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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/baldivis/
 
Title:Gospel sowing bears a gospel harvest
Text:Galatians 6:7,8 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Faithfulness rewarded
 
Preached:2014-06-29
Added:2014-12-24
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

2010 Book of Praise

Bible translation:  NKJV

Psalm 92:1,2

Psalm 126:1,2

Psalm 92:3,6,7

Psalm 126:3

Hymn 76:4

Read:  Galatians 6

Text:   Galatians 6:7,8

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We live in the age of the “selfie”, of taking pictures of yourself and posting them on to Instagram, Facebook or some other social media outlet.  For some the selfie might be a quick snap of “me”, or perhaps of “me and some friends”, uploaded to let people know what is happening, and life goes on.  For others however, the selfie becomes the event in itself.  In a news article , psychiatrist Dr. David Veal said,

“I’ve personally seen this with some of my own friends. They might take several selfies over and over again until they find the right one. Picking out details about their eyebrows, skin, noses, smiles, teeth, hair and so forth, all in an attempt to find the perfect angle to make the perfect picture.”

But how far can this obsession with selfies go?  While snapping a picture and posting it on line is, in itself normally a harmless exercise and not wrong, for some the selfie can become an obsession to the point that the person is narcissistic.  The word narcissistic comes from Greek mythology of a man called narcissis who thought he was so beautiful that when he looked into a pool of water and saw his own reflection, he fell in love with it and would not stop looking at it until he eventually died. Narcissism, therefore, is being obsessed with yourself, with your looks, your body, or your intelligence to the point that you become the centre of your own universe and are either proud of who you are yourself or envious of others – and perhaps a bit of both.  Narcissism is being obsessed with your self-image rather than seeking to live as one created in the image of God.  And, over all, that is what our society has become.  We are in the time that 2 Timothy 3:2-4 describes, where people are

“. . . lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self control” and so forth.

But as Christians we are not like that.  As Christians we can not be like that!  For as Christians we have died to self and now live in Christ Jesus.  And that changes us.  Christians are by definition different and the change that has taken place in us must be seen not just in how we live before God but also in how we live with one another.  First of all how we live with one another in church, as members of the one body of Christ, but also how we live as citizens of this world.  And so the apostle Paul concludes his letter to the Galatians in chapter 6 by teaching us what it means to live out of the gospel and how this changes both the way we see others around us and also how we treat them.  For we do not live for ourselves but we live for God.  And living for God, we also live for one another. 

  And then how you live, whether for yourself, for your own pleasure and to fulfill the lusts of the flesh, or for God and your neighbor will bear fruit.  “Do not be deceived” Galatians 6:7 tells us, “God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.”  The man or woman who is obsessed with himself will reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap everlasting life.  And so the question that Galatians 6 sets before us is this:  Who do you live for, and what seed do you sow? 

I preach to you the Word of the Lord under the following theme:

Gospel sowing bears a gospel harvest.

  1. Watch what you sow.
  2. Be sure of what you reap.

1. Watch what you sow.

When we believe the gospel, when we believe that we are saved by faith alone, by God’s grace alone and in Christ alone, one of the most beautiful things to experience is to see how this changes us.  Without the gospel, we are very selfish people.  Without the gospel we are looking at others and comparing ourselves to them.  Without the gospel, we are often proud of who we are or what we have become, or else we feel threatened by the success of others.  But when we embrace the gospel and when we live from the gospel, then we are changed.  When we receive our life in Christ, then there is no boasting left.  As it says in Galatians 2:20,

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.”

And if, by His Holy Spirit, it is Christ who lives in me then I am a new person!  I am free from always trying to compete, always trying to be better than others, always worried about how other people see me, always measuring myself against others.  And therefore, as it says in Galatians 5:26, we will not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

The gospel,, therefore, makes us humble.  Living from the gospel and believing that the old “me” is dead in Christ and that it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me makes us humble because we know that we are only saved by grace!  And that in turn stops us from being narcissistic, from being a “selfie man” or a “selfie woman”, that is a “lover of self” to being a lover of others. Since we’ve been saved by grace alone and in Christ alone, we will not only have a different view about ourselves, but also a different view about others.  Because what I’ve received, I want others to receive also! 

And so there is a huge difference between living out of the sinful flesh and living out of the gospel.  There is a huge difference between sowing to the flesh and sowing to the Spirit.

Actions have consequences and to keep on living a selfish, sin-filled life has consequences.  When the Bible speaks about sowing to the flesh in Galatians 6 it means that you are not living out of the gospel, you are not living a changed life, but you are still in your sins.  To sow to the flesh is to walk in the flesh and follow the lusts of the flesh.  And in Galatians 5:19-21 we were told just what these works of the flesh really are:

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

You will not inherit the kingdom of God, that is, you will not receive eternal life with God, because if you keep on living in these sins that means that you are not converted!  Understand now that we are not talking about falling into sin or being overtaken by a trespass, but living in sin.  To practice the works of the flesh is to live in the works of the flesh.  In other words there is no conversion, there is no true repentance and there is no real change.  With this kind of sin there is no real turning to Christ and therefore there is no forgiveness for Him. This is what the [abbreviated] form for the Lord’s Supper means when it states:

“But to all who do not truly grieve over their sins and do not repent from them, we declare that they have no part in the kingdom of Christ.”

They have no part because they have not turned from the way of the flesh, they are not living the gospel-filled life.  And then he who sows to the flesh will of the flesh reap corruption:  your deeds will find you out and you will have no excuse.  

But there is also another way to sow:  to sow according to the Spirit.  When we receive the gospel, when we believe in Christ, then we are renewed by Christ’s blood and the Holy Spirit.  Our sins are forgiven from God, through grace, and our lives are made new and set apart as members of Christ so that more and more we become dead to sin and lead a holy and blameless life.  And then as we grow in this life, we will grow in the Holy Spirit and then, Galatians 6 tells us, we will also sow to the Spirit. 

And what then does it mean to sow to the Spirit?  It is to bear the fruit of the Spirit, it is to grow in love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.  And bearing the fruit of the Spirit we will live in the Spirit.  The Holy Spirit does not live in our heart, nor does He produce this fruit in our lives simply for ourselves and for our own pleasure.  Rather, the Spirit-filled life is a life to be shared!  That is what it means to sow to the Spirit:  sowing to the Spirit is to extend the love of Christ to others, so that they might share in all the blessings that you have received from God.  And then Galatians 6 gives us a number of practical ways to do this.  To begin with Galatians 6:2,

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

Bear one another’s burdens.  When you see someone, particularly a brother or a sister in the faith, burdened in one way or another by the cares of this life, come along side them and serve them, helping them along the road of life.  This bearing another’s burden can be practical.  It can simply be inviting a person into your home or going to his to have a cup of tea, to be a companion, to be there when they need you.  It can simply be to come and to offer a listening ear.  To bear another’s burden can be coming around with a pot of soup, a meal or a home-baked cake or a tin of biscuits.  To bear another’s burden might be looking after another person’s child, whether it be after school or for a few days.  To bear another’s burden might be to help clean their house or wash their clothes.  Do not despise these things!  Do not think they are unimportant or beneath you, but do these things when you have the opportunity.

  And on the other hand, brothers and sisters, when others come to offer you their friendship, to offer you their help, to do those things for you, do not be too quick to say no.  Accept their help, accept their hospitality, be thankful for their support.  And then you in turn go and support others.

But bearing one another’s burdens is not just about doing things for others; it is also about praying for others.  Perhaps you are not in a situation to do much for others in the congregation or in the community.  Perhaps you do not have the strength, you do not have the resources, you do not always see what you can do to help.  But you can pray and you can encourage!

  To give a personal story of this:  when our family was in PNG, we would receive mail, letters, cards and later emails from those who prayed for us back home.  We appreciated it; we were deeply thankful for all those who took time out of their busy schedules to write a card, to send a letter, to encourage us in our ministry.  But there was one lady’s letters that stood out for us.  She was an older lady and her handwriting wasn’t the best but her letters were beautiful!  She’d write about the weather, about her family and about her church.  She’d also write about the past and the seasons her own life had gone through.  And as time went on we got to know her through her letters and we were encouraged.  And in one of those letters, at a time when we needed it – although she would never have known – she encouraged us to remember how great our God is.  “Remember”, she wrote, “by my God I can jump over a wall!”  We chuckled about that one, having mental pictures of an old lady jumping over walls and fences, but we remembered it, and we found the text in the Bible where it actually says that.  And we still remember it today, and we are still encouraged by it.

  Bearing one another’s burdens is to love them, to love your neighbor as yourself, and to encourage them to look to Christ and to find their strength ultimately in Him.

And there are other ways to bear one another’s burdens.  Galatians 6:1,

“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.”

If a brother or a sister falls into sin, then do not stand by and do nothing, nor gossip to others, nor look down upon them as if to say “I would never fall into a sin like that” but help them!  Come alongside them, express your concern and point them to the freedom that is theirs in Christ.  Do not be harsh with them but call them back to the gospel, back to a life of fellowship with both Christ and His Church.

And as you do these things, watch what you sow.  Do not look at others to see what they are doing, criticize them for not doing enough and then folding your arms and doing nothing yourself.  But rather, as it says in Galatians 6:4,5

“But let each on examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.  For each one shall bear his own load.”

Each one shall bear his own load.  In other words, don’t pike out and leave it to others.  Do not stand back from the rest of the community and stop your sowing!  But rather, press on, and do what the Lord calls you to do.  Live the gospel filled life.  Bear your own load – and note that a load is not the same as a burden.  Bear your own load, that is, whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.  Don’t give up, do not become weary or disheartened but sow to the Spirit.

2. Be sure of what you reap.

When we sow to the Spirit we are not sowing for ourselves.  We are not looking at people to see how much we can get out of them, whether or not the relationship would be worth our time. There is no hidden motive, no “what’s in it for me?” no “She’d better appreciate it after all the effort that’s gone into this.”  Rather we are simply living the new life that is ours in Christ.  We serve them and bear their burdens because we love Christ.  And because we love Christ, we love them too.

But it is hard.  Life does get in the way, and we do become discouraged.  And so the Bible encourages us further in verse 9,

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”

“Let us not grow weary.”  We do get weary, we do get frustrated and  we do give up.  We take our eyes of Jesus, we lose sight of who we are and what we are doing.  And so the Bible encourages us:  do not lose heart!  Remember the gospel!  Remember who you are in Christ and remember what you are here for.  Remember that you are not doing this for others in the first place, but you are living for God, you are sowing to the Spirit.  And then press on.  And where you have the opportunity, do good to all, but especially to the household of faith.  Wherever you have the opportunity live out of the grace that is yours in Christ.  You can not do it all, and you will be overwhelmed if you tried.  But start here, the Bible says, start here in the household of faith, in the church community to which you belong.  And then go on and live in love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness as you share the love of Christ with others.

We can not do it alone.  We can not do it in and of ourselves at all!  But we do not do it alone: we live this way through the Holy Spirit who lives in us.  And so we ought to pray more for God’s grace and for His Holy Spirit.  And as we pray we will make the most of every opportunity to grow in the Holy Spirit through the means of grace, through the reading of Scripture, through coming together for worship, through hearing the Word of God preached and through the right use of the sacraments that God has given to us.  And in that context we sow not only our prayers and our acts of services, but we also sow the gifts that God has given us.  Galatians 6:6,

“Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.”

“Let him who is taught.”   The Greek word that is used here (Katecheo) is the same word as our English word catechism.  Paul expected the Galatians and indeed all Christians to be taught, to be catechized by a teacher, a minister.  And those who are taught, that is each one of us as members of this church, ought to share our gifts with those who teach us.  In other words, let us not hold the blessings that God has given us to our chest as if they were all for ourselves, but let us share them for the sake of the ministry of the gospel.  When it comes to the church, we are not consumers, here to take but not to give.  Rather let each one of us give as the Lord has given to us.  Let the teacher and the preacher give from the gifts God has given Him, and let the hearer and the learner give also.  For in this way the ministry of the gospel will continue, we will each grow in the gospel of grace, and we will sow to the Spirit.

And if we sow in these way, we will also reap.  We will reap everlasting life!  We will hear those blessed words:

“Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of your Master.”

The missionary Jim Elliot, a missionary who at 29 years of age was killed by the people whom He was trying to reach with the gospel once said,

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

And that is true!  When we sow to the Spirit we live not for ourselves but we live from the gospel and we live for God.  But to sow to the Spirit is never a waste.  He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.  For  what you sow to the Spirit will follow you into the life which is to come.  And then we will see what we will also sing:

The sower going forth in sorrow to carry seed to field and furrow

Will with his sheaves come home again, exulting in the golden grain.

Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2014, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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