The parable of the sower begins, “Behold, the sower went out to sow” (Matt. 13:3). In this parable, the sower is the Lord, and what He sows is also the Lord. He is constantly sowing Himself into us. In practice however, it may sometimes be hard for us to recognize His sowing. We may even confuse our rocks and thorns with what He sows.
When we were young, our parents and teachers often wanted to encourage us by telling us we were good at something such as art, music, math, science, or language skills. They told us that we had great potential, and that if we worked at it, we would become one of the best in the world. We didn’t realize that there were thousands of young people being told the exact same thing at the same time, all by people who didn’t know what they were talking about, and they couldn’t all become the best in the world. This was a false sowing, but such a seed, once planted, grew in us as we grew older. By the time we finished high school, we may have become confident that this was to be our life’s work. Of course God may use this, but it becomes a problem if He wants to sow something different into us that will take us in another direction. Very few can drop what they feel they have to follow the Lord into the unknown.
I like to read and write in Chinese. I enjoy reading history, philosophy, and great literature. This is because, when I was young, my teacher told me that I was good at language. I still enjoy reading, but I am so happy I did not become a historian or philosopher. What Christ has sown into me is so much higher!
Graduation speeches are all the same. They always tell the new graduates that they will now go out into the world and do great things. They will end war, poverty, and disease, because their generation is the hope of mankind. The trouble is that the speakers were told the same thing when they graduated years earlier and it didn’t happen. They have to turn their hope to this new generation, because their generation failed. Such hope is false because what was sown was not real. Without Christ, all we can do is grow old, fail, and encourage the next generation to do better.
To come back to the parable, the sower in the parable is Christ and what He sows is also Christ. He is both the source and the product. All other sowers are exposed by Christ who is the unique sower. Whatever they sow is not the real thing when held up against what He sows. Our natural talent cannot compare to the “eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” that He is sowing into us (2 Cor. 4:17).
Christ is love, so the result of His sowing in us is that we have a fresh love for Him. Christ is the prototype for consecration. As a man, He absolutely surrendered Himself to the Father’s will. By His sowing Himself into us, our consecration should increase also. Why do we pursue the Lord year after year? It is because He sowed pursuing into us. If we do not see such fruit in our lives, we should question what is being sown. The world will never plant such things into us. He is the sower, He is what is sown, and He is the fruit of the sowing.
We know when something is the Lord’s sowing by three related things: the Bible, the anointing, and a living transmission.
The Bible is the written word of God, and on one level it is the same to everyone. But if we are faithful to spend time in it, the Bible can become the living word spoken directly to us. It will become “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). This is the activity of the living word sown into us.
We have all had such experiences. One day as we read, a particular verse or portion of verses comes alive. It seems to speak words of correction and encouragement directly into us. We begin to love Him in a fresh way. At such times, we should recognize that Christ is sowing something into us. This is His speaking, so we should meditate on that word, considering it and dwelling in it prayerfully.
The apostle John wrote, “You have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know” (1 John 2:20). The anointing is not something strange. According to John’s word, all believers have it. He continues,
“The anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.”
– 1 John 2:27
The anointing is the sense of life we get from the Spirit who dwells within us (Rom. 8:9—11). Once we learn to abide in this anointing, we will be able to sense what is of God, because it teaches us “about all things, and is true and is not a lie”. When something comes to us, the anointing will give us a feeling of what to do. Often it stops us by telling us, “No!” What a salvation it is to listen to the anointing. Of course the anointing will never go against the Bible, so if we know the Word, we have a good check against peculiar “leadings”.
As Christians, the anointing should regulate every aspect of our life. Without it we will almost surely become religious. We will do things based on our personal preference or on what we imagine a good Christian should do. How much better it is to do things because Christ has led us.
King David wrote in the Psalms of God saying:
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.”
— Psalm 32:8
Here the Lord promises to instruct, teach and counsel us with his eye upon us. His eye transmits His desire to us. This is the third way we know the Lord’s sowing.
When a young man and woman fall in love, they quickly learn to communicate with their eyes. They often send messages of love with just a look, or tell each other to “Say more!” or “Stop right there!” without any words. Joy and anger are both easily communicated with just the eyes. No one else may get the message because they only have eyes for each other.
Although we have never seen the Lord, it seems that His eyes are always transmitting His desire to us. Haven’t we at times sensed His pleasure or displeasure with what we do? Don’t we sense that He loves us even when we stray? Doesn’t He draw us to love Him when our heart is divided? Doesn’t He continually bring us back to His word and the fellowship of His body? It is not a matter of right and wrong or of religious duty. He woos and wins us with His eyes.
When Philip saw the Ethiopian eunuch sitting in his chariot,
“The Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go up and join this chariot.’”
– Acts 8:29
I do not believe the Spirit spoke to Philip with audible words, rather, I believe this was a transmission of the eyes. As soon as Philip saw the eunuch, he had the sense that he should go to him with the gospel. Haven’t we sometimes had such a sense as we saw someone sitting alone? The trouble with us is that we rarely obey. Philip did obey, and as a result the gospel went to Africa very early. Even today Ethiopia has many Christians.
The Bible, the anointing, and God’s living transmission are all the sowing of the Sower into us. The three overlap and should all say the same thing. The Lord will never contradict Himself. When we sense His sowing, we should take the time to “let the word of Christ richly dwell” within us (Col. 3:16). Then what the Lord has sown can take root and grow in us to bear the fruit He desires.