After three weeks of invitations, commitments and decisions, a metaphor we often use became even more clear to me while discussing the life stories of individuals. Visiting with each of them, I realized this point in their lives represented more than just a persuasive speech, sermon or alter call. This moment in time marked the beginning of process based on an event. Jesus and Paul both use the garden metaphor to help understand these abstract internal process with concrete examples from daily life. This gardening illustration takes on even more meaning as we examine the features of the soil, the seed and the species.
As we enter the spring here in planting Zone 6, we have to still beware of the last freeze. Putting plants in the ground too soon leads to their demise. Tender seedlings just can’t survive the frozen moisture inside and they die. For instance, if the soil is too cold, the roots will not develop. Other variables such as loamy soil, clay content and ambient temperatures also influence the tender development. Likewise, we struggle in our lives to reach a place where the thought of a God willing and able to connect with us. Too early, and a cynical attitude prevents us from allowing the seed to take hold. Additionally, our hurts and pains prevent us from valuing any possible connection with the sort of God that allows such struggle. Finally, a false or mistaken idea of who and what God is bars the way for many people when presented with the idea of a changed life. Matthew 13 records the parable of the sower and the soil. It seems like each of us must prepare our heart to get to the next level. Likewise, seed will be sown.
Sowing seed takes many forms. Peas benefit when soaked ahead of time. Tomatoes enjoy a breeze. Peppers like to touch each other and carrots are pretty sensitive. Maybe people also need a unique touch to maximize and reach their potential? The story of the Gospel or the Seed, reaches each of us, individually. Based on our own personal prior experiences, with each of us representing a Garden, ready for planting, ready to receive the seed, and ready to begin growing.
Of the four types of soil, one can imagine some change in topography and condition. One can ponder the thought that each of us can be hard as a rock, not wanting any part of spiritual matters. Then after some struggle, a hearer may listen with curiosity and receptiveness, but fails to fully incorporate the Love of God into his life for lack of complete understanding. After more time and struggle and maybe even exploration, a listener might once again, ponder the deeper spiritual truths but try and balance the worldly life and spiritual life together, only getting frustrated and quit. Finally, however, after much soil preparation, fertilization, digging, and irrigation through prayer and exposure to other Believers, the Seed, the Word, the Gospel, the Truth sticks! A person receives the Seed and starts a new life.
This new life is the seed, growing into a new plant. We can easily count the seeds inside an apple but it is impossible to ascertain the apples hidden deep in a single seed! So, on the moment of conversion, when a person gives up fighting, begins to follow Jesus and is “born again,” he becomes a new creation. He becomes a believer, growing in the garden, developing new attributes and characteristics, and even changing shape and size. Can he go back? It doesn’t look like it! Once a person meets Jesus, he can’t unmeet him. Once introduced, you can’t go back and un-know someone. Struggle, weeds and obstacles will arise to test, harden, mature and develop the seed of faith along the way but once a believer, you are a believer. Paul even calls us “God’s field” in 1 Corinthians 3:9.
Then, once the seed starts, the gifts start to mature and develop into the true person God has in mind for him. Just as many seeds look the same as they begin to sprout, with often a green shoot is the only indication of success, a believer’s life begins with the foundation, building on what was laid, then developing the believers’ unique gifts and talents. God foresees our fullest potential. As a flower blooms best without any help or assistance unfolding the petals, God grows us through struggles and battles so we might develop into a thing of beauty and understanding.
Yes, we are God’s field, for him to prepare our Soil (hearts) to receive his Seed (Gospel of Grace) so we might develop into our unique Species (with Gifts and Talents). Is it a perfect metaphor? Does it hold doctrinal truth? Is it an accurate, although limited description of God? I pray so.
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