Hi everyone, Rob here.
In our backyard is a large punga tree – a New Zealand fern. Over the years it has been slowly choked by an ivy plant coming over from the neighbours. My daughter Jaz (7) and I have slowly removed some of that ivy over the years but made little headway. On Saturday we made a much more concerted effort and removed a lot of the oldest ivy; the stuff that was almost embedded into the punga trunk. We had been getting rid of the newer growth but it was the old growth that was killing the tree.
This is a metaphor for our life. God wants us to flourish like a healthy tree but old agreements and lies that we’ve believed hold us back and, undealt with, end up choking us. For years I held a belief that I had nothing to offer. It was a lie that came in when I was young and deepened through my teenage years. There was no specific incident where it came in; just a lack of healthy interpretation of the usual childhood setbacks like bullying and failure. Then as an adult I struggled to find meaningful work, our marriage nearly imploded and then, when I did find good work felt entirely inadequate to do it. The lie in my heart had embedded itself. I interpreted life through that old agreement. The fact was that I had lots to offer and plenty of people telling me so. I went along with them and offered to preach and teach and lead, but deep down I felt like a fraud.
This is not a unique story. In fact it’s the story of almost everyone I know. We all have old wounds and agreements that need clearing and the gardener is Jesus. Like severing an ivy vine I renounced the lie that I had nothing to offer in the name of Jesus and started to embrace what my Father in heaven believed about me: I am a son, I have a unique role to play in God’s kingdom and he has equipped me for every good work through his Spirit. The eyes of my heart were opened. I still have a lot of growing to do but as I look at my life now I see good fruit.
In Matthew 7:16-20 Jesus talks about false prophets and says this:
By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
Old, undealt with wounds and agreements create poor soil where good trees bearing good fruit cannot grow, or, like the parable says, get choked by life’s worries and hardships. Some of you carry deep wounds that still cause pain. Some of you believe profound lies about yourself that are stopping you from flourishing in God’s good kingdom. Some of you are fighting new battles without realising that it’s the old agreement who opened the door to them. Our enemy is ruthless. If we have weak spots he will target them. We’re told to put on God’s armour for a reason. But we’re also told to come to Jesus for rest and restoration; for healing and for strength. The front lines aren’t the best place for open heart surgery. Can I encourage you to return to the cross where the enemy is disarmed and the old is put to death? Can I exhort you to move from there to the empty tomb and let the wonder of the resurrected Jesus fill you with hope and give you purpose? Can I beg you to go to God’s throne room where Jesus sits at the Father’s right hand and gives you the authority to defeat Satan’s lies and deceptions? We were created to flourish. Don’t let yourself be held back by lies anymore. Go to Jesus and the Father and let their truth into your heart.
Grace and peace.