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Preparing the Soil of Our Own Heart

 

In all three of the synoptic gospels we have the parable of the sower and the seed or what might be termed the parable of the four soils (Matthew 13:5-8; Mark 4:3-8; Luke 8:5-8). The Lord teaches that the primary work of the interadvent age will be the sowing of the Word of God. The understanding of God’s message and corresponding fruitfulness in the life of the hearers will depend upon the receptivity of their hearts.

This parable no doubt explains why a person can sit under the sound teaching of God’s Word and not bear the desired fruit from this ministry. Likewise, it places the blame not on the sower or teacher of the Word but on the heart of the hearer. In fact, the sower of the good seed in the parable of the wheat and the tares is identified as Christ (Matthew 13:37). However, as God’s fellow-workers (1 Corinthians 3:9) do we play any role in not only preparing the way we sow the seed, but also preparing the soil? Certainly our greatest responsibility is in trusting God to prepare the soil of our own hearts. If God’s messenger refuses to give the truth he delivers an opportunity to bear its fruit in his life, the enemies of God use this deliberate inconsistency as an occasion to blaspheme God’s name (cf. Romans 2:17-24).

In studying the three accounts of this parable we are able to discern the key ingredients to the “good and honest heart” (Luke 8:15). The key to discerning these ingredients is noting the obstacles to fruitfulness that the parable presents. The first obstacle is Satan who is pictured as taking away the Word from one’s heart. The “good and honest heart” which “bears fruit with perseverance” (Luke 8:15) is one that daily lives in light of his authority over Satan. This is the prayer of Paul that all believers would know this in their daily experience (Ephesians 1:19-23). A second obstacle is tribulation and persecution that comes to one because of one’s identification with the Word. The good and honest heart is one that has learned to look at trials from a different perspective. A renewed mind rejoices at the benefits that come to one from a sovereign and good God through trials (Romans 5:2; 2 Corinthians 12:10; James 1:2) and the privilege of being identified with Christ’s sufferings (Philippians 3:10). A third obstacle is worry or the concerns of this world. While our Lord taught that worry and/or anxiety can accomplish nothing positive (Matthew 6:27), it certainly can have a destructive influence by choking God’s Word from bearing fruit. A good and honest heart has learned how to unburden his heart and appropriate Jesus’ rest for the soul (Philippians 4:6; 1 Peter 5:7; Matthew 11:29).

A fourth obstacle is called by Matthew the deceitfulness of riches (13:22). Luke refers to it as the pleasures of this life (8:14), and Mark adds “the desire for other things” (4:19). The good and honest heart is one that is not mastered by his desires but has learned the power of the cross to allow the Spirit of God to control and channel his desires and drives into obedience to a good, generous and holy God (Romans 6:11-14). It was Robert Murray McCheyne who said to pastors, “If Satan can make you a covetous minister, a lover of praise, of pleasure, of good eating, he has ruined your ministry.”

Our greatest responsibility in teaching God’s Word is no doubt preparing the soil of our own heart. God desires that we be fruitful (John 15:7) and will even lovingly discipline us to achieve it (Hebrews 12:11). The truth that we study and share is to bring us into a greater trust and submission to God that His Spirit can most freely work in us to produce His fruit (Galatians 5:22-23). We have an adversary (Ephesians 6:10-12) but also a God who is for us (Romans 8:31).

While much more could be said about other Scriptural insights to overcome these various obstacles of fruit-bearing presented in this parable, it is at least helpful to know some of the schemes of the adversary in attempting to choke God’s Word in our lives. We should expect the temptations to fear trials and to be intimidated by persecution, to let worry fill our hearts, and to let lusts and drives encourage us to submit to their control. However, one motivation for rejecting these temptations is the knowledge that they leave no room for the Word of God to have its freest course in our lives in bearing fruit that glorifies our God. As we prepare messages in this manner we are in tune with the Apostle who wrote, “We speak, no as pleasing man, but God who examines our hearts” (1 Thessalonians 2:4).