Hosea 10:12 Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.
Jeremiah 4:3-4 This is what the LORD says to the men of Judah and to Jerusalem: “Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns. 4 Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, circumcise your hearts, you men of Judah and people of Jerusalem, or my wrath will break out and burn like fire because of the evil you have done - burn with no one to quench it.”
Cultivated in Growth
There is a common phrase between these two passages: “Break up your unplowed ground.” In the King James and NASB it says, “Break up your fallow ground.”
What is “unplowed” or “fallow” ground? It refers to land that could have been productive and fruitful, yet was left wasted and harden because the soil wasn’t plowed and prepared.
Obviously the Lord is speaking about our heart and our life.
Israel was an agricultural society, the Jews were a nation of farmers, therefore it is a common thing in the Bible to use farming analogy to speak to the people.
In Isaiah 5:1-4 the Lord compares the nation of Israel to a vineyard,
1 Let me sing now for my well-beloved a song of my beloved concerning His vineyard. My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill.
2 He dug it all around, removed its stones, and planted it with the choicest vine. And He built a tower in the middle of it and also hewed out a wine vat in it; then He expected it to produce good grapes, but it produced only worthless ones.
3 “And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between Me and My vineyard.
4 What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it? Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones?”
Notice two things that were said: “WHAT MORE could I have done?” and “I EXPECTED good grapes, not worthless ones.”
The Lord had done everything He could for the vineyard, He had every right to expect good fruits.
Again, He is speaking about our heart and our life! He has done everything He could for us, and He has every right to expect good fruits out of us.
In Luke 13:6-7 Jesus told a parable,
6 A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any.
7 And he said to the vineyard-keeper, “Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?”
The Lord is looking for fruit, and He’s been very patient with us. But there comes a point of time when discipline and chastisement must be given.
If the Lord comes to you right now looking for fruits, what would He say of you?
Lest some of you think that it sounded such heavy responsibility and so burdensome, let’s get the truth straight: Fruit-bearing is most natural for a fruit tree!
It’s most natural for Christian life to produce Christian fruits!
Last week we learnt from Psalm 92 that the righteous will flourish like a tree, whereas the wicked will perish like grass. We could have entitled it, Flourish or Perish!
No in-between righteous and wicked
No in-between saved and unsaved
No in-between belief and unbelief
No in-between hot and cold
No in-between flourish and perish
If you want to believe in Jesus, believe all the way. If you want to follow Him, follow all the way.
Live the Christian life all the way, to the full, to the max, and flourish life a tree in the house of the Lord.
As a result, you will stay FRESH and FRUITFUL in your life.
God has done everything He could for us to bear fruit. If we are not bearing fruit, the fault is on us. Therefore the call is for us to break up the unplowed ground and sow the seed of righteousness.
What is the difference between our heart and the soil in the ground?
Whereas the soil responds to the work of the farmer, our heart often resists the work of the Lord.
Stop resisting, start responding to the work of the Lord!
Allow our heart and our life to be cultivated for growth, for change, for His glory!
I. REPENT Your Sins Before God
It’s not just telling God that you are sorry, it involves a change of heart, change of mind, and change of action.
Stop loving and doing all the wrong things, start loving and doing all the right things.
Jeremiah 4:3 This is what the LORD says to the men of Judah and to Jerusalem: “Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns.”
A. Soften the Soil – Disobedience and unbelief hardens the heart. Repent and choose to obey, choose to believe.
B. Destroy the Thorns – Things that crowd and choke your heart.
Mark 4:19 The worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.
Besides the sins that easily entangle, it’d include things that distract, keeping you busy, leaving you no time for God.
What do you do with the thorns? Pull them up, cut them off, get rid of them.
Here is a gardening advice:
Persistence: Thorn bushes are extremely persistent. Therefore the only way to defeat them is to be even more persistent than they are. Once you have started working on eliminating the thorn bushes, keep at it until the bushes are completely gone. Otherwise, you risk losing everything you may have already accomplished. Always keep in mind the main rule: never, ever give up on a thorn bush.
Also, remember to start early on your quest to eliminate thorn bushes. The larger the patch in your garden, the harder it is to eliminate the nasty growth. Think twice if you are too lazy to work on killing the bushes. When it comes to thorn bushes, procrastination is an absolute no-no!
Start today, start now!
C. Remove the Rocks – Thought patterns and attitudes of the heart. E.g. Negative mindset, poverty mentality, judgmental attitude, prideful thinking that I know better, etc.
Filter through the soil of your heart, pick up the rocks and toss them away.
II. RETURN Your Heart to God
Your heart belongs to who? It belongs to the Lord your God.
Jeremiah 4:4 Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, circumcise your hearts.
Circumcision is a sign of separation from the world and set apart unto God.
If your heart has wandered away from God, if your heart has been stolen by the world and the devil, it’s time to return your heart to God.
Hosea 10:12 Sow for yourselves righteousness . . . it is time to seek the LORD!
Repentance is to plow the unplowed heart, returning is to plant the prepared heart.
How do you seek the Lord? Establish habits of Christian growth and maturity:
A. Daily Devotion
Every relationship takes time to develop. You have to spend time with someone to take that relationship deeper. It’s no different with our relationship with the Lord. Spend quiet time with Him daily. There is just no other way. That’s why we encourage every believer to develop the habit of a daily time with God.
A quiet time is time alone with the Lord. If we do not spend time cultivating that one-on-one relationship with Him, we will eventually feel spiritually disconnected from Him, out of touch, restless, dissatisfied and unfulfilled. After a while we will begin drifting away and no longer be influenced by His presence in our lives.
The fact is we all desire a closeness with God but often aren’t experiencing it simply because we aren’t spending time with Him. After a while we say to ourselves, “I’m the same old person I’ve always been.” “I’m not changing.” “My relationship with the Lord is stale and stagnant.” That’s why each day we need to set aside time to spend with the Lord in Bible reading and prayer in order to deepen our knowledge and love for Him that will result in real life change.
What do you do during quiet time? Worship, Bible reading and prayer.
B. Weekly Worship
Our worship of God is not just once a week. We worship the Lord daily as a lifestyle. But the weekly worship here is referring to the corporate gathering of the church, especially on a Sunday Worship Service.
Why is the weekly worship so important? Because God commanded it. It is the principle of Sabbath, giving one day to rest from your own work and giving it to God in worship.
Exo 20:8-10 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you.
The literal Sabbath day is on Saturday, but when Christ resurrected on Sunday, the church has been observing the principle of Sabbath rest on Sunday, to commemorate and celebrate the risen Lord. But the crux of the matter is not on which day. The church can have multiple Services, such as Saturday, Friday, etc. whichever day it is, most importantly, as Heb 10:24-25 tell us, “And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
C. Generous Giving
Every time when Christians gather, there is worship through singing and music, there is sharing of the Word of God, there is prayer, there is fellowship with one another, but there is also giving of money.
Money is important, it is the result of our time, talents and labour. Giving of money is an expression of our worship to God. We are telling God that we mean what we say or sing in worship. We offer our finance to acknowledge His Lordship over us, and we recognize that it is Him who bless us with the ability to make wealth.
Giving offering is also God-ordained way of supporting the gospel work of the church. Both locally and overseas, the church needs finance to operate. Who pays for the facility and utility? Through the faithful giving of the people of God.
So giving offerings is part of our weekly worship. Why then do we talk about monthly tithing? What is tithing? Let me explain.
The word “tithes” literally means “tenth.” Tithing is returning 10% of everything that we earn or receive to the Lord.
Mal 3:10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house. Test Me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.
Mal 3:10 says that tithes are to be brought to God’s house. In the Old Testament it refers to the Temple, whereas Christians today bring our tithes to the church family that we are a part of.
What is the difference between tithes and offerings? Tithes is a fixed amount that we are commanded by God to give, i.e. 10% of everything we earn or receive. Offering is any amount that we give to the Lord after we have paid our tithes. True giving begins only after we have paid our tithes.
Generally most people are monthly paid wages, hence we say monthly tithing. But obviously you can do it weekly or as often as the church meets.
2 Cor 9:6-7 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Growing into a mature and spiritual believer is a gradual process of change. But every step is worth it, for we are becoming more and more like Jesus Christ.
In the parable of Luke 13,
8 The vineyard-keeper answered and said to him, “Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer;
9 and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.”
The servant of the Lord interceded on behalf of the tree, “Give it one more year, let me work on it. I will plow the ground and put in fertilizer. Give it one more chance.”
Will you be cultivated for growth?
Will you REPENT your sins before the Lord? Soften the soil, destroy the thorns, and remove the rocks.
Will you RETURN your heart to the Lord? Seek Him, sow the seed of righteousness, start practising growth habits of daily devotion, weekly worship and monthly tithing.