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Clearing Away Sin/Thorns in Our Lives
Brett Anderson ©2004

Yesterday for my work duty at Youth With A Mission I had to help clear away this one huge part of garden/lawn area which was covered with a few fallen trees and some plants...but mostly with lots and lots of thorny plants. These are basically vine type plants (or strands of weed) covered in millions of hundreds of thorns all up and down, and I had to clear them away just armed with a pair of garden shears (like a glorified giant pair of scissors).

It was really tough work and after a few hours it felt like we had done some real work for a change (we've been doing a lot of light painting for work duty which hasn't been too physically arduous lately) but during the time as I was working I spent a lot of time thinking up a couple of analogies comparing the work I was doing to my life. Basically, yes you guessed it, I compared the work duty to clearing away the sin in your life.

While the thorns are all laying their all over the lawn the place is pretty useless and quite ugly and it really needs to be cleared away before the place can start to look beautiful or become useful. But it's not that easy to do the clearing away and I have hundreds of little scratch marks or cuts over my arms and legs and face to prove it. In the same way it usually hurts to confront or remove the sin in our life, especially the more there is or the longer it's been allowed to grow there.

Many times I would chop through a piece of thorny weed at the ground and then grab the cut end and pull, only to find out that it was still firmly attached to the ground somewhere a bit further on. So basically I was dealing with two-ended thorn plants which I thort was pretty strange cos surely if you cut the end in the ground then it should be free. But with these plants, if the thorns were left long enough the whole plant would grow back into the ground and really embed itself in firmly, so with many of the plants you would have to cut it in two places to be able to pull a piece away, in fact with almost all of them (maybe it was just the type of weed?).

But what I got from that is that sin leads to sin. Or sin breeds sin I guess. It fast becomes thickly rooted in, and the longer it is allowed to remain in our lives the stronger it digs itself in and the harder it is to remove. Also the deeper it is in the ground, usually the thicker and stronger the weed is and so the more likely it is to leave cuts or scars on you when you try take it out.

A small lie unchecked always leads to a bigger one. Unforgiveness with one person can quickly lead to general bitterness with all people. Things like that. If we don't deal with a piece of sin in our life then very soon we have two bits to deal with. Now two thorn plants on the ground are easy to get rid of...but 100 plants get so intermeshed and tangled that the job just looks too big or like too much work and so it's just put off and put off until you find a foreign South African (namely me) to come in and do the job for you.

The more you put off dealing with sin the more "used to it" you become and as a result it just grows and your life looks more ugly and becomes less useful or beautiful, whereas if you had cut off each sin while it was still young, your whole life would remain pretty clear of the debris and thorns/wounds.

Thorns are destructive and so is sin. I started off the job using my bare hands and after a while the guys came back from the base and brought us some gloves which made it a bit easier. But the gloves weren't perfect and I soon discovered I still needed to be really careful to avoid being hurt/impaled. I think that can be likened to the Spiritual armour or the gifts or our talents or Christian friends or fellowship - there are many things God has given us to help deal with sin - to avoid it or cut it out of our lives - and these things can be really useful and make living easier, but we still have to realise that we're dealing with the thorns of sin that are destructive and we can't simply rely on those things to get us through life - we always have to be careful when it comes to sin and treat it for what it is.

And that is about it except I was reminded about the story Jesus told concerning thorns and even though it doesn't specifically exactly link to this analogy, it is worth thinking about in a similar vein.

Matthew 13:7-22 tells about the Parable of the Sower walking around his land sowing seeds and different seed falls in different places with different results:

"Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants." "The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful."

Anyway the conclusion of the story was that we managed to clear away most of the thorns in a single afternoon which was quite impressive as if you see it now, even though there is still work to do, you can begin to see the potential for what that piece of land can/will become.

I spent most of the afternoon with my little pair of garden shears which were mostly effective although sometimes I did have to chop at a thicker piece a couple of times to get through it and there were some little tree type efforts that it wouldn't cut through. Then about half an hour before the end I spied this tool that Paul had been using that looked like a bolt-cutter (two long handles with this little double blade cutting piece at the end) and I thought I'd give that a bash and it was amazing. It cut through anything with hardly any effort - the thickest thorn vines, the branches of the little trees sprouting around the patch - I just went around chopping through bits here and there with the greatest of ease.

And that reminded me of Jesus standing nearby watching the way I live my life. I often make things difficult for myself and resort to my own feeble methods and try to clear away the mess and rubbish using my little tool and my own strength. And it's as if He's standing there sighing going "What are you doing silly person?" Why not use the gift I have given you? You have the Holy Spirit living in you - why do you consistently try things in your own strength?

Why battle and strain when you have God living inside of you, ready to do all the effort and work of the actual job/work if you just put your faith and trust in Him and start using Him. (Also things like the Spiritual gifts, prayer, the Bible, unity amongst believers - all at your finger tips.) But the thing about Jesus is that He doesn't barge in and show us what we're doing wrong, and take over and do the work for us. Rather He stands by, ready to assist when we call on Him. Ready to give us a hand in dragging away the next plant, in cutting through the next vine.

What are the vines of sin in your life? How deeply imbedded have they become and what kind of ugliness are they creating in a life that really has potential to be beautiful and fully useful? Especially what are those hidden, deep down sins that you think no-one can see, but that still stick parts of themselves out in different places to trip people up or cause pain when people stand too close to that area? And what are you doing and what are you using (or Who) to get rid of them?

Clear away the debris and rot in your life and you will be amazed by just how much Jesus will be able to build or create on that same spot that once looked so ugly and unusable. And don't do it all by yourself - look at the tools that are available - Use the power of the sword of the Spirit (The Bible), the Holy Spirit, prayer and everything else
at your disposal to get the clearing away job done.

Matthew 7:23 "But the one who received the seed that fell on the good soil is the man who hears the Word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty
or thirty times what was sown."

And remember it doesn't have to be done with our power - with the bolt cutters the power comes from the length of the handles and so the effort is a lot less. In God's hands we become really powerful - it's just making use of Him and relying on Him.

2 Corinthians 12:9/10b "But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness....for when I am weak then I am strong."

God bless you as you clear away the sin and debris in your life - remember that even the smallest thorn plant allowed to stay there will grow and develop into something way bigger, more powerful/painful and harder to get rid of, so keep the garden of your life well tended.