The Principle of Sowing and Reaping
Topic: Galatians Passage: Galatians 6:6–6:10
The Principle of Sowing and Reaping
Let’s turn together to Gal. 6. We’ve got a lot to cover so we’re going to jump right in. The first 4 chapters of this book deal are primarily a strong warning against the legalism that’s making its way into the Galatian churches and then in chapter 5 Paul begins to answer the charge that a gospel of faith in Christ will lead to a sloppy and sinful atmosphere in the church and show that actually the gospel empowers us to love and obey God by the power of the Holy Spirit in a way that the law could never do. The law can tell us what to do, but it can’t change our hearts, the Spirit works within us writing God’s laws on our hearts so that we desire to obey God – not to earn salvation but because we have been saved and we are new creations.
And so, there is a war in every Christian between the desires of the flesh and the desires of the Spirit. The desires of the flesh produce things like sexual immorality, enmity, divisions, fits of anger, jealousy and such. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. This war between what the flesh desires and what the Spirit desires is going on in every genuine believer and we can wonder, what can I do to see more of the fruit of the Spirit and less of the flesh in my life? In the verses we are looking at this morning I think we’re going to find an important principle- literally a life-changing principle - as Paul turns to an agricultural metaphor to teach us how we can see more of the Spirit’s work and less of the flesh’s rotten work in our lives. Let’s pray and then begin reading in verse 6.
Gal. 6:6…for the sake of time this morning, I’m going to jump over this verse for this morning and we will return to it in two weeks as we close out the book of Galatians.
Gal. 6:7-10 - The principle of sowing and reaping
The fruit of the Spirit is a supernatural work of Holy Spirit and we can’t bear that fruit by our own efforts alone, we need the empowering of the Holy Spirit, but we do have a part to play. Chapter 5:25 says If you live by the Spirit (indicative – what God has done in saving us), keep in step with the Spirit (imperative – what we are to do), and here Paul gives us direction in how we can cultivate the fruit of the Spirit and root out the fruit of the flesh with the metaphor of sowing and reaping.
Paul begins the metaphor with this warning: don’t be deceived – God is not mocked. I always thought this kinda sounded like a threat, like God is watching and if you try to get away with something you shouldn’t, He is going to do whatever it takes to make sure you get busted! Now God is watching and ultimately no one does get away with sin (except when it’s covered by the blood of Christ), that all is all true, but in the context of this passage I don’t think the point is that God is waiting in the wings to supernaturally bust anyone who tries to get away with mocking Him. I think the point is that God has instituted a principle or law within the framework of His creation that will and must always work just as God designed it to work. It’s called the principle of sowing and reaping.
Sowing and reaping are agricultural terms. Farmers and gardeners throughout history have depended on this principle to be true in the natural realm and God’s word says that what is true in agriculture is true in life as well. What a person sows in life they will eventually reap – not because God does something extraordinary to make that happen, but because it is a principle that He has established and you’re never going to outmaneuver it. So don’t be deceived into thinking you can sow bad seed and get away with it. Or, as the saying goes, “sow wild oats all week long and on Sunday, pray for crop failure.” Doesn’t work that way.
I think this principle of sowing and reaping is one of the keys to our seeing significant change in our lives.
Let’s look at four simple but important truths about sowing and reaping:
- We reap what we sow
If you sow corn, you will reap corn. If you sow tomatoes, you will reap tomatoes. You can’t sow cucumbers and hope to get broccoli because in the genetic code of the cucumber seed there is only the potential and information to grow a cucumber, nothing else. If we sow to the flesh we will reap corruption because in the genetic code of our flesh there is only the potential to produce corruption, nothing else. You can’t sow to the flesh and hope to reap life anymore than you can sow a dandelion seed and hope to reap a rose. If we sow to the Spirit, however, we will reap eternal life because life is built into the genetic code (so to speak) of the Spirit because God is the author of life. We reap what we sow.
If we want to see change in our lives, we can’t start by trying to reap a different harvest – we need to start by sowing a different seed
Sometimes I think we get focused on trying to get a different harvest without recognizing we need to sow differently. We sow what we’ve been sowing but somehow we hope we’ll reap a different harvest.
Let me give an example to illustrate what I mean: have you ever talked to a married couple who are having a lot of conflicts and whose marriage is really struggling? Not always, but often, what you will hear is both spouses are focused on the faults of the other. It would almost seem as though all the problems are the fault of the other spouse. I understand this mindset, because when Janice and I are in the middle of a conflict, it always seems crystal clear to me that she’s at fault. Often in focusing on the harvest that we don’t want (in this case, relational conflict), we don’t see how we’ve sown to the flesh in those relationships – the selfishness, the neglect, the anger, the inconsistency, the criticisms, and so on, and so we get blindsided by the harvest we’re reaping. I’m not saying that the other person isn’t sowing to the flesh too, but often we aren’t seeing how we’ve sown and so when we think about change, it’s the harvest and not the sowing that we’re wanting to change. In essence what each spouse is trying to do is reap a different harvest – get a different result – without seeing their need to sow any differently.
What does it mean to sow to the Spirit? Well, I think a good place to begin is by looking at the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. How is fruit produced? By sowing the seeds of that fruit. If these are what the Spirit produces, then wouldn’t keeping in step with the Spirit include waking up each day and asking God to help us to sow love, kindness, patience, gentleness and so on in every situation we find ourselves in? And when the heat gets turned up, and our flesh wants so badly to lash out in anger or withdraw in order to hurt someone, we realize “I don’t want the harvest that sowing to the flesh’s desires will produce so I am not going to sow the seed of the flesh in this situation. Holy Spirit, help me to sow the seed of Your fruit.’ Recognizing that there will be a harvest day and we will reap what we sow will help us to be more careful – and prayerful – about what we sow. We reap what we sow.
- We reap more than we sow
- Multiplication effect
Most sowing produces more than what was sown – one seed is multiplied into many. Sow one orange seed and get a tree that produces many oranges and each orange has many seeds in it. Jesus speaks of this multiplication effect in the parable of the four soils when he says of the good soil, “The one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty” (Matt. 13:23).
On the other side of sowing, the prophet Hosea warns about those who sow wickedness: “They sow the wind and they reap the whirlwind” (Hos. 8:7). So there is the multiplication effect. But there is also the…
- Accumulative effect
Another reason why we often reap more than we sow is that the seed we sow accumulates over time. Every day – every minute - we are sowing through our actions and choices. Every once in a while we sow in big choices and decisions but most of our sowing is in the small daily choices that we may not even think are all that important. But those small choices accumulate over our lifetime and the harvest we reap from small choices made over a long period of time can produce very large harvests, and the two fields those harvests primarily show up in is our character and our effect on the people around us.
- What we sow in our daily choices accumulate over time and are reaped in our character
In Romans 6:19 Paul says that righteousness (our conduct) leads to holiness (our character). Referring to that verse, Jerry Bridges writes:
Holiness of character, then, is developed one choice at a time as we choose to act righteously in each and every situation and circumstance we encounter during the day.
Holiness of character is developed one choice at a time. We often think of our choices coming from our character – and that’s true - but the opposite is true too. Our character comes from our choices because, over time, our choices bend our character in their direction.
- If we choose to lie – we become a liar
- If we choose to steal – we become a thief
- If we choose to be patient – we become a patient person
- If we choose to do loving things – we become a loving person
As Christians we shouldn’t think we need to have a heart change before we can act. The command to sow to the Spirit calls us to act and as we do we will find the Holy Spirit changing our hearts! If we live by the Spirit (in other words, God has made us spiritually alive by His Spirit) then we have the ability to keep in step with the Spirit and live differently resident within us by the power of the Spirit. If we aren’t keeping in step with the Spirit, it’s a pretty good bet the problem isn’t with God. It’s with us. We’re not availing ourselves of all that Jesus died to give us. If we’re out of step with the Spirit then we need to get back in step with the Spirit by repenting and sowing to the Spirit again.
As Christians we have that ability – because the power of Christ has set us free from the power of sin. Sin is still present in our lives, but we are no longer a slave to sin. If you are a Christian and Christ is living in you, then you are no longer a slave to anger. You are no longer a slave to immorality. You are no longer a slave to impatience. You belong to Christ, I belong to Christ, we are his bondservants, and the power of the Spirit resides within us to help us sow differently, and reap differently. We can ask God to help us change, but to me it’s helpful to think of God’s work of changing me not coming in one giant makeover but in the grace to sow a small but different seed. To sow kindness where my flesh wants to sow impatience. gentleness where my flesh wants to react with harsh anger. Selfless love where my flesh wants to sow selfishness.
Obedience to the Lord doesn’t come in one giant leap, but a lot of small seeds. And here’s the good news of the gospel: when we fail, we don’t need to wallow in condemnation. We don’t need to be paralyzed by guilt. We have an advocate, Jesus Christ, who intercedes for us. We can confess our sin and receive forgiveness and cleansing through the blood of Christ and then get back in step with the Spirit. What we sow in daily choices accumulate over time and are reaped in our character.
- What we sow in our daily choices are also reaped in the lives around us
Everyone of us has an influence and affect on people. As we walk by Spirit and sow to the Spirit eternal life is harvested all around us, not just in our lives, but in others as well. The Spirit will use our lives to touch lives around us. But again, so often it will be in quiet daily choices and in ways we are not even aware of, and the effect can be far more lasting than we imagine.
On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong was the first man to set foot on the moon. As he stepped onto the surface he uttered his now famous line, “that’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” That historic event happened almost 45 years ago but those first footsteps are still there undisturbed. In fact, NASA estimates that those first footprints will be there for a million years because there is no wind or water or animals to disturb them. As we walk through life, we leave imprints on others lives that not only can last a lifetime, but can last for eternity. If we keep in step with the Spirit and we sow to Spirit, the Spirit will use us to leave a footprint in peoples lives that can last for eternity.
Many of us can point to the influence of one or two people and say they had the greatest affect on our lives, but the truth is that we have been influenced and affected by many people in an accumulative way. Some have left good footprints in our lives and some have left bad footprints but there are many footprints in our lives. In my life I’d have to say that the one who left the biggest footprints leading me to come to Christ was my dad. In fact, there really was no other influence leading me to Christ at that time in my life that I can remember. But my faith was small and weak and then we began to go to a Spirit-filled Methodist church and many others left important footprints: pastor Diego Flores, my youth leader Tom Terry, Fred Allard who helped me to sing and play guitar in front of the church for the first time, and many others. We really never know which of our footprints will leave a lasting impression in someone else’s life, but the Lord wants to use each one of us as His instruments to make lasting impact on other people’s lives for the Lord Jesus Christ. Our task isn’t to know how God will use us, but simply to sow to the Spirit and ask the Lord to bear godly fruit through our lives in others. We reap more than we sow, and what we sow in our daily choices and actions can have a powerful accumulative effect both on our character and in the lives of others.
- We reap in a different season than we sow
When a person sows –whether to the Spirit or to the flesh – there is a delay between the sowing and the reaping. The flesh leverages this delay to say, sow what you want, it doesn’t matter. Nothing bad will come of it. The Spirit speaks to our hearts with faith and says, sow good and don’t grow weary, for in due season you will reap if you don’t give up. If you’ve been sowing but aren’t seeing the reaping, it’s not due season yet. Keep sowing. Don’t grow weary of doing good and don’t give up – yes, there’s a delay, but you will reap in due season.
And I like how practical Paul gets: we are to do good as we have opportunity. Nothing spiritually mystical about that – do good! We aren’t saved by doing good, but we are saved to do good! As we have opportunity -God has given us all opportunities to do good. We aren’t called to do good where we don’t have opportunity to do good – but I do think we should be praying about how the Lord might want to open new doors for us to do good. And that good should begin with those closest to us – our brothers and sisters in Christ – and then work its way outward in concentric circles. It can’t stop with the household of faith – Jesus calls us to the world – but it should start with the household of faith.
Let me close with a challenge and an encouragement.
Challenge: God calls us to do good. In recent months I believe the Lord has been stirring in my heart (and one of the reasons I am excited about the opportunities this building will give us) that we do good in some practical areas. In particular helping suffering and needy children is on my heart – because I know that it is on the heart of God. Maybe locally, maybe internationally, maybe through adoption, maybe through some other kind of ministry, maybe through all of it. I don’t know – but I pray that the Lord is kind to give us the courage and passion to see and then seize opportunities to do good in the lives of needy children.
One of the privileges I have is to serve on the board of the ST Pregnancy Resource Center. The other day I was in their office because they were taking pictures for their website and I saw a mom and two children come in for their pictures and I realized that at least one of those children is alive today because of the work of that vital ministry. That is doing good on an eternal level. Now the good can’t stop with helping a pregnant woman to choose to have her baby – that mom and her children need to hear the gospel (and they do through that ministry) – but it begins with a very practical opportunity to do good.
There are other opportunities as well. I have been talking with another local pastor – Tre Reaume from Victory Highway, who will be preaching here in June – about some folks who have started to meet to address the sex trade in this area. One woman wants to open a safe house in this area. I shared with Tre that Janice and I want to be a part of that and serve what they are doing. Here’s the challenge: as God brings clarity as to our role as a congregation (some of these may be personal burdens) I pray that we rise up as a church and seize the opportunities God gives us to do good. It will cost you and me. It might cost you a night that you could be home chilling out watching your favorite TV show, or money that I could use to buy myself something else I really want, it may call us out of our comfort zone. But the Spirit of God is calling us to follow Him out of our comfort zones and into His comfort zone – and He’s not comfortable until a broken world is being spiritually and physically cared for and His people are doing good to everyone. The challenge is for us together to see and seize the opportunities that God gives us to do good.
Encouragement: The gospel gives us hope for past seeds we regret sowing
We have all sown to the flesh and a message like this could get us to focus on that and be paralyzed by regret. The gospel frees us from a life of regret. Though we never want to use the sovereignty of God as an excuse for continued disobedience to God, it is a balm for our souls when we consider the sowing to flesh we regret. When convicted of areas where we have sown foolishly we want to repent and ask for grace to change, but mercy and grace free us from paralyzing regret and faith to believe God can even redeem our sins and failures for good.
When Jesus died on the cross he wore a crown of thorns. That thorny crown symbolized the corrupted, barren fruit of man’s quest for self-rule, our quest to be our own king. The flesh produces thorns that rip and tear our lives apart. Jesus bore that barren crown for us so we wouldn’t have to. As we repent of living for ourselves and yield our lives to the Spirit, we can give those regrets to God and trust in His grace. That trust is to be expressed not by getting condemned and beating up on ourselves but expressed by getting active: Sow to the Spirit and trust Lord to bring new fruit and new good – fruit that leads to eternal life. Let’s pray.
We will be having a very special celebration luncheon here starting at 1pm – all are invited to join us. Any strong men who can help Tony reorganize this room would be greatly appreciated. If you need to go, God bless and have a fantastic week!