and destroyed by fire so that they cannot regrow in the place where they are disposed of.
The good news about sin is that the plan for eliminating it is in play. Jesus has defeated sin and death on the cross. However, until His return we are required to grow as His followers in an environment that still contains thorns and weeds. Jesus lived as a man in the world and experienced temptation. He knows the weeds that can hinder our growth. He has provided us with an instruction manual in the Bible and has provided us with a guide in the person of the Holy Spirit. We also have access to God through prayer. Armed with these resources, it is up to us to use them.
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
REMOVING ATTRACTIVE WEEDS
The West Tamar Council expects landowners to regularly check their properties for environmental weeds. Once these are identified we are expected to eliminate them. I believe that as Christians, we should also undertake regular life style checks. This can be difficult to start. One strategy that I have found effective is to find an accountability partner. This involves meeting regularly with a person we trust and asking each other some hard questions. These might include questions such as:
- Have you been struggling with anything this week?
- What have you been reading in scripture this week?
- How have you been relating to others?
- What habits have developed during lockdown and have become normalised over the previous 18 months?
- Have you been watching inappropriate content on video streaming services?
This challenge is worth reflecting on. I have found having an accountability partner helps to identify weeds before they get a chance to take hold in my life. It helps to prevent our sense of what is moral becoming dulled. Speaking at the Princess theatre this week, Martyn Ilse, Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) reminded the audience of the importance of being salt and light to a society where many people do not yet know the love that Jesus has for them. This is a message that most Christians are aware of.
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
Being held accountable by a brother or sister in Christ will help.
THE SOWER’S SONG
I believe that the second verse of Andrew Peterson’s, The Sower’s Song, from his album, The Burning Edge of Dawn captures the concept of us having to identify and remove undesirable growth in our lives. He writes,
So I kneel at the bright edge of the garden
At the golden edge of dawn at the glowing edge of spring
When the winters edge is gone
And I can see the colour green I hear the sowers song
Abide in me let these branches bear you fruit
Abide in me Lord let you word take root
Remove in me the branch that bears no fruit
Remove in me Lord as I abide in you
These lyrics speak of hope that we all have in Jesus Christ who is the Sower of all things good. They also speak of growth, taking root in our God and acknowledging that we need God’s help to keep unproductive and harmful growth under control. However, we also need to be on the lookout for un wanted growth in our lives and take action. Who could you approach to be your accountability partner?
Your Executive pastor,
Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.