Prone To Wander
This time of year, we begin to see around us the work of garden enthusiasts as they put together their summer vegetable gardens. Gardeners prepare the soil by tilling and fertilizing. They drag out of storage hoses, valves, timers, and drip fittings to prepare for a well-organized watering system. Finally, the gardener places the plants in rows in the awaiting soil—a long summer of tending awaits, with hopes of fresh vegetables on the table.
There is one other safety measure needed for some gardens: netting and fencing. Some gardens are prone to invasion from birds, deer, rabbits, and other wildlife. Netting and fencing can provide some protection from these foragers.
One thing I have noticed about gardeners, and I think this is universally true: I have yet to meet a gardener who is concerned that their plants will wander off. Ask any gardener who has netting and fencing on their garden, and I doubt any of them installed that fencing to keep their tomato plants from wandering away. I have yet to see a cucumber plant with a leash on it, connected to a stake in the ground.
Plants don’t wander, so the metaphor used by Jesus to describe us in John 15 should strike us as strange. He describes Himself as the vine and those who follow Him as the branches. Notice what He says in John 15:4-5, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
He tells us, the branches, to “abide” in Him. In one sense, this is like a gardener standing next to his garden and telling his tomato plants, “Stay!” If you saw your neighbor doing this, you would be concerned for their wellbeing.
But Jesus makes perfect sense here. Just like plants need the soil and water of the garden plot to grow and bear fruit, we need the nourishment Jesus offers to bear fruit for His kingdom. The difference between plants and us is that sin has so damaged us; we don’t have the sense to stay in the garden of Jesus’ care! We drag ourselves out of the rich, well-tilled and watered soil of Jesus and instead drag ourselves to the rocky ground of sinful pleasure.
This metaphor is helpful because it reminds us of what God is like. So often we think that God spends His time trying to think of ways to tell us all the fun parts of life are wrong. But the reality is that God knows us better than we know ourselves, as our good gardener. He knows the pleasures of sin are short-lived, and the pain sin brings often outweighs the temporary delights it offers. He knows the richness of His garden, though, brings joys that never end. He knows the nourishment of His presence allows us to not only drink in what we need but also to bear fruit to serve others. God knows that since He made us in His image, it is this way of living that brings lasting peace, joy, hope, and love. And this way of living can only occur when we plant ourselves in Jesus and stay put!
How do we abide in Christ? We have our hearts set on Him. Some of the choices we can make to set our hearts on Him: Spend time in His word. Spend time praying. Show love to other believers by encouraging them through prayer and kindness.
I look forward to being with you this Sunday as we celebrate the work of God in Jesus Christ together! This Sunday, we will be seeking God through His Word in Matthew 13:1-9.
See you Sunday,