McMinnville Seventh-day Adventist Church


New Growth

Out of the cold, barren ground of winter I recently noticed the first daffodil and tulip sprouts, soon to flood our garden with colors of yellow and red and gorgeous shades in between. I am also excited about growing a new veggie garden and the experience of picking the fresh produce myself. It just tastes better that way.

What about your spiritual life? Are you still experiencing a cold, barren winter? Are you ready for a new spiritual spring to revitalize your energy and flood your life with color and freshness? Jesus invites, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NLT) His purpose is to give us LIFE – yes, in capital letters! He says, “I came to give life – life in all its fullness.” (John 10:10 NCV)

Why is it that we sometimes feel like it’s so hard to come out of our cold, barren spiritual winter? I know intellectually that God has forgiven me and wants to give me good gifts, but I don’t seem to experience the warmth of His forgiveness and love that is so necessary for new spiritual growth.

I once had someone come to see me for help with her depression. I discovered that Jane[1] was a faithful church attender, but did not seem to experience the true, lasting joy in her walk with God. She felt that she was too great a sinner and was doomed to a life of depression and gloom. Have you ever felt that way? I have discovered that it is not that uncommon. How has Satan managed to steal into the ranks of the children of God, arresting their spiritual growth, and leaving them paralyzed and unable to experience true victory in Christ?

One reason for this woman’s sad, wintery state was that even though Jane believed that Jesus had forgiven her, she still blamed herself and could not forgive herself for what she had done. I told her that she did not believe that Jesus’ punishment on the cross atoned for her sins, because she was still seeking to punish herself. Once she realized this, and truly accepted Jesus’ atonement for her, her depression lifted and she was healed.

How has Satan managed to be so successful in preventing so many of God’s children from living “life in all its fullness”? The key lies in how we grow. Growth implies change. Spring comes and changes the cold, barren earth to a spread of color and beauty. What does the soil need for this to take place? Warm sunshine and rain to water the earth. So, it is with spiritual growth. The key is change. How does that happen?

Our Puritan past has taught us that if we accept a child he will remain as he is and never change. So, in order for our children to become good Christian models, we give them a heavy dose of do’s and don’ts, the “language of unacceptance.”[2] The soil nutrients that most parents provide for their children are heavily laden with “evaluation, judgment, criticism, preaching, moralizing, admonishing, and commanding” – all messages that tell the child how unacceptable he is. He needs to DO something (CHANGE) in order to be accepted. These parents will read passages like, “The great work of instruction, of weeding out worthless and poisonous weeds, is a most important one. For if left to themselves, these weeds will grow until they choke out the precious plants of moral principle and truth.”[3] Unless this approach is administered in the context of love and acceptance, it will destroy the tender plant. The same author writes, “Keep the soil of the heart mellow by the manifestation of love and affection, thus preparing it for the seed of truth. Remember that the Lord gives the earth not only clouds and rain, but the beautiful, smiling sunshine, causing the seed to germinate and the blossom to appear. Remember that children need, not only reproof and correction, but encouragement and commendation, the pleasant sunshine of kind words.”[4]

Acceptance as unconditional love plants within the child the first understanding what grace is all about. God’s LOVE shows itself in His act of GRACE and JUSTICE on the cross. There are many Janes that walk the face of this earth that have grown up on a generous dose of justice, having experienced an abundant supply of criticism, judgment, and moral correctness. They find it hard to accept themselves and do not understand that, only as I accept myself am I able to forgive myself as a prerequisite to experience God’s forgiving grace. Paul says, “God’s grace has made me what I am.” (1 Corinthians 15:10 NCV)

[1] A pseudonym
[2] Thomas Gordon, Parent Effectiveness Training, 31
[3] Ellen G White, The Adventist Home, 202
[4] Ellen G White, Counsels to Teachers, 114
- Pastor Jerry Joubert