For people who live at latitudes that experience changing seasons, springtime is a delightful time. It motivates us to shrug of the doldrums of coldness and share in the experience of God’s promise of new life springing up from soil once rendered dormant by the lack of warmth from the sun.
While I am anxious for the fruit of labors in the garden, I am not so crazy about the actual work involved in getting the earth ready to plant. What’s more the prospect of what thorns, thistles and rock may be uncovered bars me from making the commitment to get into the garden.
Perhaps it is one of those subtle ironies of the modern English that the only difference between the word ‘soil’ and ‘soul’ is the exchange of the letters ‘U’ and ‘I’. In other words, it can be said that the human soul, (‘you and I’), is very much like the clay from which God fashioned Adam’s race of creatures.
Just as the curse of sin produces from the soil thorns and thistles, so does the depraved heart of man experience the fruits of our depravity in a baneful existence made tolerable only by the grace of God. Our souls are by nature like the winter soils, dormant and chilled apart from the warmth of God’s grace that makes any hope of fruitfulness possible.
Springtime then becomes an expressive picture of God’s mercy and grace. We are invited to plow up the fallowed fields of our heart and make them ready to receive the rains, the sunshine and the seed that leads to a bountiful harvest.
Yet there is something that keeps us out of this garden of promise. It goes deeper than loamy layers of lethargy and laziness. It is the same root of bitterness that sprang up in Adam’s heart in full bloom when he was confronted by God with his sin.
Adam’s response was to blame God for what He had given Him. Adam did not see himself as the problem, the ‘real’ problem was “the woman that thou gavest me…”
It is the most natural of human reactions from a heart that has exchanged the truth of God for a lie. It manifests itself in our lives when we blame our sin on ‘the parents that you gave me’, ‘the evil circumstances that you put me in’, ‘the people that abused me that you put in my life’, ‘the desires that you gave me’, etc., etc.
The root of bitterness is the lie that I can’t possibly be wrong. It is the fruit of the lie that Lucifer planted in the mind of Eve first and then Adam when they were assured that ‘Ye shall surely not die’…instead, ‘Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil’. In other words we “worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator who is blessed forever”.
The result of this attitude is our removal from God’s garden of perfect soil and vegetation to a sin encrusted earth of our own making. God gives us over to our choice that we may experience the lie with all of its horrible, bitter fruit. The only fellowship possible with God outside of the garden is though the death of an innocent, non-human, animal.
The Christian relies on the death of God’s innocent Lamb, Jesus Christ to restore that fellowship in the garden of God’s fullness. It is the Spirit of God’s great desire expressed by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians that Christians should experience all of the fullness of God.
So why is it that we still seem to be barred from the fullness of God’s garden? What is it that is keeping us out and leaving us barren, clinging to the rotting fruits of unrighteousness?
Paul gives us the key. We are to “put off concerning the former way of life, the old man…which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts” (Ephesians 4:22) By this estimation, the fruits of wrong living are not the problem, the old man is. The old man that has exalted a false image of himself above the true image of God as seen in the face of The Lord Jesus Christ.
In other words, we are idolators of our selves. As long as we cling to this lie and blame God for the way that we are, we will never be able to “put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:24)
The plow of God’s Word goes deep beneath the loam to expose the fallow, sin-bound clods of our depravity. This is not pleasant. It is however the necessary discipline of grace that grants us the means of access back into the garden.
Let’s meet God at the garden gate. It’s planting time.