Spring is fully upon us and new life is everywhere we look as we wake up in the morning, drive around during the day, plant gardens, and watch birds make nests. At the Di Iulio house, we usually mark the change in weather by hanging some ferns from the front porch. While horticulture may not be in our future, hardy plants usually have a pretty good chance of survival during their time with us. Nonetheless, we have had a recurring challenge with properly maintaining our beloved ferns.
Do you remember the nesting birds I mentioned a moment ago? Every spring, we have at least one pair of House Finch build a nest in the welcoming shade and protection of our ferns. The past two years, the pair has been able to build a nest and lay eggs before we noticed. It’s not a big deal at first, but when we go in and out of the house, we feel obligated to keep our distance and avoid disturbing the brooding parents. Then, once the eggs hatch, the little birds, though cute at first, have to process the delicious meals their parents bring them and their droppings cover a large portion of the plant, the pot, and anything below it. Last year, after the birds departed to create their own homes, what remained was a nasty mess, thousands of little bugs, and a dead fern.
This year, I decided to go on the offensive. I did some research and found that you can take little skewers and stick them into the soil around the plant with a portion of the skewer remaining above the dirt and mixed in with the branches of the fern. This safely keeps the birds from finding a hospitable place in the fern to build a nest (pointy sides down, mind you).
While I am not prone to over-spiritualize things, I do see in this an analogy in line with James 1:14-15:
“Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is fully grown, brings forth death.”
James is clear here about the natural process of sin. First, we are tempted to think, say, or do something that is not in line with the truths and the commands of God’s Word. Then, when we fail to follow the directive of James 4:7, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you,” we pursue the action encouraged by the temptation and we sin. Then – and this is the part that we often forget – as we continue to allow sin to grow and fester, it brings with it death.
The sin may seem trivial, even cute, at first. Just a fluttering thought in and out. A small “fib” as the blade of grass woven into our hearts and minds. A prideful twig supporting the structure for a nest of lies, jealousy, lust, pride, anger, hatred, disobedience, covetousness, and dishonor. But before too long, those little allowances provide a home and nest for an ever-growing stronghold of sin. And in the end, death and destruction, covered in waste and parasites, become the description for our hearts and minds.
So what do we do about this? I’ll tell you – we get some skewers. Unlike the bamboo skewers that I picked up, we use one that “is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart”(Hebrews 4:12). Paul commands us in Ephesians 6 to take up the whole armor of God, including the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. It is only in being rooted and grounded in God’s Word, knowing it forward and backward, obeying it morning and evening that we will be able to defend against the residence of death-bringing sin in our lives.
In all of this, remember the joy and victory that has been extended to us in Christ Jesus:
“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.” 2 Corinthians 2:14
“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:56-57
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Is your heart a hospitable place for sin to build a home? Have you yielded to the temptation to look at the cuteness and ignore the imminent destruction? If you have, it’s time to actively and intentionally remove the sin that is destroying you. If you haven’t, then continue to be on guard, remembering always that Satan is like a roaring lion seeking to destroy and devour. Whatever, the case, it is incumbent upon all of us to go on the offensive and fight against the temptations of the devil. Set up your skewers, only let’s be sure to put the pointy sides up.