Himalaya blackberries are noxious weeds that thrive in untended hedgerows in the coastal area of British Columbia, Canada. Last year, I cut one woody cane out of the neighbour's hedge next to our church parking lot, knowing that if I didn't keep after it, it would take over the hedge. This year, sure enough, I had to go back, because there were more plants growing there. The extensive fleshy root structures of the cane that I had cut off at ground level last year had produced more canes this year. The roots would have to be dealt with to prevent their recurrence. Their canes have vicious thorns that will pierce even through gloves, so I had to grab them with a tool to deal with them. The thorns steadfastly resisted my attempts to extricate the canes from the hedge and the wire fence where they were intertwined. Blackberry plants produce their fruit only in their second year of growth. I noticed berries on some of the plants I took out, so that means that last year, I missed seeing them. One of the canes was firmly rooted at both ends — when the top had reached the ground, it rooted itself in the new location. As I took them out, the Lord started talking to me about the relationship between blackberries and the pernicious, besetting, habitual sin in our lives.
Hebrews 12:1 – Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us. (KJV)
In other versions of this verse, sin is referred to as ensnaring us, entangling us, and clinging to us, just like those thorny canes. Only the power of the Holy Spirit can help us resist the temptation to return to it. We must resist giving sin an opportunity to trap and wound us, by handling it with the tool of God's Word. "Sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." (Genesis 4:7 NIV)
Like those second-year canes, sin is hard to spot in our lives. We can miss it, because we are so used to seeing ourselves as we are, whereas we can always see sin in other people's lives, and they in ours. That's why for personal spiritual growth we need Christian fellowship.
Untended in our lives, sin spreads just like blackberries, and brings worse sin with it, in the same way that criminals who get away with their crimes eventually get so bold that they are caught.
The apostle Paul tells us that the "old self" is the root of our recurring (besetting) sin, and it must be put to death. "For we know that our old self was crucified with [Jesus] so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin." (Romans 6:6 NIV) It is tough to allow God to deal with our self-centred life — the root of our sin — but if we don't, that root will just proliferate into a multitude of sins that we continue to commit and have to deal with, year after year.
Prayer: Father, we dislike recognizing that there is sin in our life, but we pray that as we take seriously the presence of self-centredness in our lives, You will crucify that old self with Christ so that we can no longer be slaves to sin. In Christ's name, we pray. Amen.