Fifteenth Sunday After Trinity September 7, 1997
293, 373, 444, 498
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Do not be deceived. God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. Here ends our text.
In Christ, Who is the motivation for every truly good work, Dear Fellow-Redeemed,
I think all of us have daydreamed, from time to time, about the great things we could do if we could accurately predict the future. For myself, I’d like to see a copy of the Wall Street Journal dated one year from today. If a person knew for certain exactly which stocks were about to jump way up, why, he could make a fortune virtually overnight! Too bad it doesn’t work that way—even the best brokers can’t tell you for certain whether the investment you make will turn out to be a good one or a bad one.
It’s the same thing with us, isn’t it? We’re all investors to a certain extent. Every time we put money in the bank, in an IRA or mutual fund, whenever we make a major purchase like a car or a house, we’re investing in a somewhat uncertain market. Wouldn’t it be great if you could know for sure what the market prices will be in several years? You could make just the right investments to insure the very best return on your dollar. Our text for this morning deals with the investments that we make in this life. And unlike the market analysts, God’s Word actually does let you look into the future. It tells you exactly which investments pay off and which don’t, which will make you “rich” and which will ruin you. God’s investment advice for you today can be summed up in six words:
You might remember a certain beer commercial from a number of years ago, one that went like this: “You only go around once in life, so you have to grab for all the gusto you can get!” And you know, that pretty much sums up the attitude of the godless culture that we live in today. America is the richest society in the history of the world, but it seems like, more and more, that society is becoming centered around self-gratification, pleasure, and entertainment. “Sure it’s expensive,” the ad says, “but I’m worth it!” We buy expensive and elaborate toys for our children, fancy cars with electric everything, we spend millions of dollars on luxuries and entertainment. Why, the billion-dollar movie and video industry alone testifies to the money Americans are willing to spend in order to entertain themselves, to give themselves pleasure. Now I’m not going to stand up here and preach to you about the evils of microwaves and VCRs, but I think you see my point: we’re living in a world where people are trained to invest only in themselves. Our text calls this “sowing to the flesh.” And God tells us that sowing to the flesh is simply a bad investment!
Do you remember the parable Jesus told about the rich farmer? He lived only to make money. Business was going great for him, so he decided he’d just cash in his profits, sit back and enjoy his wealth. He had all the money he could use, so he figured he could let everything else in his life go by the board. The only problem was, he died the same night he made that decision. “And God said to him, ‘You fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself,” said Jesus, “and is not rich toward God.” — Luke 12:20-21. That man made a bad investment. Thinking he was rich, he suddenly discovered he was bankrupt. He found out the hard way that, in the end, THE HARVEST ALWAYS MATCHES THE SEED! “He who sows to the flesh will of the flesh reap corruption.” Death, ruin and eternal destruction is the bitter harvest that matches the seed sown in the flesh.
But what about you? Are you sowing that kind of seed? Our text says, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” You can’t sneer at God! He knows where you’re investing your time and money and effort! If you’re like me, you’ve got to get on your knees every night and confess to God that you haven’t always spent your resources wisely, that you’re guilty of all too much “sowing to the flesh.” At best, such sowing to the flesh is a waste of the resources God gives us. At worst, it places us in danger of becoming so involved in serving ourselves that we finally give up serving God altogether, and end up with that bitter harvest of eternal death. Paul says, “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” —Rom 8:6, 12-14.
A clergyman was traveling on a train through Texas. In the seat next to him sat a wealthy landowner. At one point in the journey, the man turned to the preacher and said, “We’re now passing through my property. You can look to the north, south, east or west; I own this property as far as the eye can see in any direction.” The preacher, pointing upward, asked quietly, “How much do you own in that direction?”
When we “sow to the Spirit”, it means that we’re investing our resources in the right direction. We’re spending our time, our money and our effort on something far more valuable and lasting than any earthly property. Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” —Matt 6:19-21.
So what am I telling you? That by doing a certain amount of good things here on earth, you can guarantee yourself a place in heaven? Of course not. Ask the smallest child here why he’s going to heaven and he’ll tell you—“Because Jesus died for me.” And why do we do good works? Not to be saved—that’s already done! Rather we do them because we’re saved. They’re the fruits of faith, a natural reaction to what the Lord Jesus has done for us. The Bible says, “We love Him because He first loved us.”
About fifteen years ago, the CLC came up with a new retirement plan for its pastors. Each parish puts $75 a month into a fund, so that their pastor will be provided for when he retires. Well I think that’s great! It means I don’t have to worry about the day of my retirement; when that day comes, everything will have been taken care of for me. In the same way, Jesus has provided a “retirement plan” for you. He’s already made a huge investment in your eternal future. On your behalf, He’s paid into your account the full price of admission into heaven—all the righteousness and obedience that God demands. On your behalf, He’s paid off your entire debt of sin, the only thing that could ever have kept you out of heaven. It happened when He shed His blood for us on the cross of Calvary, when He died the death that we deserved, and rose again to give us life. It’s all been done! Jesus never sowed to the flesh—He always sowed to the Spirit. And He did it with a single purpose in mind—so that you and I could enjoy a harvest of eternal glory!
The harvest always matches the seed. And that’s very good news for us believers. Our text says, “He who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.” I’ve got a good friend, a big guy about my age, who used to be a supervisor on the offshore oil rigs in Texas (this was ten or fifteen years back, when oil was still booming down there). He was making over $60,000 a year; he had a beautiful home and a fancy car. He also had a drinking problem, and a family that was slowly but surely falling apart. So he pulled out all his resources, and he “reinvested”. He went to Immanuel Lutheran College to study for the ministry. He and his family now live in Watertown, South Dakota, and he is the pastor of our CLC church there. In monetary terms, the salary he’s making now doesn’t hold a candle to his earnings in the oil fields. But that man is one of the richest people I know! He knows where his real treasure lies.
…And so do you! You know what the harvest will be on Judgment Day: happiness and rejoicing that we can’t even imagine. The Psalmist looks ahead to that happy day of harvest when he says, “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, Bearing seed for sowing, Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, Bringing his sheaves with him.” —Ps 126:5-6.
Martin Luther once said he was sure that when he got to heaven he would look back and wonder why he didn’t shout the gospel from his rooftop, and do every good thing for his neighbors that he could lay his hand to. I think we’re all going to feel that way. Our text says, “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” For Jesus’ sake, we can look forward to the wonderful harvest that is coming. Keep that vision right in front of your eyes all the time, and no matter what your earthly circumstances are at the moment, you’ll be able to “sow to the Spirit.” You’ll be able to invest in the things that last—in your eternal future, as well as others, especially that of your fellow-believers. “The harvest always matches the seed.” We know what the harvest will be—God grant that the seed we sow in the Spirit may match that harvest! In Jesus’ name, AMEN.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.