Galatians 6:7-8 reads like this:
“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.
The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction;
the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life”
Paul is challenging Christians in a very simple way that our relationship with God is actually quite simple: holiness is a harvest. In his excellent book on transformation, You Can Change, Tim Chester writes this:
“we can’t change ourselves. It’s God who changes us. We participate in the process through faith and repentance. Faith and repentance are the only true gospel disciplines”
To return to Galatians 6:7-8, note that “a man reaps what he sows“. This is true of a harvest, true of a crop that is well looked after, and imagery that, at least for most Christians in the industrialised Western world, may be unfamiliar. Transformation and growth come when we feed ourselves with truth, leaning in to all that God says, is and does. There is both a positive and negative command in this passage, though, both a positive and negative aspect of pursuing holiness in faith and repentance.
‘Sowing to the Spirit’ is an interesting phrase, that can often be over-spiritualised, or over-materialised (For example by prosperity Gospel preachers). Tim Chester offers a simple way of understanding this phrase, and unpacking what it looks like in our life:
not sowing to sinful nature = saying no to whatever = reinforcing repentance
sowing to the Spirit = saying ‘yes’ to whatever = reinforcing faith
strengthens my Spirit-
When we become Christians, Jesus gives us himself, and transforms our heart, our whole self, beginning a journey of discipleship into becoming the person God is inviting us to be. Part of this process – a very large part of the journey – is learning to ‘be holy as God is holy’, and a key element of this is getting our understanding of ourself in line with understanding what God says to be true. We all have desires – and all desires are either directed towards God and his Kingdom, or towards sin and (ultimately) death. Christians are invited to not sow to the sinful nature, and instead to ‘sow to the Spirit’, to pursue God and his Kingdom, and the life that we have in Christ. Holiness is a harvest – thanks to the Grace and goodness of God, we get to dig in, lean on, and encounter more of who God is. It starts in faith and repentance, and continues through spiritual disciples/the means of grace, which include the Bible, prayer, Christian community, worship, service, suffering and hope.
Let’s start sowing, in order to reap a harvest of holiness!
“Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.“
– Joshua 3:5