2 Peter 1:3-9 (ESV)
For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
My wife and I are avid gardeners. No, wait, that’s not right. My wife and I like to plant things and wait to see if there’s any hope that we might be able to keep them alive long enough to get a return for our labour.
In that process, occasionally some unsuspecting little herb-bush or flowering plant with great hopes for the future might find itself in the wrong location. In theory, the remedy should be simple enough – carefully uproot and loving replant the little guy in a better, more welcoming home.
The reality, however, is usually quite different. After a few days, with much loving care, wilted leaves turn to dry sticks and the only potential remaining for our investment is as a dry-arrangement in some artsy part of the house. (Don’t worry, we actually don’t put our victims of neglect on public display.)
Have you ever felt like an uprooted plant? Christians are people who were once growing in the rocky soil of sin and destruction. The Gardener has lovingly uprooted and replanted them in His own garden where they receive new life, clean water and the care they need to flourish. The process is painful, uncomfortable, and difficult. Praise God that He is a far better Gardener than both my wife and I.
In God’s Garden
The garden of God is perfectly fertile. Peter says that “His divine power has granted us all things that pertain to life and godliness”. You are rooted in the soil of God’s truth, so that through your knowledge of Him you can grow into maturity. You lack nothing that is required for your good.
The garden of God is on display. God has removed you from the rocky soil of sinful desire in order that He may display His own glory and goodness in you. In his first letter Peter reminds us that we are the people of God in order to “proclaim the excellencies of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” You have been rescued to glorify God with the your flowering beauty. The Gardener will ensure that you will produce the fruit for which you are planted.
The garden of God is fruitful and productive. It is in the growing of virtues – those good and sought-after characteristics of the godly servant – that the garden achieves its fruitfulness. Here is a stunning statement: “they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in your knowledge of Christ”. That sounds a loud gong in my heart. Can I really be effective and fruitful in my knowledge of Christ? Can I really flourish in God’s garden?
The days when you feel wilted and under-nourished, these are the words you need to hear. God has given you everything you need to prevent you from shriveling up and becoming a dry arrangement.
The garden of God is constantly pruned. We must never forget that what God has given us as “everything needed for life and godliness”, is nothing less than Himself in the Person of the Holy Spirit. Through the Spirit and the Word, the Father prunes the garden to make it bear more fruit (John 15). Through the Spirit we are to put to death the remaining sin that so easily entangles and chokes our growth (Romans 8:13).
Notice that Peter closes this thought with warning. If you are not growing you are blind, having forgotten the cleansing of your sin. You have failed to see the glories of Light in the new garden, and are longing after the putrid lust of the old one. You don’t grow, because you are not honest about the sin that needs to be pruned. You don’t add anything to your faith.
Goodness must displace the evil in your heart. Knowledge must replace the ignorance of God. Self-control must overcome your lusts. Perseverance must undo grumbling. Godliness must overturn bad character. Kindness and love must stamp-out selfishness.
“Be killing sin or it will kill you”, wrote John Owen. Will you have it that way? Will you grow in God’s garden? Will you be productive in the knowledge of Christ, which brings knowledge of yourself and your desperate need for a Saviour?
The garden of God only grows God’s way. Finally, let us acknowledge that if we are going to be fruitful and productive, we are not going to do it by the implements of the world. You have been rescued from darkness; you have escaped the corruption that is in the world. What you need for life and godliness is from God and nowhere else.
For this reason we believe that the Word of God is sufficient, and powerful. We don’t look to godless philosophies in order to understand our world and become productive. We look at the world through the lens of God’s truth, and trust that we have been planted precisely where He needs us to grow. Drinking up the deep nourishment of His Word we grow where we are planted, producing the fruit of righteousness wherever we are.
God has transplanted you into His garden to grow and be fruitful. You have in Him everything you need. Grow and be fruitful!
The garden of God is widespread. When God planted a garden in Eden His intention was that man would extend His dominion over the face of the whole earth. Eden’s garden would grow until the glory of God was on display in every corner.
Today, the people of God are scattered far and wide, growing in every sphere of society, of commerce, of government. Wherever you are, God’s purpose is to make you effective and fruitful in your knowledge of Christ. Know that God is at work to grow you, and what He started He will certainly finish. Don’t be tempted to look back to the old rocky soil. Don’t long for the taste of putrid water. Stretch up towards the light, drink deeply of the knowledge of Christ in fountain of God. He will make you fruitful!
The garden of God has no potted plants. Potted plants share nothing in common with each other. They may be near to each other outwardly, but they don’t share the same ecosystem. Christians like to think of themselves that way. Temporary plantings, co-located, but never joined together.
The New Testament writers didn’t see the church in that way. When Peter says that all that we need has been granted to us, he means that we are sharers together in the goodness of God. He means that we are an inter-connected ecosystem in which each one helps to support the growth of the others.
If you are going to be effective and fruitful, you must notice that the Gardner has no intention of letting you grow out on your own. His garden is a place of mutual nourishment and care. Don’t go it alone – you’re not a tumbleweed! Let Christ minister to you through other believers. What an astonishing joy you will find when you see more fruit than you could possibly have imagined on your own, and when you rejoice in the fruitfulness of others.