Left to itself, a garden becomes a disaster.
Plants start sprawling out of their cages. Bugs infest, leaving only holes and webs of leaves behind. Fruit sits forgotten, slowly rotting until it falls to the ground. All available (and unavailable) space is crowded up with weeds. And not nice weeds, mind you. Big, towering, ugly weeds, with roots going a mile deep and thorns an inch long. Basically, a giant mess, not even worthy of the name garden, except for the fact that there are a few persistent tomatoes hanging on to life in this dystopian world of plants.
Until a gardener comes in.
Now, I can’t fix all of this instantly; I must slowly work bit by bit to recover ground that was lost. I pick one box, and get to work. One little or giant weed after another, and slowly the dark ground is revealed. Some time with the shears, and the plants regain some semblance of sanity. Railings are righted, fences are fixed, insects are evicted, and rotten fruit is removed. Dead and dying plants are pulled out, and little seeds are placed instead. And slowly, bit by bit, the garden is returned to a beautiful state, where it can once again bear fruit and be of use.
But the garden didn’t right itself. On its own it was useless. A gardener had to come and right it.
And that’s much like what God does in our lives.
Without Him, our lives are a mess of briars and thorns and Texas stickers. (Yes, those barbed ones that are incredibly hard and sharp and evil in every way!) Our branches are weighed down with the rotten fruit of wasted talent. Bugs of bitterness strip away all the beauty of our lives. And any fertile ground is taken over by weeds of distractions and cares of this world. Nothing in our gardens is of any use, as there is none that doeth good, no not one. (Rom 3:12) All of our garden is filled with fornication, with idolatry, with thievery, covetousness, drunkenness, reviling, and extortion. (1 Cor 6:10,11) A complete disaster zone, without use or beauty.
But then the Gardener comes in. (John 15:1)
And He makes all things new. (Rev 21:5) When Jesus becomes the Lord of your life, He is not content to leave you in an disheveled state. God wants us to be conformed to the image of His Son. (Rom 8:29) And so He begins work in the garden of your life. He prunes away the branches of self that have overwhelmed all else; He pulls up the weeds of greed and idolatry and comfort.
Now this isn’t fun. It’s not pleasant. After all, God is uprooting most of your life. No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievious. But if we allow Him to, it’s ultimately for the best, as afterward it yeildeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness. (Heb 12:11) Because once we’ve let God clear out all the debris in our life, He can fill it with beauty.
Instead of the uselessness of our desires, He produces in us the fruit of His Spirit. Instead of our twisted, wasted goals, we have love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. (Gal 5:22) Instead of our useless frivolities, He fills us with all goodness and righteousness and truth. (Eph 5:9) We can then be of use to the Kingdom and to others, producing life-giving encouragement, love, and joy.
But you know the best, the amazing part? He didn’t have to.
God could have looked at the mess of our garden, thrown up His hands in frustration, and just left. (Which may possibly be what I do on occasion with my garden.) But He didn’t. He could have seen the beautiful creation now ruined by sin, and left us on our own. But He didn’t.
He came close, bent down, and said, “Let Me help.”
And if we do, He takes away the dead works of our flesh, the wickedness of our ways, our sins as scarlet as crimson. Because He so loves us, He makes us a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are made new. (2 Cor 5:17)
He loves us enough to reclaim us from our ruins. He loves us enough to make us new.
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetousness nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cr 6:9-11)(Emphasis mine)