Conditions Of The Heart

One of the most impactful ways Jesus taught His disciples was by telling parables. In each instance, these accounts were overlaid with spiritual truths…truths that had deeper meaning once they were dissected. Jesus often left the general crowd hanging with a parable that went over their heads. But behind closed doors, His disciples would prod Jesus to tell them exactly what the parable meant. Jesus, always wanting His true followers to understand, would expound upon the meaning and allow them to have their eyes truly opened.
One most famous account of Jesus doing this is The Parable Of The Sower which appears in Mark 4:1-20. To me this is a remarkable story because it talks about sharing the Gospel and the response that is seen among those that hear. It was a preparation piece I believe for Jesus’ disciples. They would see many times while Jesus was alive a varying spectrum of responses to the life and work of Christ. It was preparation for each one in their own life and ministry because every disciple, minus Judas Iscariot, would preach to many after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. It also applies to our lives today as we understand how we respond to the Gospel and how those around us respond. There is really a condition of the heart that exists within each person who hears the Word.
In laying out today’s blog, I want to unpack the four types of soil in which the sower plants seed. I must admit that I have borrowed here from other preachers I have heard in the past speak on this very topic. You see, the sower in the parable is Jesus, the seed being planted is the Word of God or Gospel and the condition of the soil is a reflection of the condition of the heart for each person who hears. It is those 4 conditions I want to examine today:
1. A heart along the path
Some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.
These are the ones along the path where the word is sown: when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes the word sown in them. Mark 4:4,15
This first condition is an interesting one. Nowhere does it mention the seed actually taking root or being allowed to grow. The seed has been scattered and at least been heard. But from there, nothing has happened. It seems in falling along a path, the heavy traffic is too much to allow the seed to get into good soil. A well-worn path has no place for a seed to grow: it will either be trampled or in this case, the birds will snatch it up. Perhaps you know someone like this and it is frustrating to you because you know they have heard the Gospel message yet there is no visible response to it. Instead, they have allowed themselves to be deceived and Satan through his masterful work of distraction, has taken the seed and removed it (Satan is the bird in this case). In this scenario, it seems the best we can do is pray and ask the Lord to remove areas of blindness that would keep the seed from further rooting in and being able to grow.
2. A heart on rocky ground
Other seed fell on rocky ground where it didn’t have much soil, and it sprang up right away, since it didn’t have deep soil. When the sun came up, it was scorched, and since it didn’t take root, it withered.
And these are the ones sown on rocky ground; when they hear the word, immediately they receive it with joy. But they have no root in themselves; they are short-lived. When affliction or persecution comes because of the word they immediately stumble. Mark 4:5-6,16-17
This type of soil is different from the first type in that there is an opportunity for the seed to grow: soil actually exists and the seed can be planted. The problem is the rocks within the soil; both above and below. Rocky soil is not conducive to growth. The initial growth that occurs is spontaneous and very much on the surface. It has nowhere else to go because there is no root beneath the surface. There is no root system below to feed the growth above. You probably can think of someone else in your life who has this heart condition. They hear the Gospel and are overjoyed to receive it and accept new life in Christ. But the “rocks” soon cause this decision to wither away. Difficulties in life…maybe a death, divorce, repetitive patterns of sin, etc all cause the growth to stagnate and die. Once again, if you have a loved one or friend in this spot, the best thing you can do is pray and bring wise counsel hoping that the condition of their heart will deepen and allow them not to stay shallow in their faith.
3. A heart surrounded by thorns
Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it didn’t produce a crop.
Others are sown among thorns; these are the ones who hear the word, but the worries of this age, the seduction of wealth, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word and it becomes unfruitful. Mark 4:7,18-19
As I read this condition, I question whether or not any seed actually takes root. It seems as though Jesus is saying just like seed along the path, the seed fell but it didn’t get into any soil and therefore, nothing had a chance to grow. This is a unique condition seemingly because there is no opportunity to grow when thorns are prevalent. Much like the Rich Young Ruler, entrance into the Kingdom of God was next to impossible because of the “thorns” he was unwilling to surrender to Christ. We have the same thorns today and maybe you know of someone who has no need for Christ because life is good with everything they already have. The “worries of this age, seduction of wealth and desires for other things” are all stumbling blocks to ever really hearing the words of Jesus. We can pray that a person in this position is somehow brought to that crisis point in life where they see their need for a Savior. This is not to pray for something bad to happen, but simply for an opportunity for the seed to get through amongst all the thorns and for the soil to be ready to receive it.
4. A heart in fertile soil
Still others fell on good ground and produced a crop that increased 30, 60, and 100 times what was sown.
But the ones sown on good ground are those who hear the word, welcome it, and produce a crop: 30, 60, and 100 times what was sown. Mark 4:8,20
This last heart condition and this last soil is truly good ground. It is a farmer’s dream and it is a place where he knows the soil will produce a good crop. And that is the point as Jesus ends this parable: the word is not only heard and welcomed but it also brings a return. You see, the word was heard to some extent in each of the other conditions. On the rocky ground, it was received and took root, albeit shallow. But in none of the other cases did any sort of return or fruit appear. This is the place where I hope you and I both land. If I may be so bold, if we have heard the truth of the Gospel and are living as though it is reality, we must bear fruit.

This blog today has more of a devotional-type focus and I’d encourage to go back over Mark 4 and read this account and then consider how it applies to you. Perhaps you are in soil that is not good and you need to take steps to deepen and enrich the condition of your heart. Perhaps you know exactly where someone else is at in your life and from reading this, you are convicted to pray and even confront them in love (key words being “in love”). From there, you must ask God to work in their heart in only the way He can. Finally, you might be someone hearing about the need to “increase the crop.” You’ve been praying for awhile to understand what that looks like in your life. It might be that God is calling you to start a Bible study. It might be inviting your neighbor to church. Hey, it might even be something crazy like starting a blog and sharing with others about what God is showing you (take it from me, that’s really not that crazy!). Whatever it is, even reading this right now you are convicted by a nagging feeling that God is calling you to take a step of faith. If that is you, I want to pray with you and encourage you in any way that I can. Please know that the condition of your heart is ripe and ready if you are sensing these things. God will be faithful to bring the increase.

I love digging into God’s word with you each week! I hope this type of study is something you enjoy and from time to time, this blog allows me just to “preach” a little and bring out some truths as God shows them to me.
Please be in touch!

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