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Monday, May 21, 2018

Sowing and Reaping: Five Practical Applications

We’ve probably all heard the adage: “you reap what you sow.” It’s an adaptation of the verse: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap (Galatians 6:7b). The context reads like this: Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting (Galatians 6:7-8). It’s a warning and a key biblical principle. What you invest in will reap dividends—for good or bad. This doesn’t mean, of course, that people are doomed because of a few sinful decisions. Anyone can overcome with the Lord’s help, but it does mean that there are consequences for actions.

This principle is taught all through Scripture with references to planting different crops and enjoying the fruits of labor and parallel spiritual lessons. Here are a few of the many applications in the Bible:
  • Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same (Job 4:8).
  • They that sow in tears shall reap in joy (Psalm 126:5).
  • Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you (Hosea 10:12).
  • Jesus said, Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? (Matthew 6:26; similar in Luke 12:24).
  • Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin (Romans 6:4-6).
  • The Apostle Paul said, I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour (1 Corinthians 3:6-8).
  • The wicked worketh a deceitful work: but to him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward (Proverbs 11:18).
  • A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends (Proverbs 16:28).
  • He that soweth iniquity shall reap vanity: and the rod of his anger shall fail (Proverbs 22:8).
  • And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth (John 4:36-37).
  • But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully (2 Corinthians 9:6).

Jesus told two similar parables about sowing and reaping: The Sower and the Seed, and The Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13:3-9; 24-30). In the Sower and the Seed, the seed is the Word of God and the ground represents hearts. In the Wheat and the Tares, the wheat stands for genuine believers, and the tares are not true believers. They grow up together until Judgment Day, which is the day of harvest.

How can we apply biblical sowing and reaping to our lives?
  1. Accept Jesus Christ and be “planted” after our salvation in believer’s baptism, identifying ourselves with the Lord’s death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6:4-6, above).
  2. Avoid sowing evil, discord, and investing in the flesh. We will only reap the same.
  3. Sow in righteousness. Our life should have one goal—to please God. Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
  4. Share the Word of God with others. When we sow in hearts—think of throwing out handfuls of seeds—God gives the increase. Recognize that many times one person will sow, another will water, but the Holy Spirit of God is the One who convicts of sin and gives fruit for our labor. And often, someone else reaps what we have planted.
  5. Sow generously—and we’ll reap bountifully (2 Corinthians 9:6, above).

Whatever we sow, we’ll reap.

Let’s sow good—and lots of it!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

How Far is Okay?

It sounds like a legitimate question, but “How far can I go?” actually says two things:
  1. I want boundaries.
  2. I want to push those boundaries.

They can be all kinds of boundaries:
  • House rules
  • Dating boundaries
  • Modesty
  • How much: alcohol, gambling, drugs …
  • Business behavior
You may have already thought of another one.

I believe that “How far can I go?” is actually the wrong question. Yes, we want to set and keep personal standards, but we need to ask a totally different question:

“Does this please God?”

It puts all your rules, dress, dating, pleasures, vices, and behaviors in a completely different light. When your only desire is to please God, you will behave in a way that is His standard—and His standard is always higher than yours. Let’s look at what our heart attitude would be and then examine a few of these areas in that light.

The First Commandment says, Thou shalt have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:3). It’s repeated in Deuteronomy 6:5: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

Out of that love for God comes a desire to obey Him. Jesus said, If ye love me, keep my commandments (John 14:15). It’s a joyful, willing obedience. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous (1 John 5:3).

So, let’s apply this to our five categories:
  1. Home rules—A child or teen, living under his parents’ roof, should do his best to honor and obey his parents. Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth (Ephesians 6:1-3).
  2. Dating boundaries—A dating couple will understand that purity is God’s standard, and they will avoid putting themselves in situations that will cause temptation. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord. There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. (1 Corinthians 7:32b, 34a). Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart (2 Timothy 2:22).
  3. Modesty—Instead of asking questions like, “Can I wear this?” or “What’s too low, short, or tight?” a Christian girl or woman will ask herself, “Does this honor God?” She looks in the mirror, analyzes the fit, and prays about whether or not the Lord is pleased with it—before buying. If she needs pointers, she can ask an older Christian lady who always dresses modestly. In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works (1 Timothy 2:9-10).
  4. How much: alcohol, gambling, drugs, etc.—A person who wants to please God should investigate what the Scriptures teach about each of these areas. Let me suggest a few passages. Alcohol: And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). Gambling: Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labour shall increase (Proverbs 13:11). For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows (1 Timothy 6:10).
  5. Drugs--Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). If you really want to please God in these areas, you will prayerfully consider what the Bible has to say and will get help if you need it. I can wholeheartedly recommend RU Recovery Ministries.
  6. Business behavior—Pleasing God at work means honesty, integrity, and purity. Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men (2 Corinthians 8:21). But as for me, I will walk in mine integrity (Proverbs 26:11a). Be not thou one of them that strike hands, or of them that are sureties for debts (Proverbs 22:26). It also means not forming close business alliances with partners who aren’t Christians. Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14)

God has a special standard for Christian conduct. But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation (lifestyle); Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy (1 Peter 1:15-16.

Instead of “How far can I go?” we should ask ourselves,
“Is God happy with me?”

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink,
or whatsoever ye do,
do all to the glory of God.
(1 Corinthians 10:31)