Date Preached: September 29, 1996
Scripture: Proverbs 23:1-35
I. The Deception and Mocking
II. The Flesh and Corruption
III. The Spirit and Life Everlasting
Galatians 6:7-8: "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."
Beloved of the Lord, last Sunday in connection with verse 6, we considered the Church's calling to support her minister financially. Those who are taught are to communicate or share with the one who teaches them. In that connection we also saw that the chief calling of the minister is to teach. He is to authoritatively instruct the congregation in the truth of the Word of God. In the way of this sharing, or communicating, we find our blessing. This is the way that we come to know the truth of the gospel, the truth about God, about Christ, about grace, about salvation. Thus, there is a reciprocal relationship here. The pastor gives. He gives the truth of the Gospel. And in return, the congregation gives. The congregation gives of the good things which they have received at the hand of the Lord. There is a sharing of the gifts with each other and thus, there is a fellowship and a communion.
Now as we move on to verses 7 and 8, the apostle gives us another very important principle which is related to the admonition of verse 6. It is the reason why we ought to be faithful to the admonition of verse 6. That principle is this: whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap. If we do not share with our teacher the good things that God has given to us, we will reap accordingly. If we do share with our teacher, on the other hand, we shall also reap accordingly. We shall be blessed. But this principle does not apply only to the admonition of verse 6. The apostle Paul, although he may have had verse 6 in mind first of all and foremost, sets down for us here a principle that is so broad that it deals with all of life. For instance, it deals with the truths with which the apostle deals before verse 6. He says as it were to us, if we are not faithful to restore our sinful brother, we will reap the consequences of that unfaithfulness. If we do not bear one another's burdens, then that will come back upon us. If we are high-minded and conceited, then we will get just what we give. This is God's rule. This is a principle which God has set down. What a man sows, that is what he reaps. That's quite a sobering thought, a very important principle, something that we ought to take note of as we live our lives. This is a role which we cannot set aside. This is not something that can be thwarted. This rule abides as surely as the God of heaven abides. Therefore we better be careful what we do. We better be careful what we sow because what we sow, we will reap.
With this in mind, let us consider "Reaping What We Sow." First of all let us consider (I) The Deception and Mocking. Secondly, (II) The Flesh and Corruption, and finally (III) The Spirit and Life Everlasting.
The apostle begins this text with the warning: "Be not deceived." This word "deceived" literally means "to be led astray," to be led astray either by yourself or by someone else. The world is filled with people who have been deceived, people who think that the lie is the truth and the truth is the lie. That is why so few people care anything about the Gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. They have been deceived into thinking that the Gospel is the lie.
They follow the Devil instead of the truth, because he has deceived them into thinking that his word, rather than God's Word is the truth. We read of the Devil and his deception in Revelation Chapter 12 verse 9: "And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world:" The Devil is right now deceiving the whole world. It began way back at the beginning of history with our mother, Eve. When he first came into the garden he tricked our mother. He deceived her so that she thought that his word was the truth, rather than the Word of God. And the Devil has been doing that ever since and will continue to do that until the end of the age. And in that he is not alone. He has raised up many false prophets and false teachers who follow him in leading people astray.
Jesus speaks of this in Matthew Chapter 24, verses 4 and 5: "And Jesus answered and said unto them, 'Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.'" We see that all about us right now. Many people, hundreds and thousands and millions of people, have been deceived into following false christs, rather than the true Christ. This is also why there is so much sin and wickedness in the world today. There is a relationship between the truth and holiness and the lie and sin. The truth leads to Godly living. The lie leads to wicked living. If a man does not have the truth, he can do nothing but sin. If a man is to live a Godly life he must know and love the truth. That is why it is so important for us to have a knowledge of the truth. You cannot even think of being Godly, of doing good, of living a pious life, if you do not know the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The whole of our Christian life rests upon the truth.
No wonder the apostle gives us this warning, "Be not deceived." If we are deceived with respect to the truth, it will be a very destructive thing in our lives. Watch yourselves, careful that you are not deceived ¾ that you are not deceived by yourself and your own humanistic thinking, that you are not deceived by the false teachers and false prophets out there in the world.
The apostle, however, is not talking about deception in general here. He is talking about a very specific deception. Notice the rest of verse 7: "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." One of the greatest joys of the Devil and of false teachers is to deceive you into thinking that you can sow and not reap what you sow. The Devil and false teachers would like us to think that we can do certain things and not reap the consequences of those things that we do. The Devil would like us to think that we can do evil, that we can sin, that we can live a wicked life, and still reap good instead of evil. We can break God's commandments and still be blessed by Him. We can live like the Devil, do all kinds of wickedness, and when we die we still go to heaven and receive all the joys that God has given. That is the deception which the apostle talks about here.
The Judaizers were examples of such deceived people. They thought that all they had to do was follow some outward rituals, some observances, and then they would be Christians. It did not matter that there was nothing in their hearts. It did not matter that they trusted in themselves and their own works, instead of Christ. It did not matter that they were wicked. They were Christians and they were going to heaven. They were truly deceived. They thought that they could sow and not reap what they sowed. And that is the case with so many who profess to be Christians today. They commit all kinds of sins. They lie. They cheat. They steal. They commit adultery. But just because they have asked Jesus into their heart, they think that they are under the blessing of Almighty God. They have the best of both worlds. They sin, but they reap the blessings of being a Christian.
Sometimes that is even the way that we think. Sometimes we deceive ourselves, at least for a time. Sometimes we are deceived by others into thinking that we can sin and get away with it. We can do certain evils and God will not discipline us. Young people, don't you think that sometimes? You think that you can do this sin or that sin and no one is going to know about it. You can fool your parents. You can fool your pastor. You can fool all kinds of people. What you are really saying is that you can sow and not reap what you sow.
This is a terrible wickedness. This is not only being deceived, but this deception is a mocking of Almighty God. That's what the text says, "God is not mocked." That means that when we are deceived with respect to this particular principle, we mock God. The word "mock" means to turn up the nose or sneer at. That is what we do when we are deceived in this particular way. We turn up our noses at God. We sneer at God. Some people do that physically. They actually sneer at God over this principle. They laugh at God. They make fun of God. They dare God to come down out of heaven and judge them for their sins. They ridicule the idea that anything will happen to them because of their wickedness.
But, to even think that we can sow and not reap what we sow, is to mock God in our hearts. Why is that true? Because this rule is God's rule. This is God's principle. We find this principle throughout the Scriptures. Yea, it is on just about every page of Holy Writ. God has even written this rule in creation, itself. Never does a farmer sow wheat and get anything else but wheat. Therefore, even the wicked who never read the Bible or never listen to a sermon, know that this is God's rule of creation round about them. To think that you can frustrate this rule, to think that you can sow and not reap what you sow, therefore, is to mock God.
But God will not be mocked. That's what the text says. "God is not mocked." That does not mean that a man cannot lift up his nose at God. It does not mean that a man cannot sneer at God, make fun of God, laugh at God. It does not mean that a man cannot try to get away with sowing without reaping. But what it does mean, is that in spite of all of this, the rule of God stands. Man can think what he wants to think. Man can deceive himself if he wants to be deceived. Man can be as wicked as he wants. But all of that will not change God's rule. What a person sows, he will surely reap. That rule of God is always operative. It is operative in the natural realm. It is operative in the spiritual realm. It is a law which God has put into the very fabric of the universe. That rule can no more be changed than the rule that we must eat and drink to survive. Or the rule that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. God is not mocked, because whatever a man sows, that will he also reap -- no matter what. When a man plants an orchard of apple trees he does not harvest oranges or peaches or pears. I've never heard of that. If a man plants a field of corn, I've never heard that he harvests soy beans or alfalfa or sugar beets. If you have a garden at home and you plant white potatoes, you never have to be concerned that you'll get russets or red potatoes or Idaho's instead. Never!
And so it is in the spiritual realm. Whatever we sow, no matter what that might be, that is what we reap. Nothing more, nothing less. Your spiritual harvest is exactly equal to your spiritual sowing.
That is the clear teaching of the Word of God. Romans Chapter 2, verse 6: "Who will render to every man according to his deeds." God will render to each one of us according to our deeds.
Proverbs 1:31: "Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices."
Job 4:8: "Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same."
And so we could find many more passages in the Bible. Don't be deceived. Don't be led astray. This is God's rule and God's rule stands always.
Up to this point the apostle has been speaking in general terms about this rule, but in verse 8 he becomes very specific: "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." From these words it is clear that the apostle is applying this general principle to moral, ethical, spiritual things. He uses words like "flesh," "corruption," "Spirit," "life eternal." These are spiritual concepts. First of all, let us look at the first part of the statement: "For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption." What does it mean to "sow to the flesh"? The word "flesh" as we have seen many times now in the book of Galatians, refers to our old, sinful nature, the old man, all that we are in Adam, all that we are apart from the grace of God, apart from regeneration. It is that wicked nature that is passed down to us from father to son, going all the way back to our first father, Adam. The flesh is that sinful nature which produces the works of the flesh: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and all such things. To sow to the flesh is the same thing as doing the works of the flesh. It is the same thing as walking in the flesh, or living according to the flesh, or fulfilling the lusts of the flesh. One who sows to the flesh lives out of his sinful nature. He does the sin that his sinful nature encourages him to do. He lives the wicked life. He commits adultery. He murders. He lies and so on and so forth.
But that is not all. For a person might sow to the flesh without committing any of these outward sins. One sows to the flesh also when he is entirely occupied with the things of this world, with earthly things, with materialistic things. A man may be very honest. He may be honorable. He may be religious, but if he doesn't look to heavenly things, if he does not seek Christ, the Gospel, and the truth, then he, too, sows to the flesh.
What will such a person reap who sows to the flesh? Notice the text: "...shall of the flesh reap corruption." Corruption! The idea is that if you plant a field of flesh, sinful deeds, you will harvest corruption. That's what you will get at the time of harvest. The word "corruption" means literally destruction, parish. It is very closely associated with the idea of death, as the punishment of sin. God told Adam that in the day that he ate of the forbidden tree he would surely die and he did die. He died spiritually. He died physically. If it had not been for regeneration he would have died eternally. Thus we find a passage like Romans 8:13, which is very similar to our text but which uses instead of the word "corruption", the word "death": "For if ye live after the flesh," -- that's the same as sowing to the flesh -- "ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live." The idea is that if a person lives after the flesh and commits all kinds of sin, he will reap all the corruption that belongs to death. He will reap the misery of sin, the misery of separation from God. He will reap physical death and one day, if he does not repent, he will reap eternal corruption in hell.
The man who sows a field of flesh will find that his labors end in ruin. A carnal life, whether spent in the greatest pollutions or the strictest observance of a merely worldly religion, must always end in destruction.
Let me give you some examples to make this principle plain: What do you think becomes of the drunkard? Do you think that he can get away with his excess drinking? Can he sow and not reap what he sows? Absolutely not! The drunkard reaps misery, misery in this life. He reaps corruption. He reaps the destruction of his body. Little by little his body perishes until finally he dies. Alcohol kills him. But he also reaps corruption while he lives. His drunkenness destroys his marriage. It destroys his job. It destroys his friendships. It destroys his whole life. Finally, his life is nothing more than drinking and drunkenness and that is all.
Don't be deceived! God is not mocked. If you sow drunkenness, you will ruin your life. You will reap destruction.
Proverbs 23 verses 29 through 32: "Who hath woe? Who hath sorrow? Who hath contentions? Who hath babbling? Who hath wounds without cause? Who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his color in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder." Stay away from alcohol. That stuff is no good for you. That stuff, if abused, will destroy you. Young people, stay away from it.
And the same thing holds true for drugs. You cannot take drugs and not reap what you sow. You will bring upon yourself destruction.
How about the adulterer or the fornicator? What happens to them? Can they get away with their sexual sins? Can they sow and not reap what they sow? Absolutely not! If you are unfaithful to your husband or wife or if you indulge in sex before marriage, you will reap misery! Nothing but misery, destruction, and ruin. You may think that you're just having fun. You may think I'm just sowing a few wild oats, but those wild oats you will also have to harvest. You may think that you can get away with it. You may think no one knows. But in the end you will lose everything. You will lost your husband or your wife. You will lose your children and your family. You will lose your reputation. You will lose your respect.
Proverbs 6 verses 32 and 33: "But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul. A wound and dishonor shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away." Young people, do you hear that? Don't be a sower of adultery or fornication. It will bring you to ruin. And the same thing is true of those things which are very closely related to adultery and fornication. If you go around partying all the time, if you carouse around, if you indulge in sex by watching it on TV, or if you go to a movie to see it, or if you look at magazines to see it, you will reap what you sow one day. That will come back to haunt you. That's God's law.
How about a person who always loses his temper, gets angry, and blows his top? What happens to him? Do you think that he can do that and get away with it? Can he sow and not reap what he sows? Absolutely not! His anger will bring fighting. It will bring contention. It will stir up wrath and anger in others. He will make his life unbearable. A father who is always angry with his children and a husband who is always angry with his wife will reap what he sows. He will drive his wife away from him.
And the same thing is true of a woman who is always angry with her husband. She will drive her husband away from her.
And your children -- they will either grow up hating you because of your anger or they will be just like you, filled with all the wrath and anger that you exhibit.
If you are a man who always blows his top and gets angry, you'll have no friends. Even your neighbors will not want to be around you.
Proverbs 29 verse 22: "An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression."
How about the person who is just going through the motions of religion? What happens to him? Can he get away with his sin? Can he sow and not reap what he sows? Absolutely not! He might fool some people. He might make some people think that he is a spiritual giant by his external actions, but he won't fool his wife or husband. He won't fool his children. They will see that there is nothing in his heart. They will see that he is a hypocrite. They will not believe what he tells them to believe, what he says is the truth, nor will they practice what he tells them to do. They will be just like him. They will be great pretenders ¾ pretending to be Christians, pretending to be spiritual, pretending to have that comfort of belonging to Jesus Christ ¾ but inside they will be miserable. Inside they will have no peace, no joy, but only misery and ruin.
And so we could go on and on. I read Proverbs 23 because this principle is exemplified over and over and over again in that chapter and in many of the chapters of Proverbs. If a man goes after riches, if that is his life, if all his time and energy is consumed in getting rich, he will reap what he sows. He will have nothing spiritually. Parents, if you do not apply the rod of discipline to your children, if when they cry you listen to them, rather than spanking them as they deserve, you will spoil them and you will send them on their way to hell. That is God's principle. What you sow is what you reap.
And not only in temporal things, not only in this life, but in the life to come. Ultimately, if a person does not repent of his sins and forsake those sins, if he does not turn away from this sowing to the flesh, what he will reap is the corruption of eternal damnation in hell.
I Corinthians Chapter 6 verses 9 and 10: "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God." What can be plainer than that?
Let us be warned. Let us never think that we can sow to the flesh and somehow escape corruption. It cannot be done. Corruption, misery, ruin, death and, ultimately, hell, will come to the one who sows to the flesh.
Finally, let us notice the last statement of the text: "...but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." This statement begins with the conjunction "but" and it indicates to us that here we have just the opposite. Just the opposite kind of sowing and just the opposite kind of reaping. If you do not want to reap corruption, then listen to this. The Spirit here is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit whom we receive at the time that we are regenerated. He is the Spirit who gives to us the new nature and who produces, out of that new nature, the fruit of the Spirit, good works, such things as love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, and many other things like that.
To sow to the Spirit means that we walk in the Spirit. We live according to the Spirit. We do those things which are the fruit of the Spirit. This is our calling as Christians. We are those who have the very Spirit of God Himself living in our hearts. We are to walk by that Spirit and sow to that Spirit.
And what will happen to us if we sow to the Spirit? Notice: "...shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." When we sow a field of Spirit works, Spirit fruit, then when harvest time comes we will reap eternal life.
Matthew chapter 19 verse 29: "And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life." Life everlasting -- that is the very opposite of corruption and death. Life everlasting is God's life. It is not merely physical life. It is not the life of this world. It is eternal life, the life of Jesus Christ. If we sow to the Spirit by the grace of God, when we die we will go to heaven. And there we will be with Christ. There we will be with God. There we will have blessed fellowship and communion with our Savior. And when the world comes to an end, we will enter into the glory of the eternal kingdom of God in the new heavens and the new earth. Then all the blessing of that kingdom will be ours. We will enjoy all the good things that God has for His people, things which we have never imagined, things which our eyes have not seen, things which we have never heard with our ears. And that will be our place forever. Everlasting life is life that goes on forever and ever and evermore. That's the blessing that we harvest when we sow to the Spirit.
But not only eternal life in heaven, also eternal life right now in this life. Rather than fear, rather than misery, rather than turmoil; peace and joy, happiness, comfort, feeling good inside. And in our relationships with each other, peace and harmony. When a husband sows to the Spirit, he'll have a wife who loves him, who submits to him, who is good to him. When a father sows to the Spirit, he'll have children who honor him, who obey him, who want to make him happy, who will please him. When he sows to the Spirit his brothers and sisters in the Lord will feel good about being around him. They'll want to encourage him and help him and share with him. And even his neighbors, even unbelieving neighbors, will be at peace with him. He'll have peace in his home. He'll have peace in his church. He'll have peace in his community. He will reap what he has sown. That's quite a principle, isn't it. It has very serious consequences. We better take this seriously, whether we are young people, children, or adults. We better reckon with God's rule. Whatsoever a man sows, that he shall also reap.
Gracious God, our Father, we thank Thee for this principle of Thy Word. We pray that we might not be deceived, but that Thy Spirit would keep us in the truth. Help us not to sow to the flesh and try to get away with it. Give us grace to sow to the Spirit and so reap life everlasting.
For we ask it in Jesus' name. Amen.
Rev. Steven R. Houck
Ordained: September 1979
Pastorates: Home Missionary (Hope PRC, Walker) - 1979; Peace, Lansing, IL - 1990
Emeritus: 2009Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Rev._Steven_Houck
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