It was a beautiful Spring day in Sunny Newport Beach. I decided to go for a leisurely bike ride through Back Bay. This gorgeous protected area has a path that winds through the wetlands. It is a breathtakingly gorgeous place to spend some alone time, which is exactly what I needed. I breathed in deeply as I pedaled my bright red beach cruiser along the path. It was pretty empty that day, as I only passed just a few people along the way. The sun glistened off the water, making it looking like thousands of diamonds strewn into the shallow marshy waters. Birds of all kinds were wading on the water, flying in the air, or walking quickly across the path to avoid me. New life was springing up everywhere. Flowers of every color dotted the sides of the path, and the smell of fragrant new blooms filled the air.
Suddenly my eye caught something that didn’t quite fit. I abruptly stopped and glanced up a slight hill to see a tall, old, unkempt palm tree. My Dad used to be a landscaper out in the Palm Springs area, which as noted in the name of the city is home to countless palm trees. One of his jobs was to trim these tall, prickly, branchless trees. In order to stay healthy, all plants need to be trimmed and pruned, so that the new growth receives all the nourishment. It’s hard work trimming a palm tree. My Dad used to tell us about how he would put a rope around his waist, and in order to hoist himself up on the long, thin tree trunk, he would have to throw the rope up a foot or so, and then pull himself up. As you can imagine, this would be a painstakingly slow and labor intensive task. It was no wonder to me why the tree had been left untrimmed for what seemed like years, no one wanted to take the time to groom it.
When a palm tree frawn dies, it turns brown, and slowly begins to fold downward towards the ground. This tree had so many downed frawns that you couldn’t even see the tree trunk hiding underneath. The interesting thing was how the frawns had fallen. They weren’t in a random messy order, they had slowly folded one on top of the other in an organized, neat fashion. As I stared at this tree, I thought about the sins that plague all of us. We all have those same old sins that we are taunted with day in and day out. Those same little stabs the enemy likes to take at us. Just as those dead palm frawns had fallen slowly one right after the other, lining up in an orderly fashion, so do we. We fall in the same ways again, and again, and again. Sins that we have been set free from, are taken back up again, strapped on to our backs, and we trudge through life carrying them on our back. We won’t get very far trying to lug around these sins, but we try to over, and over again. Like the palm tree that was being choked to death by the dead frawns that literally covered it, so we take up sin, put it back on, and allow ourselves to stay unhealthy, and unable to receive the nourishment God wants to give us.
Friends, when God sets us free from something, He does a full work. God doesn’t place sin back onto our backs and command us to carry it. Just as He told the woman caught in adultery in John 8:11 “Go and sin no more”. I’m going to let you in on a little something the enemy doesn’t want you to know. You are forgiven, you are free, you are cleansed by the power of Jesus! You are not chained to the person you were, and you are not obligated to partake in the sins you used to partake in! Your job is to go and sin no more. The Bible says in Ezekiel 36:25-27: “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a NEW heart, with NEW and RIGHT desires, and I will put a NEW spirit in you.
Do you see? God will never leave us on our own to accomplish anything He has asked us to do. He not only removes the weight of sin from our shoulders by putting it on His own, He also enables us to walk uprightly. I would like to add that not only will God make us do the right thing, by giving us a new heart, He will make us WANT to obey Him! It will be our joy to worship Him by laying all else aside to follow Him. We will see all other pleasures as second in comparison to this amazing life that He has laid out for us! Anything less than God’s absolute best for us is settling. CS Lewis put it perfectly when He said:
"It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when INFINITE joy is offered us. Like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased." So, you see, our desire, and drive, and ambition are sorely misplaced. We are settling for fleeting pleasures, and temporary excitement, when God offers us an abundant life that is not only fulfilling, but glorifying to Him.
Are we living like that old unkempt palm tree? Are we still standing, but covered and choking to death on our sins? What will it take for us to stop the cycle of sin that we all saunter back into without a second thought? Our only hope is the promise in God’s Word that says He will give us a new heart, and throw away our old, unfaithful, far too easily pleased heart. However, He will not force us to follow Him. The choice is ours to decide if we will take Jesus up on this offer or not. We must weigh our options, and we must weigh them well. A sinful life includes a reward of certain death, while a life devoted to Jesus includes, not only eternal life, which would certainly be more than enough, but God promises us more! He promises to give us a full, abundant life right now, today! Why would we pass up an offer like that? It sure seems like an easy choice. Let’s allow Jesus to prune, and trim away all that needs to be removed, so that He can give us this beautiful, abundant life that He is just waiting to hand to us.