Plant a Seed | Galatians 6:7-9
Del Fehsenfeld | April 8, 2018
Thanks, worship team. Good morning! My name’s Del, for those of you who don’t know me, and we’re going to have a great time this morning looking at the word of God, so I just want to invite you to turn to Galatians chapter 6. We’ll be focusing our reflection this morning in a couple of verses; Galatians 6:7-9.
So, we’ll begin reading in verse 7. I think we have it on the screen here. “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
Now, over the course of my spiritual journey, I can look back to a lot of incremental things that helped build my faith, but there also were points of turning, points of spiritual breakthrough. I remember through my college years, my father had passed away when I was 17 from a brain tumor and introduced a lot of doubt into my own mind about the problem of pain in the world and just numbers of questions that got sort of accelerated through university, and I went on to become a therapist, trained, really, in post-Christian ideas for therapy, and had gotten very hard to the things of God.
I remember going to church in grad school because my fiance, then, now my wife, Deb, insisted that we go somewhere. So I remember sitting week after week listening to the claims of Jesus, the stories that were being told from the gospels about people who would encounter Jesus and what, in the face of Jesus, we really learned about who God was as our Father, what the core needs of the human being are. I began to warm again to faith and come to believe, with all that I was, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, he was risen from the dead, that he had healing and life and actually wisdom to lead us all the way through this life and the next.
It was a major turning point in my life, a spiritual awakening. I remember my life was very, very messy, there were many things about my way of life and patterns of thinking and habits that were extremely destructive. My wife and I got married, we went on a little bit in our faith, and we got into a church, and I remember the first exposure to this text. We got into this church where they taught the word of God, and this pastor was so hard-core he would preach for an hour and put a bookmark in, and you’d come back next week, you’d open it up to the bookmark, and you’d go from there. He’d just go right through the Scriptures.
He was in this passage in Galatians when we first were turning to Christ and getting our bearings, and he started to talk about sowing to the flesh and sowing to the Spirit and how Jesus Christ has taken the curse for us, but he has restored, by the Spirit, our freedom of choice, so that we can participate with what is good. He started to talk about how every decision that we make in our lives actually has a sort of momentum and a trajectory to it, where we can sow into our lives things that actually participate with good and reap good, or we can continue to live thoughtlessly and unintentioned and sort of give way to what is easiest, and how those things also have a pathway in life.
So I remember we came home, after that little sermon, and we sat down, and I said, “Well, what did you think about that guy and what he was saying about that? It kind of made sense!”
So we started to say, “Well, what are we sowing to in our lives?”
So, we started looking at the way we spent our time and our finances and our priorities and our patterns of life, and we’re like, “Well, no wonder our life is a mess! Look what we’re sowing to!”
So, we said, “Well, what do you want to do about that.” And Debra said, “Well, let’s stop.” So we’re like, “Alright.” You know, we stopped.
About three days later, we’re sitting there going, “Umm...so, what do people do after they stopped doing everything that they do?”
So I called the church. No kidding, I called the church, and I’m like, “I have this problem.” So I told them, and they’re like, “You ought to really come down here and talk to us.
So we started to have people build into our lives, to say, “Hey, it’s not only a matter of stopping things, the Christian life is not just about stopping things; it’s actually about getting on a great adventure with what God’s doing in the world, living your life with him, with vision and purpose and a whole way of life that Jesus has given us, and you can be a part of this.”
I’m like, “You’re serious? We can actually be a part of this?”
They’re like, “Yes!”
“Where do we start?”
Incrementally, that was a major turning point in our lives, not because overnight our lives just changed, but we began to tap into this power of sowing and reaping where the very things that work, because of our choices and decisions, to our destruction can actually, by the power of the Holy Spirit, with Christ in your life, interacting with them, can begin to lead to a beautiful life.
So, part of what I want to talk to you this morning, this is not to load you down with guilt and go, “Oh, it’s sowing and reaping and blessings and cursings and all these kinds of things,” it’s to really talk about opportunity, the opportunity that is ours to live our lives with God and to absolutely tap into the life that you were created to live and the person that you were made to become.
This is really what this passage is unfolding to us this morning, and I have it all for you in a sentence, okay? Here’s my sermon in a sentence - I got this from another ministry called In Touch, but I liked how they frame this. So, here’s the sermon in a sentence: You reap what you sow, more than you sow, and later than you sow. Okay? So, you reap what you sow, more than you sow, and later than you sow.
1. You Reap What You Sow
Point one, you reap what you sow. Now, this is a principle that’s woven into all of life, whether you’re a Christian or non-Christian. It’s taught to us in very simple things woven into creation, even as simple as the things that grow all around us. So think about your garden or the things in your yard or things that you see around you. There is this life principle that you always harvest what you plant.
So, if you want tomatoes, class, what kind of seed do you plant? Tomatoes! If you want raspberries? Raspberries! And you don’t harvest in a different kind than from what you plant.
Now, this is true for things that are yummy, like tomatoes and raspberries, but also for things that are nasty, like Brussel sprouts. Or worse...I’m not a gardener, but I know that my wife got mint, which is a pretty lovely thing, in her garden, but guess what mint does? Yes, it spreads; it’s very invasive. There are other kinds of plants like this, that once you release them in your life have a disproportionate impact, right, ivies and things that choke.
So, not every decisions in our lives has the same power, but every decision in our lives matters, right, because it has a momentum to it and it has a harvest. Some things that we actually get involved with in our lives have a disproportionate, negative impact; it can destroy our lives. You think about addictions, maybe, at the most apparent, but there are all kinds of things that, probably, it’s hard to even imagine (I’ll talk about this in a minute), the things that we’re sowing into our lives actually really do matter.
Now, this is true whether you believe it’s true or not. This is one of those things. This is why the text tells us, “Don’t be deceived,” right? “Don’t be deceived about this: you will reap what you plant.” Now, sometimes we live whole periods of our lives...I’m thinking right now about my 20s, okay; maybe you’re thinking a period of your life where, essentially, you lived recklessly. The definition of really living recklessly is not sitting down to consider the connection between the choices that you’re actually making and the fact that you cannot escape this inescapable law of the universe, that you’re going to harvest the things that you plant.
So, the definition of recklessness is actually to live a thoughtless life, to not make the connection between choices and their impact; and yet, if you look at the whole human story, don’t so many of us live whole parts of our lives trying to escape or to drown out or to ignore the fact that there is this relationship for every person between planting and harvesting?
By the way, God doesn’t tell us not to do things and to do things because he’s a killjoy. He actually made life, he’s the center of joy, he knows how life works, and so the guidance that the Scripture gives and in Jesus’ way is actually corresponding to reality itself. The Lord wants you to harvest the fruit of a beautiful life. He wants you to have abundant life. He made you for joy. He will stop at nothing to (we’ll talk about the remedy here in a minute) break the curse, like we sang about this morning, of sin and all its destructive qualities and to give you abundant life.
This is the story, actually, of Jesus and his way. The maker of life actually knows how life works, okay, and we follow him with confidence, because he knows the way to this beautiful life. Okay?
Now, we take this thought experiment one step deeper. If it’s true that we reap what we sow, that we plant and harvest, we could say it this way, that there’s a sense in which you have been becoming who you are now. Right? So, you are the sum total, in many, many ways, of thousands of plantings and harvestings. For good and for bad, your life has become what it is now on the basis of decisions, scores of decisions.
Now, we can sit back and go, “Wow,” you know, “I don’t really like my life! Parts of it I have a lot of regrets [about], or there’s been a lot of mistakes, frankly, Del; I’ve fallen short of not only God’s glory but also my own best hopes for my life in so many ways, and there are things that I wish were different, because I have been becoming what I am now.”
Okay, but this truth is also present and future. So, in other words, we are, right in this moment, we have actually power to change the course of our lives by what we decide to plant and what we decide to sow into our lives, and we could say it this way: we will become, in the future, what we decide to actually sow and plant into our lives. We have both past, present, and future.
This is true, by the way, not just for individuals; it’s true for cultures. So, cultures themselves, our whole society collectively, is going to reap what we sow. So, this is why Jesus, not only as a faith idea, but actually as the master of reality, is so important for Christians everywhere to grapple with, because the import of Jesus’ words not only bears on what kind of life you will have after you die, but actually this life as well. Jesus actually has wisdom, as the master of life, for every part of it, including reality itself. So we look to him as our Lord and Savior in this way.
Now, here is the incredible news (good news now) of the gospel, because as you read the Old Testament you’ll see a lot of this reaping, planting and reaping, principle. Actually, in the Old Testament - in our catechism we actually had something about the law, here; I think the precise language is that the law actually teaches us God’s holiness and his demands and also shows us our - what? Our sinfulness, okay.
So, in the Old Testament you have this language of reaping and sowing in the form of blessings and cursings. The idea in the Old Testament is that if you obey you’ll be blessed, if you disobey and go your own way you’ll be - what? Curse, right? Over and over, the story of the Old Testament is a picture book, really, of humanity in all various stages of people continually falling short, right, and reaping devastating consequences.
The message of Jesus, actually, is God himself coming into the middle of the human mess to say, “Guess what?” We’ve had thousands of years of history now of human beings repeatedly coming short, the inability to keep this perfectly, and Jesus says, “I’m going to actually come into the middle of it, live a perfect life, and take the cursing that is rightfully deserving of every human being who has fallen short of God’s glory,” and of our own hopes, and of our societal attempts to make things right, and actually take it on himself.
Were you guys here last week at Easter? Brian preached us an amazing message, I thought, on the power of the resurrection and how, through Jesus’ death and then resurrection, the curse that rightfully rests on every person for what we planted in our lives actually can be laid on him, right, and broken gloriously through resurrection. We celebrated that. We stood up and sang and we raised our hands, because the good news of the gospel is that the curse of all of your misplantings has fallen on Jesus, right, and you can be forgiven by faith and confidence in his work on your behalf, and that’s grace. Grace is God doing for us what we could not possibly do for ourselves.
So I hope every person in here has gotten the message that Christianity is not about pulling yourself up by your boot straps, it’s not about trying to dress up on Sunday mornings and make ourselves right before God; it’s actually exactly the opposite, that we are people who have actually acknowledged that, no matter how much we do or try or work, we could never actually patch the gap in our spirit, so we look to one who has done that on our behalf to make us right with God. That’s grace, that’s forgiveness; that’s God’s unmerited favor.
Now, here’s the second half of the story of God’s incredible grace, because grace is not only God’s forgiveness and his unmerited favor on our behalf, doing for us what we could not possibly do of ourselves, it’s actually his power in us, restoring us to God’s original intention for human beings, for you and me. So, he’s actually not only forgiving us the gap, he’s putting into us his Holy Spirit and his new nature so that we can actually run back on the path with God to be all that God intended for us and ultimately for humanity.
So, it’s not only unmerited favor, it is also, grace is actually power and desire, it is energy, it is fuel for your engines. Jesus Christ has put the human experiment, he’s put you and me, back on track in a way that now our vision and intention for life is not simply avoiding sin, but it’s running in what is good. We are the people who actually get to give ourselves wholeheartedly and with energy from God to everything that is good and right in the world. That is worth getting up in the morning for! That’s a vision for our lives! Jesus Christ has restored and is restoring us.
So, the reason that we commit ourselves to what is good and right has nothing to do with guilt; it has everything to do with vision. We are moving into the greatest possible life, with God, for good, that lasts forever, and this is the glorious message of Jesus Christ. So the New Testament comes back to us and picks up this principle of blessings and cursings, but it’s in a new way; it’s all about opportunity. It’s about sowing and reaping. It’s about the ability to use your life in a way that actually compounds for good. Are you interested in that?
Okay, so I want to dig into this a little bit further, alright? Now, here’s the principle about grace: grace is not a passive principle. Grace is opposed to earning. We don’t earn anything from God, he does for us what we could not do on our own, but he restores something that enables us to put our body, heart, soul, and mind into what is good. So we give our effort. We’re not sitting waiting to be zapped. You will not enter the life you’ve always wanted passively. Jesus wants you active; he wants your spirit intentional. He wants everything that you are thrown into everything that is the greatest and what is really possible for every human being.
So we give ourselves totally to the work of the Lord because we can, because we want to, because we see the picture of what Jesus actually is doing with us in all of the human race, and so we love him, and we love his project, and we want to be a part of it, so we bring our best, right? Grace is opposed to earning, not to effort. Grace is fuel and energy; it is power and desire; it is vision to actually bring all that we are to walking with God into what is good. Okay?
2. You Reap More than You Sow
Now, here’s the second point: you reap not only what you sow, you’re going to reap more than you sow. You’re going to reap more than you sow.
Now, here’s the principle of multiplication. Think about a seed for a second. When a seed comes to full harvest, does it produce one more seed? Not usually, right? Usually there’s abundance, there’s multiplication. So you plant this little thing in the ground, and boom! You get a tree, over time. Or you put this little thing in the ground, and boom, you get a harvest of tomato plants that are just robust. Whatever it is, right? Because the principle that God has sown in here is the principle of multiplication.
So as we plant simple seeds for what is good in our lives, guess what we reap? More than we plant! Isn’t that awesome?
We know from this text that God himself is involved in this. This is not only natural, it’s actually supernatural. God himself is lending his power, his energy, his blessing to this. Here’s what this means: this means that, no matter messed up your life is and no matter how bad the choices have been, you are much closer to a life of abundance than you can possibly imagine. You are not as far away as you think.
Now, I don’t have time to - I’m going to get long-winded here; I can feel it coming on. So, I cannot tell you how many stories of people that I’ve sat with as a counselor whose lives are absolutely broken. They are not only dealing with the consequences of what they’ve planted, but they are dealing with something worse: they are dealing with despair, because what they feel like they have done is flush their lives down the toilet, right? There is no way to make that right, there are no amends, there’s no path back; and the guilt and the pain of their situation is not really the circumstances they’re in, it’s the beliefs about what is possible for the future. And the battle that you’re actually in when you sit in that moment, whether you are there yourself or helping someone else, is a battle for what? It’s a battle for hope, okay?
Now, if God himself is on your side, if he is with you and on your side, if he has woven into the universe this idea that you reap more than you sow, you are closer to your healing than you can possibly imagine. You know what God wants from you? The next seed. He just wants a seed of faith; he wants you to plant the next thing, trusting him.
So, how do you climb out of a hole? One step at a time, holding onto the hand of someone on top, right, who’s pulling you out. This is a powerful principle, right, that you reap more than you sow. It’s an incredible opportunity to plant your life for something that’s good in Jesus Christ, but it’s also incredible to know that Jesus is with you and you will reap more than you sow.
3. You Reap Later than You Sow
Here’s the third principle: you’re going to reap, often, later than you sow. Now, this is important to know, very important to know; listen to me. What happens to a seed when you plant it in the ground, first? It just sits there, right? Have you ever tried to sit and watch a seed grow? It’s like, “Get a life,” right? What do you often think? I remember my kids would all do this; they’d want to plant some flowers or whatever, they’d plant it in the ground, they’d go out and check it every day; come back in in a battle for hope.
Why? Because when they went out, what does it look like is happening? Absolutely nothing! For how long? Forever, right? Forever; when you’re a kid, it is forever. Much longer than you would probably prefer, right? Depending on what you planted and what you’re harvesting; think of an oak tree. I mean, it takes how long, but you get this, right? You get something majestic and awe-inspiring. But there is a gap between the planting and the harvesting that requires what? Patience, perseverance, waiting.
Now, listen; I’m a social science background, so...this is true; it’s true because God said it, but it’s being borne out in social research. Let me show you something here. Alright. This is the shape of learning and growth. This is the shape of growth. So, the little arrows in the narrow part, see, on this side; you begin to plant seeds, and you’re in this little, confined space, right? What are you seeing, in terms of the harvest? Very little, right? Very little.
Keeping moving in that pathway for a long time, but look what eventually happens. Things begin to sprout, they begin to work on each other and more things sprout on top of those sproutings. Eventually, you move out into expansiveness. Everything that you learn (think about this), language, learning how to walk, learning how to ride a bike, anything that you’ve tried professionally in your life.
Remember intro classes to your discipline? Horrible. Why? Because you knew nothing about them, right? You had no ability to do any kind of analysis, because you didn’t even know the concept. So you open your book and you’re like, “Uhh, terms!” Or the notes on the keyboard; you’re just playing scales. You want to make music, but you’re playing scales.
It’s like this in anything in life. It takes a long obedience in the same direction before you reap. So, what happens to most of us? Plant a little, quit; plant a little, quit, right? And then, “Why’s my life not…?” Well, part of it is that you have to take small steps, incremental steps; you’re not swinging for the fences. Your planting incrementally, over a period of time, and you begin to - what? You begin to reap.
So, the Scripture says here, “You will reap if you,” what? Don’t lose heart, you don’t faint. So, what’s the number one obstacle to the life you’ve always wanted? It’s actually yourself; it’s actually the perseverance to sow into your life for a long enough period to reap.
Now, why do you think that God set it up like this? I’m not God, so I can’t give you the final answer, just in case you’re wondering. Thought experiment. Why would God set it up like this? Why would he create planting, seeds, planting, harvesting; why would he put duration in between? Why would it require waiting? Why would it require perseverance? Why would it require faith? Anybody? So we’d be dependant on him!
Here’s what I think. If God wanted robots, what would he have created? Robots! But what does he want? He wants friends, he wants children, he wants a family. He wants there to be love and interactivity, because part, fundamentally, of what is actually good is actually love itself. God is love. He wants a real relationship with you and me. Now, if he set it up where we automatically could do all the things without choice, what would that be? That would be robots. What if he set it up where we could wave a magic wand and get whatever we wanted; what would that be? That would be a flimsy magic show, and who would ultimately be god in that arrangement? Do you want to be god? Maybe for a little while, but then you have to get to the real responsibility of running the world.
No, so he set it up perfectly for what he’s after. He wants friends who from their hearts choose, actually, what is good. So he set it up perfectly, where we have a laboratory called life to interact with him on the shape of our growth. Okay?
Now, I have to stop. What’s next? Okay. This is just a reminder that this is God’s project, not ours, right? We plant, by God’s grace we help water in the church and community, but who gives the growth? God. God gives the growth, okay? Next slide.
So, how will you sow? This is that moment in our living room, taking you back 20-something years, Debra and I sitting there with you, right now, and we asked the question. Do you remember what it was? “So, what are we planting to? What are we planting to?”
If you took out a pad and actually would start writing down a 24 actual hour day, what would you be planting to? What are you actually sowing to?
Next question: What do you do when you stop doing everything that you do? What is your knowledge of what Jesus’ ways actually would be to build the life that you actually wanted? If you don’t know the answer to that question, that’s a great one to ask.
Here’s the last thing I’m going to leave you with here. This is a little wisdom; not righteousness, it’s a little wisdom. When we’re doing this evaluation and we’re beginning to plan, actually, participation with God, it’s helpful to think in terms of some things that are baseline and some things that are focused.
So, for example, I might say to myself, you know, part of what I want to sow into my life is a great marriage, if you’re married; a great marriage. Or if you’re single, just rich relationships. That’s the concept.
Now, in order to make that concrete on a weekly basis, how do you actually sow to that? Do you have an answer to that? If you want a great marriage, how do you sow to that? Well, there are all kinds of answers. One of the things that you might say is, “Well, we’re going to have a regular date night. We’re just going to set aside a night where that’s the priority, and so we’re going to do that week after week, so we’re going to sow to that good in our lives; we’re going to make that a priority.” Well, that would be an example of a baseline rhythm.
Or you say, “I wish our family was close.” Well, on a weekly basis, what do you sow into your life to actually make that concrete? Maybe you say, “We’re going to have dinner together twice a week,” or, “We’re going to have a family night.” That would be an example of a baseline rhythm.
Or you say, “You know, I want to have a connection to God, where I actually learn to know his word.” Well, how do you make that concrete? Maybe you say, “I’m going to form a place and time where I have to spend some time with him.” By the way, for me part of that is having a bit of a plan, because just opening your Bible to wherever it flips open hasn’t been helpful to me; maybe it would be to you. But that would be an idea of a baseline rhythm.
Or, “I want to take care of my body.”
Do you follow what I’m saying? Anything that is something that would be ongoing that you want to sow to good, it’s helpful to form a few baseline rhythms that give structure to your life, and then periodically to sit back and go, “Lord, where’s the cutting edge right now? Where do you want me to put some attention?”
It’s amazing; when you talk to wise people in the faith and actually ask the Holy Spirit, he’ll say, “You know what? You need to pivot a little bit over to here.” So it’s good to have two or three focus areas. You need baseline rhythms and focus areas to begin this idea of making this concept of sowing to the Spirit actually concrete.
I’m going to give you just a second to reflect on this little talk and to think about your life, okay? I know this will be a beginning, I hope you’ll return to it in a quieter place, but Jared, I think, is going to play a little bit. This is just a time to answer this question: What am I sowing to? And also, what would be some of the things, just as a baseline and maybe as a focus area, that the Lord would like me to start planting some seeds? Okay? Remember, the life that you’ve always wanted, provided by Jesus Christ, is not as far away as you think.
Let me do one more thing, and then we’re going to actually take communion together. Could I have the elders and their wives just stand up for a minute? Dave and Dena down here, Tim and Lisa over here, Andy, Phil and Christy. Okay, now I’m not trying to embarrass these guys. Just turn around for a minute. Do guys know these guys? An elder is a fancy church word that just means that basically they’re here to encourage your faith, okay, in the church, and basically, this kind of a talk, for anybody, there’s a lot to it. It’s personal to every person. But if you don’t have a conversation partner in these kinds of discussions, these guys are there for that. That’s part of what they do here; they’ve surrendered their lives to that. Are your numbers on the website? Yes. If you go to fulkersonpark.com you can find these guys. Okay? Alright. Thank you.
Now, the reason I say that is I can’t tell you how many conversations Debra and I needed to get our lives even remotely inside navigational buoys. We need each other in these conversations of faith, okay?
Now, the incredible model, as in all things, of what I’ve been talking about is actually Jesus himself. Let me read you this verse from the gospel of John: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” So this is the same principle. And then Jesus went out and did it. That’s just incredible. He not only lived this kind of life before the Father, he actually lived this all the way to death on a cross, where he planted his very own body in the ground, in the grave, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, by virtue of his sinless life, he came out the other side in glorious resurrection to a harvest of righteousness. Guess who the harvest is? It’s you! It’s me!
Literally, Jesus did what he’s telling us to do. He went before, and he comes after, and he’s everywhere in between, and what we celebrate when we celebrate communion actually is the shape of this planting and harvesting model that was inaugurated by Jesus and will be finished by him, and we come knowing that all the curse, the parts of our sinful choices and plantings that we could never go back and undo, have actually fallen on him, been buried with him in the ground, and what he gives in return for our simple faith and devotion to him is forgiveness and the opportunity, now, to run with him into a multiplying life of blessing. That’s what we celebrate.