Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life (Galatians 6:8).
I’m not much of a farmer.
If you saw my front lawn this summer, you’d agree I have trouble even growing grass.
But I do understand this basic law of agriculture: when you plant seed, the harvest will come later. And when it does, the harvest will come in greater quantity than what was sown.
That’s the underlying principle to Paul’s spiritual idiom above.
But what do we have to do for that to happen? How do we “sow to please the Spirit”? How to live for the Lord practically, honouring Him in our day-to-day lives?? It’s easier said than done!
Or is it?
Too often, believers are in hot pursuit (at least when they are first saved) of what they need to get, what they need to do, what they need to become to honour the Lord. For some, the need is to break off a relationship. Others have decided to quit something that has become negatively habitual (porn, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, how they spend their “down” time) to start living the Christian life. Or, fill up their calendar with “Christian” activities. Still others want to emulate in some way, another Christian they have admired; so they start to dress like, talk like, try to think like that person.
But what is often overlooked (or under-valued) is what we’ve been given in Christ the moment we come to Him in faith – what we’ve already got now!
- Our eternal life starts right away! In His discussion with Nicodemus in John 3:16, Jesus said: “whoever believes in Him (Jesus, God’s Son) shall not perish but have eternal life”. So the point is, once you believe, you possess what you didn’t have before. When you come to faith, you’ve got that abundant, eternal life.
- We have the Holy Spirit living in us. This is difficult to understand because we think of things that are physical, the things that show up on a CAT scan. But the Spirit of God indwells each believer from the moment of salvation. In other words, the Spirit of the living God is in me! That’s why our appetites and priorities start to change.I’ve asked the men in my Bible study – most of whom have come to Christ in their adult years: Would you have believed 5 years ago that you would look forward to connecting with other guys on a Monday evening to study the Bible?? (The response is generally a sheepish smile, one that comes from the experience of life; of knowing that the Lord does effect profound change in attitudes, appetites, and how we view the world.)The Spirit of God has what J.I. Packer called a “spotlight ministry” because He always points to the truth – and to Christ. The words of Christ in the upper room with His disciples mere hours before the crucifixion: “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth…He will glorify Me because it is from Me that He will receive what He will make known to you” (John 16:13,14).
- We are already at peace with God, and because we are justified He sees in us the righteousness of Christ. Romans 5:11 is crystal clear: Therefore, since we have beenjustified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
- We are called with purpose! Romans 8:28 is one of the most beloved of all Bible verses: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. Whatever other comforting truths this verse conveys, it asserts that God is relentlessly working for our good, and that we do have a calling and purpose – established by Him.
So my point is this: too often we think we have to do something to merit God’s approval. The reality is that everything in the merit department has already been done by Christ.
We are called to live in that reality.
Many of us with more conservative backgrounds struggle with legalism – trying to live up to some manmade spiritual standard or tradition that gets imposed on us. The overall message of Galatians is that we are to vigilantly resist legalism, and rather live by – and in – the Spirit.
I need to be aware that the Holy Spirit, having taken up residence in my life is on a daily mission to make me more like Christ – every month, every week, every day. My prayer should often be: Lord, what are You doing – what do You want to change in me today??
Takeaway: So what’s my response?? Think of it this way: if I told you I was committed to breathing, eating and sleeping – you wouldn’t think I was a legalist, a rule-follower. You’d say that in balance, all of those were good pursuits; in fact it would be unhealthy and harmful not to do each of those things, not to have a natural appetite to keep engaging in those activities.
In the same way, people in the early church were obsessed with 4 things: Bible teaching, prayer, worship (particularly around the Lord’s table), and fellowship (sharing life together – the good and the bad). They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer (Acts 2:42).
For them it was not a matter of doing stuff.
This was the natural, healthy result of who they were becoming in Christ. They didn’t do it because they had to, or to impress each other, or because it was some legalistic habit imposed on them – in fact the early Jewish Christians paid a heavy price for abandoning Jewish legalism.
They wanted to do these things – it was as natural as breathing, eating, sleeping.
As followers of Christ, we are possessors of the Holy Spirit. I don’t think any of us can imagine what an unparalleled treasure He is to us for living life in all of its dimensions. But we are called to live in a way that is compatible with the work He is engaged in, in our lives – for our benefit and for God’s glory.
Back to Galatians 6: Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (v.8,9).
We will reap what we sow.
And in the business of sanctification, we need to want a mega-harvest!