Break new ground. Plant righteousness, and harvest the fruit that your loyalty will produce for me. (Hosea 10:12)
It's a simple formula: break, plant, harvest. Yet we are consistently lacking in the first two steps.
We're pretty good at harvest, or so we think. And when we're not, we're pretty sure harvesting in our problem. We live our Christian lives like people watching us ought to simply see our loyalty to God and, without any back story, should marvel at our incredible goodness and then be directed toward God. We live hoping people will see us pull into church on Sunday morning and pull in behind us, although we'd never actually extend an invitation. We look in the mirror and see brokenness then put on the foundation of God and walk into the world so the world sees goodness, then we think they'll understand. They don't, of course, but that's our hope. That our loyalty and good looks alone will harvest a new crop of believers for God.
We're content to base our ministry on the harvest and ignore the ground and the seed.
You know why? Because here's the thing about new ground: it's hard. Soil that has never been turned is packed together. It takes a great measure of strength to dig in and soften it up, and who wants to bother with that? But God says this is the first step in serving Him - we have to break new ground. Look around, and you know this is the truth.
What do you say about the Christian who looks just like his world? What do you say about the man who bows his head in prayer and then bites your head off when you inconvenience him? What do you say about the woman who talks faithfully to the Lord and just as faithfully about everyone else? What do you say about the guy with the Jesus bumper sticker who just cut you off in traffic or the woman whose filthy words carry across the room and you can hardly believe when you hear her praising God with those lips a few minutes later? What do you say about the Christian who looks just like the world?
More importantly, what do you say about his God?
Jesus was all about breaking new ground. He was about digging in and turning the soil. He was about making people take a second look because here is this guy who doesn't look like everyone else. This is the step that gets people wondering. Hey, they notice, this guy is different. I wonder why.
If breaking new ground doesn't look hard enough, try taking the next step and planting righteousness. This is where the rubber meets the road because now, you don't have to just look different - you have to be different. You have to put yourself in a place to be broken and nourished. Is that not how a seed grows? A seed grows by becoming too big for its shell and bursting forth into fertile ground. When you plant righteousness, you show a side of yourself that is too big for this place. A side that is willing to go beyond its boundaries for a chance at growth. This is faith, among many other things.
Here's the misconception: God doesn't say to be righteous, although that is certainly the goal. He says simply to plant righteousness, to bury yourself in the bigger, life-giving thing and show your potential. That's what the world is looking for in God, anyway - potential. They're looking for something bigger..they're looking to be something bigger. They're looking to break out of their shell. You plant righteousness and show them that it's plausible, if not also possible, by your simple measure of faith. No matter what kind of nut you sprout into as you grow.
Then we get to the harvest. You've dared to be different, given yourself to growth, and now you grow and that is the final testament to living the Godly life - to demonstrate your evolution in His fertile ground. This is the part we want to skip to, to show people who we are in God in the hopes that they will see who they can be. It just doesn't matter unless they've seen the first two steps. Unless they've seen you bold and broken, how good you are today does not impress them. And they are not impressed with your God, either.
And if you show them your God but they weren't ripe for pickin', tell me, friend - have you harvested a single soul? No?
Then maybe it's time to break new ground.