Covid-19 Devotionals

Gardening of the Soul

I spent at least three days this week in the garden. Now that it is spring, there is so much ‘autumn and winter’ that needs to be corrected. I did so much and so little is visible to the eye. From mowing the grass and cutting the edges to planting new shoots into the log rock garden to emptying pots, putting in new potting soil to mixing potting soil with compost, etc., everything was enjoyable. I already feel that distant call … “Come back next week!” There are many places you can google to get gardening advice. Here are two I found along with their pieces of advice.

The Seven Rules for Gardening
  1. Make a Maintenance Schedule
  2. Group Plants with Similar Maintenance Needs
  3. Visit Your Garden Frequently
  4. Keep the Water Flowing
  5. Don’t Put New Mulch Over Old
  6. Plan Your Landscape as a Whole
  7. Prepare Soil Before Planting
5 Golden Roles of Garden Planning
  1. Provide the Right Growing Environment
  2. Grow What You Like
  3. Make the Most of the Space You Have
  4. Make Gardening Easy
  5. Timing is of the Essence.

In a nutshell, we could say gardening is about preparation, care and maintenance. There is another type of gardening that also needs preparation, care and maintenance … but it’s not outside … its inside! I’m referring to the gardening of the soul. J.I. Packer said, “Scripture is the unalterable rule of holiness … [the Puritans] never allowed themselves to forget it.” The Puritans’ life was caught up in the Bible. To them, the Bible was all of life and the Bible gardened their souls, producing the fruit of holiness. It is a terrible thing we find today … so many people want to couple the Bible to whatever fancies their particular bent.

One of the present issues on the table is that of “racism”. This is an extremely important matter and needs to be dealt with, but to me it seems some are seeking to change what we know as Evangelical Christianity to mean something else with the focus on external material and a few proof texts here and there from the Bible.

Packer’s reflection on the Puritans is that the Bible alone is the unalterable rule of holiness. Saturate yourself with Scripture and your heart will be different towards God and His requirements and towards your neighbours. In addition, your behaviour towards your neighbours will be godly. Whether Jesus spoke to a Jew, a Jewish leader, a Gentile, an enemy or the devil himself, He used Scripture. The old motto used in the Church of England in South Africa, “Thy Word Above All Things”, seems to be forgotten.

Getting back to Packer and his statement: “Scripture is the unalterable rule of holiness”. Why ought you to examine yourself regularly using Scripture? To identify spiritual blind spots and lurking inward evils. How will you ever know what is in the heart if the usage of the Bible is minimal or non-existent? One of the most pointed verses to the wayward Corinthian Church was:

2Co 13:5 Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?

How would they and how would you do this? You would start with the Gospel and expand it to all other parts of the Bible. And the starting place would be in prayer … like this Psalmist:

Ps 26:2 Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind.

Then you would use Scripture passages like the following:

Ac 2:38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

Ro 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Gal 5:19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. Gal 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

When the Puritans examined themselves against Scripture, the purpose was, amongst other things, for the disciplines of confessing sin, forsaking sin and renewing their gratitude to God for His pardoning mercy. The result was great inner peace and spiritual joy in their hearts and minds. Sadly, too many today have (to quote Packer again) “unclear minds, uncontrolled affections and unstable wills resulting in irrational, emotional romanticism disguised as super-spirituality.” Remember the phrase he used … “Scripture is the unalterable rule of holiness.” When you use the Bible for self-examination, it floods your heart and mind, deals with your conscious and expresses itself in your will, affecting your actions and behaviour. Gardening of the soul must surely be the most important activity you can do in preparation for the homeward bound call!

Dear God, please help me find the time, the place and the desire to execute some serious self-examination of my spiritual condition. So often, due to the turmoils of life, the scariness of Covid-19, the fear of lacking the resources to exist and my own sinful heart, I tend to neglect the most important aspect to life … my soul. Lord, please forgive me and cleanse me of that sin and help me to be more diligent in my spiritual life, the use of the Scriptures, intelligent prayer and obedience to You through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.

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