Alongside of one of our dilapidated barns is a very large patch of cockleburs. Cockleburs, we call them prickers or briars. This patch is so large, it appears to be swallowing up the foundation of the barn. Out in the pastures, the cockleburs have sprouted, they are not picky, they are not stingy, and they grow in plenty where their seeds are sown. Cockleburs cover our land, spreading and sticking everywhere.
You see, the cocklebur produces tiny seeds that produce seeds. They are rampant. One of these seeds will germinate in the spring and the second will not germinate until the following spring.
The cycle is endless and it lasts forever
At first, they are beautiful. A wild flower, pleasing to the eye.
Providing a pollen playground for our little friends.
In this stage, it is hard to even imagine that these colorful balls have the propensity to turn into trouble.
However, they will attach themselves to anything they touch.
They are merciless in where they choose to go.
At times, they are not hard to miss. We see them clear as day and walk the other way. Deliberately turning from a potential thorny mess seems the most sense. On other occasions, they are sneaky, sly and will surprise you. Leaving you wondering where you picked up this wandering travel bur.
Somehow even when we try to avoid them, they attach themselves to our clothes. They are on our rugs. I find them hidden in blankets, tucked into socks, riding on our coats and inside gloves. Try as we might, with a shake of our legs and a kick of our feet, we don’t have the power to get them off.
And so it is with the sin in our lives.
Lured in by its beauty, attracted like bees to pollen, we tend to desire the easy, the pretty, without questioning the consequence of getting to close. At first glance it seems good, no big deal, but over time, as the cover is stripped away, or the bloom fades, the cocklebur of sin rears it’s ugly face. We are unaware that the desire is paired with deceit. Then, we are pricked by it. A physical reminder. A physical sting that forces us to acknowledge the sin in our lives. Eventually, we try to shake it off or ignore it. Hoping it will dry up and fall off on its own, expecting it to go away. We do not want to acknowledge the sin in our lives. It is uncomfortable and we are a people of comfort.
Sometimes, when the sin is accompanied with fear, it is paralyzing and stops you dead in your tracks. Isn’t it painful to walk with a briar in your boot?
You can’t ignore it.
How do we rid ourselves of these briars, these pesky, prickly, painful thorns of sin that separate us from God?
In the book of Ephesians chapter 4 verse 22, the Apostle Paul tells us
“put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires” (BRIARS!)
Be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, (no briars!) created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
So, how do we really do this? How do we take off those briars and put on a new self? How do we walk away from the corrupt deceitful desires? How do we renew our minds?
We don’t. We can’t. We fail. We have no power. We have no might.
Do you see this image of our sheep?
They are full of cockleburs. These poor ewes are so full of briars that their eye sight is limited, they are struggling to see the grass in front of them. The burs are blinding and frustrating.
Eventually they will grow weary of the struggle.
Likewise, our sin can be so blinding, we become frustrated.
We grow weary of trying to take off the burs one at a time.
The sin keeps our eyes off of Jesus.
Despite my best efforts of picking them off one by one, more burs were matted down in the fleece. Not by my might, not by my power, could I remove the burrs from the wool. But, by my Spirit says the Lord of Hosts.
The only option was a good old fashion shearing.
A clean start.
A new self.
Renewing the wool, renewing our minds, and putting on a whole new self can only be done because of our savior, Jesus Christ, the SON of God. This is the amazing power of the work that was done at the cross. He is our Good Shepard. He loves us enough to give up his life for us! In the book of John, Jesus says. “I am your good Shepard. The good Shepard lays down his life for the sheep.” He died so that we would not have to endure the burrs of sin anymore.
Do you struggle with sin that you can’t shake off? Ask Jesus, our good Shepard for a shearing. He will put on your new self, one with a renewed mind, a renewed fleece. One not matted down in burrs. A fleece that allows you to see.
Friends, he already knows what burs you have hidden in your wool. Humbly, ask your good Shepard, the one with the shearer, for forgiveness. Ask him to shave you into a new creation. Ask him to give you a new fleece. One not tangled up in the cockleburs, briars, sin, and thorns of life. We could do our best to pick them off, but we will fail.
“I am the way the truth and the life, NO ONE comes to the Father but by Me”.