It’s officially fall! And for once, in Texas, it actually feels like it! It’s been a bit rainy and cool. (Let’s ignore the fact that the forecast says we will be back up into the 90s this weekend!) Fall seems to creep up on me every year. It seems that we just labor and labor through the excruciating heat of the summer, and then all of a sudden, summer is over. Yes, we will have some warm – even hot – days, still. But, the season is definitely changing.
There’s something different in the air…It’s a bit cooler, yet, and the sun seems to be hiding its face more often. With the subtle drooping of their heads and silent shifting of color, the plants perhaps more than everything else alert us to the change that is coming. It’s undeniable. The leaves of trees are becoming brittle and dry, the vibrancy of the grass and remaining flowers is beginning to dim, the rain is cool and the dampness lingers. In a mere few weeks, the branches will let go of their leaves, the grass will take on a brownish hue once and for all, and the spring and summer flowers will finally dry up completely. It’s a season of dying.
While that may sound a bit morbid, it’s really true, isn’t it? It’s time for our part of the world to shed the growth of the spring and summer; late harvests will come for a while, and then will arrive a period of dormancy. Rest. A time for the earth to rest. Balance….ebb and flow. Solomon said it this way,
In nature, we so often see parallels to the spiritual life. While death is universally most often considered to be a negative thing, we see in the Word of God that in spiritual matters of flesh versus Spirit, death is an undisputed positive. While it’s true that during autumn most of our trees undergo a type of barren death, it’s also true that this is necessary for the ultimate life of the plant. The death of leaves and their final detachment from the tree make way for the new life that will sprout come spring time. How strange would it look to have decrepit, brown leaves and green sprouts on the same tree?? Not only would it seem strange, it would be unseemly, and yes, even impossible.
And so it is with things of the Spirit. When we come to God, the old man, the old me, must die in order to make room for the new me. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says it this way:
What a joyful promise! We are being made new by the Spirit. Not only that, but all the old stuff has passed away. What a comfort to know that I don’t have to try to fit the dead leaves of my past into the same spot where a fresh new green leaf is sprouting! I want plenty of room for that sprout to grow.
And yet… so often, we find ourselves hanging on to a few of those dead leaves…Sins and struggles that we just can’t seem to get over. The Spirit is trying to produce new growth in us, but we are stunting the growth with the clutter of old ways and old thoughts. There’s an internal war between the old and the new, and we feel the effects of the conflict. We can sense that things are a bit “off,” like oil and water trying to mix. It doesn’t work. We’re puzzled because we’re Christians, after all, where is all that joy and peace we were supposed to have?! But that’s the thing….that abiding peace and underlying joy are only consistently experienced by followers of Jesus who are consistently dying to the old nature. It seems like a paradox, but it’s true.
When we allow some of the “old me” to try to mix and mingle with the new, we are being double-minded; it’s as if we can’t really make up our minds which nature we want to have. Do we really want the fresh green growth of a Spirit-led believer, or are we just a bit too hesitant to really let go of all those old dead ways? Perhaps it’s just that you want to follow the way of faith, but at the same time, you really doubt the necessity of turning your back completely on the old life. The Bible says this type of person is unstable (James 1:8), so yeah, that joy and peace you desire so desperately? They both left the building along with your commitment to fully dying to your old ways of sin and selfishness.
If it sounds a bit too harsh or like I’m pointing fingers, let me assure you that I have many fingers pointing back at myself! I have tried to live this way before, and still do, at times! I don’t think it’s something that most of us intentionally do, but when we’re not being intentional about daily dying to our flesh and the things of this world, that old nature slips back in. Even the great apostle Paul said, “I die daily,” (1 Cor. 15:31). Even he knew that if he did not make sure that he died to the things of this world and the desires of his flesh every single day, his former ways would choke out the growth of the Spirit.
If this all sounds a bit discouraging, I assure you there is hope today! Jesus said that He came to give us an abundant life (John 10:10). When we make up our minds to do our best to pursue the righteous life that He has called us to, He empowers us to be overcomers! We don’t have to be slaves to sin or the desires of our flesh, no matter how long we’ve struggled. If you recognize that you’ve been lacking peace and joy in your walk with the Lord, it’s time to die to the ways of the flesh in every area of your life. Only then can you really find the abundant life that God has promised! Take heart, my friend. Jesus is near.