The Stump of Sin
I had a large black walnut tree in my backyard. Sadly it overwhelmed the whole yard and was very messy so finally I decided to have it cut down. We are still waiting for the stump to be ground away and in the meantime I noticed something very interesting. The whole stump is constantly weeping water. The roots are still doing what roots do and trying to nourish a tree that is not there anymore. It is dead but not dead. And as I thought about it I realized it was a good illustration on the nature of sin in the life of a Christian.
The New Testament uses a term to describe the reality of sin for a believer. It is called “flesh.” It has nothing to do with the physical body, though often it is misunderstood that way. What it is is the lingering effects of what used to be our reality. Ephesians 2 says it in a painfully succinct way, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest” (Ephesians 2:1-3 NAS).
That state is now forever broken. That is part of the good news found in the person and work of Jesus Christ. God’s grace through the death and resurrection of Jesus overwhelms sin. Therefore we read in Romans 6 that we are dead to sin and therefore we are to have that as our mind set as we go about life. We no longer are slaves to it; rather, we are free in ways we really don’t comprehend. But . . . .
We still do sin. And that is where the flesh comes into play. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please” (Galatians 5:16-17 NAS). The flesh was described to me as a sin hangover. The power it once had is broken.
It is dead, but not dead. It is like the stump in my backyard. It seeks to draw water into the fulness of the tree, but there is no tree. It is gone. And eventually the stump will be gone and the roots will return to dirt. In the same way the flesh seeks always to draw sin and death into our lives. But the power of sin is gone. And in the power of the Spirit I, and you, can resist and reject these efforts of the flesh to bring us into bondage. And in the end, when our Lord returns He shall make all things new, the stump of our old nature will be ground away and true life will be ours in fulness.