Friday, November 9, 2012

What Can Grow in Your Heart?



Commenting on my last post on the cornfield, a faithful reader raised an interesting question about the parable of the sower (Mark 4:1-20; Matthew 13:1-22). Does the seed (Word) planted in rocky ground or among thorns represent the beliefs of those who were saved and then turned away from God, or the beliefs of those who were never truly born again?

This is a crucial issue, for how we respond to the Good News of the Gospel is the most important decision anyone can make, one that will affect our eternal destiny. Those who repent from their sins and place their trust in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15) as the only way to Heaven (John 14:6)  will spend eternity with Him in glory, and those who reject this truth face eternal punishment in hell.

In this parable, Jesus uses the sower to represent one who spreads God’s Word; the seed as a symbol of the Word itself, and the soil as the state of the heart of the one who hears the Word. Mark 4 and Matthew 13 have nearly identical accounts of the parable and its explanation, emphasizing the importance and veracity of this passage in Scripture.

Jesus describes four conditions of the soil, or of the heart, when confronted with the Word. If the seed falls alongside the furrow that the farmer has prepared, birds will eat the seed before it can even germinate (Mark 4:4). This represents the person who hears the Word but is immediately distracted by one of Satan’s lies (Mark 4:15), which replaces the truth of God’s Word. Clearly, this person rejected the Word and was not saved by hearing it  

The second condition of the heart is like that of stony ground (Mark 4:5-6). Seeds planted here sprout quickly because they are in shallow earth, but the rocky ledge beneath the seed prevents it from rooting. In the heat of the sun, the shoot withers away because it has no root to nourish it with water.

By using the word “likewise” in His explanation of the stony ground (Mark 4:16-17), right after He explains the seed sown by the wayside, Jesus implies that the person whose heart is rocky ground also undergoes no permanent change after hearing the Word. They react at first with gladness, but the Word has not taken root in their heart, and the Holy Spirit has not indwelled them because they “have no root in themselves.”

Such a person might be pleased to hear that Heaven could await them, but they do not repent of their sins, trust Christ as their Lord and Savior, or enter into a personal relationship with Christ. We speak of such a person as having a “head knowledge,” but not a “heart knowledge” of the Gospel. They may call themselves Christians and may join a church, but if it becomes politically incorrect or dangerous to do so, they will renounce the “faith” that they never had in the first place (Mark 4:17).

They may even believe that Jesus lived, died and rose from the dead, but that truth does not change their life in any meaningful way – they are not a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). They could be happy with the idea that Christ died so that they could have a “get out of hell free” card, but they see no reason to labor for His Kingdom.

A Biblical example of such a person could be King Agrippa, whom Paul “almost persuaded” to be a Christian (Acts 16:28). Sadly, you can’t be almost saved any more than you can be almost pregnant, and a person who is almost Christian is doomed to eternity in hell.

The third type of soil or heart condition described by Christ is the thorny soil, in which the thorns rapidly overtake the good seed of the Word, choking it so that it cannot grow and bear fruit (Mark 4:7). In this situation, the Word never has the chance to affect the hearer, because worldly cares, such as the love of money or power, crowd it out (Mark 4:18-19).

The rich young ruler, for example, asked Jesus how he could inherit eternal life, but it was clear that he believed he was righteous in his own merit and that wealth was his god, leaving no room for the true Savior (Luke 18:18-25). Jesus explained that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24; Mark 10:25).

Another example was Judas, who may have latched on to Jesus because he thought the Messiah would overthrow Roman rule, but his greed (John 12:6) and desire for military power outweighed any alliance he felt to Jesus. The devil entered into Judas (John 13:2), and he was described as the “son of perdition,” (John 17:12) confirming that he was never saved.

Jesus will disown those who hear His Word but have hearts like stony or thorny soil, even though they may have done good works in His name and may even have shared the Scripture with others:

Matthew 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

It is not enough to believe that Jesus was a good man, that He died for our sins, or even that He rose from the dead. It is not enough to call ourselves Christians, join a church, or be baptized. We must trust Him, and Him alone, with childlike faith and love (Matthew 19:14; Mark 10:14-15), as our Lord and Savior.

As our pastor likes to say, the distance between knowing about Christ and knowing Him as Savior, Spouse, Brother and Friend could be as little as 15 inches – that length representing the distance from head to heart. Only when we accept His precious gift of salvation by grace alone through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9) will the Holy Spirit of Christ indwell our heart (Ephesians 1:13-14).

That state of heart is represented by the good soil in the parable of the sower, in which the seed of the Word grows to maturity and allows the hearer to bear fruit in an increase 30 to 100 times over the seed that was sown (Mark 4:8,20). Ask any farmer what it takes to have good soil, and he will answer that it must be plowed up to remove rocks and weeds and to allow nourishing air and water to penetrate it.

Similarly, our hearts must be thoroughly worked over before we ache and groan with despair over our sinfulness, and before we realize that without our Savior, we can do nothing (John 15:5). Trials and heartache often precede coming to the end of ourselves, making our hearts fertile and ready to receive His saving grace.

The good soil is the only one of the four heart conditions that bears fruit, confirming that this is the only condition resulting in true salvation, in being born again (John 3:3; 1 Peter 1:23). Jesus tells us that we can know others by the fruit they bear (Matthew 7:16-20).

Although we are saved by grace through faith and not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9), we are saved not to sit idly by waiting to go to Heaven, but to do good works, because faith without works is dead (James 2:20,26).

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Once we are genuinely saved through faith and the Holy Spirit has taken root in our heart, we can never lose our salvation (Romans 8:35-39) even though we may go through barren, rocky or thorny patches. Born-again Christians may grow cold in their faith, backslide and become disobedient, or become unproductive for Him.

Nonetheless, He will never leave nor forsake His children (Hebrews 13:5), and He is there waiting like the prodigal son’s Father to run to us and shower us with love once we take the first step back to Him (Luke 15:20). If we repent of our sins, He will renew our faith and revive our hearts (1 John 1:9; Psalm 51:8-12).

May our hearts be like good soil, ready to cultivate His Word and nurture our growing faith to maturity, so we can sow more seed and bear much fruit!

© 2012 Laurie Collett

Star Blog at:


 

50 comments:

  1. Dear Laurie,
    That is a very interesting and thought provoking post. I can see where you are coming from in regards of the four type of heart, represented by the four surfaces on which the seed falls onto, the seed being the Word of God.
    The case of the two "intermediate" grounds - the rocky and the weed-grown, has caused me to think on this matter.
    Throughout my life as a believer I had come across people who were regular goers in my church, but have now not only left the church, but have also abandoned the faith - not wanting to do with anything spiritual anymore, accompanied by a hardening of the heart. Yet they were the ones who had rebuked me when I got entangled with sin or had shown doubts. Then again, and this is particularly true with testimonies given during baptisms, how one grew up in the faith, then turned away and becoming hostile, then coming back to the faith and requests baptism, with the understanding that the candidate wants everyone present to know that he or she means business with Jesus.
    And I have read of other very similar stories elsewhere. The issue is, were they saved in the first place, that is before falling away? Or were they saved the first time, lost their salvation, then got it back again? Or were they saved only on the second time round?
    We also need to understand that all of Jesus' teaching, including the parable of the seed, were delivered mainly to Israel before his crucifixion and resurrection, when Israel was still under the Law of Moses. In fact, I believe that the Sermon on the Mount of Matthew 5-7 was to reveal what the Law was really about, and the impossibility of keeping it without fail in our own strength throughout our lives.
    Which leads me to your statement, which is universal among all evangelical Christians: to turn from our sins and to trust in Jesus to be saved. I have found the phrase "turning from our sins" to be something of a stumbling block, I think because such a phrase brings attention to myself instead of on Jesus. Whenever I look at myself, I see myself as under the Law, which brings knowledge of sin. For example, my anger is revealed to others by swearing, I have sexual desires other than my wife, I desire other things above God, and so on. I wonder whether this was why Paul wrote that in himself no good thing dwells within, it is for Jesus Christ that he lives. It seems to me that to say that the word "Repent" means "turning from sin" in a universal sense is a burden I'm not able to bear, for we still sin as a believer to a greater or lesser degree every day.
    Looking through the Book of Acts, beginning with Peter's first sermon, the emphasis seem to focus on the Resurrection of Christ. This is repeated over and over again thoughout the book and into the letters. If so, the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ has changed everything. The word "repent" - Greek: Metaneo, means a change of mind, in this case changing one's mind from not believing to believing in the Resurrection, therefore the proof of being the Messiah. If a person believes, especially for the first time, then he has already repented. In other words, repentance and faith is one and the same grace.
    This is a long comment and I can go on. But I hope you can see what I'm trying to say.
    God bless,
    Frank.

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    1. Dear Frank,

      Thanks so much for your thought-provoking comment. The Law cannot save anyone; it is merely a mirror showing us how sinful we are. I agree that salvation does not mean the saved person will never sin again. Paul, probably the most faithful and obedient saint ever to walk the earth, described his daily battle with sin, and his doing what he didn't want to do (sin) and not doing what he wanted to do (obey). John said that if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.

      To repent from our sins means to turn away from our sins; to try to refrain from sinning, and to be grieved and ask for forgiveness when we do sin. None of this is possible in our own flesh; it is the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit once we are saved. So it's not a work that we do to be saved; it occurs through the Spirit as we are saved.

      We are saved by grace through faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. His suffering and death were necessary to pay the price or the punishment owed for our sins. This satisfies our holy and just God because we become identified with Christ at the moment of salvation just as a wife becomes identified with her husband at the moment of marriage. At that moment he becomes responsible for her debts, just as Christ can legally satisfy our sin debt because we are His betrothed.

      So, as you say, faith in His death, burial and resurrection is sufficient, and I think that faith implies that we also believe that we are sinners in need of a Savior.

      I think there will be many surprises in glory, and many of those whom you describe, outwardly obedient and zealous to point out sins, will be shocked to hear Him say "I never knew you." As you say, Jesus' ministry was primarily to the Jews, and the Pharisees were often represented in His parables. They were outwardly religious but their hearts were far from Christ and they did not even realize who He was.

      Thanks as always for your in-depth comments, and thanks again for inspiring this post!

      God bless,
      Laurie

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    2. Dear Laurie,
      Thanks for your reply to my comment. As I was composing it, I was concerned that a difference of opinion might have developed between us, something I did not want to happen.
      I just want to re-assure you that I find all your blogs uplifting, a source of encouragement and some very good teaching, especially on the Trinitarian aspects of what we see and do in life. I am also convinced that God speaks through your articles, and I always look forward to your next blog.
      And I thank you so much for your comment on my last blog on Travel. It was so uplifting.
      I hope you have a good week ahead and may God bless you richly.
      Frank.

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    3. Dear Frank,
      You are most welcome, and I did not perceive the interchange through the posts and comments as a difference of opinion, bur rather that we were both seeking to clarify a difficult passage of Scripture. I think that both of us were also trying to reconcile "salvation by faith plus nothing" with the evangelical belief of repentance as part of salvation.

      I was saved as an adult, and my own experience was overwhelmingly that of being embraced by the Savior's love, rather than on focusing on my own sins. However, His forgiveness and His gift of imputed righteousness were and are inseparable from His love. I have written about my salvation testimony here:

      http://savedbygracebiblestudy.blogspot.com/p/my-testimony-in-his-arms.html

      I always look forward to your comments on my blog because they often stimulate thought-provoking discussions such as these. I really appreciate your insights into Scripture and life, as expressed not only in your comments but especially in your own blog, and I truly value your opinions and encouragement.

      May you have a blessed week in Him!
      Laurie

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  2. What an incredible word!! Enjoyed this, thanks...♥

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    1. Thanks so much, Susan, for your visit and sweet comment!
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  3. This is a great post, and types can be indicative of different points in our lives too. As we grow closer to God and develop our relationship, our 'ground' becomes better for the planting. :)

    Thank you for an awesome post.

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    1. Excellent point, mail4rosey! His Word should continue to grow in our hearts every day, as our hearts are cultivated by the Holy Spirit. Thanks so much for your kind words & thought-provoking comment, & God bless!
      Laurie

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  4. The most important thing is question, what is the rocky land. Sometimes people truly go to God, pray and repent, but in their life there comes a day, which shows, that they don't believe. Of course it is parable, so we can't take it literally - we know, that God can change stone heart into live heart. Sometimes people stop trust God because they had different visions of Him, which weren't right or because people from their church were bad.
    So we must be very responsible, if we are God's children.
    Greetings and blessings to You! :)

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    1. Amen, Zim! We must not be a stumbling block to the faith of others -- we must be a good testimony and lead by our example.
      God bless you,
      Laurie

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  5. Excellent post, Laurie.

    As you point out about the stony ground, the word of God never penetrates the person's heart, all the results are purely surface decoration and falls away with no lasting effect.

    In the thorny ground, a root is established, penetrating the soil, and the plant continues to grow, it just never attains it's potential.

    The stony ground represents people who are unwilling to relinquish or give up their own ways, to repent if you will, preventing Christ from replacing their sin with his righteousness.



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    1. Excellent points, dfish! Thanks as always for your kind words and thought-provoking comment.
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  6. What an incredible post, looking forward to following your blog via GFC.

    Erin
    http://travelingkidsonthego.blogspot.com/

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    1. Thanks so much, Erin, for your sweet comment and for following! I'm following you back!
      Blessings,
      Laurie

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  7. What a beautiful and inspiring post :) So happy that you linked up to our Super Sunday Sync hop this week so that I was able to find your lovely blog! I'm hoping to include God in my daily routine more than I am at the moment {life gets in the way, and that's no excuse}, and I think your blog will help with that. Thanks again for following and linking up to the hop--now following your blog, too :)

    http://nuggetonabudget.blogspot.com

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    1. Wow, Kera, I am so blessed to hear that you enjoyed the post and are following to help in your daily walk with Him! Spending time in His Word and in prayer should be our highest priority, and He rewards it in so many ways!
      Love in Him,
      Laurie

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  8. Interesting and inspiring post. Thanks for sharing at Sweet Saturday :)

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    1. Thanks, Jessica, for your kind comment & for hosting!
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  9. What a very good post, and a lot to think about. Congratulations on your Star Blog this week!

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    1. Thanks so much, Jen, for your visit & sweet comment!
      Love in Him,
      Laurie

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  10. I am enjoying your thoughts here and the dialogue between you and Frank. What a lovely thing is the body of Christ.

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    1. Amen, Laura! Iron sharpens iron, and it is a blessing to be part of the body of Christ. How wonderful that He has given us an Internet in these last days to be able to connect with believers across the globe. Frank lives in the UK, & I'm in Florida!
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  11. What a great post! I love how you broke that passage down,and made it so applicable. Thanks for linking up with us at
    Courtship Connection!
    Kathie

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    1. Thanks so much, Kathie, for your kind comment and for hosting! I appreciate your encouragement.
      Blessings,
      Laurie

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  12. i read this passage in mark this morning. thank you for helping flesh it out for me, friend. e.

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    1. That is awesome, Emily! With God there are no coincidences.
      Love in Him,
      Laurie

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  13. "Those who repent from their sins and place their trust in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15) as the only way to Heaven (John 14:6) will spend eternity with Him in glory, and those who reject this truth face eternal punishment in hell." This is truth! So often, people try to sneak in by (as the saying goes)'the skin of their teeth'. It also says in Revelations 3:16 that if we are 'lukewarm(in our faith)--neither hot nor cold--I(the Lord) am about to spit you out of my mouth.' He requires our total heart!

    Thanks for sharing this!
    In His Lo♥e, Ann @ Christ in the Clouds

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    1. Amen, Ann! May we be obedient to speak the truth in love, and be passionate for Him so that we may hear Him say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant!"
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  14. Good stuff, this post! And I couldn't help getting caught up in some of the discussion in comments. On the issue of turning from our sin, the big sin for me was skeptical unbelief. Is that not perhaps the mother of all sins? To turn from it, I needed His help, and that prayer, "I believe, Help Thou my unbelief!" brought it! Result: not instant perfection (and sure not there yet) but a total turnaround, heading in the right direction: toward Him, more and more. So blessed to be so rescued!

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    1. Thanks, Sylvia! I agree with you, and wrote a post some time ago about "Pride and Unbelief," which I believe are the parents of all sin. You cite a beautiful verse and an effective prayer! Until we reach glory we will continue to sin -- even Paul struggled with this -- but praise God that He does not demand our perfection because His Son has done it all. He rewards our direction toward Him -- a blessing indeed!
      Love in Him,
      Laurie

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  15. So glad I found your wonderful blog. I am now a follower from Thursday Blog Hop

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    1. Welcome, Debra Ann -- I'm glad you found me too! Thanks so much for your comment & for following!
      God bless you,
      Laurie

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  16. I'm always blessed in my visits here. I love how you get deep into the word.

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    1. Thanks so much, Brandee! Your sweet comment and your beautiful writing are a blessing to me.
      Have a wonderful weekend!
      Laurie

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  17. Hi, I'm your newest follower from the weekend blog hop, would love for you to come by and follow back, and join my blog hop?
    Erica
    http://www.ericastartwalking.com/2012/11/im-blogger-girl-in-blogger-world-blog_16.html

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    1. Thanks, Erica, for following, commenting, and inviting me to the blog hop! I just linked up & am following you too!
      Happy Thanksgiving!
      Laurie

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  18. You have a wonderful blog!! and such a practical message! I'm your newest follower from the weekend blog hop - this is my blog if you wanted to follow back: godsgrowinggarden.com
    Thanks
    Angie

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    1. Welcome, Angie! Thanks so much for your sweet comment, for following, & for the invite! I'm following you back!
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  19. Thank you for sharing your blog with my NO RULES Weekend Blog Party :)) Happy to see you each weekend!

    Paula
    lifeasweknowitbypaula.blogspot.com

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    1. You're very welcome, Paula, & thanks for hosting & commenting!
      Have a blessed Thanksgiving!
      Laurie

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  20. Laurie. Thank you for linking up to the prairies this week. I love reading your sage teaching. You are so right about the heart to head. I really needed to read this this weekend and acknowledge that the trials in life are there not to defeat me but to strengthen me.

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    1. Amen, Michelle -- He works all things together, even trials, for our good and His glory! Thank you for your kind words of encouragement & for hosting.
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  21. Thank you for sharing at the Thursday Favorite Things hop xo

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    1. You're very welcome, Katherine, & thanks for hosting!
      Love in Him,
      Laurie

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  22. Great reflection! We always need to be looking at where we are going and if our faith has the place in our hearts that it should. It is a precious gift to be guarded and cultivated.

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    1. Beautifully said, Nicole! Thanks so much for your comment and for hosting, and may you and your family have a blessed Thanksgiving!
      Laurie

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  23. I really enjoyed reading this. The issue of "always saved" tends to come up in many circles and it's interesting to hear and read different opinions on it. The parable of the sower makes a lot of sense in this issue though.
    Found you at "On, In and Around"

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    1. Thanks so much, A Proverbs 31 Wife, for your visit & thought-provoking comment. I am so thankful that I'm not responsible for keeping my own salvation, but that I am firmly held in the double grip of my Savior's and Father's hand (John 10:28-29), and that nothing can separate me from His love (Romans 8:33-39).
      God bless,
      Laurie

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