We were in Florida recently during the Strawberry Festival. We were not intending to go during a festival time, rather we were visiting family. But strawberries were everywhere!
According to Wikipedia, the garden strawberry is a hybrid species of the genus Fragaria. It is cultivated worldwide for its fruit. The fruit, which scientifically speaking is not a botanical berry but an “aggregate accessory fruit”, is known and loved for its characteristic aroma, bright red color, juicy texture and sweetness. The article continues to say that the strawberry is consumed in large quantities, either fresh or in such prepared foods such as preserves, fruit juice, pies, ice creams, milkshakes and chocolates.
All this is true, but the little berry is so much more than a typewritten description presents. It quite simply is … yummy!
We brought two flats of strawberries home so that I could make strawberry preserves and perhaps a pie or two. In preparing the berries for their intended use, I discovered a number of things.
First, cutting the cap of the strawberry off and discarding the green leaves, results in having a great tasting berry, and it is fast. But, you lose some of the “meat” of the berry.
Second, as an alternative, you can pull the leaves off, which then leaves the stem.
Third. Take your fingers and pull the stem out, which will then pull the core out. Voila, you have the strawberry virtually intact!
Fourth. I found that this was much easier said than done. The stem simply does not want to be pulled and the core really does not want to come out. (I suppose there is some tool that you can use to “de-core” the strawberry, but I didn’t have one so I just pulled and twisted, etc.)
Fifth. Once the core is removed, you are left with a tender strawberry — you can tell the core is gone because there is a hole in the center of the berry. (In the picture below, I must confess that I did not pull the stem out, I opted for cutting the top off to remove the core.)
As I looked at the strawberry with the hole where its core had been, my mind went to the story Jesus told of the man who was freed from demon possession. The story is presented shortly after the Lord’s Prayer was given to the disciples and when the Jewish leaders were questioning Jesus’ ability to cast out demons.
“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”
How many times have I been going about my life ignoring the sins that I commit on a daily basis? It may be pride, or gossip, or malice, or lies, or coveting, or all sorts of other things that I know are against God’s law and His will for my life. I walk around as if I am fine – my life is full, I have my strawberry cap over my core, my heart – if asked about my spiritual life, I would say “Fine – I’m good.”
Then, one day, I hear a sermon or read some scripture that the Holy Spirit uses to prick my heart to convict me of my sin. I am ashamed and I ask the Lord to free me from that sin and I know that He will forgive. 1 John 1:9
Therefore, I repent and declare that I will no longer do this sin. The sin is removed and my core, my heart, is clean through Jesus’ blood. My core that was filled with sin was clean and ready to be filled with spiritual food for power in a life with Christ.
But I leave the core empty. I don’t fill my heart with God’s Word; I don’t fill my heart with worship; I don’t fill my heart with fellowship with other believers; I don’t fill my heart with prayer. I don’t replace sinful habits with godly ones; and, I forget that an empty core must be filled with something! So it gradually fills up with the same sin that I had confessed … no difference.
One day God uses something to, once again, prick my conscience and I realize that not only have I committed the same sin over again, I now have other sins that have accompanied the former one … just like the man in Jesus’ story.
I wrote this post in the first person because I have experienced this cycle. And, I can testify that He will cleanse you of the besetting sin. Then He will point to the next sin that you need to repent of so that you can be free from that one as well. For me, there are quite a few that He is pointing to – He is still working on me. But I must be diligent to fill my core/heart with His Word and prayer, with His communion and fellowship with other believers, with relationships with godly men and women who will hold me accountable as I strive to grow in Christ.
Do you see yourself in this little strawberry story? Look to the Lord. Don’t let your heart be empty or available for sin to come back. Fill the core of your being with God, with the graces that He gives to His children, with His Word and His love for others. Avail yourself of the church, fellowship with other believers, spiritual mentors who can guide you in your spiritual growth.
Then be the clean strawberry, full of the fragrant aroma of a loving spirit, sweet to the taste from the sugar of the Lord’s love, beautiful in appearance because of the Spirit shining through your countenance.
Father, I thank You for the gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. I thank You for the Spirit who convicts of sin and who enables me to be strong to resist falling back into sin. I pray that I would be a sweet strawberry to those I meet and that interaction with me would point people to my Lord and Savior, in whose name I pray.