The Fruitful Heart
by David Neal
Jesus often spoke the mysteries (hidden wisdom) of the kingdom of God through parables (Ps 78:2-4, Mt 13:13 ). A parable is a simple story dealing with a very real circumstance (situation, fact, event) in which the principal subject is described by another subject resembling it in its properties and circumstances. The principal subject is thus kept out of view, and one is left to ponder the intentions (meaning, objective, purpose) of the speaker. A parable will often say something the flesh does not want to hear (receive) in such a way as to defuse (neutralize, disarm) personal objection (people tuning out their attention or focusing on their objection), or prejudice and hold the attention of the hearer and convey the message (which is pondered in their hearts for an extended period). Some truths within the message are meant to be divinely revealed to those who sincerely seek the meaning. Jesus said: Matthew 13:13-15, “Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias (Is 6:9-10, 44:18), which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them (restore).”
Those not sincerely (genuinely) seeking to know and live God’s Word will never understand the true meaning – their flesh won’t allow it. They will not receive it due to their priorities to their flesh (self). The only way one will ever truly understand is when they seek to do God’s will above all else. John 7:16-17, “Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know (understand) of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” The parable of the seeds is contained in three of the four gospels, and verses from each gospel will be used for the sake of clarity. Fortunately, Jesus partially walks us through this particular parable in His explanation to the disciples.
Matthew 13:3, “And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow.” Mark 4:14, “The sower soweth the Word.” This is God speaking His eternal Word. God’s message has always been consistent and proclaims that we are to turn from our wickedness (our way, forsake it) and turn to God with a willing mind and a whole heart in submission and love (faith). The “Way” to God is through Jesus Christ. John 14:6, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” The soil that the Word is being placed into is the hearts of individual hearers. Mark 4:4, “And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up.” The gospel of Luke adds that the seed (Word) was trodden down (Lk 8:5). The way side would represent those individuals who do not have hearts prepared to receive the Word because they were strictly seeking their own way. They had no appreciation to hear or understand the great significance of what was being said because they had higher priorities to self. Their feet tread it in the ground as they went about their way.
Jesus said: Matthew 7:6, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” The pearls would be the precious things of God. They had no use for the Word and brought dishonor to God by their disregard. God is not in their thoughts and they do not want to know His ways. Psalm 10:4, “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.” Job 21:14, “Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways.” The fowls of the air represent the devil (the wicked one, Mt 13:19, Mk 4:15). Jesus said: Luke 8:12, “Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.” The devil does this the way he always has. He appeals to their desire to seek their own way by telling them: “ye shall be as gods” (Gen 3:5) and “ye shall not surely die.” (Gen 3:4). Their eyes are on their own path and certainly not God’s. They live in the flesh and the things of God are as foolishness to them. 1 Corinthians 2:14 , “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” Therefore: 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” These do not believe and thus they are not saved. The devil takes them captive at his will (2 Tim 2:26). Therefore, these seeds never even sprout much less produce fruit.
Matthew 13:5-6, “Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.” These are individuals that hear the Word and receive it, but have no depth of understanding (life in the Spirit) or heart to apply the Word to their lives and actually live it. Jesus said: Mark 4:16-17, “And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.” The gospel of Luke adds that the sprouts withered away because they lacked moisture (Lk 8:6). Water or moisture has always been symbolic of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said: “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said (in submission and obedience, Jn 14:15, 21, 15:10), out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water (Holy Spirit, Jn 7:37-38).” This is the annointing or baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire that John the Baptist said Jesus would bring (Mt 3:11, Lk 3:16, 1 Jn 2:27). The Holy Spirit is given to those who obey Christ (Acts 5:32). Obedience is synonymous with “living the Word” which is “faith.” We are told to walk in the Spirit and not the flesh (Rm 8:1, 4). Galatians 5:16, 25, “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” Concerning this parable, the gospel of Luke adds, “for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away (Lk 8:13).” Those walking by the flesh will be quick to fall in times of temptation. Temptations appeal to the lusts of the flesh and apart from the Spirit, the flesh will dominate. Jesus was led of the Spirit to be tempted of the devil, but overcame the temptations through submission and obedience to God’s Word (Mt 4:1-11, Lk 4:1-13). Jesus denied His flesh during these temptations to uphold God’s will. Denial of the flesh means a sacrifice of something the flesh wants. You can be very religious (hearing and believing), but if your fleshly and are not living God’s Word in the Spirit, then you will surely fail. The flesh will always compromise God’s Word for it’s desires. Romans 8:14, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” The Holy Spirit gives us boldness, direction and understanding in the Word of Christ. John 16:13-15, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” Through the Spirit we have access to God’s wisdom and Christ’s direction all the time – to the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:10, 16). We are sealed in the Spirit and if we do not have the Spirit we are not Christ’s (Eph 1:13, Rm 8:9, 2 Cor 1:22, 1 Jn 4:13). God’s Word is found in the Bible. The Spirit and the Word will always agree. If one reads God’s Word through the flesh (without the Spirit) then one will interpret God’s Word through the flesh and certainly apply it wrongfully and under their own strength (hence, endure but for a time). Jesus said these had no root in themselves. The roots are developed when one correctly understands God’s Word, submits to it, and is led by the Spirit to actually lives the Word. These heard the Word and received it with gladness (believed, maybe said a sinner’s prayer), but didn’t do (apply, live) the Word. James 1:22, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” It is only when we start doing the Word that the blindness and deception of the flesh will start to lift. One can be the most religious man on earth and yet be totally lost (not Christ’s) through one’s own blindness and deception. Many are living religiously (professing Christ) in the flesh (for its desires). Matthew 7:24-25, “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock (firm foundation): And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock (foundation of Christ).” In the parable of the seeds, the root is the firm footing of the plant and the conduit for the water and nutrients (Spirit and Word). Having root in yourself is to be firm in your faith as lived out in your life (i.e. doeth these sayings of Christ). The sun represents the afflictions and sufferings that will come. You must walk as Jesus walked. You actually live this Word by walking in Christ’s steps – following Him. However, these had no depth of soil (stony ground); they received the Word (seed), but were not willing to walk the Word. They didn’t take this Word fully to heart in actually applying it to their lives. When testings and trials came along (scorching sun), they quickly compromised rather than suffer sacrifice or reproach for the Word’s sake and withered in their faith. It’s like this: Matthew 7:26-27, “And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.” They heard the sayings, but did them not. In the parable of the seeds, they heard, but didn’t do, and were withered by the sun. They were offended (fell away). Jesus said: Matthew 11:6, “And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me (also Lk 7:23).” Therefore, these seeds actually sprout (they receive Christ’s Words and believe) but due to the hardness of the soil (their hearts are unwilling to live the Word), the root does not grow and establish itself. There is a lack of nutrients (no understanding due to blindness and deception) and water (Holy Spirit), and they quickly wither (give in, do not overcome) under the sun (persecution, suffering, temptation).
Mark 4:7, “And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit.” Jesus explained: Mark 4:19, “And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.” The gospel of Luke adds, “pleasures of this life (Lk 8:14).” These are seeds that landed in soil (willing hearts) suitable to take root in and they start to grow (have some application of the Word in their lives). However, the cares (necessary things), riches, pleasures, and lusts of this world compete with the Word. We are going to live in the flesh or in the Spirit, but not both. Galatians 5:17, “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary (opposed, divergent) the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” You cannot love Jesus and also flirt with the world. “…Friendship of the world is enmity (hostility) with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God (James 4:4).” Your heart (i.e. soil) cannot sustain both – they oppose each other. You cannot have dual loyalties (cannot serve two masters, Mt 6:24, Lk 16:13), God will not allow it. God says that you must love Him with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength (Mk 12:30, Lk 10:27). This means that God is your priority and is the center of your life. This is all encompassing and total devotion – there is room for nothing else. Many want to live with the devil’s nature (seeking self), yet say they have Christ’s nature (Profess Jesus). How dishonoring to a righteous God. Many are religious, but are living just like those in the world (minimal difference). Most do not consider that “their” day to day life could be a great violation of God’s will. Jesus said, “the flesh profiteth nothing” (Jn 6:63). All that glitters is leading you away from God. You are either seeking self (flesh) or God. Christ’s great sacrifice and death does not give “covering” or “license” to do that which opposes God. You are either submitted to God’s will or you are in rebellion to God’s will (seeking the things of the world). These are covered over in weeds and have no testimony or witness. They seek the world and are in it’s image. Consider what God says: 1 John 2:15-17, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”
Many want to serve Christ, yet live for the things of the world – they do not even see their own shame. Prov 30:20, “Such is the way of an adulterous woman (unfaithful to Christ, adultery with the world); she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness.” The message of this parable is that if you seek the flesh, you will be unfruitful (no fruit). Why does this matter? Consider carefully what will follow: Throughout the Bible we are told that God desires fruit (comes looking for1). What is the fruit that God is looking for? Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance (self control): against such there is no law.” Ephesians adds “truth” and “righteousness” (Eph 5:9). Recall from above that we must not only “receive the Word and believe it,” but must “live the Word.” When we live the Word, God works on us to produce acceptable fruit. Philippians 2:13, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” It is God working in us as we submit and obey Him, that produces this fruit. God accomplishes this as we abide in Christ. John 15:2, “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” Notice that the unfruitful branches in Christ (those who profess, but do not live the Word) are taken away. The branches that do bear fruit, God works on to increase the yield – desiring the best. The pruning produces more fruit, but greatly upsets the flesh (God tears down the flesh). John 15:4, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.” You cannot bear fruit on your own, seeking your way (the things of the world). The only way to bear acceptable fruit is by abiding in Christ. This means that you are submitted, obedient and are doing His will. John 15:5, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” These bring forth much fruit. Those seeking the things of the world (Jesus is not to be found there) are having their life choked out of them and are producing nothing. What happens to the unfruitful braches that are taken away? John 15:6, “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” John 15:8, “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.” If we bear fruit then we are Christ’s and the father is glorified. You cannot bear acceptable fruit seeking the things of the world (Gal 5:19-21). You will not be abiding in Christ (religious or not). To further illustrate this point: Luke 13:6-9, “He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.” God is looking for fruit. The Lord is longsuffering, but there does come the day of the axe and the fire. Matthew 12:33, “Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.” Luke 3:9, “And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire (also Mt 3:10, 7:17-19).” Therefore, these seed sprout (hear the Word and believe) and start growing (have some application of the Word in their lives), but are choked by the weeds (things of the world) and yield no fruit (die).
Mark 4:8, “And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred.” This is the group of individuals that God is interested in. These are they that hear the Word and take it to heart and bring forth acceptable fruit. Jesus said: Mark 4:20, “And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.” The gospel of Matthew adds the words “understandeth it” (Mt 13:23). Jesus further explained: Luke 8:15, “But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.” So we can conclude that those who are going to produce fruit: hear the Word, understand the Word, receive the Word (accept, lay hold of), and keep the Word (live it everyday). They do this with an honest (sincere, genuine, upright, trustworthy, faithful) good heart (willing, perfect, whole). These are things that cannot be legislated. Rules and laws will not produce the fruit which God requires. The “patience” is God working on your heart to conform you to the image of Christ. God’s work in you produces the fruit He desires. The amount of fruit is relational to your surrender and obedience to God. Some will yield more to God and for perhaps a longer period of their lives. There is no such thing as serving God too much. Some will say, “lets not be too extreme or fanatical,” but where does God set the limits? God desires those who are zealous and devoted with love in their hearts – their joy. Man sets limits, God will embrace those who cling to Him.
The overwhelming message of this parable is that one must not only hear and believe the Word of God, but must apply the Word to one’s life and live it. God expects you to willingly and lovingly submit to His will with your whole heart. God is looking for righteous fruit in your life. This fruit is produced by God working in you as you yield to the Lord’s will daily. Luke 11:28, “But he saith, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.” Matthew 13:9, “Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.”
1 Father looks for fruit – Mt 21:19, 21:28-41, Mk 11:13-14, 20-21, Mk 12:1-9, Lk 20:9-16