Thursday, 26 May 2016

Galatians 6:7-10 'Sowing for life'

By nature people get weary.  Our enthusiasm fails.  We have a tragic capacity to get tired of even wonderful things.  On the first day of our holidays we delight in the rest and sun, but on the last day we are ready for home.  The children love the new toys at Christmas, but have become bored with them by New Year's Day.  Even Christians are tempted to get weary of well-doing. But we must not give up.  Everything depends on keeping on going.  So how do we ensure we persevere to the end?

1.   We stop becoming weary because we sow to the Spirit (7-8)

There is a sense in which the principle of sowing and reaping works in the here and now.  Sow bitterness, and you will become twisted.  Live for material possessions and you will end up empty.  Refuse to pray, and you will not enjoy intimacy with God.  Live thankfully, and your outlook will be transformed.  Jesus promises that God will reward you in full for what you do in secret.

But there is more than growth in holiness at stake here.   Note that what we are talking about has to do with heaven and hell.  It is the difference between a life that reaps eternal life or it's opposite (destruction).  'Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows.  The one who sows to please the sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit will reap eternal life (7-8).

Paul said something similar in the last chapter.  After listing some of the acts of the sinful nature he said, 'I warn you as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God' (5:21).  The verb translated 'living' is in the present tense.  He is not talking there about falling into a sin or struggling with sin, but rather a lifestyle of sin.  If you think that you are a Christian but ignore Christ's call to obey, then it may be that you do not love him or know him.

'Hold on,' you might want to object, 'I though you said that salvation is a gift.  Now you are saying that it is a matter of reaping what you have sown.  That sounds like salvation by works!'  But it is not sowing to the Spirit that saves you, so much as the fact that sowing to the Spirit shows you are saved.

We are adopted in to God's family because Jesus lived the perfect life, and died a sacrificial death for us.  God's has taken our sin and treats us as if we perfectly obeyed.  We do nothing to earn God's acceptance.  We are forbidden from trying to earn God's acceptance.  Yet such a life-changing encounter changes us from with.  We receive the person of the Holy Spirit.

This is what God promised through Ezekiel.  'I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws' (Ezekiel 36:26-27).  Don't think of obeying God as a means of paying him back for what he has done for you.  Think of your obedience to Christ as a further gift from God to you,  God gives us his Spirit and moves us to keep in step with the Spirit.  He gives us new desires and the ability to obey.  He frees us from an empty way of life and we experience life in all its fullness.  Keeping in step with the Spirit will stop you from growing weary in well doing!

2.  We stop becoming weary because God keeps us to the end (9)

Remember the parable of the sower?  There is a soil that produces short lived enthusiasm that fades when the going gets tough.  But it is the soil that produces fruit that is the one that Christ is looking for.  Here Paul tells us that it is only as we keep on keeping on that we will inherit eternal life!  'Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up' (9).  The writer to the Hebrews says something similar, 'we have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first' (Hebrews 3:14).

Again, don't think of your persevering in the faith as your way of earning eternal life.  Your persevering in the faith is also God's gift to you, and evidence that you have the gift of eternal life.  God promised through Jeremiah, 'I will give them a singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me for their own good and the good of their children after them.  I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me' (Jeremiah 32:39-40).

 What is the 'doing good' that we are tempted to weary of?  Think back to the fruit of the Spirit, which is really about Christ being formed in you.  Think back to Christ's command to love our neighbour.  Think back to the call to bear each other's burdens.  You will be tempted to grow weary.  So depend on God to enable you to live a life that demonstrates your dependence on him.  'Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint' (Isaiah 40:30-31).

Before we finish, notice the scope of our good deeds.  I had a friend who was troubled by the fact that there was favouritism here.  We are to do good to all people, especially to those ho believe.  I think our amazement should go in the opposite direction.  We are brother and sisters in Christ.  Of course we should have a special love and care for our kith and kin.  We are a family living in a world that often opposes what we believe.  Yet our gracious Father does not call us to do good to our siblings, but also those who don't even get what our family is about or want to be a part of it.

Conclusion - The weary life

There is a way that is guaranteed to leave you weary.  It is the way some of you grew up.  You felt that you had to earn your parent's love, or prove yourself to the crowd.  It left you heavy-hearted and broken.

Some people say you don't need Jesus, that God will accept all who he judges to be 'good'.  But how good do you have to be to be good enough for the perfectly pure God who lives in unapproachable light (1 Tim. 6:16)?  What about the fact that I have failed my own standards let alone those of a holy God?  What about the fact that my conscience testifies against me?  What about all those dark thoughts?  What about all the wickedness I see in my heart?  Being told I need to be good enough for God is not good news!  I need the gift of his acceptance.

Like the false-teachers that were troubling the churches in Galatia, the Pharisees taught a religion of works.  They said you had to earn God's acceptance.  It left the people weary, insecure, troubled and enslaved.  Then Jesus came along and promised, 'come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light' (Matthew 11:28-30).

Preach that gospel to yourself so that you won't grow weary.  God accepts you freely because of the life and death of his Son, don't tire yourself trying to earn his love.  He gives you his Holy Spirit to change you from within, this is not a self-help life.  His love flows into us so that his commands are no longer burdensome.  His is the way of love, joy and peace.  He has come that we may experience life in all its fullness.  We fix our eyes on Jesus, 'the champion who initiates and perfects our faith' (Hebrews 12:2).

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