Pastor David B. Curtis


Media #324a MP3 Audio File

The Law of the Harvest

Galatians 6:7-10

Delivered 08/05/2005

God has established some natural principles in His universe that are unbending. Certain things happen with consistency. When Isaac Newton observed an apple falling from a tree, it struck him that an apple never fell upwards. It was always being pulled downward. Thus we had the recognition of the law of gravity. Due to gravitational pull we have heard it stated many times: "what goes up must come down." Space crafts exert great power to break the law of gravity. Yet, even satellites orbiting the earth eventually are pulled out of orbit and burn up while "coming down" in reentry.

God has written natural laws into His creation such as the "Laws of Gravity" or the "Laws of Thermodynamics." You can debate these natural laws all you want, but I will assure you that if you jump off a ten story building, you will quickly learn about the "Laws of Gravity."

All of us are feeling the effects of the second law of thermodynamics even as you sit here this morning. The second law of thermodynamics simply stated means that everything is falling apart. It is a universal law of decay. Everything ages and wears out; not just our clothes, houses, or bodies, but everything in the universe.

Just as there are laws of nature that govern the universe, there are also moral and spiritual laws that God has written into His creation. We can try and get around God's laws that are given to govern our lives, but we will end up bringing about our ruin if we ignore God's counsel. Paul states one such law:

Galatians 6:7 (NASB) Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.

We know that this is certainly true in agriculture. If you plant 40 acres of corn, you will not reap 40 acres of watermelons. It is an impossibility. God has established this to be true in His universe. What you sow, of that same kind you will reap.

How many times do you suppose a farmer goes out in the fall thinking to himself, "I wonder what we are going to harvest this year?" Does he go out into the field and say, "Well look at that it's corn!" Or, "A whole field of watermelons! Who would have guessed it?" No, I don't think that happens, because there is a law in the universe that is as reliable as the law of gravity. What a person sows he reaps.

That is true, isn't it? We understand that with trees, and we understand it with crops. But it is interesting how hard that is to understand in life. I can't tell you how many people I have talked with who don't understand why things are happening to them. They say, "Why is this happening in my marriage? Why is this happening in my family? Why is this happening in my finances?" Everything is falling apart for them, and it just doesn't dawn on them that they reap what they sow. For years this is what they have been sowing. So why does it surprise them when that is what they reap? As a matter of fact, often in those times people get angry with God. They want to know, "Where is God, and why does it have to be this way?" As if it is all God's fault- when God has said what you sow is what you are going to reap.

Let's back up one verse to set the context this morning:

Galatians 6:6 (NASB) And let the one who is taught the word share all good things with him who teaches.

Paul is saying if we really do value the things that are eternal, and we really value walking by the Spirit, then we need to share with those whose job it is to help us get there. Basically, it is talking about compensating those who are called toward teaching the Bible. It is talking about sharing money. It is talking about sharing time. It is talking about sharing energy and talents.

The reason why Paul can so emphatically instruct Christians to share with those who teach is because he is convinced of the value of the teaching of God's Word. Are we as convinced as Paul of the value of Bible teaching?

Galatians 6:7 (NASB) Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.

What Paul says in verses 7-8 about sowing and reaping is especially applicable to paying the teacher of the Bible. For those who are hesitant to share in all good things with those who teach them, Paul reminds them of God's principle of sowing and reaping. Their giving (to share in all good things with him who teaches) isn't like throwing away money; it is like planting seeds, and whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.

In the Bible, sowing sometimes refers to the sending forth of the gospel. The parable of the sower found in Matthew 13, Mark 4 and Luke 8 is a good example of that usage. Jesus Himself explains that what the farmer sows is the word of God.
But in this Galatians verse, where sowing to the Spirit is contrasted against sowing to the flesh, it has to do with the use of God-given resources. In fact, that is how God uses the word "sowing" in:

2 Corinthians 9:6-7 (NASB) Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. 7 Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver.

So, God is warning us here that we cannot mock God about how we are using our finances. When we use them to satisfy our sinful nature, we will only be deceiving ourselves.

The principle of "whatever a man sows, that he will also reap" has application beyond giving and supporting teachers and ministers. It has a general application in life;

Job 4:8 (NASB) "According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity And those who sow trouble harvest it.
Proverbs 11:18 (NASB) The wicked earns deceptive wages, But he who sows righteousness gets a true reward.
Hosea 8:7 (NASB) For they sow the wind, And they reap the whirlwind. The standing grain has no heads; It yields no grain. Should it yield, strangers would swallow it up.

In other words, if you sow in the flesh, then you will reap according to the flesh. If you sow in the Spirit, then you will reap spiritual blessings.

Do not be deceived- There is always a time lapse between sowing and reaping. You may be able to deceive yourself for a while that the sowing of selfishness is really going to yield more joy than sowing sacrifice for the sake of God's word. But you are dead wrong, "God is not mocked!" Your disregard for his word and your use of his trust fund for personal indulgences will come back upon your head like an avalanche.

God is not mocked- But, you might say, "I have done plenty of things, and there has been no reaping." If you plant corn seeds in April, you expect to see a harvest in June. You can predict it, because that is the normal process. There is no normal time-scheme for reaping what we sow in life. You are on God's timetable. It is unpredictable, but it inevitably comes. It may be sooner or later, but it comes.

The word for "mocked" is a very descriptive word in the Greek language. The word, mukterizo, which means: "to turn up the nose, sneer at, to show contempt for, or to ridicule." If you can remember being on the playground as a kid and having kids make fun of you for something you did, or how you looked or dressed, or because you struck out in baseball or made an "F" on your assignment, then you know what it is like to be mocked. I'm sure everyone here this morning can identify with at least one of these experiences. We may have experienced being mocked at some point in our life, but let me assure you of something, my friend, God will not be mocked.

Now don't get me wrong. You might thumb your nose at God as you go about your business and seek to get around God's prescriptions for living life, but He will see to it that you reap what you sow. Let me give you an example of how folks have tried to mock God throughout history.

Zedekiah became king when he was 21 years old. That's young to have so much responsibility, but God gave him the prophet Jeremiah and others to help give him godly counsel in leading the nation. Zedekiah turned up his nose at God, and the people of Israel followed in his steps. During Zedekiah's reign, the word of the Lord came. Turn with me to:

2 Chronicles 36:15-17 (NASB) And the LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place; 16 but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, until there was no remedy. 17 Therefore He brought up against them the king of the Chaldeans who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion on young man or virgin, old man or infirm; He gave them all into his hand.

Those who thought it was not necessary to serve the Lord ended up serving King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in shackles and servitude. You will reap what you sow.

2 Kings 25:7 (NASB) And they slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, then put out the eyes of Zedekiah and bound him with bronze fetters and brought him to Babylon.

The last thing Zedekiah saw was the execution of his sons before his own eyes were blinded. Then Zedekiah was taken to Babylon where he was imprisoned until the day of his death.

How do we mock God?

Galatians 6:8 (NASB) For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life.

Paul says that if you sow to the flesh, what you are going to reap is corruption or decay. In other words, you are going to end up with nothing. But if you sow to the Spirit, what you are going to end up with is that which lasts forever.

We have been talking about the flesh versus the Spirit - legalism versus grace. Defining the flesh, as God defines it in the book of Galatians, is that which I can do on my own, in my own strength, or my own power. "Flesh" isn't just these sins of the flesh that we typically think of. It is legalism. It is religious rituals. It is whatever I think I can do in my own strength and in my own power to make myself righteous. That is the flesh - that is legalism.

In contrast, walking in the Spirit is understanding that I cannot make myself righteous or holy. I can't make myself like Jesus. Therefore, I am dependent on the Spirit of God to do for me what I cannot do for myself. I also understand that I don't deserve what the Holy Spirit is doing in me. It is not because I have merited something or because I have done this or that. It is purely on the basis of grace that I experience the life of the Spirit in me.

The words "flesh" and "Spirit" are used over and over again throughout the book of Galatians. A new concept is added here, however, the concept of sowing seeds. What exactly does the apostle mean in the words: "Sow to the Spirit," and "Sow to the flesh"? Here Paul recognizes that life is built in the same manner as a building is erected, i.e., one brick at a time. Choices are made one at a time. By our individual choices we put in place one brick after another, and the kind of life that results from our decision-making depends on the hundreds and thousands of individual choices that went into it. The warning in this section of Galatians is to make those choices based on what God's Spirit is concerned with. We are charged to do so day in and day out.

The Scripture points out two different ways that we can "sow." Sowing is the common denominator of the Scripture we are studying today. We are all sowing, but the question is, "To what end are you and I sowing?" Are we sowing to the flesh, and that which we want? Are we sowing to the Spirit, the will of God, and His purpose for our lives? That is a very important question. It is imperative that we understand how and what we are sowing, because the crop will come in due season.

The one who sows to the flesh ends up with nothing - "corruption" -this is the Greek word phthora, which means: "decay." It conveys the idea of a putrid corpse in the process of decomposition.

Stop and think about this idea with me just for a minute. "If you sow to the flesh, then you will reap corruption." Can you think of any illustrations of this universal truth of God? The real question is, "Where to begin in reciting the endless lists of illustrations!" A major league all-star decides to bet on ball games and ends up suffering the consequences of his choices for years. All Pete Rose wants is to get in the Baseball Hall of Fame, but Pete is reaping what he has sown. All Martha Stewart wanted was to avoid losing any money in the stock market, even if it meant breaking the law, but Martha lost more than money can buy. Thirty two years ago they found the body of Jim Morrison in a bath tub in Paris France. Jim and his buddies had been on top of the world as The Doors played to sold out audiences all over the world. On July 3, 1971 the light went out on the one who had sung, "Come on, baby, light my fire." Jim had overdosed on heroin, and he was only 27 years old. I could go on and on with the list of names that are recognizable to all of us, but let's bring things a little closer to home.

She is bored with her marriage. There's a man at work who is so tender and caring. Her husband doesn't understand her any more, but he does. Can you smell the decomposition taking place? He was just a sophomore in college trying to make ends meet when a friend told him how much money he was making selling pills to some of his friends. Quick money, illegal drugs, can you smell it? He was spending more money than he was making, his bills were getting behind, creditors were constantly calling, his credit score was getting worse and worse. Can you smell it? It's the smell of destruction. It's the smell of a life rotting away. "If you sow to the flesh, you will reap destruction."

Sowing to "the flesh" is investing in that which is physical, mortal, and thus passing, rather than eternal. It is the proverbial "going around only once," "gusto grabbing" of every age.

It is quite obvious how we go about sowing to the flesh - we simply do what we feel like doing. We don't have to enroll in "sowing school" to know how to plant the seeds of destruction deep and watch them grow.

On the other hand, we do need instruction on how to sow to the Spirit. What does it mean to "sow to the Spirit?" How do we go about it? That's a great question.

Sowing "to the Spirit" is investing our resources in those things which are "spiritual" and thus eternal. This investment is achieved through the Spirit of God, not through the flesh. To sow to the Spirit is the same as to walk by the Spirit (Gal. 5:18). It is the same as abiding in Christ and in His Word (John 15:7). It is the same as walking in Christ (Col. 2:6) and setting one's "mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth" (Col. 3:2).

What has your attention? Are you preoccupied with the things of the flesh or the things of God? Do you go out of your way to make sure you get what you want, or do you make every effort to make sure that you please the Lord by the way you live your life? Do you use the talents that God has given you, the resources He has entrusted you with, to bring honor to Him - or do you view all of these as "yours" to use as you please? How you answer questions like these will speak volumes about the kind of garden you are growing.

Listen to what John Stott has written on sowing to the flesh:

To "sow to the flesh" is to pander to it, to cosset, cuddle and stroke it, instead of crucifying it. The seeds we sow are largely thoughts and deeds. Every time we allow our mind to harbor a grudge, nurse a grievance, entertain an impure fantasy, or wallow in self-pity, we are sowing to the flesh. Every time we linger in bad company whose insidious influence we know we cannot resist, every time we lie in bed when we ought to be up and praying, every time we read pornographic literature, every time we take a risk which strains our self-control, we are sowing, sowing, sowing to the flesh. [Message of Galatians, 170].

Picture two large fields out in the country. One is labeled Flesh, the other is labeled Spirit. Every day we have hundreds of chances to sow in one field or the other. In fact, I think everything we do is either sowing to the flesh or sowing to the Spirit. There is no third alternative. Every word we speak, every step we take, every chance conversation, even the tiniest decision leads us in one direction or the other. This includes what we read, how we dress, who we talk to, what we watch on TV, what we listen to on the radio, and where we surf on the Internet. It touches our habits, our leisure time, our secret dreams, the friends we hang out with, the video games we play, the places we eat lunch, the places we go on vacation, the way we treat our co-workers, the way we respond when we are mistreated, our prayer life, our time in the Word, our giving to the Lord's work, our willingness to help others, the way we discipline our children, the way we respond to correction, and our willingness to share Christ with the lost. And that's just a very short list. Life is a series of choices every day, and every choice is sowing a seed into the "Flesh field" or sowing a seed into the "Spirit field."

Don't miss the key point. You can't sow to the flesh all day long and then complain when you reap a harvest of corruption in your life. What did you expect? Did you think you could be angry and bitter and grouchy and irritable and bossy and rude and quick-tempered and pugnacious and basically a Grade A jerk and then cancel it all with a quick prayer asking for God's blessing? It doesn't work that way.

Whatever you sow, you reap. And you reap only what you sow every day. So make sure you are sowing your seeds in the right field if you want to reap a harvest of God's blessings.

Paul wrote that those "who sow to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life."That kind of sounds like it is saying that Christians can earn eternal life by working hard. Commenting on this text, John Piper writes: "This is very controversial. Let it sink in. What is at stake in this text is eternal life; not merely sanctification, but also final salvation. Whether you go to heaven or whether you go to hell depends in some way on whether you grow weary in well-doing or not. The text is addressed to the church. .....This text is written to help bring the saints of Galatia to final salvation, eternal life."

Who is Paul writing to? Believers! Is salvation a process? Piper sure makes it sound like it is. Let me say this as clearly as I can. Whether you go to heaven or hell depends only on whether you have trusted Christ or not. Belief of the truth, nothing more and nothing less, is what separates the saved from the damned. The Father gives salvation to all who do nothing more than to believe in His Son. We either believe the witness God has given concerning His Son that salvation is only through Him, or we are still trying to be saved by and through our own deeds of righteousness.

Please understand: Paul is not offering a scale-balancing model for justification. He has spent the better part of this epistle debunking such a false, graceless, legalistic idea. But in terms of our ongoing sanctification, he explains that there is a direct correspondence between our sowing and reaping.

Notice the context. Believers are obviously in view (cf. Galatians 1:6,9; 5:1,13; 6:1-10). They are clearly being called to do good deeds (cf. Galatians 6:6,10). I would agree that Paul is saying that eternal life is earned by faithfulness. The key is what he means by the expression "eternal life" here. Scripture cannot contradict Scripture. Thus, whatever Paul means by eternal life here, he cannot mean eternal salvation from hell. The Scriptures clearly and repeatedly teach that salvation from eternal judgment is a free gift (John 3:16; 4:10; 4:24, Romans 3:24; 4:5, Galatians 2:16; 3:6-14, Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 3:5-7, Hebrews 10:1-18, Revelation 1:5; 22:17). Eternal life in that sense is not reaped as a consequence of doing good. What, then, did Paul mean by eternal life in Galatians 6:8?

Eternal life often refers in Scripture to an eternal relationship with God. All believers have that-even unfaithful ones. However, eternal life can be more than that. Our eternal relationship with God is capable of degrees of joy and abundance. While all believers have eternal relationships with God, not all will have abundant eternal lives with Him. The latter is Paul's meaning in Galatians 6:8.

The expression "eternal life" has two different meanings in the New Testament. On the one hand, passages like John 3:16, 4:10, and Rev. 22:17 say that eternal life is a free gift which is appropriated by faith alone. On the other hand, passages like Matthew 19:29, Romans 2:6-7, and Galatians 6:8-9 say that eternal life is a reward for dependant discipline.

Now let me ask a question. If we are true believers, can we sow to the flesh? And if so, what will we reap? The answer to the first question is absolutely yes, we can sow to the flesh. Just look to the Corinthians or even these Galatian Christians who were entertaining the idea of being circumcised to assure their salvation.

What is the answer to the second question? Corruption! This passage is not warning of the lose of eternal life. It is a warning of discipline to those who sow to the flesh.

Another law of the harvest is: You reap far more than what you sow. An acorn is a tiny thing, but it contains within itself a mighty, towering oak tree. A pumpkin seed is small compared with the massive pumpkin it produces. The size of the seed does not determine the size of the harvest. That's why the text warns on the negative side: "Do not be deceived."

Galatians 6:9 (NASB) And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.

There are times that believers labor and labor in doing good, but seem to find no fruit. They witness, pray, serve, give, teach, love, forgive, but nothing externally indicates that they are having success in what they are doing (at least by what they see). What encouragement we have in this text! For we do face the struggle of "losing heart in doing good." The word means that we grow weary, even getting to the point of being cowardly in our continuing on in Christian action. He adds to this a synonym, "grow weary," which means we relax in our faithfulness, so that we give way to evil. Our rest is on the other side, so we must keep pressing on!

Does this describe you? I have talked with believers from time to time who say, "I'm tired of trying! I keep trying to do what is right and treat others as I ought to do, but it does not get any easier for me. I don't get any breaks. Life keeps right on rolling over me". So what is the believer to do? Don't grow faint in the pursuit of doing good, for a time of reaping will be ahead for those who persevere. Yours is to press on as grateful, obedient children of God.

Remember, this verse comes in the context that begins in verse 6. The well doing that we are not to be weary of has to do with sowing and reaping. When I sow to the flesh, I reap an immediate benefit. Financially, when I sow to the flesh, I get what I pay for, usually right back. If I buy a new vehicle, I drive that vehicle home. If I spend it on a meal, I get to eat that meal. Whatever I spend it on, immediately I have that return.

Spiritually, it is not the same. Spiritually, we are making an investment. We invest, and sometimes it is a period of time before we really experience the return. Sometimes we grow weary, and it becomes very difficult. We start to think, If I did not give this money to God, I could buy this vehicle I could pay for this. I could buy that. Pretty soon, because of that, we sow to the flesh. When it is all over, what we have is nothing. In the ancient world, this phrase translated: "lose heart" was used for the kind of fear and weariness a woman experiences during labor, but before delivery. It describes a time when the work is hard and painful, but also unfinished and unrewarded. It's easy to lose heart when we feel like that, but that is exactly when we must hang on and not grow weary while doing good.

So he presents two incentives to keep us from giving up when we grow weary of serving others in love. First, he assures us of a reward for doing good: For in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.(v. 9).

But we must remember that reaping a harvest almost never happens on the same day as sowing the seed. We may not even see a harvest in this life from what we have sown. Nevertheless, we must never give up, because we know that at the proper time our Master will reward those who have been faithful servants.

We need to continue to plant, sow, and water, not with the idea that we can make it grow but with the sure understanding that what we sow, God can make grow. Isn't that what Paul told the Corinthians?

1 Corinthians 3:7-8 (NASB) So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.

It is God alone who causes the growth, but we receive a reward for our labor. But we must be persistent; we can't give up.

Chicago Bears fans know that the greatest running back in NFL history was Walter Payton. Although he was just 5'10" and 202 pounds, Payton set the all-time rushing record of 16,726 yards. During his 12-year career, Payton carried the football over nine miles. If you divide that number by the number of times he ran the ball, you discover an amazing statistic: He was knocked to the ground on average every 4.4 yards of those nine miles by someone bigger than himself. He set the record, because every time someone knocked him down, he got up and ran the ball again. He kept getting up and getting up and getting up. That's one of the overlooked secrets of greatness. When you are knocked down by discouragement, don't stay down. Get up and get back in the game for the glory of God. Great victories await those with great endurance.

Galatians 6:10 (NASB) So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.

What I want us to see in this verse is: Every opportunity we have is an appointment arranged by God. If you will, take a look at the little word "opportunity." The word "opportunity" comes from the Greek word kairos, which is sometimes translated: "time." However, it's not a word that means the passing of the hours one by one. It refers to those moments in life when a door of opportunity opens before us, and we have a choice to make. Kairos means: "a measure of time, a fixed and definite time, opportune or seasonable time, or the right time." The Bible is very clear that all of our times are in God's hands. The time of our birth as well as the time of our death, and every time in-between - they are all God's time.

We all have opportunities to do good, if we will take them when they come. Every day there are moments when we can say a word of encouragement. There are times when we can get involved in solving someone's problem, if we will only take the time. Will we have the time or will our personal schedule keep us from listening and helping? You may be eating lunch when a co-worker begins to open up about her fears over the future in the light of the terrorist attacks. This is a kairos moment for the Church of Jesus Christ, if only we will take it.

I have to say that while "good" may include many different things, the one that is most emphasized in our text is that which involves the sharing of our financial resources. Certainly this is one of the primary ways in which those "who are taught" are to "share all good things" with "those who teach." I believe that just as the "all good things" in verse 6 includes money, so does the "good" that we are to do to all men in verse 10.

"Let us do good," Paul writes, which means that we are to actively, energetically pursue a course of good for others. Do you live that way in the body? This means that you cannot be a Lone Ranger in the church. You must be involved with people if you are going to do good to them. If you find yourself trying to shrink back or hide or avoid the body, you are going to reap the consequence of such disobedience. Give yourself to faithful, loving, obedient, God-honoring service. The day of reaping will come. You may see the blade of corn in this life, but the full harvest will come on the other side in the presence of Him who died for us.

Acts 10:38 (NASB) "You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good, and healing all who were oppressed by the devil; for God was with Him.

Peter summarized the ministry of Jesus by saying that "He went around doing good."

If you and I live to please the Lord in all that we are and all that we do, we will not avoid heartache and suffering entirely, but we can sure avoid some of the heartaches and suffering that come about when the harvest of the flesh comes about.

I can avoid the humiliation of losing friends because of my uncontrollable temper, if I sow to the Spirit. I can avoid the heartache of losing my wife because of my uncontrollable desire to fulfill the sexual drives, if I sow to the Spirit. I can avoid the shame of going to prison for selling drugs, getting arrested for a DUI, or spending time in a crack house, if I sow to the Spirit and not fulfill the desires of the flesh. I can avoid the disgrace of having my kids know that I am a swindler and crook, if I conduct my business in a way that sows to the Spirit. The list goes on and on.

Over the years, I have often heard people say, "Well, you are lucky. You have a great marriage. They're right, I do have a great marriage, but that isn't luck. You reap what you sow. Every one of us today is reaping what we sowed years ago, for good or bad. We can't change that. But it would be good for all of us to spend a little time thinking about what we want to reap five years from now. What is it worth for you, or your spouse, or your kids, or your family or your friends, to be able to reap that which is eternal?

What do I want to reap five years, ten years, or twenty years from now? Given that, I need to give some pretty serious thought to what I am sowing today. What am I sowing today?

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