Spiritual Preemergence

by Joseph Franks

At my house, tall fescue grass is what I have sown. I prefer it because it is fairly suited to my environment, it stays green most of the year, and I enjoy keeping my grass around 4″ tall. Right now, my lawn looks nice. I look like I know what I am doing. However, there is a danger lurking beneath the soil. Bermuda grass and crabgrass are waiting to take over my lush lawn, and if they are not stopped, my yard will look like a weedy mess by summertime. So what must I do? I must go to the local weed and feed store and purchase preemergence — a chemical that prevents the germination of undesirable weeds and grasses. Apparently, I must put down the crabgrass preventer early, and I must repeat the process a few weeks later. Sure, I could wait for the external evidence of these undesired grasses to appear, and then I could pull it out or douse it with RoundUp. However, my lawn will not look good when that happens. Therefore, the best thing to do is to “nip it in the bud.” I am determined to faithfully prepare and protect my soil. Consequently, if I faithfully do the work of weeding and feeding, the likelihood of me having a beautiful product later this year is much more likely.

Likewise, If we are faithful to prepare and protect our souls; if we are faithful to do the work of spiritual weeding and feeding, then the likelihood of our being beautiful worshipers and bearing forth much fruit later this year is much more likely.

So where would one go in Scripture to find this truth presented? From the Ceremonial Law, one can see how God expects his worshipers to nourish their souls while nuking all that promotes ungodliness. Within the Old Covenant Community, leaven is to be removed. In addition, mold, mildew, leprosy dung, death, and all other forms of uncleanliness are to be kept at a distance. From the Ceremonially Law, one can see that God is serious about having holy, beautiful, and fruit-filled followers. It is the worshiper’s duty to nourish his soul while nuking all that promotes ungodliness.

One could go to Psalm 1 and be reminded of man’s need to avoid the congregation of the wicked while placing himself in the congregation of the righteous who consistently meditate on the Word.

Or one could go to Romans and hear Paul say, “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Romans 13:13-14)

One might also contemplate the advise given to Timothy, “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22)

A wise person might also tremble at the extreme admonition of Jesus. According to the Teacher, it would better for one to lose hands and eyes — good and useful body parts — rather than keep them and allow them to lead him or her down the hellish path. Or one could consider the counsel given by Jesus in his Parable of the Weeds and the Sower:

Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.     (Matthew 13:18-23)

As this parable primarily applies to regeneration and justification, it presents the work of God — the Master Gardner. He is the one who selects the field. He is the one who selects the seed. He is the one who scatters the seed, and he is the only one who can properly prepare and protect the soil. The soil is what it is; it has no ability to fix or prepare itself for the Master Gardner’s pleasure. Clearly, the primary point of Jesus in presenting this parable was to show why some had “ears to hear” and others did not. For those of us who understand this truth, let us not be arrogant but thankful. What a great blessing it is to look within and see the evidence of the Holy Spirit’s tilling and aeration.

However, if one secondarily applies this parable to sanctification, one sees a joint-venture between God and man. Sure, God is the primary mover in reformation and revival, but the regenerated and redeemed individual has a God-prescribed duty to guard his heart. The Christian must “put on” certain things and “take off” other harmful things. He must not forsake the assembly, and he must purify the assembly of those claiming Christ but living like Satan. The Christian must work hard; he must labor to be holy, for his greatest purpose is to be fruit-filled for the Master’s delight. Therefore, with this fruitful goal in mind, he must daily rid himself of sin and find fresh grace from the Holy Spirit. Daily he must engage in the work of spiritual weeding and feeding. Daily, he must look ahead at the weeds to come and apply Spiritual preemergence. And if he is faithful to do the work of spiritual weeding and feeding, then the likelihood of his being a beautiful worshiper and bearing forth much fruit this year is much more likely.

Therefore friends, some food for thought:

  • Are we ignorant of the weedy problems ahead?
  • Are we relying on last year’s preemergence to fix this year’s problem?
  • Are we mediocre; have we lost the passion to be fruitful for the Master?
  • Are we lazy; have we lost the work ethic required to bear forth good fruit for the Master?
  • Are we weeding out the cares of this world?
  • Are we weeding out the deceitfulness of riches?
  • Are we weeding out those evil things that feed our wicked lust?
  • Are we weeding out those good things that feed our wicked lust?
  • Are we weeding out those persons who encourage us to think and walk contrarily to Christ and his Word?
  • Are we feeding ourselves by assembling ourselves together at church?
  • Are we feeding ourselves by assembling ourselves together outside of church? (I.e. Men’s, Women’s, Youth Meetings)
  • Are we feeding ourselves by eating the Word of God?
  • Are we feeding ourselves by drinking of the Spirit in prayer?

Believing friends, the Master Gardner has faithfully tilled our hard soil and produced the fruit of righteousness therein. He has tilled and aerated our hard, depraved, dead soil. All praise be to God for the good work done in our heart. It is true, we only love him because he has first loved us.

However, now in response to his gracious monergistic work, let us labor well to please him. Let us strive to produce a bountiful harvest for him. May he look at his lawn this year and be well pleased. So let us participate in our own sanctification. Let us look behind us and see where we have fallen. Let us look ahead and see what might diminish our spiritual beauty. Then let us do something about it. Let us snuff out the spiritual weeds before they further manifest themselves. For if we will use more care and spiritual preemergence right now; if we will engage in the work of spiritual weeding and feeding, then the Master Gardner might have to use less spiritual RoundUp later, and this is often so painful and ugly to behold.

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