Saturday, October 22, 2005

Reaping and Sowing (Galatians 6:7). A sermon preached at Harvest Services in St John's Dromara on 9th October & Dromore Cathedral on 16th October

Galatians 6:1-10
Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. [2] Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ. [3] If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. [4] Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, [5] for each one should carry his own load.
[6] Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor.
[7] Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. [8] The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. [9] Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. [10] Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

It is a great privilege to be with you this morning in Dromara, to share in your harvest thanksgiving. Harvest is one of my favourite times of the year, when we are reminded vividly of the love and care and provision of God, through the plenty he has blessed us with. It is wonderful to see all the decorations, to see the beauty, and the colours of all that God has made.
And yet, the question I want to pose to you this morning is this, and I hope you won't think it odd. How did the farmer get the potatoes, or the turnips? How was it that these things grew and developed? It's a rather simple question, and also brings a rather simple answer. We have these potatoes or whatever, because the farmer sowed and planted the seeds or the young plants. Then, when they were in the ground, they developed.

If you are sowing potatoes, you will harvest potatoes. That is a simple fact of life! Or, as Jesus put it in our gospel reading, 'Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?' (Matt 7:16). No! Whatever the farmer sows, is what he will expect to harvest.
And, do you know, this simple principle applies in so much of life. If you wanted roses to grow in your garden, you wouldn't plant tulip bulbs. The time to make the decisions about what to grow don't come at harvest time – it is too late then. The decisions about what to grow have to be made at seed time, when sowing the seeds. After the seeds have been planted and developed, they can then be harvested.

Just as this principle applies in agriculture and in the garden, it also applies to the spiritual and moral worlds. As John Stott remarks, 'If a man is faithful and conscientious in his sowing, then he can confidently expect a good harvest. If he sows 'wild oats', as we sometimes say, then he must not expect to reap strawberries!'

We are all sowing before a great harvest. Paul, writing to the Galatians, tells them plainly: 'A man reaps what he sows' (Gal 6:7). The harvest will come at the end of the world, when Jesus comes as Judge. As 2 Corinthians 5:10 tells us: 'For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due to him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.'

We are reminded of this in the hymn 'Come, ye thankful people, come'. Verse three tells us:
For the Lord our God will come, and shall take his harvest home,
From his field shall in that day, all offences purge away.
Give his angels charge at last, in the fire the tares to cast,
But the fruitful ears to store in his garner evermore.

If that Final Day is the harvest, then now is the time of sowing. Every action, and thought and word is a sowing of seed toward the final harvest. All things will be brought to account and settled, with the subsequent reward or punishment. But before we look at the outcomes of the final harvest, and how we should be sowing, it is vitally important to recognise that this harvest, this judgement will actually happen.

It was so important to Paul that he emphasises the statement 'A man reaps what he sows' with both a command and a statement. The command is: 'Do not be deceived', and the statement is that 'God cannot be mocked'.

Many people are deceived about this life, and about the eternal consequences of their actions. They think that it is fine to live as they want, that it doesn't matter. They have been blinded by sin, and by the devil, and cannot see that there will be a day of reckoning, when all things are brought to account. Or that you shouldn't get too religious, or worry about heaven or God or any of that sort of thing – because this life is all there is. They are led astray by the false promises of the material world and of pleasure.

'They sow their seeds thoughtlessly, and blind themselves to the fact that the seeds they sow will inevitably produce a corresponding harvest. Or they sow seed of one kind and expect to reap a harvest of another. They imagine that somehow they can get away with it. But this is impossible.'

Paul adds the statement: 'God cannot be mocked'. To believe these lies of the devil might fool yourself, but God cannot be fooled. Further, God is perfect justice, so to imagine that we could escape his justice is not only fooling ourselves, but also mocking God. 'They may go on sowing their seeds and closing their eyes to the consequences, but one day God Himself will bring in the harvest.

So now that we know that this harvest is sure, that the judgement is coming, what are the possible outcomes of the harvest? What is it we can expect to reap?

There are only two possible outcomes of the harvest, as verse 8 tells us: either destruction or eternal life. Or in other words, hell or heaven.

Which is it you want to aim for? Destruction, or eternal life? The passage we read this morning also tells us how we aim for these products or ends: 'The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life' (Gal 6:8).

You will note that both types of sowing are intended to please someone. You can either sow to please yourself (your sinful nature), and so follow your own values and feelings, and do what you want; or you can sow to please the Spirit, to do those things that God wants us to do. It is as if we have two fields in which we can sow, but only one bag of seed. If we sow in the field of our sinful nature, we will reap a harvest of destruction, whereas if we sow in the field of the Spirit, we will reap a harvest of eternal life.

How could we sow to please the sinful nature? It is all about our thoughts and deeds. When we think impure thoughts, and continue to nurse and brood on them, or when we harbour a grudge, or remember a grievance and so develop anger or rage. Or when we read or watch impure things in books or on TV, or take the safe, easy option, rather than doing what we ought to be doing, whether it be praying, or telling our neighbours and friends about our faith; or when we spend time in bad company which corrupts us. The New Bible Commentary suggests that 'if we devote our resources to satisfy the sinful nature rather than the Spirit, we will receive what is due to us' (NBC p 1220).

So if we do these things, and sow to please the sinful nature, then the result will be destruction.
On the other hand, if we sow to please the Spirit, then we will reap a harvest of eternal life. So the question stands, how can we please the Spirit? What can we do to ensure the harvest of eternal life?

The first way that we can please the Spirit is by coming to faith in Christ. We find this stated in 1 John 3:22,23: 'whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.' We cannot please the Spirit until we have been born again of the Spirit. So if you are here today, and are wanting to reap the harvest of eternal life on the last day, then you need to be born again today – you need to come to faith in Jesus Christ, and to trust in his blood.

It is only after we have been saved that we can then seek to please the Spirit through the way we live our life, and by the works we do. Hear this plainly today – I am not preaching a gospel of salvation by good works. Salvation is only through the blood of Christ, shed for us on the cross. As Ephesians 2 tells us, 'For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,not a result of works, so that no one may boast' (Ephesians 2:8-9). Yet Jesus says that 'This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent' (John 6:29).

The deciding factor in salvation is on this one work – whether you have trusted in Jesus or not. So I invite you today, if you have never come to faith before, to come and believe in Christ. Find forgiveness, and peace, and the hope of eternal life in heaven with Jesus today.

And yet, when we are saved, we must sow to please the Spirit, through the books we read, the company we keep, and the activities we do. But there are also those hidden things which no on else may know about, which are so important in sowing to please the Spirit. These include the regular practice of Bible reading and of prayer – things which while hidden, and may seem like an inconvenience, produce the fruits of the Spirit, through walking with the Spirit daily.

How will this work out in practice in your daily life? Well, you have choices to make. Say you have half an hour until bedtime. You might just sit and watch another half hour of TV, filling your mind with nonsense, or you could spend that time in prayer for yourself, your family and friends, and this church. You have choices to make about how you will use your money. Will you spend all your money on yourself, to get that latest widescreen tv, or the newest car? Or will you sow to please the Spirit, by seeking to share God's gifts with those who are in need? You can sow to please the sinful nature, or you can sow to please the Spirit.

Just before I finish this morning, I want to say something to those who are new on the Christian journey, or have been saved for a long time. It can be so easy to become weary, or disillusioned, or a bit frustrated by continuing in the faith. You might see those around you who have no fear of God, who seem to be prospering, at least, in the world's eyes. But our reading contains some important words of encouragement for you today, to keep going:

'Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up' (Galatians 6:9). There is a time delay between the sowing of the seed, and the harvesting of the crops. But keep on going, and you will indeed receive the harvest of eternal life.

As we finish, then, the challenge is plain for you today – how will you respond? Will you continue to sow to please your sinful nature, knowing that you will reap destruction? Or will you start today to sow to please the Spirit, and be sure of that great harvest of eternal life?

'Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.'

1 comment :

  1. hi your gettin good at these sermons!!! i mite be usin that one!!!! keep up the good work! i wish i could have heard this one myself ;)