Thursday, June 4, 2015

A Fruitful Heart

Jesus:  3 “Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seed. 4 As he scattered it across his field, some of the seed fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate it. 5 Other seed fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seed sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. 6 But the plant soon wilted under the hot sun, and since it did not have deep roots, it died. 7 Other seed fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants so they produced no grain. 8 Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted! . . . 14 The farmer plants seed by taking God’s Word to others. 15 The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message, only to have Satan come at once and take it away. 16 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 17 But since they do not have deep roots, they do not last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s Word. 18 The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear God’s Word, 19 but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced. 20 And the seed that fell on good soil represents those who hear and accept God’s Word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” Mark 4:3-8, 14-20 (NLT)

Mark 4 consists of a group of parables that focus on the issue of planting and sowing seeds. The first parable concerns Jesus’ parable of the sower and the different responses people make to God’s Word (Mark 4:3-8, 14-20; see also Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23; Luke 8:4-8, 11-15). In the parable of the sower, Jesus describes how the Kingdom of God begins in people’s lives. God’s Kingdom begins with the planting of seeds in the hearts of people (Matthew 13:19). God’s Word is the seed (Mark 4:14; Luke 8:11) and the sower is God’s servants or messengers who shares God’s Word with others (1 Corinthians 3:5-9). Jesus is the initial Sower of God’s Word. Jesus is the Word of God incarnate (human flesh) (John 1:1-5, 14). As the Word of God, Jesus is the sum of all that God wanted to say to humanity. After Jesus, the sower represents all servants and messengers who faithfully and genuinely plant and share God’s Word in the world (1 Corinthians 3:9). The various soils represent different kinds of hearts and their response to God’s Word from God’s servants. Essentially, the parable teaches there are four different heart responses to God’s Word: no response, emotional response, worldly response, and fruitful response. The most unusual feature of this parable is the abundant harvest of everyone that hears, accepts, and obeys God’s Word. Everyone who hears, accepts and obeys God’s Word with their whole heart produces an abundant harvest (spiritual fruit) – a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times (Mark 4:8, 20). The quantity of the harvest depends on the quality of the soil (heart). Jesus explained this parable so there is no doubt of the parable’s meaning (Mark 4:14-20).

First, the hard-hearted soil resists God’s Word and therefore Satan (the birds) snatches God’s Word away easily (Mark 4:4, 15). People who carelessly and recklessly open their hearts to all kinds of people and philosophies are in danger of developing hard hearts (see Proverbs 4:23; Hosea 10:12). Second, the shallow hearted soil is like thin soil on a rock (Mark 4:5-6, 16-17). Since there is no depth with thin soil, whatever is planted cannot last because it has no deep roots. These people represent the “emotional hearers” who joyfully and quickly accept God’s Word but they do not really understand the importance of faith and wholehearted obedience to God’s Word. Oftentimes, these emotional hearers accept God’s Word with great enthusiasm for several days or weeks; but when persecution, testing, and difficulties arise, the enthusiasm vanishes and they abandon God (see John 8:31-32). Third, the crowded hearted soil receives God’s Word. These hearers do not truly repent of their sins and wholeheartedly follow God (Mark 4:7, 18-19). Sadly, crowded heart hearers have too many different kinds of “seeds” growing in their hearts — worldly cares, a desire for riches, a lust for things. Thus, the good seed of God’s Word has no room to grow and flourish. In other words, people with crowded heart want to live and walk the “broad way” and the “narrow way” at the same time (Matthew 7:13-14). “Cares, riches, and the pleasures of this life” keep their soil from being fruitful. The person devoted to many pursuits cannot respond to Jesus' call to the Cross (Mark 8:34-38). Moreover, the people with the “crowded hearts” comes the closest to salvation, but they still do not bring forth good fruit or good deeds (Mark 4:19). This kind of belief is superficial and does not save. The book of James call this kind of hearts “dead” (James 2:17, 26) or “useless” (James 2:20). Lastly, the good soil represents true believers (Mark 4:8, 20). These people produce GOOD FRUIT of a changed life and a visible presence of God’s Holy Spirit (“love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”) (Galatians 5:22-23; 2 Corinthians 5:17; James 2:14-26). Sadly, the other three soils (hearts) produced no fruit and they belong to people who have never been truly born again by God’s Holy Spirit.

God’s Kingdom begins with willing acceptance and obedience of God’s Word in our human hearts. Satan seeks to make us ignore or not listen to God's Word and divert us from faith and wholehearted obedience in God (Matthew 13:4). Faith and obedience in God’s Word always leads to salvation, blessings, and life (see Deuteronomy 11:1; Deuteronomy 28:1-14; Deuteronomy 30:15-18; Proverbs 3:3-4; Proverbs 11:19; Proverbs 12:28; Matthew 7:13-14). Yet, the evil one seeks to steal, steal, and destroy (John 10:10).

1 . . . Store My commands in your heart. 2 If you do this, you will live many years (prolonged life), and your life will be satisfying (prosperous and peaceful). 3 Never let loyalty (faithfulness) and kindness (mercy) leave you! Tie them around your neck as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart. 4 Then you will find favor (grace) with both God and people, and you will earn a good reputation. 5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. 6 Seek His will (way) in all you do, and He will show you which path to take. 7 Do not be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear (honor) the Lord and turn away (shun) from evil. 8 Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones. Proverbs 3:1-8 (NLT)

A person who genuinely and sincerely repents of their sins and wholeheartedly turn to God found in Jesus by faith produce good fruit by God’s Holy Spirit (Mark 1:14-15; John 3:5-8; John 14:15-18; Acts 11:15-18; Galatians 4:4-7; Galatians 5:22-26; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:22-25). Through true repentance and obedience, there will always be evidence of good fruit (deeds) (Matthew 7:15-23; see also Isaiah 1:16-17; Jeremiah 4:22; Amos 5:24; Matthew 9:13; Matthew 12:7; Mark 12:33.). Good fruit and good works are the result of true salvation that come with a repentance of sin, submission to God, and OBEDIENCE TO GOD’S WORD (e.g. see 1 Samuel 15:22-23; Psalm 40:6; Matthew 6:33; Matthew 7:16; Luke 9:23; see also Ephesians 2:8-10; Colossians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:13-15, 21-22; 2 Thessalonians 3:13; James 1:22-25). Even more, these kinds of people ALWAYS produce an abundant harvest in this life and the life to come (see Proverbs 3:1-8). God’s Word is “full of living power” to produce an abundant harvest (Hebrews 4:12, TLB). Unlike mere human words, God’s Word has life!  Unless there is good fruit in a person’s life, there is no saving faith in the heart. The proof of true salvation is spiritual fruit and good works (Matthew 7:16, 18, 20; Luke 6:43-49; see also Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 2:8-10). Moreover, not everyone produces the same amount of good fruit (Matthew 13:8), but all true believers will produce good fruit as evidence of their new life in Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17). Furthermore, this faith-filled and obedient life leads to membership into God’s Kingdom and family (Matthew 12:48-50; Mark 3:34-35; Luke 8:19-21; John 1:12-13; John 3:3, 5; John 15:14).  Sadly, those who reject or disobey God’s Word do not produce life and good fruit from their hearts (see Proverbs 2:1; Matthew 12:34-35; Mark 7:21).

The entire Holy Bible teaches that God desires goodness, loving-kindness, mercy, forgiveness, holiness, truth, humility, unity, patience, compassion, gentleness, and fairness because these are the very characteristics of God Himself (e.g., see Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:6-8; Matthew 5:1-12; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; 2 Corinthians 6:6-10; Ephesians 4:2, 32; Ephesians 5:9; Philippians 4:8-9; Colossians 3:12-15; 1 Peter 3:8-12). God is “compassionate and gracious . . .  slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin” (Exodus 34:6-7, NIV). God wants people to be kind, forgiving, and merciful (Galatians 5:22-23). Sadly, Jesus knew the crowds of people listening would not wholeheartedly and genuinely follow God. Worldly worries, materialistic pursuits of wealth, and the desire for other things cause many people to lose faith and turn from God’s Word. God wants everyone to strive to be like good soil in every area of our lives at all times (Mark 4:14-20). Jesus calls everyone to receive and obey God’s Word so we will bear good fruit for Him.

14 The farmer plants seed by taking God’s word to others. Mark 4:14 (NLT)

Although many will not respond positively, God’s messengers are to continually and faithfully communicate God’s Word (see Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:47-49; Acts 1:8). God promises to provide His grace to help His messengers (Mark 10:27). The parable of the sower encourages spiritual “sowers” — those who faithfully teach, preach, and lead others for God’s glory. Jesus taught that God’s messengers must faithfully “sow the seed” of God’s Word regardless of the results (Mark 4:15). God’s Word is good seed, yet not all the seeds will sprout (Luke 8:5-7). Even the plants that grew had varying yields – thirty, sixty, and hundred (Luke 8:8). As faithful sowers of God’s Word, God’s Holy Spirit uses our words to lead others to Him regardless of our listener’s responses (Mark 4:16-17), and regardless of those who remain immature and worldly (Mark 4:18-19). That some of the seed produced no crop was not the fault of God’s messengers or God’s Word. The yield depended on the condition of the soil (heart) where the God’s Word (seed) fell. God’s messengers have the responsibility to spread the seed (God's Word), but we should not give up (Hosea 10:12). God's Word will always have a mixed reception but God’s Word is powerful (Hebrew 4:12)!

Disciple's Study Bible ((Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 1988).
Life Application Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005).
Life Essentials Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2011).
New Student Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992).
Ryrie Study Bible (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1995).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Loyd, Melton, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament. Due West Campus: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2015.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary (Victor Books, 1989).

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