Article written by Dr. Christi Butler / Nov. 2015
In the last few blog posts I have been teaching about how to live before the Lord with a transformed heart. I thought I had finished this series yesterday, but when I woke up this morning the Lord reminded me of a few more scriptures that belong in this message. So, the post today is a continuation of what has gone before, as well as a compilation of thoughts I did not have time to plug into the previous messages.
In Matthew chapter 13 the Lord Jesus teaches a parable about a farmer who went into his field to sow seed. In this parable, the soil represents the condition of the human heart and the seed represents the truth of God’s Word that the Lord is trying to get people to receive. Unfortunately, it seems that only a small percentage of those that hear the truth are able to receive it. Jesus goes on to explain that sometimes the seed of truth falls by the “wayside” and the birds of the air (which symbolize demonic forces seeking to steel truth), come to devour the seed before it can produce anything (Matt. 13:4). The “wayside” is meant to speak to believers about a condition of the heart. People cast truth by the wayside when they brush it off, purposely ignore it, and refuse to pay any attention to it without giving it any consideration at all. People usually do this when they already possess a firm conviction about some other idea or philosophy. Or, they may do this if they truly do not want to know the truth because knowing truth would require change and they do not want to change. People are very stubborn in this way.
Next, in verse 5, Jesus talks about “stony places.” The stony places are symbolic of those with a heart condition that allows them to momentarily and outwardly agree with the truth. However, the truth is not able to take root in their hearts. Instead, they forget the truth quickly and it produces no real change in their lives. This type of Christian with a stony heart is someone I would call a “cultural Christian.” In other words, this is a person who generally agrees with the Bible and thinks it has a lot of good ideas. This person may even think they are a real Christian because they were raised in a Christian home or a Christian culture, but really the truth has no strong root system in their life and the minute standing for Jesus becomes difficult or their faith is challenged, they will back down and let go of their so called Christianity.
In verse 7, Jesus goes on to explain that some of the seeds of truth being scattered fell among the “thorns.” Thorns symbolize those things in life that spring up circumstantially, or conditions occurring in the heart itself, that choke out the truth. Thorns are “weed seeds” that infect the heart. Usually these weeds take root because of lies or false doctrines that people embrace. These lies compete with truth and seek to replace truth in the heart. Thorns can also be roots of bitterness and offense that spring up and defile the heart (Heb. 12:15). Furthermore, Thorns can be anything in life that becomes an idol and competes with Jesus for the affection of the heart. For example: a job, a hobby, the TV, the computer, addictions, etc.
The conclusion becomes obvious, there are many forces in this world warring against the soul and the spirit; there are many forces seeking to corrupt and pollute the heart. With this in mind, the exhortation to “keep” our hearts with all diligence becomes a clarion call of the utmost importance (Prov. 4:23). Furthermore, Jesus warned his disciples that in the last days, the love of many would grow cold (Matt. 24:12). As the church approaches the Second Coming of Christ this issue of living before God with a pure and undefiled heart will be the issue that divides the church from the world. This issue is the issue that will determine who belongs to God and who does not, who is part of the Bride of Christ and who is not, who is classified as part of the wheat harvest and who belongs with the tares, etc. The condition of the heart is everything.
Furthermore, when Jesus came to John on the Island of Patmos in the book of Revelation and began to leave him with a final message for the churches, Jesus was very specific about confronting issues of the heart. To the church of Ephesus Jesus says, “you have left your first love” (Rev. 2:4). To the church of Smyrna, Jesus warns of persecution and deception and calls the church to “be faithful until death” (Rev. 2:10). The church of Pergamos is called to repent of false doctrine immediately (Rev. 2:12-17). Thyatira is also plagued by false doctrine, called to repentance, and told to “overcome” (Rev. 2:18-27). To Sardis Jesus says, “You have a name that you are alive, but you are dead” (Rev. 3:1). “Dead” is a spiritual condition of the heart. To Philadelphia Jesus says, “Hold fast and overcome” (paraphrased – Rev. 3:11-12). And finally, to Laodicea Jesus says, “because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth.” Ouch!
Beloved, the condition of the heart is of the utmost importance. Every believer should come before God in prayer and ask Him to expose those areas of the heart that need adjustment. When the Lord begins to bring conviction, be quick to repent, quick to change, quick to respond to the prompting of the Spirit. Do not harden your heart, as in the rebellion (Heb. 3:8, 15), but instead be a person who loves to do the will of the Lord sincerely from the heart.
Blessings to you, in the Name of Jesus. Christi Butler