This is a guest post by Yiuman Szeto.
In 1 Corinthians 3, the Apostle Paul pointed out that the church, the believers, is actually God’s cultivated land and God’s building. Cultivated land denotes a field that has been worked on for raising crops. If the church is God’s cultivated land, what is God growing in the church?
According to the divine revelation, what is being grown in the believers is simply Christ Himself (Col. 1:27-28). This marvelous Person is the embodiment of the Triune God (Col. 2:9). The Trinity is alluded in the same chapter as “gold, silver, and precious stones,” symbols for each of the Trinity, in the order of the Father, Son, and Spirit, in their virtues and attributes, as the yieldings of God’s cultivation. This means that God is causing Himself to grow in the Church.
In consideration on the matter of the believers being God’s cultivated land, I am beginning to realize humanity’s potential as a vast fertile land in growing possibilities and futures. Inside each person’s heart is a cradle of ideas and dreams that are growing and coming to fruition (just ask Mister Rogers). Even the modernity of this age and the advancement of today’s technologies have had their beginnings in the hearts of men. Our society is forged from the dreams of those who dare to dream and ideas of those who create. Everything begins in man’s heart.
The Gardener of our Hearts
Every cultivated land has an owner, and every garden has a gardener. In this sense, who is the gardener of our hearts? The first few answers popped into my head are: teachers, parents, mentors, friends, and self. Going back to 1 Corinthians 3, Paul pointed out that the believers are a garden that belongs to God. Though it is the apostles that sow and water, the gardener of the believers is actually God himself. The fact that the ownership of our hearts, the soil, belongs to God is full of conviction.
While as an unbeliever, I would have the right to grow whatever ideas I wanted and wished. Now as a believer, I am beginning to realize that I need to hand over my “land” to God. Thus, I would pray in this way: “Lord, make Your home in my heart today.” Through this prayer, I hope that God would have a free reign in growing whatever He desires in me.
The Guardian of our Hearts
A human heart does not expand without limits. Therefore, we only have a limited amount of space for God to grow within us. In our experiences, it is easy for something else to come in to occupy our hearts and stunts God’s own growth and development within us. This is why we need to guard our hearts. The secret of guarding our hearts is in Philippians 4:6-7:
In nothing be anxious, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; And the peace of God, which surpasses every man’s understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.
The Fruits of our Hearts
Let me progress further on another point: As believers, God is growing in us as a living person. This is intrinsically different from all other ideas and dreams, because they are non-living entities.
Unbelievers may look at Christians and not see things this way. They may think that the differences between us and them is that our ideas and dreams are just Christian in theme. Yet, it is our knowledge and experiences that tell us what we have is not doctrines, concepts, ideas, and dreams. Rather, we have Christ, a living person, who lives inside of us, grows within us, stands with us, supplies us, straightens us, perfects us, and enlivens us to live Him.
The relationship between us and the Christ who is within us is a co-dependent relationship. There is an definite of mutuality there. As a person, Christ processes His own set of considerations, concerns, and determinations. This Person listens to us, speaks to us, and directs us. These are qualities ideas and dreams do not process, because they are not real living persons, but just simply our own creative imaginative thoughts (our understanding of the doctrine, our own theology, can also fall into this category, especially when, instead of supporting, it frustrates the growth of this living One).
Furthermore, when Christ grows in us, we become one with Him and our living becomes a corporate living with Him. This was the Apostle Paul’s experience revealed in Galatians 2:20:
I am crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
In light of the second metaphor of the church being God’s building, as Christ is growing in us, He is also changing us in a fundamental way. This is transformation (2 Cor. 3:18). The issues of transformation are the “gold, silver, and precious stones,” which are also the building materials for God’s building. In other words, the Christ that grows in us is the building materials of God’s building.
What a contrast: While the unbelievers are growing in themselves ideas and dreams that are contributing to the world in this age, God is growing in the believers an eternal building that will last for eternity! What a marvelous revelation!
Inspirations: 1 Corinthians 3, Practical Points Concerning Blending Chapters 4 & 5.
Photo Credit: David and Nicole’s Vegetable Garden