Unfit for the Garden

Have you ever met a guy who seems to have it all together? A guy walking around quoting scripture, constantly saying things like “God is good!” Someone who makes it clear that they are on a ‘special assignment’ from God? And, because of that, nothing has gone wrong in their life, as if they’re an angel on earth living out this perfect existence. A guy where sanctification seems complete? A guy who you feel looks down on you because you missed the holy train? Yep, the holy train left the depot a year ago and you weren’t on it! Whenever I meet people like that, my first thought is either that they are lying, or I question why God didn’t make me like them. Well guys, the mess in our lives is the very reason God wants to purify and use us. When Adam sinned, he was no longer fit for the garden. As a result, Adam and Eve were both kicked out of the garden. Their sin made them unfit for paradise. In fact, God placed them at the garden gates so they could never return.

And the LORD God said, ‘the man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever (Genesis 3:22-24).

Like Adam, sin has barred us from entry into Heaven. We simply cannot earn entry, despite all our attempts to be good men. Merely striving to be virtuous won’t grant us a passport to Heaven. The only way we get to eternal paradise is through Jesus. Any good I may do is because God is working on my heart and making me into a better man! Our inward desire to cultivate better outward behavior is a manifestation of God working and prompting us to become better individuals. While this may alter how others perceive us, it won’t change our eternal destination. Controlling outward behavior without a genuine heart change only suppresses bad behavior, allowing it to resurface elsewhere. According to God, even our good works are likened to filthy rags. “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” Isaiah 64:6

We had a raccoon problem. Yep, last week, a damn raccoon kept getting in our trash, leaving a mess scattered across the yard in the morning. So, I hired a guy to trap it (or kill it)! A week later, in the morning, I walked out and that big coon was looking right at me from his new home—the cage. The coon catcher came over to retrieve the cage and I asked if he was going to kill it? “Nope!” he replied. “I am just going to take it a few blocks over and let it go.” I questioned if the raccoon would just return to which he responded, “Maybe but probably not. He’ll likely just find another trash can!”

Men, like the raccoon, if we don’t kill the old heart in us, it will continue to come back. But, we can’t do it without the coon catcher! Without our hearts being changed by God, our outward behavior is not a real change. Real change starts from within and works its way out. My inward heart change creates a desire in me that makes me want to have peace with God! Outward change may give me temporary acceptance (others thinking you’re cool) but that won’t get you to Heaven! Our “sin awareness” or flaws are the actual things God uses to draw us closer to Him. That awareness and the inward heart change is the very thing He desires. And it’s what he aims for others to observe in you, prompting them to recognize their need for what you have—a Savior! Sanctification (becoming more like Him) is something He does! He not only saves us, He cleans us up.

He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful (John 15:2).

Upon Salvation, we transform into children of God and subsequently undergo a process of reconstruction. God cuts off every branch that bears no fruit and He prunes the ones that do bear fruit so they’ll be even more fruitful! If we were raccoons, he’d change our eating habits so we wouldn’t spend a life going through other people’s trash! (sorry, bad illustration).

Our dirty nature, failures, shortfalls, and sin are the very reasons God sent His Son! Our willingness to be transparent about our ugliness is the very thing that makes us approachable! “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Philippians 3:12 Men, I’m not perfect but I am saved! I thank God that He loves me enough to do the work that I couldn’t do. Salvation and sanctification are in His hands. The next time you meet a perfect man, it will be Jesus! (For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost – Luke 19:10). Our unholiness is the very reason we need a Holy God! By the way, the reason I’m pissed about the raccoon is because I just walked outside and he’s back. And, I am sitting here with a loaded shotgun.

Steve Thomas