MarriageMenders.Net

"Sowing and Reaping & The Power of The Cross"

Just as cancer and viruses can physically destroy, there are other things that can eat away at the fabric of our lives. It is not because we are stupid it is because we are simply unaware and have not been taught. You may think I'm referring to the spiritual realm of demonic forces, but I am not. I'm speaking of something much more fundamental, persistent, and personal to every individual.

I'm speaking of things hidden in the heart and minds both spiritually and emotionally that destroy our life and the lives of those around us. The Bible tells us clearly "Be not deceived, God is not mocked; whatsoever a man sows shall also shall he reap." "Sowing and Reaping" is a spiritual FACT that dramatically shapes and influences all of us. It affects all of our relationships and even the circumstances around us. And though we are clearly told not to be deceived, we as a "western culture" are largely ignorant about this basic and very powerful principle. Because of our ignorance, we are also unaware that “The Cross of Christ” is the powerful remedy to the consequences of sowing and reaping.

Most people grasp the truth of sowing and reaping, when they "reap" something disappointing and painful in their lives that they can clearly and obviously connect to some experience, sin, or trauma from the past. In fact, in our human lives, what has been sowed earlier is often only truly recognized and understood when we are able to see the bitter "fruit" that is produced much later and repeatedly "reaped." Ironically, we still fail to realize how much we are currently sowing into the lives of our children by word and deed, by hidden sin, or by failure to provide by God's grace what our children need. In the Old Testament children needed nurture and admonition. In the New Testament it's clear that children need their parents to die to self if the child is going to find it easier to avoid the sins of their parents and ancestors.

Unfortunately most people, including Christians, don't know how to evaluate the fruit in their lives or their children, and hence they also don't know what to do with it, or how to prevent it from reappearing. We often only appear to see and judge the bad fruit in the lives of others.

We are a culture of people who grieve when we see a domineering father shame his son in front of his teammates for striking out in a ballgame, or when we see a mother humiliate and rage at a daughter in the middle of a shopping mall. We are tempted to rage with thoughts of vigilante retribution when we hear the alcoholic down the street has been physically abusing his wife or sexually molesting his stepdaughter. We feel sick with disgust when we hear that a wife has left her children at home alone for days while she is off on a binge with her drug addict boyfriend.

When the victims are someone else's children we can grieve their plight, understand their failure to fit in and achieve at school, and we can even anticipate with frightening accuracy what their future holds as they carry these deep emotional wounds. We understand sowing and reaping when it is someone else's child whose life is being permanently scarred by abuse, divorce, poverty and humiliation. But, when these same children grow up and move in next door to us, we betray what we would have understood about their chance for success at the start of their life. Instead now we sit back in judgment of them for only doing what they were taught, victimized by, or what they judged, once again preferring to "feel pity" for their children rather than to act on behalf of the parents. Our instinctive passions of pity and anger on behalf of a child are cheap in comparison to the cost of compassionate ministry to a grown adult who has violated our every sense of what is decent.

The spiritual law of sowing and reaping is the very root and reason for the tidal wave of sin that is sweeping our nation and destroying lives and our communities. The Bible says," He who sows to the wind will reap the whirlwind." Our news broadcast confronts us daily with violence of such epidemic proportion that we are now forced to face that countless wrongs have occurred everywhere and  frequently. Someone must have sowed some pretty bad stuff somewhere for this whirlwind to be so overwhelming.

How could individuals and communities in the "Sweet Land of Liberty" come to such a time as this, and yet seem so ineffective against our greatest physical, emotional, and spiritual problems? Especially in a land with so many opportunities to hear the Word of God, and with so many people professing to be believers. Why are we collectively so weak?  For far too long we have been ignorant about the sowing and reaping that occurred in own lives, even more ignorant of what we have sown corporately as a nation.
Without the understanding that our past sowings make future reaping inevitable, we are unprepared to face, endure, or overcome the whirlwind when it comes upon us, personally and corporately. The Word says "My people perish for lack of knowledge," and our collective ignorance of the FACT of sowing and reaping is a human and cultural blind spot of devastating consequences in each of our lives and our community at large.

Most people including Christians only understand sowing and reaping to encompass their own actions and choices as adults. As a result they keep trying to make their lives work by greater effort, i.e. by striving in their flesh. Fortunately, people are beginning to see that their adult lives are being affected repeatedly and powerfully by the painful experiences and the sins of their youth. It is these people who see the need to forgive parents, others and themselves.

Please understand that a lack of bad feelings toward either of your parents does not means you have truly forgiven them. Some still have no clue as to how much of God's grace was denied them as children. It's only when you consider what life should look like according to Christ that you realize how little of it was sown into your life. If you can't see in your recent ancestry the kind of life you desire for yourself, spouse and children, or if you did not accept and practice the godly example of those before you, then you are soulishly barren of the solution you desperately seek. The solution will never be won with arguments, manipulation, selfishness or bitterness.

In this land of freedom and opportunity we have been promised that human desire coupled with right choices will give us the happiness we long for and have idealized all our lives. Even in the visible church the invitation to "receive Jesus" often sounds more like a guarantee of happiness than a call to discipleship. Our new life in Christ is to be the result of a resurrection, not of greater human effort. For us to walk in resurrection life there has to be a death of the old life. For that death to occur we must have a greater understanding of The Cross, and we must be willing to be spiritually crucified with Christ frequently if not daily.

Christ's crucifixion, and us crucified with Him, is the remedy for our old life, and the catalyst for a new life, and the powerful remedy for the reaping of disappointing and painful corruption that comes because of that old life. As I face what I am reaping in life and bring to death the old man who is reaping it, a new life is FORMED in me that will not draw to itself the reaping of things sowed in the past, at least not as a victim. I may die to a pattern in my life and rarely face it again. Or I may be sent into it again and again because I am one who learned how to face it righteously for the sake of Christ and those he loves, and not just for my own gain.

Even Christians, who know that no good thing dwells in them, are easily seduced into efforts to improve their own lives, only to end up confused and frustrated. All the while, the bad fruit in their life continues to grow hurting themselves and others around them.
Without an understanding of sowing and reaping we give new converts to Christ a life sentence of fleshly striving to overcome, by even more determined obedience, what they have already struggled with for a lifetime when only death with Christ can truly release them from their bondage.

Without an understanding of sowing and reaping we preach the hope of new life in Christ, but we fail to reveal The Cross as the only way to "put off the old man" so that the resurrection life of Jesus can well up and overflow from within us. We don't tell them how to remove the "old wineskin," and break up the "fallow ground" of hearts hardened by abuse, fear, and pain, so that the new wine of Jesus' life can fill them.

What I am saying as clearly as I can is "the western mind," and even much of the church, has been lulled into ignorance and even into deception about a principle that dramatically affects every single human being, and that we were told not to be deceived about. This is the fundamental reason why we as a nation and as a "church" are powerless to turn back or even hold back this tide of corruption. If we do not gain a deeper and more true understanding of the principle of sowing and reaping, and if we do not learn to appropriate The Power of The Cross to set people free from their old lives, then individuals, marriages, families, and communities will never become what they could be in Christ.

In many churches, leaders have become so frustrated with the human weakness and wretchedness around them, that they are easily tempted to preach a "pick-yourself-up-brush-yourself-off-and-just-start-making-the-right-choices" kind of gospel. That message has been preached for generations in many diverse forms, but it does nothing less than BETRAY THE MESSAGE OF THE CROSS.

Furthermore, preaching The Cross only as the means by which we can gain heaven, betrays the full message of The Cross. The Cross of Jesus Christ is not only a historical message. It is our ever present means to gaining new life in Christ. All too many churches preach an "it's all under the Blood" gospel. The Blood of Christ does cleanse me of the guilt of all of my sin and all my unrighteousness in God's eyes. But, the Word also clearly tells us that the Spirit of God "lusts against my flesh, that I am to put off my old man, that I am to crucify my flesh with its sinful lusts and its desires, and that I am to pick up my cross, deny myself, and follow Him daily."

 The Cross and the death of Jesus and my death in Him, has a place and function in the ongoing journey and experience of a believer. The Cross is the means by which Christ became one with us and put to death our sinful nature. His resurrection life is the means by which we are made whole. Jesus is our sanctification - i.e., our being made holy and whole. Jesus is both my death and my new life through His death and resurrection. At any moment, I am either walking in the flesh or walking in the Spirit in Christ. If in the flesh, I need to be crucified with Him. If in the Spirit, I am abiding in Him, and in fact the Bible says "I am seated with Him in heavenly places."

The Cross is the only place where Satan was actually defeated and his works destroyed. It is the only place and event at which the words were spoken, "It is finished." For good reason Satan despises the message and the means of The Cross of Jesus, and he will seduce God's messengers with everything at his disposal to cause them to drift away from it.

Two thousand years ago, the gospel Jesus preached and revealed was especially amazing to the Jews in the light of His forgiveness of the woman caught in the very act of adultery. But it was even more wondrous, and indeed scandalous, in the light of Jesus' scathing rebukes to the Pharisees. They were the men who were determined to obey all of God's laws in their human flesh, and who were most convinced of their readiness to prepare the way for the earthly reign of the Messiah.

Similarly today, the message of the Cross is foolish and offensive even to many Christians. Its offensiveness lays not so much in the fact that Jesus had to die to save obviously sinful and wretched people, but that He had to die such a horrible death especially for all those who were apparently righteous, and He died for everything in us that we would even dare consider as righteous apart from His life in us. That is why the Word clearly tells us to "put to death, therefore, WHATSOEVER belongs to your earthly nature." And WHATSOEVER means who I have ever been, and what I have ever done, desired or feared.

This offensive message is most dramatically and persistently preached by the apostle Paul, who once considered himself to be "blameless under the Law," but who later wrote of himself as a "wretched man" who did evil rather than good, and even later declared himself to be the "chiefest of sinners."

Even after Paul was dramatically converted, he was still "resolved to know nothing but Christ Jesus and Him crucified," and that even while he was in the midst of a spiritually gifted church in Corinth. He "carried about in his body the dying of the Lord Jesus," and he "died daily" so that his old nature (a Pharisee trained to despise the Gentiles with every fiber of his being) would not interfere with Jesus' ministry to the Gentiles through him. Generations of Christians, who have only seen The Cross as the event that secured them heaven, are largely responsible for leaving multitudes of their loved ones struggling to the point of despair to rid themselves of strongholds in their flesh and the reaping of corruption that was a result of things sowed into their lives as children.

"Whatsoever a man sows" Such "sowings" have come to them from their forefathers, parents, siblings, and other circumstances and experiences of life that have caused attitudes and expectancies to take root in their lives." Whatsoever a man sows so also shall reap" is one of our most powerful clues to help us understand the verse that tells us to "Put to death therefore WHATSOEVER belongs to your earthly nature."

WHATSOEVER does not only address the sinful choices we have made as adults, but it also speaks of the attitudes and habits that were formed in my heart during my childhood while under the stewardship of my parents or others, and in relationship to siblings and peers. And because sin is passed from one generation to the next, sowing also refers to the sins that my parents never overcame in their own lives through Christ. Furthermore, their hidden sins are unfortunately just as powerful an influence over us as those sins they sowed by their more visible example. Sin has substance, it defiles, and it is passed from one generation to another. "Whatsoever a man sows" also includes what I inherited upon conception from my father and mother. It even includes what my grandparents sowed into my parents. If my grandparents were to closely observe my Dad's life and mine, the evidence of their own sin repeating itself throughout our lives would stun them. This should not be difficult to understand for evangelical Christians who (1) know that "by the sin of one man sin came upon all men," and (2) who believe that "righteousness also comes to many through the obedience of one man."

Be Carefule How You Judge

As crime comes nearer to our own doors, it is easy to understand why so many people are sick of hearing how a criminal got off easy because some defense attorney proved that someone else was to blame for his life being so miserable that he could not help commit his crime. But we will become even more deceived and powerless against such crime and the problems in our own lives if we let our fear or hatred of vile criminals, and our disgust at an ineffective justice system, tempts us to deny and blind ourselves to the FACT of sowing and reaping in every life including that criminal. Once blinded there, we will sadly also be blinded to the real roots in the life of defenseless victims who we would desire to help, and to lay the axe at the real roots of the issues in our own lives. For individual lives that are in bondage to old attitudes, habits, and patterns, denial of the forgotten causes is not the answer. More punitive laws and legalistic religion are not the answer either. Even new disciplines and better choices are sadly not the answer either if they produce a life unmarked by work of The Cross. The only effective and life-changing answer for the human condition is "The Cross of Christ" and His life FORMED within. I must be crucified with Him, and His life must be FORMED in me. His life is FORMED in us, not just subscribed to, aspired to, or even imitated.

A Modern Day Parable

Let me illustrate what I am saying with the stories of two women who represent the extremes of clients that we see. These are like many of our clients but we have purposely made them fictitious to prevent anyone from insult or injury. Patti and Marcia are both the same age, and they both "got saved" at the same time in their life. You'll quickly see that the similarity between them ends there.

Patti

Patti was the firstborn child of two very attractive, energetic, intelligent, and successful parents. They loved each other deeply, and they both rejoiced greatly over the news of the pregnancy. Patti was not only her first child, but she was also very fortunate in that she was the first and only grandchild for seven years. Her Dad was a successful doctor, as his father had been. Her Mom's father was a gifted college professor and his wife was a very creative and content housewife. Patti's mom had a college degree in early childhood education, but she had always hoped to have a family rather than a career. Her husband's high income afforded her the ability to stay home with her daughter, where she delighted over every new expression, gesture, discovery and accomplishment. By the time Patti went to school she was pretty, well-dressed, well-mannered, confident, intelligent, and very outgoing. Because of all the love and attention she had received, she was convinced that she was a joy to everyone in her extended family. As a result, Patti was also very popular both with teachers and other students throughout her school years. She excelled in both academics and sports, and was always recognized as a valuable asset in any club or group.

At eight years old on one Christmas Patti was delighted when her mom and dad gave her a little baby sister. Patti was a very enthusiastic care-giver, and rapidly became a very capable "mother's helper." Patti's greatest affirmation would come when her little sister would cry out for Patti to hold her or to feed her instead of mom. Her little sister tried to imitate all that Patti did or said from early infancy, and that delighted Patti until her little sister was about seven. That was because Patti was about 15, and very caught up in the activities of her junior and senior year of high school. Patti was suddenly very unavailable to her little sister who felt very rejected and lost. For that Patti felt very guilty but it seemed unavoidable. Life does not stop for a seven year old.

Soon college took her further away. Patti quickly established herself as an excellent student, and an officer in her sorority.  After graduating with the highest honors, Patti also enjoyed much success in her first six years in the workplace.

At 28 years of age, and surprisingly still single, two new colleagues invited Patti to church from her office. Much to their surprise Patti accepted their invitation, and then further delighted them by "asking Jesus into her heart" at the very first Sunday school class that she attended. Her forthright and sincere questions in class, followed by a bold decision for Christ right there on the spot, delighted the other class members as well.

The pastor was even told of her conversion just before he preached that morning. When he finished his sermon, he enthusiastically introduced Patti to the congregation as a "very promising addition to the kingdom of God." That afternoon he and his wife took Patti out to lunch and shared with her in detail the vision they had for their church. They immediately invited Patti to get more involved in the church's activities and programs.

Less than a year later, Patti was teaching the Sunday school class for divorced women in her age group, and trying to help them gain a greater sense of self-esteem. At first, she was admired by all of the women and her class grew, but soon her students became frustrated with her inability to comprehend or help them with the real daily struggles in their lives. Patti also became very frustrated with their inability to grasp what she was teaching. She was confused and saddened that she could not help them walk with more confidence and discipline in their personal lives. Soon the women grew jealous and resentful, and Patti resigned as teacher. She maintained one intimate friendship with one younger girl who had begun to visit the class and who responded eagerly to her like a little sister.

Marcia

Marcia's origins couldn't have been more different than Patti's. The night that Marcia was conceived, out of wedlock, her mother had run away from home at 16 to escape an abusive father. Confused and scared she accepted the offer of comfort and refuge from a young man she met at a diner while she tried to collect her thoughts and plan the rest of her life. That night the boy did console her at first, but as she relaxed in his comfort it quickly turned into a seduction that Marcia's mom was unable to resist. The next morning, in confusion and despair over her sin, she walked home alone and begged her abusive father to take her back into his home. For several weeks she lived in dread of being pregnant, and was terrified at the thought of having to confess her sin to her father. Once she confirmed she was pregnant she prayed daily for several more weeks that God would allow her to miscarry so that she would not have to suffer that shame. Finally, when she could hide the pregnancy any longer, she told her father. He reacted violently and forced her out of the house, cursing her for being no better than a prostitute, and just like her mother, who had run off with a lover a few years earlier. The boy who had gotten her pregnant was nowhere to be found, so with nowhere else to turn, Marcia's mom quickly decided to marry a boy in town who had always idolized her but for whom she felt nothing but disgust and pity. A few months later Marcia was born to a very unhappy woman burdened with terrible guilt for her sin, feeling forsaken by God, and trapped in a marriage that dragged her into further misery and humiliation. Marcia's Dad never held a job for more than six months, and he never earned his wife's respect or love. But, because of her guilt, Marcia's mom stayed with him in spite of the emptiness of their marriage. The rest of Marcia's childhood and adolescence was as disappointing and sad, as Patti's was wonderful. Life at home was marked by arguing and violence. Like her mom, Marcia became well acquainted with pain, shame, and depression at an early age.

As a child Marcia was unattractive, always poorly dressed at school, often teased or shunned by her classmates, and a poor student in every way. Marcia learned to read at only a third grade level, and yet she was never held back in any grade. Before she had entered high school, three different teachers had tried to molest her. Two of them had been reading teachers. During her sophomore year of high school, Marcia was seduced by a boy who got her pregnant but later denied it and refused to have anything to do with her. She hoped for a miscarriage just as her mom had with her, but unlike her mom she decided to have an abortion. Then in her senior year it happened again. This time, like her mom, she dropped out of school and soon married a boy, who wanted to care for her, but for whom she felt no love. She married him because she needed a father for her daughter soon to be born. Sadly, and yet predictably, her husband became an abusive alcoholic, and provided poorly for Marcia and the three children that came in fairly rapid succession. In Marcia's late twenties she visited a church one day desperately looking for some kind of strength. On her first visit she, like Patti, prayed to receive Christ. She walked the church isle that day an exhausted and obese mother of three, who was still deeply ashamed of almost every aspect of her life. At the altar she prayed with a group of people who had likewise responded to an invitation to "receive Jesus into your heart."

Marcia was then ushered to a side room, where each person was given a registration card to fill out. As she ashamedly and yet solemnly pondered what to write under "Prayer Requests" the room emptied out. One deacon interrupted her writing of prayer requests for her children only long enough to tell her where to leave her card and to tell her to be sure to read her Bible every day. Then he left her alone.

Within a year Marcia's husband had become enraged at her persistent pleading that he take the family to church. He constantly ridiculed her continued efforts to read a children's Bible, and greatly humiliated Marcia in front of her children who were trying to help her to read it. Finally, it a fit of rage one Sunday morning, he struck Marcia several times, and put her in the hospital with several broken ribs and other wounds. Let him who has ears to hear, hear! Can you see the difference between these two lives? Can you imagine how different their lives have been in ways I haven't even described? Can you see the difference starting right from conception? Can you see how differently they were treated even by the Body of Christ 28 years later? Can you imagine how different their experience of Christianity (or church) has been over the last ten years?

If you feel just a little bit of hurt and grief for Marcia, perhaps it's because you have recognized and understood how the law of sowing and reaping dramatically affected these two lives - one for good and the other for bad. From what these two women had sowed into them from their conception, all the way to when and how they were received by the church where they made their profession of faith, Patti and Marcia are a witness to the FACT of sowing and reaping.

Are all women truly created equal at birth? Are they suddenly equal when they are "born again?"...Is the "good news" of the gospel that Patti and Marcia could both start equally new and joyful lives from the moment they accepted Christ? How? How does a woman like Marcia get at the new life of Christ that is birthed within her by the Holy Spirit?

What is your Gospel for Marcia?

What is your gospel for the Marcia's of the world? What gospel did she hear? Did anyone know how important it was for her to be "born again" in love and legitimacy in contrast to how she was conceived and born in the flesh? Where was the loving saint who could lead her to the Cross in prayer so that her "old life" of suffering and shame could be swallowed up in Christ's death in order that her "new life" in Christ could be released from within? Who was going to help Marcia "break up the fallow ground of her heart," so that the seed of the Word could take deeper root? Whose job is it to help Marcia throw out the old wineskin so that she could drink deeply from the new wine of Christ's life and find daughterhood with a loving and protective Father? Too many Christians and hence too much of the church is ignorant of the FACT that unless Marcia is crucified with Christ, she will continue to reap corruption because of countless things sowed into her throughout her life apart from Christ.

A Gospel even for Patti!

For that matter, what is your gospel for the Patti's of the world? No doubt you've seen that her life was already much better than yours. Of course you can offer her Heaven through Jesus Christ. But what about the rest of her life here? Did Patti really begin a new life? How would she do that? Did Patti really have an encounter with The Cross of Christ to set her free from her old life? What would it look like if she had? When I heard Patti's story I was reminded of Saul of Tarsus, "blameless under the law" and far surpassing many peers his own age as a Pharisee. That was before he became the apostle Paul, who counted all of his prior life "lost for the surpassing knowledge of Christ," discovered himself to be a "wretched man" prone to do evil rather than good, and later declared himself to be indisputably the "chiefest of sinners." Could Patti become like Paul, who "resolved to know nothing but Jesus and Him crucified" even after he was so dramatically saved. Like Paul who "carried about in his body the dying of the Lord Jesus," and "died daily that others might have life." Who died daily to be the "light to the gentiles" that he was raised to despise with every fiber of his earthly nature?

Only if Patti embraced The Cross as every disciple is called to do, "boasts only in The Cross," as Paul did, and is "crucified with Christ" as Paul said he was, will Patti truly become the new creation that God desires her to be. Otherwise she will walk in the power of a "good life" rather than in the power of a "transformed life." After praying with so many broken people like Marcia, and so many confident people like Patti, I am grieved each time I see evidence of an anemic gospel that puts The Cross at the starting point of a believer's walk in Christ, but fails to teach people the ongoing place and purpose of The Cross in their daily lives after they  "get saved," therefore depriving them of its power. To me this seems to be robbery of the highest and most damnable order, which our adversary the devil promotes and rejoices in.

Jesus has given us the Word, and the gifts, but greatest of all, He has given us Himself, crucified and resurrected. The Bible tells us that we are not only forgiven and cleansed by His Blood, but that we are also crucified with Christ, and that our new life is His life within us. Through “The Cross” we find death to our old man, and then we experience new life in His resurrection.

Resurrection happens where there has been a death of the old through Christ's Cross. Without such a death there is not the resurrection life we so desperately need to free us from our old life and its reaping, and to release the life of Christ from within to minister to those around us.


MarriageMenders.Net
C/O Cross of Christ Ministries
4132 Annistown Road Snellville, Georgia 30039
770-985-1235

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