Every gardener knows that in order for something to grow upward it must first grow downward. A healthy plant or tree must have a deep root system in order to be healthy enough to grow strong and produce fruit.
What is true of physical living things is also true of spiritually living people. It is no accident that God created our environment to instruct us about how life works.
To plant properly you must dig deep, and break up the ground so that the seed which is planted can grow deep roots. If you dig too shallow, the roots, when they grow will stop growing where they meet the hard layer and the root system will be hindered.
But the planting area must also be free of competing vegetation because competing vegetation or weeds will choke out the tender plant by sapping its nutrients and will also block its access to sunshine.
This applies to our Spiritual lives as well and we have a strong directive from God in the O.T as to its spiritual application.
Jeremiah 4:3 NLT
“This is what the LORD says to the people of Judah and Jerusalem: “Plow up the hard ground of your hearts! Do not waste your good seed among thorns.”
And from the New Testament we have a directive as well in the parable of the sower. In Matthew 13 Jesus begins by saying that some seed is stolen away and never germinates at all. (The Unbeliever) .
But even of the soil that received, Jesus says to us that the soil with no depth prevents the seedling from taking proper root and the plant dies. Thorns (uncleared ground) also choke out the seed.
So Spiritually speaking we are to be weed free and to go deep.
I think J.I Packer captures the essence of the situation in His statement,
“He that has learned to feel his sin, and to trust Christ as Savior, has learned the two hardest and greatest lessons in Christianity.” J.I. Packer.
To “feel our sin,” is to throw the spade in the ground of our hearts “Hard Places”, and turn it over. It is a kind of violence really, just like breaking up tough ground, but oh so necessary.
This is the preparation for root growth. The spade must penetrate. As Dr. Packer says, its a “hard lesson”.
This activity of “feeling our sin” is a means to an end… that we might grow upward and our upward growth happens when we see, that as bad as we are , Christ is a more than adequate Savior for us.
But we must trust Him.
In trowing in the spade and “feeling our sin” ,we will discover our inner motives that lead us into sin and be shocked, appalled, dismayed and depressed. (I hope you read the puritans Like John Owen, Richard Baxter and John Bunyan)
But as we look to and trust in our Savior, Jesus Christ, despite our knowledge of our own sinfulness, we find that in Him we are made alive, forgiven, loved and cleansed, we are given gifts and made to produce fruit.
Fresh righteousness will appear on our branches and others will want to know our forgiving empowering Savior too!
Now let us keep growing and go and make disciples who will do the same.