I don’t know how many of you are gardeners, Tim and I are newbie gardeners, we’ve always had gardens, but beyond pulling out weeds and cutting a bit of grass we’ve not done much until now. Then something happened, we were visiting friends for a meal, and they cooked us a lovely lamb steak on the BBQ, it was accompanied by fresh spinach, fresh new potatoes and fresh beetroot all from their garden! We tasted and we knew and we were hooked, the non gardeners became gardeners because we’d caught a glimpse of the joy of growing your own. In a sense we were converted, and all it had taken was a mouthful of fresh spinach! At that point the lamb paled into insignificance! The seed of desire for something new had been sown in us and supermarket spinach would now be a poor substitute!
The apostle Paul tasted something new, and changed, a much more dramatic change than a change from not gardener to gardener, he experienced a deep internal change, a transformation of heart and soul, mind and spirit, a change that opened his life to the extraordinary love of God in Christ, a love that he now describes as a compelling love….
What happened? Somehow Jesus had come to him in such a way that the knowledge of the love of God was firmly planted within him, and he would never be the same…
God’s love became his mission, his vision and his prayer; he wanted everyone to experience God’s love as rooted and growing reality in their lives, and in a lovely juxtaposition that all should know themselves planted into God’s love from where they could grow vigorously and healthily. Listen carefully to his prayer:
Through followers of Jesus like yourselves gathered in churches, this extraordinary plan of God is becoming known and talked about even among the angels!
11-13All this is proceeding along lines planned all along by God and then executed in Christ Jesus. When we trust in him, we're free to say whatever needs to be said, bold to go wherever we need to go. So don't let my present trouble on your behalf get you down. Be proud!
14-19My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you'll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ's love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.
Live in the fullness of God, full lives in the fullness of God, that is Paul’s prayer, it is the love of God that sustains and compels him, the love of God that is growing in him and from which he is growing…
God is love, his kingdom purposes are that his love should be shown and grown in his people, Jesus offers us stories, parables to illustrate the vibrancy and energy of this, reminding us it is God’s work and not ours he tells of the field planted by the farmer, the mystery and energy, the warmth and the wonder that cause the seeds he has sown to grow and sprout until the harvest is ready….
God is love, his kingdom purposes are that his love should be shown and grown in his people; Jesus tells us another parable, of how the smallest seed becomes the largest plant, growing and maturing until it is able to offer shade and shelter…
God’s love growing within, God’s love from which we grow, God’s love which when we receive it and allow ourselves to be planted in it works in and through us a wonder, a compulsion to share it for we have tasted and known ourselves to be held by something that is far better than spinach!
So what happens to us when we receive this love, when we begin to grow in it? Paul speaks of groaning and longing for something more, more because we realise that there is so much more, we have only put our toes in the water of the possibilities of God, our roots are baby roots, and the soil of his love is rich and deep, and every fibre of our being longs to plumb it’s depths, to receive of it’s riches….
Stop for a moment, ask yourself is this your experience? Do you know the love of God in this way? If not now is the time to ask him to plant you firmly into his kingdom by receiving again or maybe for the first time the love of Christ, whose love was planted and displayed so richly among us as he left heavens glories to be born in a manger, as he stretched out his arms on the cross giving his life that we might live, and mightily through the glorious power of the resurrection as he overcame death, offering his transforming possibilities to be at work within the brokenness ugliness and loveless-ness of this world. His love available for all as a free planting for our hearts….
That transformative work within will enable us to see the world as God sees it, to see others as he sees them, to live from a balanced centre, we have been given a fresh start, our old life is gone; a new life burgeons! A new life giving, love sharing life that offers others a taste of the love and life of God just as our friends shared with us the fruits of their garden.
As we grow we become a part of God’s solution in a world that is so much in need of love, of healing and transformation, and we don’t have to go far to encounter that need in our own lives, in our fellowship and families, in our communities and beyond. God’s plan is that we should grow into his fullness from his fullness.
Are we willing to be planted in him, are we willing for him to be planted in us?