Thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you.
Genesis 3:18 (ESV)
When Adam listened to his wife and ate of the tree of which God commanded him not eat, God said to Adam, “Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you… By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground.” (Genesis 3:17-19) As I was working at the tree farm last week, these verses came to my mind. Why? Because there are several fields that have not been tended over the last two years, hence large thorns and brier bushes have grown in between the trees. I have had the pleasure (NOT!) of working in these fields to remove the thorns and briers so that these trees can be ready to be trimmed in March. Let me tell you, fighting thorns and briers is hard work. This task has reminded me again of the curse of Adam’s sin and my union with him by nature.
By grace, I am now united to Christ, and He is my new Lord and Master. Yet, I still fight sin in my heart, and let me tell you, it is a hard fight, especially if I do not tend or give care to my spiritual condition. To leave the trees unattended means thorns and thistles. By leaving my heart unattended means the same.
This quote from John Owen that I mentioned a few months ago, “Kill a sin or part of a sin every day… Be killing sin or sin will be killing you,” has been going through my mind as I chop through these fierce opponents to lovely Christmas trees. Justification, or the declaration of my right standing with the Father, occurs in a moment of time. Sanctification, however, is a process, beginning at regeneration and continuing on until I return “to the ground”. I am not passive in my sanctification, but I am actively called to mortify the flesh, to work out my salvation, to make my calling and election sure. Of course I know that God the Spirit is working, but true faith is evidenced by works, by a growing in holiness and Christ-likeness. For my heart to flourish, like the trees, I must be pulling weeds, or rooting out those things that hinder growth and productivity. Like the thorns in the fields, they are not hard to spot. Sometimes the sin in our hearts might be hard to spot, but I think we all know many of the things that cause us to struggle.
As I have been chopping down these thorns and briers, very often those long twigs stick to my clothes and I just can’t seem to shake them off. It takes great effort. But I have noticed, in the five hours I have dedicated so far to this task at the farm, I actually have made great progress. I have already finished two fields! This gives me hope in my fight against indwelling sin.
It causes me to look to Christ. When you read through the Scriptures, thorns and briers and thistles are always associated with God’s judgment. Nowhere is a thorn and thistle a good thing. What is the Christ connection? When our Savior was crucified, the soldiers weaved together a crown of thorns and placed it on His head and mocked His kingship. It was a symbol of God’s judgment upon sin and the great humiliation which our Savior endured for the sake of His people. On the ground of Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension, and by virtue of His intercessory ministry to His people, the power of sin is crushed and the grace to fight and remove the thorns is granted.
One last thought: I have learned that January is a great month to be removing the brier bushes. The weather is cool and the branches are brittle. They can get chopped up much quicker this time of year. You know, right now, as we are still in the first part of the year, it’s a great time to give careful attention to our hearts. Let us pray for each other and encourage one another as we press on in this fight. Our fight with sin will soon be over, but let us fight until we return to the dust or Jesus returns.
Blessings in Jesus,