Our small church family is going through a teaching series focusing on the family of God. We're looking at the metaphors used to describe the church as a spiritual family in particular. At the moment, we're looking at adoption and how we have been adopted by God through the work of Jesus Christ. Not just the good teachings of Jesus, or the social justice component of Jesus that made the Pharisees cringe and hate him so much that they wanted him dead! No, we're talking about the work of Jesus denying himself and the fame associated with being a King, and dying a sinner’s death on the cross only to rise again with a promise that he will return one day to rule and reign.
We’ve come to understand that when we've encountered Jesus and place our belief in the work of Jesus (on the cross), we have been justified and set free from the yoke of slavery. Grace and mercy have been showered upon us, leaving no area unaffected and untouched by Jesus' influence, power and healing presence.
How then shall we live? This is the question that I've been pondering throughout the series. What do we expect from family members? As brothers and sisters together, working out our faith in fear and trembling? We're justified, we're adopted . . . and so how then shall we live with one another in the bonds of love that God the Father has lavished on us?
I wonder if contemplating this question sends us back into the garden. The reality is that because of Adam and Eve's sinful choice, all of humanity has been expelled from Eden. God, abundant in love, desires that we come to live in the garden once again. Jesus, in his journey on earth, used gardening metaphors; he also took refuge with his father in the garden of Gethsemane. Here in this place Jesus wrestled with his own human flesh and finally submitted, saying in Luke 22:42 “. . . . not my will but yours be done!”
I love to garden. As soon as the snow is gone, I begin digging, getting the soil ready for new plants and tending to the ones already planted. But there's work involved in the garden. The one area I can't stand is the unpleasant work of weeding. I don’t like it, but I know it's vital to the health of my garden. I've come to understand that weeding is similar to the spiritual work necessary in our own lives.
If I just let the weeds go, soon my garden would be over-run. The weeds would choke out the flowers that I carefully planted and my garden would be less pleasant. So too in our own lives when we allow things to grow that are not God’s best for us. I used to think that the choices I made in life would just affect me. But as I’ve grown in my understanding of being an adopted son of God, part of a large spiritual family, all areas of my life need careful tending. Every choice I make impacts others in some way and I’m called to take consideration in how I choose to live. What happens when we allow various unpleasant seeds to grow? Like bitterness, envy, pride, gluttony, selfish ambition or lust, just to name just a few! When I allowed some of these seeds to grow I began to believe that I could live life on my terms. Soon my garden was overrun. I began eating the fruit of trees that God clearly said would result in death. Soon my life was so different than what I had ever wanted it that it took a miracle on the part of God, the master Gardener, to bring me to a place of submission so I could repent.
God beckons me back to the garden. He wants to help weed and tend the soil of my life. It’s in the careful tending of our lives where we come to the place similar to Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane: “. . . not my will but yours!”
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