Salvation ... comes from the Lord ... because they take refuge in him. (Psalm 37:39-40)

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Sowing to Harvest

Until recently my reading the parable of the sower in Matthew 13, Mark 4, and Luke 8  left me thinking that because I had converted to Christ early in my life, I was automatically in the fourth (most fruitful)( category of the 4 types of soils.  May I encourage the reader to read Matthew 13 in the Bible before continuing.  The reader may recall the 4 types of soil as hard, rocky, thorny, and fruitful (see Matthew 13:18-23 for the explanation of each).  I have since come to understand that fruitfulness and harvest also apply to the on-going transformation and sanctification of our mind, spirit, soul, and body.  
Harvesting is not merely an event, but it is process driven as well.   
Our heart is the soil.  The good soil produces a crop and becomes a harvest field  A fruitful harvest may be in the form of virtuous living fueled by godly character developed over time.  The “fruits of the Spirit” as they are known from Galations 5:22-23 are in this category of good fruit.  But there are also 3 types of soil mentioned that produce nothing.  One Is a hard heart.  A “heart of stone” as it is referred to in other parts of the Bible, is characterized by lack of teachability.  When the seed (Word of God) falls on this kind of heart, unbelief, shallow beliefs, or destructive patterns of thinking do not allow truth to take hold.  A second soil type, the heart with too many rocks, does not allow the (Word of God) to take proper root.  Truth cannot take hold because it has no root system to nourish the plants to life.  A third soil, the thorny heart, has too many weeds that choke off the plant.  Distractions, falsehoods, or mis-guided priorities overtake the truth (growing plant) so that it cannot produce and reproduce.  
God is the farmer in the parable of the sower.  God’s seed always produces good fruit if it is allowed to flourish.  God gives his creation choice in the matter.  Our choices determine the soil content of the heart.  Each day we are presented with opportunities to receive God’s truth (seed) and give it the value it is due.   We have the choice of allowing it to produce fruit or not.  The “hard heart” choice rejects it outright. The “rocky heart” choice doesn’t give it proper value to replace currently held misbeliefs and take root.  The “thorny heart” choice considers it too great a cost to surrender its own perceptions of truth and yield to God’s design.  These choices come in the form of financial decisions, what we eat, how we spend our time, resisting vices, responding to authority, family relationships, neighbor relationships, church and other group relationships.  Dr. Caroline Leaf’s book Switch On Your Brain: The Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking, and Health does a great job at explaining how paying attention to your thoughts, making wise choices, and resulting behaviors (good or bad fruit) all work together.  
Our heart soil becomes a field for harvesting good fruit In those areas where we allow God’s truth to be our reality.  God is a God of love.  God gave his Son Jesus Christ to deliver us from the hard, rocky, and thorny conditions that became the reality of our broken world through sin.  Surrendering to God, not just once, but as everyday practice, allows his love to become our expression and empowerment for living.  In explaining the deeper meaning to his disciples, Jesus says,  “But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop” (Luke 8:15).  Jesus makes it clear that heart transformation is the way to restoration, and healing.  
We surrender our heart to God by confessing (acknowleging and verbalizing) and repenting (turning away from) the conditions identified as hard, rocky, and thorny soil.  He makes our heart fertile with His love as He originally designed us to be.  He changes us from the inside out so that we can share His love with others for the harvest of love to be made real in the lives of our fellowman.  
Jesus used the illustration of harvest often in his teaching.  One such instance is in Matthew 9, “then he said to his disciples, The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:37-38).  Again these verses are often interpreted by the reader to apply to conversion of souls to Christ.  The context of these verses reveals the compassion of Jesus in his healing ministry.  The physical healings Jesus performed were to demonstrate his power to redeem mankind from sin, thus healing their spiritually broken condition.  I believe as well these words show God’s desire for the transformation and sanctification of people from the inside out.  Harvest includes the on-going change of our inner most being.  
In fact, as “workers” (leaders) in the harvest, an even stricter measure of attention must be given to the condition of the soil of our heart spoken of in the parable of the sower.  A common principle of leadership is that a leader cannot take followers to places he/she hasn’t gone himself.  We cannot lead others into deeper transformation and healing of the inner life if we haven’t experienced God’s sanctification in deeper measure ourselves.  That may be why Jesus says the laborers are few.  It seems that very few people are willing to commit to deep transformation of the inner man.  
So what is the harvest spoken of by Jesus?  The answer Is getting a bigger and better picture of how much God loves you and has taken action on your behalf.  Seeing and hearing Him brings understanding to your heart.  When Jesus taught this parable according to Mathew 13,  Jesus quotes a Scripture from the prophet Isaiah, “"Otherwise they might see with their eyes,  hear with their ears,  understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them“ (Isaiah 6:9-10).  Heart transformation is part of God’s divine plan for release from struggles caused by our jaded perspectives.  We have a choice. Do we choose to resist inner change and continue to struggle, or do we choose progressive surrender to God’s ways for healing?
As for me, I want to experience more of God’s love, and host maturing plants in the soil of my heart.  I also want to esteem Jesus as the Lord of the harvest, and make His Name great wherever He is harvesting.   Therefore, when I now read the parable of the sower, I ask myself questions like the following.  
   Where might my heart be “hard” to the truth of God?
   How might I be trying to keep God on the side line rather than allowing God’s truth to take deeper root?
   What might I be holding on to as a thorn choking out deeper revelation of God’s truth and love?  
What ugliness is a hindrance?  
   Do my priorities need a tune-up?   
Can I look back (eg. 1,2, or 3 years) and see measurable growth in heart change?   
Less disappointments? Less complaining?  Less blaming?  Less condemning,  judgment of self and others?    Less unforgiveness?  Less of whatever habit has bad fruit?      
More love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?   More habits producing these good fruits?

My prayer is that God, our Farmer, finds increasingly good soil in our hearts!  

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry