What’s the Condition of Your Heart? – Matthew 13:1-23

An excited little boy was telling his daddy about something that had happened to him that day. His daddy said, “Slow up, son, you are talking too fast!” The boy replied, “Oh, no, Daddy, I’m not talking too fast. You’re listening too slow!”
Are you listening?

It’s one thing to hear the Word of God, but listeners must receive the Word of God and let it take root in their life. In this post, we’ll focus on one of the most well-known parables in all of Scripture titled “The Parable of the Sower”. In this parable, Jesus describes four different types of “soil” which represent our hearts.

See Matthew 13:1-9

This is actually the first parable of Jesus recorded in Scripture and it kicks off a whole series of parables throughout the rest of Matthew’s gospel. The word parable means “to lay beside” and so it carries this idea of laying two things beside each other in order to teach a spiritual truth. So then, parables are stories that reveal truth. These stories were designed to not only be unforgettable, but also bring meaning to those who were serious about listening to the Lord. But for those who refused to listen, they were sometimes difficult to understand.

Let’s put this passage in its cultural context. While Jesus is teaching, it’s quite possible that there were some farmers nearby out in their fields doing some planting.  Jesus lays the foundation of this parable with something that they all understand, but then He moves into something that they don’t in order to reveal truth. Everyone back then understood how seed sowing worked. A farmer would have a leather pouch over his shoulders filled with seed and would walk down paths in his field slinging the seed out, much like we do when planting grass seed. This seed would end up in all sorts of soil, some good, and some not-so-good.

Seeds look lifeless, but inside is great potential. When you buy a packet of seeds, you’re not buying the dark little specks inside, you’re buying potential. You are buying the picture of the beautiful flowers or fruit on the package. And with the right soil, those seeds will realize their potential. The same can be said about the seed of the Word of God. There is amazing potential in that seed, but we must provide the right kind of soil for it to grow.

Which Soil Represents Your Heart?

I’ve been giving biblical messages since 1992, first as a youth minister, then as a pastor since 1996; over 30 years.  That’s a lot of teaching, but that’s also a lot of watching people listen to me teach! As I have looked out across this room, I see some people have their Bibles open; their pens and paper ready to fill in the notes. They are almost literally sitting on the edge of their seats waiting for a word from God. However, there are many others who are only casual listeners—they’re paying attention, but don’t really see the need to open their Bible or take notes. And there are others who are bored; they are yawning already. Their biggest concern at this very moment is “When is this going to be over?” Two people can hear the same message and one says, “Wow! God really spoke to me today!” While someone sitting next to them can scratch their head and only wonder what they meant.

How can there be so many different attitudes about the same experience? That’s what Jesus addressed in this parable. He described four different ways people receive His Word. And I believe all four of these attitudes are present in people’s hearts.

  1. Do I have a Hard Heart?

Jesus said some seeds fell on the pathway and the birds swooped down and stole the seed. This represents a person who is “hearing” the Word of God but go in one ear and out the other. God’s Word rolls off like water off a duck’s back. Most wouldn’t consider themselves to be a hard-hearted person, but they really aren’t interested in the Word of God. Their heart is like a pathway trampled down until the dirt is hard- packed. What you are hearing today may be entering your ears, but it certainly won’t enter your heart.

Jesus said there is a something going on right now, invisible to the human eye, which makes it even harder to receive the Word of God. He warned that Satan tries to “steal” the Word from people. Just as the birds flew away with the seed as soon as it landed on the pathway, the devil stands ready to try to steal the Word away from people as soon as they hear it. Don’t be surprised if you have trouble concentrating when you are reading the Bible or when you are hearing the Bible being taught. One of the enemy’s most effective strategies is distraction

 2. Do I Have a Shallow Heart?

This seed fell on rocky ground and started growing, but because there was no root, the plant withered under the heat of the sun. This represents someone with a shallow heart who hears the Word, but then forget it when they face the heat of everyday living. Jesus said these people receive the word with joy. They react with an emotional acceptance of the Word. They listen and they are happy to hear the Word. They will smile, shout “amen” and may even shed a few tears of joy when they heard the Word. But by Tuesday morning, they are downcast and defeated. The emotional boost is gone, so the commitment is gone.

This is a real warning to us about the danger of basing your Christian faith on our emotions. Some people think the reason for church is to get happy and they hope they can get enough happiness to last them through the week so they can come back the next week and get a refill.

As a pastor, it’s not my desire to only touch our emotions; I’m trying to build healthy strong Christians, fully devoted followers of Christ. That’s why I constantly feed us a steady diet of the God’s Word week after week.  We all love ice cream but if we ate it every meal, it would soon get old! Make sure you aren’t just coming to church for a thrill, that’s what Six Flags is for.

You may be wondering, “What’s wrong with an emotional faith? I want to feel good about God!” In this parable, the plant had no root, so when the heat came, there was no depth so it withered and died. When the heat gets turned up in your life you need more than just an emotional faith. An emotionally based faith won’t stand up when the thrill is gone. You need a faith that is rooted and grounded in the full counsel of God’s Word.

Some seed sprung up, but the thorns choked it out. There is a limited amount of moisture and nutrients in soil, so weeds and thorns compete with the good plants. This represents the kind of attitude that hears the Word, receives it, and it is watered and nurtured and the person begins to really grow as a Christian. I believe this person has a genuine desire to be a deeply rooted, maturing Christian. But somewhere along the way their growth process is interrupted. They allow their lives to become so crowded with other interests that the Word of God gets choked out. This person hears the Word and says, “I’m going to really apply this truth to my life this week.” But they allow other things to make it to the top of their agenda.

  1. Do I have a Fertile Heart?

Jesus saves the best for last, this is the only soil that actually bears any fruit. This heart not only catches the Word of God, he holds on to it.

Jesus said this person really HEARS the Word and understands it, as a result they multiply their influence a hundred times, sixty times, or thirty times. In other words, they are fruitful.

According to Jesus, fruit-bearing is the mark of a disciple:

By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples John 15:8).

In Galatians 5:22-23, we see that believers are to be fruit-bearers:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

We sometimes make a mistake in thinking this parable is only about four different people. But the truth is most of us experienced times when we were more or less receptive to God’s Word. I agree with one of the pastors and commentators I enjoy, Ray Stedman who wrote: “I used to read this story as though these various soils were four different kinds of people, who remained the same all through their lifetimes. Some were permanently hard-hearted, like the first example given; some were impulsive, some were full of concerns. But I have come to see that what our Lord is describing here is not four types of persons, but conditions of our heart at any given moment. Whenever the Word is being taught, people are in one condition or another, just as they are described to us here. We have all been calloused at times. We have all been impulsive in our reaction—emotional and shallow. We have all been overly concerned about other matters. And we have all had times of being open and responsive to the Word.”

So, the question to you is not which of these four people are you, but which attitude best describes the attitude of your heart toward God’s Word right now?



Message Audio/Video and Outline: https://upwards.church/watch-now/leander-campus-videos

Watch Messages: YouTube-Upwards Church

Facebook: Upwards Church

About dkoop

Lead Pastor of Upwards Church: Leander & Jarrell, TX
This entry was posted in Matthew - The Kingdom of Heaven and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s