A few weeks ago Bruce and I met up at someone’s home to help them unload some things off of a trailer. They had recently cleared a small wooded lot and we were unloading some things for that lot. After we go done we were standing around talking and swatting all the gnats that all the sudden came out of nowhere and seemed to be trying to carry us off.
Around the perimeter of the lot were a lot of large oak trees that they had left when they cleared the lot. From a lot of those trees there were vines hanging from them. I’m not sure the exact name of them or what kind they are. I call then oak vines but I’m sure that’s wrong.
Most of these vines are only ¼ to ½ inch thick but very long. Because they’re rather small many of them look like you could just walk up and grab hold with one hand and pull it right out. I walked over to one and gave it a good pull. It came down a little bit but then stopped. I grabbed it with two hands and gave it a good pull. Nothing... I jumped up as high as I could (not that high) and held on as I put my whole body weight into it and just hung there swinging.
Bruce came over and we both got a good grip and with both of us putting our full weight into it we finally pulled it out of the tree. We then began to go around to other vines and attempt the same thing. Again these are relatively small in size but most of the ones we attempted are still hanging there because the two of us could not get them out.
Now many of you have done this very same thing and when you finally do get one out of the tree you know that while it’s one vine at the bottom, up in the tree it’s a bunch of them all twisted up together. Even when you do get one to release out of the tree rarely do you get 100% of it. Often times there are remnants left high out of reach.
I couldn’t help but think those vines are a lot like sin and it’s nature in our lives. At first glance those vines blend in almost perfectly with the tree and can be hard to spot unless some clearing is done. Even when they are readily visible hanging there they appear to be harmless, small, easy to manage and deal with. What has the appearance of a single issue, single vein of temptation, quickly exposes a lot more.
When you pull on that issue hard enough often times you can get it to budge and for a moment you stand there with your head bowed as everything from that vine falls around you. It can make a mess and do some damage as it is being ripped out bringing small limbs and bark down with it. It brings down with 50 other smaller issues that have to be picked up and addressed as well.
Other times you pull and pull to no avail. Even with the help of others you try your hardest and it just won’t budge. It’s so entangled in their lives that it just won’t let go and it’s left hanging there. While a truck and a rope can do it the damage it does and the mess it makes is greater.
In the parable of the sower in Mark 4 Jesus explains that the seed that fell among the thorns was choked by the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things. Peter said in 2 Peter 2 “For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.”
Often times in our lives we allow the things of this world to get entangled within our lives. We don’t always recognize it nature and grow for a while but a closer look reveals some things that need to be cleared out. And though at first glance we say it’s not that big the nature of sin proves over and over its deceitful nature and how great of a strong hold it often has.
“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”