“Receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls”
This Wednesday night, I happened to pull out the lesson about the Sower and the Seeds to teach to our Summit Bible Club because of the connection to harvest time (Matthew 13:3; Mark 4:3; Luke 8:5). Little did I know that I needed to hear the lesson as much as, probably more than, the kids needed it. The lesson was very simple, but so difficult to hear. The seed is the Word, the soil is us, our hearts. I began a discussion with the elementary children about the kinds of hearts/soil there are. It struck me as it has before in different ways that all believers and unbelievers are receiving God’s Word. God desires it to grow and produce spiritual fruit. God wants to produce spiritual fruit in me. This concept is convicting to me. Challenging. Essential.
The Seed is the Word of God
“Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God” (Luke 8:11).
I love the Bible. Whenever God’s Word is taught or read, it is like seed being scattered by the sower. It will go out and will land where it will. A lot of people have heard the Word of God. Probably most in America have heard at least some of it. Why then, are so many living in sin and despair? That Word is powerful. In just one Book, there is enough power to point a sin-sick world to spiritual life and health. Nothing on earth is able to change hearts. The preacher can’t by the sheer power of his personality. A mother can’t change a child’s heart even if she does everything right. A president can’t turn the peoples’ hearts to God even if he is a mature believer doing God’s will honestly and properly.
Only God’s Word can change a heart. So we must be busy about proclaiming it and living what it says.
The Soil on the Wayside is the Destructive Heart
“Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved” (Luke 8:12).
What kind of soil are you? Are you one who hears the Word, but you are already on a path of destruction? This is the heart that is in the path far away from the good soil. It is too close to Satan, that bird of prey, who snatches away the truth. I think of ungodly distractions and vices like drugs, alcohol, sex, etc. A lifestyle that is destroying you will snatch away God’s healing truth faster than any other thing in the world. The Word is there and available, but the pathway where the birds are is the heart who is right where Satan wants her to be.
This is the broad path that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13). According to Luke 8:12, this person is not saved, and unless something drastic happens it is very unlikely he will escape eternal destruction. The whole world will go over that cliff, and will you follow them? Don’t let Satan snatch away your opportunity to be transformed by God’s Word.
The Rocky Soil is a Hardened Heart
“They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away” (Luke 8:13).
What kind of soil are you?
“Not all true believers are equally as productive, but from every genuine Christian’s life, there will be some evidence of spiritual fruit”1 “It is shocking to realize that three-fourths of the seed did not bear fruit. Jesus did not describe an age of great harvest, but one in which the Word would be rejected. He was not impressed with the “great multitudes” that followed Him, for He knew that most of the people would not receive His Word within and bear fruit. Fruit is the test of true salvation (Matt. 7: 16).2
Weirsbe calls this person an emotional / shallow hearer, and I would add to that thought of emotionalism, that this rocky soil can be one that is simply hard to the things of God. Maybe he goes to church out of duty because it’s a good moral thing to do. It feels religious to go to church. When you hear God’s Word in church, or a Bible class, or home, or school, are you really listening? Or not really? You are the rocky soil. Yes, it all sounds good, and you agree. Maybe you even sing special music or play an instrument for the church. You listen to the sermons and Sunday school lessons. You sing the songs; you give prayer requests; you give in the offering, etc. But you aren’t really loving and learning and trying to obey God’s Word. I think there are a lot of Christians sitting in the pews at church, children, teens, and adults alike, who just suffer through the service, begrudging the Holy Spirit from doing his work in your heart. This is quenching the Holy Spirit.
This begs the question, then, if a person responds this way to the Bible every time he hears it and is never moved by it… does he really have true faith? James has harsh things to say in his epistle and he rebukes a person like this. He questions whether this kind of faith is true faith (James 2:14). The rhetorical question has an answer: Faith without works (fruit) is dead (James 2:17). Some serious introspection is needed if you see yourself in the rocky soil.
The Thorny Soil is the Distracted Heart
“And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it” (Luke 8:7).
What kind of soil are you? The soil that is overrun by thorns is choked by the cares of this world. If this kind of heart is persistent in its distractions and never can be shaken out of it to focus on spiritual matters, then the validity of her salvation is brought into question. This person has so many things to do! Community events, hobbies, parenting, sports. Maybe she’s a workaholic who is busy chasing the American Dream. Stopping to read the Bible is too much of a jolt in the schedule. Church is an add-on. I know families who are so involved in their children’s academic schedules that church will easily be skipped in lieu of a big game or recital.
The crowded heart (vv. 7, 18– 19) pictures the person who receives the Word but does not truly repent and remove the “weeds” out of his or her heart. This hearer has too many different kinds of “seeds” growing in the soil— worldly cares, a desire for riches, a lust for things— and the good seed of the Word has no room in which to grow. To change the image, this person wants to walk the “broad way” and the “narrow way” at the same time (Matt. 7: 13– 14) and it cannot be done.”3
The Good Soil is the true believer
“And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred” (Mark 4:8).
What kind of soil are you? Have you received that implanted Word? Praise the Lord! If you can look back on your life and see growth and fruit, then you are the good soil. A believer will see the fruits of the Spirit in her life: love, joy, peace, kindness, gentleness, long-suffering, patience, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). A believer loves spiritual things. She loves going to church, singing songs of praise and thankfulness. She tells others of this peace that the world cannot give (John 14:27). She can’t wait to open her Bible in the morning because that’s a relaxing and encouraging time with her Lord. Nothing would take precedent over fellowshipping and worshiping and serving with brothers and sisters in Christ, not to mention participation in the ordinances of God’s church. No hobby, or worthy cause, or extra rest, or recital, or sports event would have priority over spiritual pursuits. A true believer is a beautiful sight!
The Command to Cultivate
I do think that true Christians can veer off the faithful path and forget to cultivate our hearts to produce much fruit. We call this a carnal heart or backsliding. Only God knows whether there is true faith in this case, but it is not what God desires for the believer. If we forget to nurture and till and water, our good soil can begin to look like the hardened rocky soil filled with thorny weeds. We are responsible to be that good soil.
I recently read in James 1:21, “Receive with meekness the implanted Word.” James doesn’t stop there. He goes on to say, “be doers of the Word, and not hearers only.” He talks to the believer about true religion in James 1:25-27 and what a true believer does and doesn’t do. From charitable works, to impartiality, to controlling my tongue. James tells us about how to be the good soil throughout his whole epistle.
This is where I am convicted as a believer. I can be pretty thorny. From daily cares with parenting, health concerns, keeping up appearances, job pressures, educational stress. Or perhaps it is …ahem, political debates or secular community involvement, or hobbies. All things that at are part of this life, but do not produce spiritual fruit. Is this my heart? A thorny heart? Do I cultivate weeds in my heart? Do I go through life refreshed by God’s Word daily? Or am I wincing at all of the sharp pokes at me from outside of His will? I’ve used up all of my energy on things that were not in God’s plan for me that week, things that didn’t have any eternal value. I confess I have been thorny and distracted. Ah, my heart is grieved by this sin of mine! Those are days when I’m acting more like an unbeliever that an true disciple of Jesus.
You say you go to church, but is the Word landing on a stony heart? You don’t really love it or take it to heart. Or a thorny heart, who has let the cares of this world choke out any fruit that God wants to cultivate in you? Are you in a good place in your life? Or are you on Satan’s path where the birds are just snatching away any words from the preacher’s mouth? You are caught up in a lifestyle that is totally ungodly and destructive that even coming to church to hear a few verses preached is of little value? Has the world and it’s lies filled your heart do much that the hostility toward God just snatches away the truth as soon as it falls in your path? That is a dangerous place to be.
Rather cultivate and fertilize your heart to be ready to let the Word sink down into your heart and stretch its nutrients through the roots into your heart. How can you grow if you do not read the Word? How can there be spiritual fruit if you don’t love church and strive to be there? How can you witness or disciple to become one of the family of God if you don’t love the brethren (1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:14; 2 Thess. 1:3) and you avoid being around them?
Have you tended the soil? You say you love God and His Word. Have you RECEIVED with meekness the implanted Word? Religiously fertilize it with prayer and godly disciplines. Then love what you hear. Let God do that secret work in your heart that comes from having a yielded heart to the Holy Spirit and the Word.
I don’t believe it was by chance that I read James today or that at Thanksgiving time I focused on a sowing and reaping lesson for kids. God has led in that and I must continue pulling up weeds and turning over the dry soil to make way for the Holy Spirit and His Word to produce fruit.
- Wiersbe, Warren W.. The BE Series Bundle: The Gospels: Be Loyal, Be Diligent, Be Compassionate, Be Courageous, Be Alive, and Be Transformed (The BE Series Commentary) (Kindle Locations 4574-4575). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition.
- ibid. (Kindle Locations 1480-1482).
- ibid. (Kindle Locations 4569-4572).