It has been a beautiful day here in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It was so chilly when I came out with my morning coffee that I thought about going back in for a blanket. But it has quickly warmed up, and I believe the weatherman when he said this is the beginning of our summer. I can already feel the heat, as well as those pesky biting flies and the no-see-ums. I decided that this would be a good day to tackle some gardening chores I have been putting off.
I love our garden. We purposely bought a house with a tiny lot, and my husband has turned it into a little slice of heaven. I have to give him the credit, because he does all the heavy lifting. I’m just on clean up. Our subdivision was built on what was at one time a pasture. It was almost completely devoid of trees, but thanks to our deed restrictions we now have many. When we first moved in we could barely sit on our patio because of the wind. Like the song says, Oklahoma is where the wind comes sweeping down the plains, and our backyard was like a wind tunnel for about five years until our landscaping matured. Now it is a very pleasant place to sit and we have even installed some ceiling fans to stir up a breeze. Time changes things.
My primary task this morning was to pull up some of the weeds that have begun to pop up. While flowers and shrubs need a good bit of care, the weeds need no encouragement, even in a manicured garden such as ours. It takes constant vigilance or they will take over. Weeds are the default, landscaping takes care.
It occurred to me that our hearts are a lot like a garden. It takes constant vigilance. Those little sins can pop up almost unnoticed and take over if we are not careful. We have a natural bent towards sin. It is our default. Those of us who are Christians have two competing natures: the old sinful nature (or the old man) and the new nature that is controlled by the Holy Spirit (new man).
At the moment of conversion, the Christian receives a new nature. It happens instantly. The Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us. However, sanctification is a continual process that lasts a lifetime. It is the process of becoming holy, more like Jesus, and over the lifespan there will be many victories and defeats. But the good news is our new nature has the capacity to resist sin, something we did not have before we were saved.
This new nature takes cultivation, just like my garden. Although I have walked with God for many years, I still feel a bent towards sin. Even the apostle Paul felt it. In Romans 7 he writes about the battle that takes place within him. He doesn’t do the good he wants to do, but instead he does the very evil he hates. This battle is one that we will fight as long as we are here on earth. It is a lot like fighting weeds. That is why we are told to “get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language, (Colossians 3:8).” We have to pull these sins up by their roots, and still they come back.
I have learned that filling my garden with “good” plants is one way to choke out weeds. But I can’t just plant them and forget them. They must be watered and fertilized in order to grow and flourish. Similarly, I must cultivate my new nature with Bible study, prayer, and worship. When I neglect those things, the weeds (sins) pop up. The old nature wins the battle.
As believers we are encouraged to put to death the deeds of the body (Romans 8:13), to put to death those things that make a Christian sin (Colossians 3:5). Even though we still have two natures, the old and the new, the new nature needs continual renewing (Colossians 3:5). This renewing is a lifetime process, but we are no longer under the control of sin (Romans 6:6). And ultimately Christ will rescue us from “this body that is dominated by sin and death (Romans 7: 24). The weeds will be permanently gone. Thank you, Jesus!