Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. Galatians 5:7
As a new believer, I think I heard this every Sunday during ‘tithes and offerings.’ Want to be blessed? Give away your money, especially in the funny looking bags roaming through the pews, or so I was told.
Sowing and reaping. All of a sudden preachers become experts in farming. Plant corn, you get corn. Astounding! Even through Bible College this verse remained neatly tucked in the financial area of Christian giving. If you want to be blessed financially, this ‘universal principal’ would even apply to unbelievers – like a cosmic hidden easter egg, ‘Test God in this, He can’t help but bless you.’ This was the unfortunate environment I was exposed to early.
Context, beautiful context. Paul, in Galatians, has been writing the church about a much more vital principle than increasing physical blessings in your life. He’s talking about freedom. Specifically, the freedom everyone receives through Jesus Christ. What are we free from? Ourselves, our old nature, sin, the power our corrupted flesh holds over us.
Specifically, he eludes to our situation as a type of slavery and being ‘under’ this curse. Our fleshly appetites molding within us this ungodly character – without any hope in the flesh to remedy. Not even the Law or commandments will help us, they only testify against us.
Paul is trying to deal with something he also deals with in Romans (specifically chapter 6, read it!). This cursed flesh is bent on self seeking desires. If left to ourselves, we crave, lust, and use people for our own agenda. Through the destruction of sin, our natural appetites for food become gluttony. The eye that is designed rightly to enjoy beauty becomes bent by sin to lust and seek self glory.
It is impossible, in our flesh, to rid ourselves from our own nature – we need a new one, a new heart if we’re ever to enter into meaningful relationship with our Creator. It’s impossible, outside of divine new birth, to present ourselves before God in any justified sense. We are condemned, enslaved and without hope outside of something mercifully miraculous.
No matter how hard we try in the flesh, there is no provision for sin removal. There is only one course of action for our fallen nature – death.
Paul starts in Galatians Chapter 5 (before the sowing and reaping verse) with an amazing verse that I love. “It was for freedom that Christ set us free.” It sounds like a redundant statement, but he’s getting at something powerful. Though we have been freed from sin through faith in Christ, it’s entirely possible to remain in it’s enslaving grip. Jesus sacrifice and resurrection was intended to not simply transact something spiritually, but He wants each of us to enjoy it, to experience the freedom purchased.
I used to think that there was ‘no such thing’ as a carnal Christian. I would look at someone struggling or even defeated in some ‘obvious’ sin that I wasn’t struggling with and account them unregenerate. Such arrogance. In my prideful estimation, I was more guilty than they were!
“Don’t go back!” is the cry of the Apostle Paul to the Galatian believers – implying that you actually can, and we all do at times, ‘go back’. We, as believers, are free from sin’s grip, and experience new heights of freedom. This is the heart and plan of God for us. Yet, we can also return to poor choices that lead to certain results in our lives. This, this is where Paul is headed when he enters Galatians 6 and the ‘fruit of the Spirit’. We can argue, in fact, that most of the Apostle’s epistles are in response to this reality that while through faith in the Son of God we are free, we struggle ‘walking’ in this new reality.
Paul is giving us a powerful help, a truth to help us realize this new freedom in Christ.
It’s like Paul sees prison doors flung open, yet too many of the prisoners still sitting inside the cells – Go! Be free! By the way, it’s essential that you start sowing in the right areas!
The seeds are the key for actualizing the victory over sin in our lives.
We aren’t able to produce the actual spiritual fruit. The Holy Spirit produces the fruit in our lives. That’s why they are referred to as ‘fruits of the Spirit.” Love, joy, peace, patience… we cannot, no matter hard we strive, produce these on our own. They are results, they are a harvest from something divinely working under the soil of our hearts.
We are called to plant the right seeds. If we think we will simply produce a harvest of righteousness in our lives by watching soap operas (fresh in my head from my hair cut today; Russian soap operas playing in the background) and listening or reading garbage all day, we’d be wise to listen to Paul’s warning = Do not be deceived, God is not mocked.. what or even where you sow, yeah, it’s coming back at you. Garbage in, garbage out. Sow to the spirit, you’ll see a spiritual harvest in your life.
I have begun asking myself this question. It’s a question I want my kids to ask themselves earlier, not later in life. “What is my vision for my spiritual life?” Where do you see yourself in the Kingdom of God, in His plan to redeem the world with His love? Where do you see your heart, where do you really want to ‘be’ in this regard? Where do you see your motivations, your desire for people, your interests lying? Next week, next year, in 10 years? Do we have a vision for this? If we don’t, we might find it hard to sow the right things.
I think this is where Paul is coming from. He says we are dead to sin – past tense, it’s already happened. If I am to be considered ‘dead’ to sin and alive to righteousness, I’d better start sowing in this regard, toward my new nature, if I’m ever to expect a harvest in this direction. It’s entirely possible to continue sowing to the flesh, even though I’m born again and a follower of Jesus – this is why Paul argues in Romans, “what shall we say then, shall we continue in sin that grace might abound?” The answer is obvious, no! Because that would be really stupid. Possible, but stupid.
I’m deceived if I think I hold no sway over my own life’s trajectory. I’m not talking about salvation or justification, this is about common sense farming – what you put in, you will get out.
So the next time you hear this verse, if it’s in the context of financial giving, just remember God loves a cheerful giver.
Then, consider the seeds being planted in your life, your marriage, family, workplace. Sow the Word of God in your heart, it will return a harvest. Sow continuous prayer and fellowship with God and those that journey in faith along with you. Sow challenging books that make you think about your faith journey, music that directs your heart to the Cross. Sow moments in the day where you love others, listen, encourage. Sow in faith opportunities that require you to step onto the water and trust him in new ways.
Don’t sow because you are a ‘Christian’ or because you believe it may somehow justify you (self-righteousness). Sow because you are born again, you care about your own heart and it’s trajectory – you want a spiritual harvest that brings you closer to the heart of the Father.
Plant, sow, invest in your spiritual vision for your life. If you don’t have one, ask God to show you. He wants to see a harvest of righteousness break out in your marriage, family, friendships, workplace. We don’t sow to be spiritual, we sow because we have spiritual life in Christ now, and we want to know Him more!
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. Galatians 5:7
Resting from works, abiding in Him through faith, and believing Him for a greater harvest!
Bruce & Deb
Last night, we once again we hosted a worship evening on the 2nd floor. Special thanks to Steiger Ukraine for leading it, and bringing a solid, passionate group of youth leaders (19-27yrs old) who really encouraged everyone.
It’s cool because the various youth groups from surrounding towns are getting to know one another more as well. When you consider that only 2-3% of the population is evangelical Christian, gathering youth in these numbers has a genuine impact on the youth. It wouldn’t matter if you just ate ice cream together, they are from different villages, and very small churches. The fact that we spent 90 minutes together elevating Christ in song and prayer for one another has that much more spiritual impact.
There were +50 again, which is making it really challenging for space. I wish we could push a button, like one of those RV’s and expand the walls as needed.
The next major event is going to be on March 29 and 30, with a youth band from France and a crew of 20 (Steiger) – we will be hosting it at our downtown culture building. It seats 370 – and we have a lot of logistics to work out between now and then. More soon!
I love that there is now a collective, unified group of youth that can be inserted into a crowd (like this upcoming concert) and begin to grow in influence and momentum for the Kingdom. Please pray with us for wisdom, favor and most of the Spirit of God to awaken dead hearts to living faith in Christ.
We hope to have a video soon of our worship night, a cool guy Ivan, professional level videographer was at the event, and will be working on something for us soon!
Special thanks to our staff, in particular Lana and Alyosha who worked extra hard all night – it was quite chaotic as our small cafe gets bombarded by youth.. and everything 50% off… our regular customers weren’t sure what they walked into!
Bruce & Deb
We all have regrets. Who among us wouldn’t punch in a few specific dates in the DeLorean and fix a few things? Regret is a powerful emotion. If left unchecked, it can render us hopeless, swimming under a sea of condemnation.
I was amazed this past week as we discussed among our youth. Regret is not only for those of us with miles under the hood. Every young person acknowledged not just one, but many regrets. We had each of them, by way of symbolizing our regrets, mark on a single white piece of paper a colored dot. It didn’t take long for each of us to make our markings.
What is regret? Is it not an acknowledgment that we’ve acted, thought or spoken in a way that we’re ashamed of? Regret, like it’s sister shame, can be a result of sin. Sin in ourselves and the broken world around us. Some regret is simple disappointment. The danger is however that all regret can have a negative impact on our lives if left unchecked.
When we screw up, regret and shame come swooping in upon our conscience. I think this is a universal experience. We each have a certain ‘view’ of what we want to be, the person we know we should be. When we act against this image, once we come to our senses, we realize we’ve fallen short of this invisible standard. We are disappointed in ourselves, but it can go much deeper.
“These feelings of regret, guilt, condemnation, which are initially just reactions to failures, become powerful instruments of the enemy to destroy us even further.”
Think of all the ways regret (at least in the context of personal failure) can be used against us. This slide below outlines some of them.
No one should have had more regrets than the Apostle Paul. Once Saul, he hunted down and imprisoned men, women and families who professed faith in the resurrected Christ.
He stood by in approval, collecting the coats of the men who stoned Stephen to death (Acts 7). The man who wrote 2/3 of the New Testament had a mountain of evidence against him and every reason to wallow away in regret for the remainder of his life.
Yet, this man, somehow, was able to utter the phrase:
“But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.” Phil 3:13
Paul found a certain power in the Cross. A power to not only absolve the crimes against God and the conscience, but a power that motivated in mission forward.
He understood, as should we, that the enemy will come rushing in to accuse and condemn, it’s his nature. If we sit back and let him do this, we will wallow in pity, infested with bitterness and excuse.
Paul knew the Cross cancelled the decrees against us, literally nailing the accusations in the person of Jesus, securely to wooden beams.
“Having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” Col 2:14
The cross never ceases to amaze. It’s the character of God revealed to us! The God of perfect love doesn’t want us to live in a past of regret. He takes no pleasure in holding our sins against us, reminding us of what we’ve done or our failures. So great is the Father’s love towards us that believe, that He took on flesh AND our sin.
His last words, “It is finished,” should echo in our heart, and right back to the enemy when he attempts to undo this amazing covenant of grace!
If you feel ‘hooked’ to past sins, the Cross is the only place of absolution. Release from our regret comes by faith exclusively in the mercy of God in Christ. We can attempt to drown our sorrow in sin or pleasure, but it will be there the next day. We can also attempt to reform our lives morally, thinking this will distance us from our regrets. We can’t undo what has been done outside of Jesus atonement. If we think we can, we’ll only find ourselves fashioning a different weapon against God, religion and self-righteousness. A moral or outward attempt to find freedom will only bring death (2 Cor 3:7).
Isn’t it utterly astonishing that the only place we can be truly free, is the place where the Creator utterly suffered! What is foolishness to the world, is the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:18). When we embrace our sin, our need for redemption, we will find complete rest for our souls in the risen Savior, simply by believing on Him! (Rom 10:4, Gal 2:16, Eph 2:8-9).
During our meeting we each took our dot filled papers and individually nailed our regrets and sins to a large wooden beam. It was a powerful moment, I hope, in most of their lives as we realized the cross was much more than a religious symbol. If it’s not a deeply personal event, it’s not an event at all in our lives. If it’s not the place of complete freedom, the fountain of every blessing, we’re probably still living in the past, holding on our regrets.
If you are reading this and thinking, “Ok, I have some major regrets, and sin that just won’t let me go. What practically can I do about this now?” The good news is that Jesus knows your situation, even better than you do. We also have the promise that He embraces contrition and humility. Go to Him, don’t delay, let Him take your sin and regret at the Cross, see it nailed, see it finished in His death. Then, like Paul, set your eyes on moving ahead with Christ and the things He has in store for you. Forgive others, ask for forgiveness if it’s necessary. Ultimately, in your heart and mind, stay near the Cross where your God demonstrated His love over you – you won’t regret it!
“Flee to His wounds, and you will be safe.” Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466-1536)
Yesterday morning Dima and I met and discussed the need for some worship leaders, specifically which would engage the many young people that are coming. Specifically, our February worship night didn’t yet have a leader for it.
Literally, within the hour, our friends from Steiger Ukraine then showed up for Coffee and Pizza – and volunteered to send a worship group – and offered more of their team for future events as well.
You can check out Steiger at http://steigerua.org/en.html
We love how God is at work!