Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Peeling Apples & Sanctification

God gave me a beautiful gift yesterday! Once again He allowed me to see a word picture of Him at work in the every day of my world...

A new friend of mine allowed me to take home all of the apples that had fallen from her tree. I came home with 4 bags full! I hesitated in taking so many, but when she said they were just going to be tossed into the bushes so that they could mow the lawn, I snatched them all up. So my last 2 days have been spent peeling, coring, slicing, simmering and putting up 27 quarts of delicious applesauce. (With Brianne’s help of course :)

So where did God come in...?

Standing at the kitchen sink with peeler in one hand and apple #287 in the other, God impressed upon me how my peeling of that apple was much like what He was doing in the lives of His people: The ongoing process of sanctification.

Bit by bit He cuts away at the protective outer lining of my humanness. He cuts it all away until He can get into my “flesh”—my character, my thoughts, my impressions, my emotions, my pains, my understanding, my temptations, my strengths and my weaknesses. Once I am completely exposed, He begins the process of removing each blemish.

I noticed some of the apples would just have a speck of brown here and there. I could have cut them away and maybe I did in some, but not entirely because I knew my time would be better spent on taking care of bigger blemishes.

That caused me to think of those little character flaws. You know what I mean? The little things about myself that bug me and although I may spend some time working on them they are not my central focus. I know there are “bigger fish to fry” so to speak.

In others around me, they are the little things that I may find curious or slightly irritating, but nothing that calls into question their beliefs or their walk with the Lord. Sometimes a strong character quality can have its negative side effects. A strong leader can at times be too dominate. A meek, gentle spirit may go to the extreme that allows other to take advantage of them. Maybe someone is always late, a bit stubborn, slow in their work or too meticulous.

Perhaps these little specks could use some attention, but they do not poorly effect the fruit. They may be areas that God has us work on or not. He may ask me, for example, to no longer do such and such, but not ask the same of someone else. In God's way and in His timing these may get dealt with, but maybe not.

As I worked my way through the apples, again and again I was amazed at how deep a blemish could go in the fruit. What might appear to be a slight defect on the outside may require that ½ an inch or more of the fruit behind it and to the sides be removed.

God reminded me that this is how sin works. The depth that it reaches is much further than we realize. Its impact on the body begins to compromise all of the fruit. Many times I found myself having to keep cutting away to get at it all, to remove it all from the rest of the flesh. Like sin, if left in the flesh it will continue to eat at and spoil all the good fruit.

There were, of course, the bruised apples. Who of us have never been bruised? We all have. But we can choose to heal or we can choose to let the pain and the memories consume us. A bruised apple just needs a little cutting away to be whole again—forever altered, but still whole. A bruised person just needs the healing touch of the Master’s hand and willingness to let go of the wound. It is more complicated then that, but it is also just as simple. I know, I’ve been there too myself.

I just loved coming across the apples with the formidable hole in the side. :) You know, the ones that had “visitors”.

Those made me think of how the enemy comes creeping into our lives. Eating away at our fruit, he makes us undesirable. A life with satan’s corruption is much like an apple with a worm inside—detestable, but also salvageable. The worm likes to go straight to the core, just like satan does. Much of the apple could be saved by cutting out the path the worm had taken. The seeds of the apple are destroyed by the worm. They can no longer bring forth life. Seeds of sin implant death to a life.

Some apples looked great on the outside but when I cut them open, the core—the heart of the apple—was rotted throughout. This reminded me of the life that appears all goodness on the outside. We are deceived into thinking that looking good, appearing good, being good is enough. It isn’t! We can never and will never be “good” enough. "The heart of a soul is the heart of the matter". Who has a person’s heart matters!

Some apples had too much spoilage to salvage. Whatever caused the problem to begin with—a small internal blemish that grew larger, a very active worm, a bruise left unattended or another blemish that grew—had completely ruined the fruit over time. These could not be saved.
Time takes its toll on every life. We can yield to God or yield to sin. It’s that easy.

If we yield to the pleasures of the world, to the compromise of sin in our lives and fester in the pain of the difficulties, we yield to the flesh and will be consumed and die. If we yield to God we choose to give ourselves over to His sanctifying hands.

The process of removing the blemishes is always painful. I’m sure the apples would have loved to have screamed out to me—“enough, enough already...that hurt...there will be nothing left if you keep cutting!” But just as the cutting away of the apples was necessary to get to the useful fruit of an apple, the cutting away of our sinful flesh is necessary to get to the usefulness of the fruit of each one of our lives.

No one would put the spoiled portions of an apple into their applesauce. God makes us aware of the “spoilings” in our lives so that we can deal with the root cause—sin!

Was it worth the effort? The apples pretty much consumed 2 days of my life. Some needed a lot of cutting. Some were as small as tangerines so the process was painstakingly slow. The end result, our reward, was the scrumptious scent of apples and cinnamon wafting though our home. Had I not put forth the time and effort, the apples would have been wasted. If I only used the “good” ones we would have only had enough sauce for dinner that night. Now I have enough for months to come. Had I not taken the time needed with the small or really bruised ones, again, they would have been wasted when there was such good fruit there, of much worth and much pleasure.

I took the time because the effort was worth it to me. God takes the time because the effort is necessary for us. The result of a life turned over to the loving hands of our Creator is a life sacrificed to bring a pleasing aroma before the Lord.
God’s creative effort gave the apple this special touch inside (see the star?). Just imagine what He could do with a life yielded to Him.