Summary: To help the congregation to see themselves as they are so they can become what they are intended to be.
LESSONS FROM THE GARDEN: ASPARAGUS
Sermon Objective: To help the congregation to see themselves as they really are so they can become what they really need to be.
We have begun a new series called Lessons From the Garden. As many of you are probably aware, there are characteristics of many fruits & vegetables which we can learn from and transfer in different ways to life.
Last week’s sermon was “A Lesson from the Onion” and showed us how Christ’s love saturates and infiltrates its environment just like an onion does.
Upcoming sermons will include:
• The Potato (9:14-17)
• The Garlic (9:18-26)
• The Strawberry (9:35-38)
But there are some vegetables that I absolutely hate. One which I have detested from childhood is asparagus. Have you ever looked at asparagus? It even looks like it tastes bad. It’s green and slimy and . . . and . . . well it’s just disgusting! Even fresh asparagus is like eating a stalk!
That’s why I affectionately refer to it as “The detestable vegetable.”
A few years back, I learned some important lessons about this … detestable vegetable.
FIRST, I learned that appearance is not a very good indicator of taste (a similar vegetable is broccoli which I have learned to tolerate).
And SECOND, I learned that just because we don’t like something does not mean it isn’t good for us. Asparagus is very low in Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Iron, Magnesium and Zinc, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folate, Phosphorus, Potassium, Copper, Manganese and Selenium. Regardless of asparagus’ appearance or initial taste, we need to eat it. So I eat asparagus; not because I want to but because it is good for me.
SPIRITUAL HEALTH IS LIKE THAT. THERE ARE ELEMENTS WHICH GO INTO A HEALTHY SPIRITUAL WALK THAT, AT FIRST APPEARANCE, SEEM ANYTHING BUT GOOD. BUT, IN TRUTH, THEY ARE VITAL TO WHOLENESS. Matthew 9:9-13 refers to a few of these things which appear unpleasant, and may be hard swallow, but are important to your spiritual development.
9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples.
11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”
12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.
13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
This story gives us some insight into spiritual health. It seems to reverse some roles and, like asparagus, can be hard to swallow, but it is good for us none-the-less.
1. CONFESSION OF THE REAL SELF -- SINNER.
One element of spiritual health is an accurate assessment of the real you.
There many titles which I identify myself by. Some I like more than others but all of them make of the composite of the man known as Ken Pell. Some of those titles are like asparagus; I don’t prefer them but they are essential to who I am. And the one that tops the list of ill-preferred titles is -- SINNER.
Amy Carmichael wrote: “If I know little of His pitifulness, … if I know little of His courage for the truly humble and penitent, … then I know nothing of Calvary love.” (Amy Carmichael, “If”).
Yes, among other things … I am a sinner.
I hope that I haven’t dashed any pristine images you had of me. But I am, to my despair, a sinner.
Like asparagus, ingesting this truth is actually good for me. It doesn’t appear to be a good thing at first but in actuality it is. Realizing and confessing my depravity is essential to spiritual wholeness. WHEN I CAN’T ACKNOWLEDGE MY SIN I PLACE MY SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT IN JEOPARDY. Such denial makes me arrogant and hypocritical; excusing myself while accusing others.
Jesus makes it clear that salvation is reserved for only one type of person -- sinners. That is where He and the Pharisees differed the most. They too thought that salvation was reserved for one type of person; namely clean living, orthodox, pious people but Jesus says that, ironically, such people may be destined to torment.
It seems out of place for many but Jesus always seemed to be in the presence of the social pariah, the riff-raff of society. They are the one’s who needed Him and to them He would go. HE SURROUNDED HIMSELF WITH THOSE WHO WERE CONSCIOUS OF THEIR SIN AND IF WE WANT TO BE ASSOCIATED WITH HIM WE MUST ACKNOWLEDGE OUR MORAL FAILURE TOO.