For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. – Galatians 6:8
Christian women, God in his grace gives us many opportunities for fresh starts and new beginnings (and, wow, do we need them!). At least one occurs every 24 hours, one every 7 days, one every 30 days, and one every 365 days. We are currently standing at the doorstep of the latter in this list. As we knock on the door of 2018 and begin to make resolutions, I want one goal to rise to the top of your list: to sow to the Spirit and not to the flesh.
Sowing refers to the planting of seeds in hopes that something will flourish and grow. When we sow to the flesh there will be a crop produced. Sowing to the flesh is easy peasy. It is doing exactly what we want to do, when we want to because we feel like it. A list of the fruit that is produced from sowing to the flesh is given in Galatians 5:19, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry [think the love of food, entertainment, clothing, hobbies, etc.], sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies and things like these.” As Paul succinctly put it in Galatians, this list can be summed up with the word “corruption”.
If you are struggling in any of the areas listed above, examine your heart to see what seeds have taken root. If you have been entertaining lustful thoughts (or allowed them in through shows or books), you may be struggling with sensuality and impurity. If you struggle with over-eating, you are sowing seeds of idolatry as you look to find comfort in food rather than in God. All of these will produce corruption in your life.
Another list is given to us when we sow to the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;” Galatians 5:22-23. These are the fruit, but what are the seeds that are able to produce this awesome crop? The true Seed that must be planted within us before any of these can be present is the Seed of Eve, that is Jesus Christ. It is his Spirit that he sends to dwell within us that is able to produce anything good.
When we sow to the Spirit we are not adding to or improving the Spirit. We are aligning our hearts, minds and bodies to the will of the Spirit. We do this by reading God’s Word, sharing the gospel, worshipping, praying, serving, using our gifts, encouraging one another and doing the many other directives given in Scripture. In this way we sow to the Spirit, we strive toward being more like Jesus and that produces love, joy, peace, patience…and all the other glorious fruits.
So while the concept is simple, the execution is where the heavy lifting begins. Every action, thought and heart motive needs to be checked before planted. Will it serve to corrupt you and produce ugliness down the road (anger, division, strife…) or will it nourish the soul and make you more like Jesus?
But I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. - Galatians 5:16-17.
Ladies, soak yourself in the things of Christ and sow to the Spirit this coming year. The yield will be a magnificent blessing! It will be a harvest like no other. Let it be your daily ambition to walk by the Spirit, not allowing yourself to succumb to the easy desires of the flesh. “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9.
This is the Christmas story. It is read in households across the world during Christmas. I encourage you to do the same. Maybe you don’t have a Bible or maybe you don’t know where to find it, so I have printed it below. Pass it on to others.
It is not the paper or the binding that makes God’s Word valuable, it is the words themselves. Whether read, spoken or in thought, God’s words are powerful. They are said to be living and active in our hearts and souls (Hebrews 4:12). That is what we need at Christmas time - hearts alive and revived with true love, the love of Jesus. That is what God’s Word is able to do. Refresh yourself here with a small, but mighty dose of his work.
Read the scripture below and remember, this celebrated baby came to die for us. We humans are steeped in sin. This sin is against God and the just punishment is damnation to Hell. Yet, Jesus Christ (God’s son), full of grace, took on flesh and came to earth to save us. Jesus lived a perfect life and paid off our debt of sin with his holy blood. He died the death we deserved on the cross, bearing his Father’s wrath. After being dead three days, he raised himself back to life, defeating death and sin forever. Through believing in Jesus and what he has done, we can be saved and be with him in Heaven for eternity. This is an incomprehensible gift offered freely to us, do you accept it?
This is what the angel is excited about when he tells the shepherds that he is there with “good news of great joy…for unto you is born this day…a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Jesus began on earth as a baby, but ended as the Victorious Risen Savior for those who believe in him. Let this good news be for you this year. Think on these words, read them to your children, make it a standing tradition. Then find a Bible and get more.
Luke Chapter 2, verses 1 – 20:
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Scan`dal: noun. an action or event regarded as morally or legally wrong and causing general public outrage.
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.” - Matthew 1:18-19.
Approximately 2,022 years ago, a young woman (we would call her a girl today) was pregnant and unwed. The woman Joseph thought to be virtuous and pure was carrying a baby not his.
He could have her killed, but Joseph was merciful. He would give her a divorce quietly (betrothal required legal actions to end). Mary would not die, but could live out her existence in shame as a poor, single mother. The child fatherless, unclean, and despised.
"But as [Joseph] considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” – Matthew 1:10-21
This changes everything…at least for Joseph and Mary. The baby is “from the Holy Spirit”; Mary has been true and faithful. They will be married and they will raise this Savior-child as God has instructed. Others were not privy to Joseph’s dream. Would they still consider this to be outrageous and scandalous? Yes. Possibly a reason they stayed in Bethlehem a couple “extra” years.
Is this the extent of it? No. Not by a long shot. The true outrageous scandal of Christmas is not found in the newlywed couple, but in the babe in their arms. The one wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a feeding trough. He is the scandal, the OUTRAGE for all of time.
How so? Because within the flesh of that baby is God. The Master of the Universe, dwelling within his own creation. Maker of the innumerable stars, born under them. The Creator of the fields, the sheep, and the very hands that held him, now in the form of a helpless child. The Masterful Potter at the mercy of his ignorant lumps of clay. Everything within us should scream, “NO! This is wrong! It should not be this way!” We should be outraged.
Jesus was the Word, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” “Yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” John 1:14, 3-5, 10-11.
What happens to this God-baby? He grows and the scandal grows with him. Though human, he lives in perfect righteousness as only God can. He saves and heals and loves. But the ignorant lumps of clay hate him. He claims to be God because he is God. They abuse him and finally nail the Light of the World to a cross to die. Outrage.
Yet this man will not stay dead, he really is God. He rises, he forgives, and he calls us to be his. He has paid our debt of sin with his holy God-blood. He was the needed sacrifice for our atonement. We can be with him in glory…SO undeserved! Ignorant lumps of clay now fashioned into vessels of beauty by the hands that bear the scars from the wounds we gave him. How can this be? It is outrageous!
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” “And we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” John 1:5, 14, 16.
That is our God, he is outrageous. Do not take his birth lightly. His love for us is nothing short of scandalous. We are utterly unworthy, yet he gives it. Are you listening, are you paying attention to what he has done? Are you seeing it over and over on the pages of his Book? I hope so. Celebrate it with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength this Christmas. Live outrageously for the God who loves you outrageously.
This past Sunday evening our church held a members’ meetings during which I gave a short update on our women’s ministry. I discussed our current Bible study, the weekly blogging and potential plans for the future. What I put forward felt quite inadequate. I was waiting for someone to say, “Is that all you do?”
As I was thinking on this later I began to feel the old, familiar clouds of doubt and inadequacy gather about me. The poor women of Cornerstone have me as their leader!?! As busy as I feel, it never feels like enough and I am so very imperfect. Yet God, in his ever gracious way, began to remind me of some very important facts. First, ministering to women is not the responsibility of a single person. Women are discipled and taught by both men and women in a variety of settings. Secondly, a great deal of ministry to women occurs outside of organized events. Much ministering to women is happening all around me, and when I stop to think on it, it is overwhelming.
Women’s ministry is happening when:
To think that I might be the center of women’s ministry is absurd. That place belongs to Christ alone. “Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and faithfulness!” (Psalm 115:1). It is God’s Word that transforms the hearts and minds of women and he is faithful to fulfill his promise of growth in us (Phil. 1:6).
Is there more to come for the women of Cornerstone Church? Yes, God willing. But we cannot lose sight of all the good that is happening already. God is always at work and I love getting to be a witness to a portion of it. It is Jesus that is shining through these women; all I can do is give him praise. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:15).
So, women, keep ministering! Continue to “stir up one another to love and good works,” and “encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25). Press into the Lord and his Word and care for one another…just as sisters should.