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How's the Seed of the Word Growing in You?
"As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty." - Matthew 13:23, ESV
In His explanation of the Parable of the Sower (or Soils), Jesus identifies four possible responses to God's word. The sower is the same and the seed remains the same. The difference is made by the reception, by the soil.
1. The Path: The Word of God is preached or the Gospel is shared and there is no response whatsoever. In this case, Jesus says that the devil has come along and snatched the Word from the hearer before it could find any place in the heart or mind. Have you ever wondered about people who can hear the same Gospel message as you and yet never respond? "In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." - 2 Cor. 4:4, ESV
2. The Rocky Ground: Rocky ground has very shallow soil on top of hard rocks. These people respond with quick enthusiasm for the Word but then they fall away just as quickly. They lack the depth of commitment necessary to endure hardship. The Bible has some sobering words for this kind of person: "For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt." - Hebrews 6:4-6, ESV
3. The Thorny Ground: This is the hardest, most convicting soil type for most Christians. We can all identify with this, to some extent, right? These are people who receive the Word with joy and who start to see the Word grow in their lives only to be choked out. What chokes out the word? The cares of this world and the deceitfulness of wealth. We can be choked by concerns or by riches. But the key here is that the Word bears no fruit. Signs of life? Yes, but limited. Fruit? None. It is the fruitful Christian who is a true disciple: "If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples." - John 15:8-9, ESV
4. The Good Soil: This is what we all long to be, right? Or do we? Here's some good news: If you sincerely desire to be this soil and to have this kind of response to the Word, that's a good sign that you are, in fact, this kind of soil. Keep in mind that different kinds of good soil yield different levels of fruit, but they all bear fruit. What is the fruit? Well, we would automatically think of the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5, right? That's good, but so is the fruit of obedience, of love for one another, of earnestness, of desire for the glory of God, etc.
The good soil should not be confused with the good life. Just because the Christian life is hard for you doesn't mean that your heart isn't good soil. Remember the pruning of God can hurt: "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit." - John 15:1-2
So, who can make our hearts the good soil they need to be? Only the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the vine and the father is the vinedresser, but the Holy Spirit is the soil-tiller, the ground-preparer. Pray for Him to make Your heart what it needs to be.
Prayer Based on Psalm 31:
I need a sense of urgency about life, I know I am secure in You, for You are my Rock of Refuge and my Strong Fortress. But I also know my own struggle against sin, doubt, fear, temptation and lethargy. Have mercy on me and let me never be put to shame!
Be gracious to me and to all of Your people in our distress, whatever that distress may be. Relieve and rescue, redeem and ransom, lead and guide and deliver and save us, O God of our Salvation!
"But I trust in you, O Lord;
I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hand;
rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!" - vv. 14-15
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