God’s Garden (Jul-Aug 2010)

By Matt Dabbs

by Edward Fudge
June 11, 2010

As the Northern Hemisphere moves into Summer this month, an ancient metaphor for messianic blessing comes vividly to mind. “For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,” God tells his prophet Isaiah, “and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations” (Isaiah 61:11). The good news of God’s divine rescue is spreading throughout the world, drawing believers into faith communities that practice what is just and right. As outsiders observe the transformed lives of people they personally know, they are positively impressed and give praise to God who brought it about. This “garden” metaphor highlights the spiritual productivity, apparently spontaneous, which is actually God’s work.

Jesus later urges this same process on his followers individually when he says: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Paul portrays God as the Master Craftsman whose people are his handiwork: “For we are [God’s] workmanship,” he says to believers in Ephesus, “created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Eph. 2:10). It was an apt illustration in Ephesus, site of the Temple of Artemis and a city filled with craftsmanship created to enhance her fame. Peter, like Isaiah and Jesus, notes that believers’ neighbors will observe their changed lives and praise God: “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable,” he writes, “so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12).

Such texts impress us with several realities. Fellowship with God itself refines character and produces good deeds. Authentic being precedes and (in that sense) outweighs doing. Discipleship is more about transformation than about information. God calls us to model transformed community as well as changed lives individually. Our gradually becoming more like Jesus is God’s work in us. We cooperate with him but he makes it happen. More observers become believers because of what they see than because of what they hear. As we feed on these truths, every day becomes more significant, every interaction more meaningful, every word and deed more important. We are part of what God is doing these days.
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Copyright 2010 by Edward Fudge. Permission hereby given to reproduce, reprint or forward this gracEmail without change and without financial profit.


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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1584 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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