“Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:8)
We are not the unthinking product of our genes, our upbringing, and our environment; we make real moral choices, and these choices will shape our character and our conduct – and, eventually, our destiny. Choice comes to us in many guises, but at the most fundamental level there are only two possible alternatives: to follow God’s way, or our own (Deuteronomy 30:15,16). Repentance (conversion) is the first step we take towards God, and it is indeed a momentous, life-changing decision. But it is only the first step in what is, for most of us, a very long journey. All through life, we shall be faced with choices: we shall be continually tempted to turn aside from the path of righteousness, or to give up altogether. Every day, we shall have opportunities to obey – or to disobey – our Lord and Master, Jesus. Most of these individual decisions are about small matters, but their cumulative effect should not be underestimated.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. He rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27) All through our lives, we are ‘building’ our future habitation in eternity. The foundation is Jesus Himself and what He has done for us. Digging a foundation is an essential preliminary to sound building – but it is hard, unglamorous, time-consuming and boring work. Anyone who has steadfastly and consistently put Jesus’ teaching into practice will have such a foundation: they will be unshaken by sudden crises (suffering, grief, temptation and persecution), and will stand firm on Judgement Day itself (Proverbs 10:25). But it is a hard thing to do; it demands sweat and sacrifice. It is tempting to cut corners, to put on a show of religious observance (by attending church, for example) without allowing our faith to change our lives. This kind of ‘building’ may look good; as far as outward appearance goes, it may be indistinguishable from the genuine article. The only difference is in the foundation – which is, in the nature of things, unseen.
No-one can escape the consequences of their choices and their actions (Proverbs 11:18,19). Our spiritual ‘investments’, whether good or evil, will be repaid with compound interest: if we indulge in sin, we will reap a bitter harvest (Romans 6:23). So we dare not ignore or belittle sin; instead, we must wage war against it, ruthlessly and tirelessly. We can do so only with the help of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:13). It is He who enables us to overcome our sinful desires and conform more closely to God’s will; but He will not act without our input. If we ’sow to please the flesh’ (by indulging our sinful nature and pandering to its desires), moral decay will set in and sin will take over our lives. We may even forfeit our stake in the life to come! The alternative is to ‘please the Spirit’ by feeding our minds on God’s Word, sharing fellowship with other Christians, and resisting the pull of the sinful nature. Every such act of obedience is a sowing of righteousness (Hosea 10:12): it will strengthen our relationship with God and increase our harvest of the fruit of the Spirit.