The Parables of Christ: Conditions of the Heart
And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.“
"Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”
As Jesus began to exclusively use parables in His ministry, it’s not by coincidence that He started with the Parable of the Sower. Jesus conveyed to His disciples that the dullness of hearts would prevent many from embracing the truth (Matthew 13:11-17). The parable reinforces this reality. Conditions of the heart are linked directly to seeking and perceiving the Kingdom and its message.
Although the parable uses the image of a sower, its spiritual focus is on the quality of the various soils. As such, it should be noted that comprehending the Word of God (seed) is not contingent upon the skill of the deliverer (sower). The Word of God is unchanging and perfect. Only if the deliverer alters God’s Word would the distribution be of poor quality. Thus, the parable has everything to do with the receiver’s heart (soil). It is the heart alone that can embrace the Word. Let’s briefly examine the heart conditions Jesus describes in the parable.
The roadside is hard, as it has been trampled on by worldly belief systems and sin. When Jesus utilized this imagery, we have to keep in mind that he was engaging a religious culture, not an atheistic society. People with the roadside heart reject the truth in favor of darkness. They have no interest in seeking to understand the Word of God. The hard hearts of the Pharisees are prime examples. Consequently, people with this condition model the fools in Proverbs 1:7 which states, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
Jesus goes on to explain that Satan snatches the Word away from these hearts. How does this happen? Satan uses lies (John 8:44). He comes as an angel of light
(2 Corinthians 11:14-15), and he uses false teachers to question the truth of God’s Word. Strategically, false gospels and belief systems embrace the philosophies of men. They allow people to cherish the darkness that they desire (John 3:19).
The rocky place is covered with thin soil. The described heart responds to the true Word of God immediately, but the response is superficial. Jesus even uses the word “joy” to describe the feelings of the shallow heart when initially receiving the Word. However, without deep roots, “belief only lasts for a while.” Emotion and excitement are no substitutes for true conversion and followership. Thus, after a time, the temporary believer falls away. Persecution and affliction expose bogus faith.
In John 8:31-32, Jesus states, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” A lifetime trend of continuation in Christ is key. Short-term faith is no true faith at all.
Seeds that fall into soil with thorns are eventually choked out and die. Hearts in this condition are consumed with wealth, cares, and pleasures. This is an example of a “double minded man, unstable in all of his ways” scenario (James 1:8).
The world system and its idols cannot be cherished while simultaneously embracing the Word of God. Like Jesus, the apostle John condemned worldliness with severity. He wrote, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).
Soils along the roadside, soils containing rocks, and soils filled with thorns will not produce fruit. However, good soil will not only receive the seed, but it will persevere in order to bear fruit. Jesus stated, “But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.” (Luke 8:15)
Only God Himself can prepare a heart to receive the Word. Human intentions and human will cannot come to saving faith; it requires the work of the Holy Spirit
(1 Corinthians 2:10-16). One must be born again (John 3:3). While our time on earth will see us stumble at times, the true follower will be persistent by relying on God and repenting.
Proclaiming God’s Word
A crucial lesson of the Parable of the Sower is that we should proclaim the Word of God to everyone around us. While we must never convey an altered gospel, our skill in delivering the true gospel is not responsible for conditions of the hearts receiving our message. Ultimately, the soil has to be prepared by God to receive the seed and bear fruit. If we, as sowers, distribute enough seed, then we will eventually throw seed into soil cultivated by the Lord.
So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
1 Corinthians 2:10-16
For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ.
For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end.