Are you satisfied with your spiritual life right now? If the rest of your life was lived in your current spiritual condition, would it be fulfilling? Would you be spiritually healthy and alive? Would your current spiritual condition sustain you for the ups and downs of life that are yet ahead? If not, perhaps you need a heart transplant, a heart makeover, a change of heart. Listen to what God says about His willingness to give us a new heart and why we need one.
Ezekiel 36:26-27 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”
Just as no doctor would require a patient go through a heart transplant if they didn’t need one, God wouldn’t have told Israel He was going to give them a new heart if they didn’t need one. We are no different. Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked. That’s not the kind of heart I want. I don’t want a deceitful, wicked or dark heart. I want the transplant God is able to perform in me.
Most people won’t sign up for heart surgery without asking to see the test results the doctors have also reviewed. They want to see with their own eyes where the problem is and what will be done to solve it. Many people with a heart problem may not even know it. They may feel just fine, so it’s not that they have come to a conclusion that something is wrong on their own, but someone else who knows how to diagnose heart issues has proven to them that there is a problem.
Heart surgery is a big deal. It’s not just a big deal for the first 8 weeks after surgery, but beyond that, there are life changes the heart patient makes which enable them to live their best possible life. There are changes in their diet, changes in their exercise routines, changes in the way they are to handle stress or minimize stress. You don’t just have a heart transplant and then live the way you want to if you are going to benefit from the heart transplant. You have to add your cooperation to what has been done for you.
Can anyone see where this is leading?
Turn to Matthew 13:1-9: 1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.
8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop–a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 He who has ears, let him hear.”
The different soils in this parable represent different kinds of hearts. The conditions of our hearts have a lot to do with the success of our heart transplant spiritually speaking. God wants to do something in us that is beyond the moment. He doesn’t just want to extend our spiritual life for a year or two, but He wants the heart change to have lasting effects, the kind that will impact our quality of life and our testimony over a lifetime.
The first kind of heart Jesus mentions is represented by the path. The problem with the path is that it is so compressed, so compacted, so well-traveled that it is hard and beaten down, and there is little chance for a seed to obtain an inroad into the path. The seeds are then stolen by the birds. The “path heart” is a hard heart.
The dictionary helps us understand that hard hearts are cold, insensitive, unfeeling, and unyielding. Is there any area of your life in which you are cold toward God? Insensitive to Him? Unfeeling when He is present? Unyielding when He calls you to respond to Him?
What causes a human heart to become hard? Jesus spoke to His disciples in Mark 8:17-18 about the qualities of a hard heart. Turn there for a moment. Mark 8:17-18: 17 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember?
Here was Dr. Jesus, diagnosing a hard heart among His own disciples. He said those with a hard heart just don’t get it. They can’t understand spiritual things. Though they have physical eyes to see, they have no spiritual eyes to see. Though they have physical ears to hear, they have no spiritual auditory senses. And when God speaks to them, they don’t even remember it. It is as if it never happened, so therefore, it doesn’t impact their life at all.
If you haven’t been moved by the things of God, if you haven’t sensed God’s nearness, if you haven’t heard God addressing you with words of love or felt Him disciplining you or asking you to repent, if you aren’t living life with an understanding that God expects us to obey Him and live in a certain way, it isn’t that God isn’t trying to reach you. More likely than not He is doing cartwheels to get your attention. Perhaps the problem is you have a hard heart.
It’s not that hard hearted people can’t perceive, understand or remember anything, they just don’t perceive, understand or retain spiritual things. They can tell you the names of every player on their favorite team, the times and locations of the next five games, who every coach has been since the team began and every year their team has won the championship. Why? Because their heart is open and invested to that sport. They are passionate about that. They have become available to that kind of information.
People with hard hearts, however, haven’t made themselves available to God. Their motto has simply been, “Ain’t nobody got time for that” and consequently they have remained outside of the spiritual loop. They might be oblivious to the fact that there even is a loop!
Don’t feel bad if you are sitting there thinking, “That’s me!” I’ve got a hard heart. If you can recognize you have a hard heart, you have opened up enough for God to get one of His seeds to penetrate that soil!
Don’t feel too bad, a lot of people start out with hard hearts. The disciples did! I know sometimes I have thought, “If I would have walked with Jesus, I would never doubt Him. If I could have seen with my own eyes all of the miracles He did, I would never be hard-hearted about anything. I would absolutely follow Him and get with the program on every level.” Why should I think I would be any different than the hard-hearted disciples that walked with Him?
In Mark 6, Jesus had fed at least 15,000 people with five little loaves of bread and two small fish! They had seen it with their own eyes! You can look at it with me if you like in Mark 6:45. Right on the heels of the fish and bread buffet, we read something interesting in Mark 6:45. “Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd.”
What does the third word of that sentence say? He “made” the disciples get into the boat. You would think on the heels of this huge miracle Jesus wouldn’t have to make them do anything. You would think they would be running to do whatever He asked them to do, but not so. They still weren’t living in a spiritual plane. We see in just a few verses in Mark 6 that Jesus came to them by walking on the water, and it about blew their minds. Pick up the story in Mark 6:51-52 “Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.”
If they had just seen Him feed 15,000+ people with hardly anything why would they be completely amazed that Jesus could walk on the water? Because they didn’t track on a spiritual level with Jesus over the loaves and fishes, they couldn’t build on what came next, spiritually speaking. They were just missing the whole point of all of it at this point, and Jesus began to address the hardness of their hearts here and in Mark 8 as well. Flip back to Mark 8:19 where Jesus takes them back to the fishes and loaves incident after telling them their hearts were hard. Listen, when you don’t get the foundational seeds of spirituality, you won’t get anything else God wants to do for you. If you think you are missing the boat, you may have a hard heart, and God can do something about that this morning.
The next kind of heart addressed in Matthew 13 is the Rocky Heart. We read in Matthew 13:5, “Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.” A person with a rocky heart can get excited about the things of God, but they let things interfere with their spiritual growth. The little “rocks” in their lives keep them from going deep. They remain shallow and can’t get any traction in their spiritual lives.
Those little rocks that can get in the way can often take the form of conflict, anger, and un-forgiveness. I know people who start off great spiritually but then there is a little misunderstanding or a perceived problem between them and someone else in the church and immediately they “throw the baby out with the bathwater,” over-react, conclude they aren’t good enough for that church or are unwanted by that church or that no one likes them there or whatever the translation is that they come up with and they are gone as soon as they start. You might as well skip the transplant in the first place if you are going to let misunderstandings with people rob you of your salvation!
There are also rocks that can take the form of apathy and complacency. People who have these rocks in their hearts are good with their relationship with the church, but that is where the spiritual pursuit ends. Seeing their friends on a weekly basis, being a part of something inspirational feels good or like the right thing to do, but they never move beyond participating with the church to pursuing God. Jesus didn’t die so we could have a relationship with the church! He died so we could have a relationship with God, and the by-product of THAT relationship is a relationship with the church. While attending church is part of God’s plan for your life, you are not spiritually OK just because you attend church. There are many shallow Christians with rocky hearts who have been in the church fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty years and more. Doctors who do heart surgery will tell you that you can’t go home from surgery and do nothing. You have to participate in the kinds of activities which will help you recover and grow stronger. You can’t be apathetic or complacent about the prescriptions you are to follow. There is some therapy a couple times a week. You don’t just show up to therapy. You need to do the work and participate with the therapist if you are going to make progress. People can’t just show up to church and think they are going to grow. We have to cooperate with Jesus and exercise obedience as He prescribes how we should live.
Other rocks that keep people spiritually shallow deal with pride and self-righteousness. Obadiah 1:3 says, “The pride of your hearts has deceived you.” Not one of us should ever walk through these doors thinking there is nothing we could learn about God or ourselves. Proud people don’t want to be exposed. You will never see a proud person at an altar because to come forward would indicate a need or area of weakness. Now don’t leave here saying I said that if you never come to the altar you are proud. That is not what I said. But it is true that altars aren’t filled with proud people. There is a self-sufficiency, a self-righteousness that goes along with pride. People with that kind of heart think they can make it on their own, figure it out for themselves and nobody else is going to tell them how to live.
Matthew 13 describes the next soil or heart as “Thorny.” This person wants the heart transplant to take root and be lasting, but thorns come in to crowd out and choke out the spiritual health and life of a person.
What causes a heart to become crowded? What are the thorns we have to look out for? Wrong priorities can create all kinds of choking hazards for our spiritual lives. When we get too busy, the things of this world can just overtake a person’s spiritual health. When hobbies and sports overtake being at church, when our money is spent pursuing your wants and the “good life” without regard for how God says we are to share, care for the poor and invest in His Kingdom, when leisure and travel are more important than sharing the Gospel, when we let our children decide what the family’s spiritual pursuits will or won’t look like, when sleeping in is more important than worship . . . I think you get the point. Kingdom seeking and Kingdom living need to be our first priority, (Matthew 6:33) and the rest of life will fall into place.
Worry is a prickly thorn, and the deceitfulness of wealth can rob a person blind. Jesus unpacked this in Matthew 13:22 “The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.”
In Matthew 6:27 Jesus said, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” Nothing good comes from worrying, and yet we allow the thorn of worry to creep in and choke out our faith. When we do, we make Satan’s job so easy. He doesn’t even have to do anything destructive to us. He merely has to convince us something bad is going to happen, and he steals our peace, contentment and joy which means he robs us of our abundant life!
The problem with worry is that it takes our mind to the wrong place. Once your mind makes a visit to darkness, it is hard to get back to the mind of faith. We need to uproot the weeds of worry in our hearts by praying about everything constantly (Phil. 4) by trusting in God’s Sovereignty (He will work everything out for our good and His glory. Rom. 8:28), and by routing the enemy through praise and worship. When Satan comes against you to intimidate you or to try to cause you to worry, take the approach of Psalm 149:1-6 : 1 Praise the LORD. Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the saints. 2 Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the people of Zion be glad in their King. 3 Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with tambourine and harp.4 For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation. 5 Let the saints rejoice in this honor and sing for joy on their beds. 6 May the praise of God be in their mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands, Praising God will take your mind to the right place, a place much higher than the level where worry can be found.
The problem with the pursuit of wealth for purely selfish reasons is that it takes your life completely off track. The love of money is a trap (I Tim. 6:10). A heart full of love for money has no room for God. People who love money don’t see themselves as stewards, but owners. That kind of perverted thinking puts them in the driver’s seat rather than making them servants of God. I know most people think more money is the answer to life. It will bring security, happiness, and peace, but God’s Word says it has dangerous power to do just the opposite if it becomes the pursuit of our life. It can choke us. It is deceitful. It can destroy relationships. It changes people. It causes stress. It comes with a price. Just ask the families of those whose loved ones have committed suicide though they were worth millions. Ask those lottery winners whose families are now torn apart. Ask those whose wealth invited corruption and addiction into their lives. Ask those who through reckless living and buying the experiences life could afford have now lost it all.
The Good or Fruitful Heart
Matthew 13:8: “Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop–a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
The word “good” here in the Greek is “kalos” which means, “That which is well adapted to its circumstances or ends” (Vine, Unger, & White, 1996). What that means is simply that good soil is soil that has been prepared!
And here is the key. God wants to give us a new heart, a transplant. But we have a responsibility to prepare it, to cultivate it, to nurture it, so that the outcome will be fruit bearing.
Those of you who garden know you don’t just work to take care of the plants that spring up, but you also work to take care of the soil so that the best plants grow and so that the weeds are kept at bay. You remove debris before you plant. You turn over hardened areas. You pull up weeds. If you plant good seeds in bad soil you have just wasted your time. Church, in order for the new heart God gives you to thrive, you have to pay attention to the soil of your heart. Just like the heart patient can’t go out and have burgers and fries every day because it would destroy the heart they have just received, we ought not think we can take in vile images, live recklessly outside of God’s boundaries, do whatever we want with our bodies, go wherever we want for entertainment, and pursue whatever we want just because it makes us happy and then think our hearts won’t be impacted.
We need to search our hearts this morning.
Psalm 4:4 tells us, “In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.”
Is the soil of our hearts fertile? Is there spiritual fruit in our lives? Are we spiritually hardened to God? Are we not “getting it” spiritually speaking? Is what we hear when we come to church going in one ear and out another? Is there any spiritual understanding? Are we progressing in our faith?
Is there conflict, anger, and un-forgiveness in our lives? Maybe several people need to quit growing a rock garden this morning and do some rock upheaval. Maybe some stones of apathy and complacency need to be moved out of your heart. What about pride and self-righteousness? “Nobody is going to tell me what to do, and certainly not some 5ft. 2” preacher! (I get the 2” from the poof!)
What about thorns? Is worry robbing you of quality of life? Has materialism that has now appeared in the form of debt choking the life out of you?
We can’t just settle for searching our hearts. We need God to search our hearts because we don’t like to look in there. We aren’t very objective. We don’t even like the thought of what we might potentially uncover so we don’t stay there long enough.
We need to pray as David did in Psalm 139:23-24 “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
God does His part. There is nothing more that God wants to do for us than to give us new hearts.
I asked a question as I started this morning. I’ll ask it again. Are you satisfied with your spiritual life right now?
More important, is Dr. Jesus satisfied with your heart? Would you consider coming to an altar this morning as a “check-up?” Let God take a listen to your heart. If any corner of it isn’t the kind of soil that will sustain you for a lifetime, let Him do His work and follow His ongoing prescriptions to ensure the heart transplant is successful.