THE GARDEN OF YOUR HEART

        2 Peter 1:1-11

It is spring and time to plant our gardens.  With the closedown of the country due to the Pandemic, people will have plenty of time to plant their vegetable and flower gardens.  I want to talk to you about a different garden.

All around us, people are planting their vegetable gardens. Let’s watch two of them.

Two men prepare the soil and plant their seeds. One man is going to give special care to his garden. The other man is going to just let nature take its course. One man is going to work diligently in his garden. He will fertilize the soil, keep the weeds out, spray for bugs, and protect his plants from rabbits and deer. The other man neglects his garden and expects a harvest.

In time, the first man will reap a harvest of vegetables that his family will eat over the coming months. The other man finds that his garden is overcome by weeds. He will get a few vegetables, but not the harvest for which he was hoping.

The difference is that the first man tended his garden well. He gave it special care and watered it on dry days. The other man neglected his garden and hoped for the best.

Compare this to the Christian life. One man takes his discipleship in following Christ seriously. He nurtures his soul through daily Bible reading and prayer. He actively seeks ways to serve his Lord. The other man started out well as a believer but neglected the disciplines of the Christian life. One man tended the garden of his heart and became a vibrant Christian disciple. The other man neglected the spiritual graces and became a defeated and disheartened believer.  He will have a particular hard time during this time of virus prevention.

PLANTING THE GARDEN OF YOUR HEART

“Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge; and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance and in your perseverance, godliness; and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (vs.5-8).

These are known as the seven graces of the Christian life. What do they mean? Each of the seven graces grows out of the one before it. As each one is made a part of our lives, the next one becomes possible.

Picture your heart as a garden with seven rows. On each of these rows you are going to plant a different spiritual grace.

Faith is the soil in which you are going to plant the seven graces of the Christian life.

The starting point is faith. Faith is planted in our hearts by the Holy Spirit as He finds us willing to be drawn to the Father through Christ.

On the first row in the garden of your heart you’re going to plant “moral excellence.” This means that you can be a good person and that you can bring true goodness to the world which is a great need today. It is not enough just to curse the darkness. We must light a candle in that darkness. The world will accept and admire true goodness but will reject hypocrisy and a “holier than thou” attitude.

In the next row of our garden we must plant “knowledge”. Moral excellence is goodness and knowledge is moral discernment. This means that you will have the ability to weigh out the will of God in situations that you face. This is the ability to determine the will of God for you. Just as a student in school adds knowledge in this information age, you are to be nourished in the church and taught the deep things of the faith that cause you to grow in Christ. You are to become a disciple and not just a believer. There is a vast difference in the fruit that each produces. A believer is one who has entered the faith. A disciple is one who is growing in the faith. A believer considers himself or herself first. A disciple considers Christ and the kingdom of God first. Believers produce no real fruit. Disciples are known by their fruit. Believers are not necessarily known as Christians by those around them. It is no mistaking who a disciple is. Believers do not know much about the Bible or the Lord. Disciples make the Bible their daily companion. Believers pray only when they have a need. Disciples pray just to commune with God. Believers don’t tithe. Disciples do. Believers don’t do anything in the Lord’s work. Disciples carry the load. Is it any wonder that Jesus did not command us to make believers – but disciples?

Planting knowledge in the garden of our hearts gives us the ability to know the will of God and do it.

Once a minister said to R. A. Torrey, “I am a minister, but the Bible is just a dry and dull book to me.” Torrey said to him, “Read it.” “But I do read it and it is dull and dry to me. I don’t get anything out of it and I’m finding it hard to have anything meaningful to say in my sermons.” Torrey said to him, “Read Second Peter. Read it 12 times a day for a week.” He did, and he began to see things that he had never seen before. And the Holy Spirit began to warm his heart. One day he showed his wife how the pages had gotten dirty with stains of use upon them. She said to him, “Yes, I have noticed that as the pages of your Bible have gotten dirtier, your life has gotten cleaner.” You see, spiritual knowledge made all the difference.

Then in the garden of our hearts we need to plant a row of self-control. Socrates said, “If a man sees the right, he will do it.” Aristotle said, “Man may see the right and still not do it.”

Peter is saying, “Through knowledge you will see the right and it is up to you to exercise self-control with the power that the Lord has made available to you.” Your higher nature can control your lower nature. This is where many Christians lose the battle and are stunted in their development. Passions in their lives get out of control. Even passions for good things can affect spiritual growth.

Several years ago, Janice and I went to Independence, Missouri and visited the presidential library of Harry S Truman. He is regarded as one of our finer presidents. Although there was much controversy over his decisions regarding the atomic bomb and the firing of General Douglas MacArthur, he was known as a man of self-control and strong character. Truman said, “There are three things that will corrupt a man. First, money. I never had any so that couldn’t corrupt me. Two, power. Although I served as President of the United States, I never wanted power. So power didn’t corrupt me. Third, is women. The only woman in my life is Bess, and she is up at the house now!”

Then in the garden of our hearts we need to plant a row of “perseverance.”

This is the quality of character that keeps us from giving up. All of us have times when we want to quit. If all of our workers quit every time they wanted to, there would be no Friendship Baptist Church today. But you hang in there because you know that you are a part of something greater than you, and it requires the best that you have to give. If all Christian disciples quit being true when they got discouraged, there would be no more Christian witness. If all spouses left each other when the going got rough, there would be no more homes. But the Christian has that special quality of “stick-o-mithia” that enables him or her to stay true to the Lord during the dry spells of the soul.

Perseverance will keep you from giving up or blowing up. It is much like the essential part of a computer that makes it work.

Several years ago, NASA sent a rocket to Venus. It was guided by an internal computer. There was one little bar the size of a hyphen that was called the “worry bar.” It was designed to tell the rocket as it traveled the 180 million miles not to worry about certain things. The whole Venus project cost $18 million. As the space probe traveled, it began to get off course. They analyzed the problem and found that the “worry bar” was missing from the computer that was trying to correct the course. Finally, it got so far off course that it had to be destroyed.

The quality of perseverance in one’s life is the one key factor that can save everything. It can make you a survivor in a hostile world.

Also, we must plant a row of “godliness” in the garden of our hearts. “Godliness” means “worship rightly directed.” This is the ability to rightly worship God. All of us will worship to the extent that we have learned how. There is an art to getting the most out of worship. It involves having a prepared heart when you come and entering the Lord’s presence with deep reverence for Him.

Godliness is John saying, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day.” It is Isaiah’s experience of seeing the Lord “high and lifted up.” It is Moses saying, “Show me your glory!” It is you saying, “Lord, I worship You with all my heart!”

A man went to church to on communion day. Someone asked him, “Do you believe all that communion means?” He replied, I don’t understand everything the pastor says about communion, but this is how I worship. I get on my knees and I picture Christ on the cross dying for me. And I try to feel His pain. And I picture myself there under the cross. When I do that, He comes close to me. And when I leave, he goes with me.” That is worship rightly directed.

Next in the garden of our hearts we must plant a row of “brotherly kindness.” This means that we are to treat those who are in Christ and His church royally. We are to have this royal behavior toward others because they are of royal birth having been born again. It is sometimes hard for Christians to get along together and this brings disgrace on the Lord’s church. We need to respect those of the household of faith and treat them with kindness and gentleness as the Lord does. This means that we are to have a proper love for the Lord’s church. We are to respect the church and love each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Then we must plant a row of love in the garden of our hearts. This means that the church is to go beyond friendship or brotherly love and love each other with “agape” or God’s love. The believer is to be filled with a spiritual love that God pours into his heart. Brotherly love has its origin in us. Agape love has its origin in God. At the top of the spiritual ladder is love for God and for our fellow believers.

These seven rows of spiritual graces must be planted in the garden of our hearts. They must also be tended very carefully so that our spiritual garden will grow and produce much fruit for the glory of God.

TENDING THE GARDEN OF YOUR HEART

Peter says “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these he has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” (vs. 3-4).

The word, “power” means “that which overcomes resistance, inherent power, power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature, power which a person exerts or puts forth.” The concept of “has granted” describes that which God has given to us with generosity. It speaks of a pass completed act with the present result that it is in the hands of the believer, with no strings attached. This power enables us to participate in the divine nature. This means that we can become more like Christ and less like our old selves. This enables us to escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires – because our desires have been changed. The things we once desired that were wrong, we no longer want. The things of God that we did not want before we came to Christ, we now want with all of our hearts.

Everything that we need spiritually to get through this difficult national and international time is provided in these seven graces planted in the garden of our hearts. Tend your garden daily and you will have a rewarding and successful life. The Scripture says, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.”  (Proverbs 4:23),

PRAISE BE TO HIS NAME!