I spent quite a bit of time in the back yard today, trying my best to accomplish the annual spring clean up. We have flowers and shrubs of various kinds, tulips, buttercups and other flowers and many perennials. All of them need weeding around and have leaves removed. Since I did not have the health to accomplish the fall clean up, I had to remove the dead growth from last year as well. It is an amazing sight to see the new growth buried under last year’s mess. It is quite the same when we clean up and discard yesterday’s offences and baggage; there is often new growth just waiting to spring forth.
Our spiritual lives are often waiting for us to remove the old stuff and move on. A couple of great things happen when we are willing to look at others and ourselves in the biblical light, and get rid of the old stuff. In fact, when we remove that which is withered and dry, the dead branches of the past, we can see the “buds” and new growth waiting to spring out of our lives. At this point I would really like for you to take a moment and think of some wrongs you have experienced or hindrances in your spiritual life. Then please read today’s text, found in Ephesians chapter four, verse 1-4, 14-24. This is a long passage, so I will not include it in this column.
O. K. Have you finished? Great! We are all called into unity and one body. The church is often referred to as a “body”. Now, of course you realize that a body has various parts that have many functions. However, the gist of my message this week is this: we are to function in our many ways in order to edify and lift up the whole. If we have messy growth of the past that is dead, it will hinder our ability to edify and lift up others. Check this passage out:
“But speaking the truth in love, we shall increase to Him [in] all [things], who is the head, Christ, from whom the entire body being joined together and united by means of the supply of every joint [or, by what every joint supplies], according to the working of the measure of each individual part, causing the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” ALT Eph 4:16ff
…for the building up of ourselves in love. That is what new growth is all about. We get rid of the old stuff that clogs up our relationships, and we begin to find the new growth. Now, here is another challenge; if we do not forgive and cease all bitterness and gossip, we will stunt our own growth. We, in fact, are mandated to forgive others who have wronged us and to ask for forgiveness when we know we are wrong. Check out the last passage:
“Stop letting any rotten [fig., harmful] word come out of your* mouth, _but_ if anything [fig., what] [is] useful for building up [fig., edifying] of the need [fig., as needed], so that it shall give grace to the ones hearing. And stop grieving the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you* were sealed [or, secured] for [the] day of redemption.
Let all bitterness and rage and anger and clamor [or, angry shouts of dissatisfaction] and slander be removed from you*, [along] with all malice. But continue becoming kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another, just as also God in Christ forgave us.” Eph 4:30-32
To fail in forgiveness and growth means we take a chance on grieving God, His Holy Spirit, who lives in us. To leave the dross and withered past cluttering up our hearts is to choke out the purpose driven life, and the power of that life who is the Holy Spirit.
As I cleaned the lawn today, I entered into prayer that I will be able to move on, into greater growth. Perhaps during this lent season you have found the ability to do the same, and I pray that as we move into the blessings of Easter, new life will spring forth in your hearts.