If you water, fertilize and fuss over an artificial plant, will it grow? Of course not. It will never change for the better. In fact, all that attention would probably convert an attractive silk flower arrangement into a mess.
Real plants grow, and flowers bloom. Conversely they wilt when the conditions are not right (or when someone forgets to water them. Oops.) It would be absurd to take meticulous care of an artificial plant while ignoring living flowers.
Yet, I do it all the time. Spiritually speaking, that is. Jesus Christ offers growing, blooming, real life, but too often I nourish the artificial in me rather than Jesus.
Jesus Christ is the transformative presence in a Christian’s life. He is the creator of everything meaningful, lasting, and real in my life. Only that which I do to his glory will last for eternity, while that which I do for my own satisfaction will not. When my focus is on my efforts to further my name and my plans instead of those of Jesus Christ, I am fertilizing the artificial instead of the real.
In my experience it is extremely easy to move from walking with and following Jesus, real life, and living for myself, feeding the artificial. I find myself veering to the wrong side without even realizing it. I can live my life in the power of Jesus name, or I can attempt to do it in my own strength. Guess which one works better, and is more satisfying, joyful and fruitful?
Paul addressed this tension in Colossians 2 by encouraging his readers to walk with Jesus rather than being “taken captive by empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world.” He wants us to live real life; not artificial existence. He says our artificial ways are “a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality however, is found in Christ.” (Colossians 2:17)
The only way to make sure we’re living and walking with Jesus is to purposefully set our minds on Him every day, or several times a day. If we don’t, we will absolutely follow our natural instincts and human traditions.
The defining danger of missing this mind-set is that of replacing the work of Jesus Christ with our own effort. Jesus saved us, and he wants to work through us to His glory, but if we continue to try to do it ourselves we will be stuck wondering why the artificial plant doesn’t grow.
“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” Colossians 2:6-8
How do you stay focused on walking with Jesus? Do you ever water an artificial plant?