Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

The Enclosed Garden
by Rayola Kelley

As darkness enfolds much of the age we live in, we must be serious about surviving it. In the natural realm survival can prove to be a 24-7 activity for much of creation, including man. However, survival in the Christian realm does not require such activity. Survival in the spiritual realm points to knowing your place in Christ. Christ is our fortress in which we hide. He is the Rock of our foundation, He is the straight cornerstone that cannot be moved from the eternal truths of heaven, He is our hope, life, and promise. He is our all in all. Everything we have need of to spiritually survive can be found in Him, every desire marked by eternity will be realized in the Lord, and every promise will be fulfilled in Him.

This brings us to an important question. If we are in Him, why is it that so many Christians are being swallowed up by the spirit of the world as they are increasingly caught up with the currents and tides of the present age? The answer is obvious, the old man is still ruling in different areas of their lives.

The fallen disposition, or old man in us must be mortified daily or we will find ourselves being slowly dragged into the destructive currents of this present age. We must constantly establish ourselves on the Rock of Christ to avoid being swept into these dangerous waters by the present tides of deception, corruption, and lust.

The question is how can we police ourselves? After all, the Bible is clear that in our eyes, our ways are clean and right to us, but they lead to death (Proverbs 14:12: 16:2, 25). We see our standing as straight, our walk as correct or justifiable, our lifestyle as necessary and practical, and our presentation of ourselves as clever and wise. However, Romans 12:3 states we think more highly of ourselves than we should.  The reality of the old man in us is that it is pure, unadulterated selfishness. Pride sits on the arrogant throne of selfishness and what is considered straight is bent towards destruction, what is deemed correct is counterclockwise, what is being measured as necessary is perverted and corrupt, and what is being counted as clever is deluded foolishness.

This brings us to policing ourselves. We must learn how to discern the activities of our soul and the bent of our spirit. It is important to realize that if our soul is not grounded on the Rock of Jesus, settled in His will, and aligned with His truths, we will find the bent of what will prove to be an undisciplined spirit succumbing to the winds of this world. Our inner man will be swept away by every “wind” that blows through our lives which may catch our fancy, entice our lusts, or promise us the illusive carrot of worldly happiness and satisfaction.

When you consider the soul and spirit, you must realize they comprise an enclosed garden. This garden cannot be seen, but eventually what is taking place in it will manifest itself in our disposition, attitudes, and conduct. It never ceases to amaze me that there are Christians whose dispositions have clearly run amuck because they prove to be mean-spirited, and their attitude has become entangled by the noxious weeds of anger, unforgiveness, jealousy, bitterness, ingratitude, self-pity, and cruelty. At times, such individuals may slip on their best religious mask in an effort to cover their unloving attitude, and don fig leaves to conceal the stench created by their shameful, stiff-necked ways, but in the end you can see them seething beneath the surface as its takes everything in them to appear nice or somewhat reasonable to those who do not serve their purpose.

We must not deceive ourselves or try to justify fleshly ways. Even though our flesh tries to appear noble by being decent, religious, or charming at times, there is nothing honorable in its attitude, conduct, or ways. The flesh can only choose the base ways that lead to vanity, emptiness, and hypocrisy. As Christians, we are always called to take the road of excellence in everything we do no matter how much it may rub against our high-minded ideas, self-serving ways, and religious causes. We are here to be a mirror of Christ to others in regard to His lowly disposition and His meek attitude, an epistle that lovingly speaks of His truths regardless of how contrary it may be to others, and a living sacrifice that is quick to offer up our present notions about life in order to ensure that the life of Christ can be formed in others. We are to always exemplify the most excellent example of Christ to ensure that all we do will be void of hypocrisy and will serve as a natural extension of true worship towards the One who is worthy of all consideration and adoration.

As I considered my inward man to be an enclosed garden, I could trace the different conditions of my garden through the years. Solomon’s song talks about the enclosed garden. In Song of Solomon 4:12, it tells us that the enclosed garden possessed a spring, but the fountain has been sealed. This was true for me. Keep in mind, the condition of the garden was determined by my relationship with the Lord. Before I knew Christ, my garden was a barren wilderness, made unrelenting and hard from years of spiritual drought. There was no life in it. It stood condemned for its fruitless environment and lay in utter ruin. It represented the devastation wrought by sin upon my life.

When I received Christ, the seeds of truth and life were planted into the ground of my heart. Due to the cold north wind of winter that had blown so long on my soul, the seeds had to first germinate in the lifeless ground, waiting for the springtime that pointed to regeneration and new life. In a sense, the precious seeds of life were protected by the warmth of the love of God. As the seeds took root, certain buds begin to spring forth in my garden as the gentle water of the Spirit began to soften the hard ground of my heart. But, it was not until the healing and restoration from the warm breezes of the south did the seeds begin to take on form and beauty. Song of Solomon 4:16 mentions both the north and south winds, but the purpose was to bring forth spices, the fragrance of heaven for our Lord to enjoy.

However, the life of Christ within my enclosed garden was blocked by stones of selfishness blocking His life from going deep into the ground of my heart. There were indications of life, but the stones of self caused the vulnerable blossoms to be purged by the heat of inconsistency. The inconsistencies of my life made different areas of my soul hard towards the matters of God. When the winds of trial came, it appeared that all was withering away in the dust of despair.

However, God was not finished with the enclosed garden of my heart. He understood the purpose of each season. Each season was to prepare the garden of my heart for the harvest time. Song of Solomon 4:16 confirms this, “Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits.”

The Lord is a perfect husbandman in every way. He knows how to place the shady trees of righteousness in my midst. He gave me the living Water of the Spirit to cause dew to fall upon my parched soul as He established the blessed wells of salvation in my midst. He nourished and cultivated the seeds of life with His Word. Song of Solomon 4:15 describes the well, “A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon.”

We cannot imagine the depth of the wells of salvation. Its water is the only means to push the stones of selfishness aside and to go deep into the inner character of our being. It has been made available to all, but we must hear the invitation to come, and then we must drink deeply to experience the many facets of its refreshing and healing qualities.

The challenge I encountered is that once I drank of the wells, I was satisfied. It was during such satisfaction that the weeds of self-sufficiency took place as the world’s demands beckoned me further away from the wells. As the weeds of self-sufficiency spread, I would find that my spiritual sharpness was being dulled down as I became more caught up with the world and less concerned about God and His Word.

Even though there was evidence of life in my garden, the weeds of worldliness began to choke it out. Eventually, leanness came to my soul and I realized that I had moved once again from the source of my life. The fruit of such worldly entanglement was vanity and emptiness. There was no lasting substance in any of it.

This brings me to the purpose of the garden. It is a place of fellowship. Remember it was in the garden that God walked with Adam. It was during the cool of the day that the Lord sought him out, only to discover that he was hiding from Him. Clearly, the garden that is being established in our inner lives belongs to the Lord. It has been purchased with His precious blood. God is establishing it for the purpose of fellowshipping with Him. He once again wants to walk with us in a place of life, fragrance, and delight.

To survive the onslaught of what is happening around us, we must make sure our inner garden is flourishing. It is the excellence of the inner life that will sustain and maintain us through the trials of the world. In fact, the trials simply bring out a greater fragrance and sweetness to our lives. Subsequently, it is the life of Christ that is being refined in us, and in the fires our old life will be perpetually consumed, allowing for the new life to come forth in beauty.

As we examine our lives in light of the present age, we must ensure that the rocks of selfishness have been pushed aside by the Living Water and the weeds of self-sufficiency have been rooted out by the sharp sword of the Word. We must have that continual fire of passionate devotion that will purge our altar (heart) with the blood of the covenant, purify the ground (spirit) with holiness, and cultivate the garden (soul) with godliness.

Consider your walk. Are you walking through the world in your own strength or are you walking in the garden of sweet fellowship with the Lord to know the way in which to walk through the grave darkness that is enfolding the age in which we live?