As I wrote this article, I was vacationing in Tennessee. Driving along many highways, it was startling to see the amount of kudzu growing everywhere. Kudzu is a plant native to Asia, but brought to the United States in the late seventeenth century. According to Wikipedia, kudzu has consumed 7,400,000 acres of land in the southeastern US. I say consumed, because kudzu covers, chokes off, and destroys whatever is in its path. The article referenced above is a fascinating read, including how kudzu’s classification in the US went from ornamental plant (1876 and 1883) to its being removed from the list of suggested cover plants in 1953. It then went from being classified as a weed in 1970 to being placed on the Federal Noxious Weed List in 1997.
When I look at the destructive power of a deadly weed like kudzu (or any weeds for that matter!), I think of the destructive, deadly power of sin. Through one man, sin entered the world, and death through sin (Rom. 5:12). But through Christ’s perfect obedience, we are set free from the penalty of sin. And if the son sets you free, you are free indeed (John 8:36).
Yet, each and every Christian experiences the ongoing struggle with sin. Sometimes they wonder why that is so, if Christ has set them free. Enter the elm.
In April of this year, we had three trees taken down in our yard – two dead pines and one very alive elm, which was far too big and much too close to the house to keep. Having trees removed is a costly affair, but I consoled myself by the fact that we would have wood to burn in our fireplace. The large pieces of trunk sat until July, when we finally had the time to rent a splitter. Much to my surprise, the tree pieces were actually growing shoots. How could this be? The tree was cut in pieces; it was dead, right? Well, obviously there was still a bit of water in the pieces of trunk, such that sprouts could still grow. At least for the time being. Ultimately, however, the tree was severed from the root, and it would be correct to call it dead. Its power was cut off.
This is how Christians need to understand ongoing sin in their lives. Paul tells us that we must consider ourselves dead to sin and alive in Christ (Rom. 6:11). Because of Christ, sin no longer has a chokehold on us. It can’t destroy us (like the kudzu destroys everything in its path), because Christ has defeated sin. And yet, like my elm trunk, there seems to be life. Sin still has a presence. Yet, we must remember that we are in fact dead to sin, and it no longer has power over us. Like my elm tree, it only has a semblance of life; there is a presence, but the power has been removed.
The Tree of Life
Dear Christian friend, do not grow weary in your battle against sin. It is a defeated foe. Do not see your sin as a kudzu plant that will kill and destroy you. Christ has set you free from the penalty of sin. Christ has won the victory for you. This victory also includes breaking the power of sin. Do not see the sprouts of sin and think they have power. The power of sin is broken. Continue to look to Christ, and pray for the Spirit’s work of sanctification in your heart. When you are with Christ face to face, you will not only be free from the penalty and the power of sin, you will be free from the presence of sin.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him (Rev. 22:1-3).