These sown on good ground
“But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it…..” Mark 4:20. “…and understand it…” Matthew 13:33. “…with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.” Luke 8:15. “…some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
“When He had said these things, He cried, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Luke 8:8.
At last the sower finds the heart that he has always been hoping to find and which he has been searching for continually. This is the fourth and last type of soil. It is the heart with the good ground, the rarest of them all.
A soul who is tired of his worldly life in sin and emptiness, or one who is disappointed with his dry, Christian life, cries out in desperation: “Isn’t there anything more? Doesn’t life or Christianity have any more to offer?” Such souls have an inquiring, open heart and mind that is searching for the truth. How comforting and good it is then for a sower to find them, as he travels around sowing his seeds of truth! After endless meetings with hearts like hard dirt roads, and hundreds of stony hearts, it must seem like a miracle for the sower to meet a soul with such a heart and mind. In Israel of old it was described as one in a thousand. Ecclesiastes 7:28-29. Among the Jews or among present day Gentiles - who knows? Proverbs 20:6. When a person is out sowing, it is vital for him to be guided from heaven above, for there is One who “…is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” Eph. 3:20-21. Only God knows how to lead His sowers to such people. (John 17:20-21) From before the foundation of the world, God the Father has, in Christ, chosen souls unto sanctification of the Spirit and belief in the truth, (1Pet.1:2 and Eph. 1:4), and “…we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Eph. 2:8-22. Among the good works that God has prepared beforehand for us to walk in is also the task of searching for these people and providing them with a day of visitation. That’s why it is important to not give up but continue to look for them.
Once we have seen the three other types of ground, we have also indirectly seen the heart made of good ground. But we will take a closer look at it anyway before we go any further. There are three things in particular that the Son of Man mentions regarding the heart of good ground, all of which are well worth noting. With regard to the word, these hearts “…accept it and understand it,” and “with a noble and good heart, keep it,” and “bear fruit with patience.”
Accept it and understand it
The Son of Man tells us that when the heart of good ground hears the parable of the tares in the field, and of the sower and the four kinds of ground, he receives and understands the Word. If he does not receive it by personally reading and meditating on the word of the Lord in the Bible, he at least receives light and understanding when the parables are preached and explained to him by one of the sowers sent out by the Son of Man. Of course, that does not happen all at once, but little by little, all according to the workings and instruction of the Holy Spirit. God is interested in such hearts. He reveals the Word, passing it along from one such person to another person. It is revealed to those upon whom He has mercy, and the hearts of good ground are vessels of mercy above all others.
The heart of good ground receives and understands the word preached by the Son of Man and His sowers. It is as though these hearts and the Word of Life are made for each other. The seed, the gospel of Christ, sinks deeper and deeper into the heart and awakens a heavenly calling in the heart and mind. Heb. 3:1. This is because the heart of good ground has a heavenly calling. It is also because it is an honest and wise heart that searches out and weighs a matter, and seeks the truth, and has long since seen through the lies and emptiness of the world, along with religious hypocrisy with its worldly spirit and preaching. So when it hears the word concerning the kingdom of God and the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, He who sows His children, this heart lays hold of it and is born again, “…not of corruptible seed, but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever!” 1 Peter 1:23-25. After this it always moves forward, deeper and deeper into the gospel and teaching of Christ. It never has enough because the word that the sower brings burns in his heart and by God’s mercy becomes living, captivating, intriguing and interesting. 1 Cor. 13:12. For such people, the gospel does not remain an unclear and unsolvable riddle; slowly but surely it becomes a fountain of life and a way to life. The word becomes a lamp to his feet so he can see what he is called to and where he should go. Psalm 119:105.
The heart of good ground is a loving heart and loves God’s word. In the early weeks following my conversion, someone said to me: “This is Jesus on paper! As much as you come to love Jesus, just as much you will love what is written here. No more, no less.” I think he was right. For this reason, the gospel of Christ and the apostles’ doctrine will be the greatest treasure on earth for a heart of good ground, and for the same reason such hearts will also quite naturally be more or less versed in the Scriptures.
By contrast, for the tares, the more a sower of Christ preaches the gospel and explains it, the more unclear and boring the gospel of Christ and the apostles’ doctrine will become. This is, of course, is because a tare is not properly converted; he has sin on his conscience that he is unwilling to truly confess and give up. He has not put matters right with God. As a result, his heart is disinterested and dull. There is a veil between the heart and the word of Scripture because he does not truly love God above all else. Such is the spirit of the world, 1 Cor. 2:12-14, and therefore, it does not take long before the tare starts arguing over the message brought by the sower. He gets irritated. For two thousand years, such a tare has never once been in agreement with the things you are reading here. That is not so strange really, because the tares have received another Jesus, another gospel, and another spirit. The word of the Lord, the eternal word of life which is to be preached through the gospel, (1 Pet.1:25) does not entice such ones. Matt. 4:19.
The heart of good ground understands first and foremost that there are conditions behind all God’s promises in His word; if these promises are to be fulfilled for people, they must first fulfill the conditions. To take an example, we can say it this way: If you want to get to a nearby town, you must take the road that leads to it. If you don’t, you will never get there. It is the same with the kingdom of heaven. If you want to get to heaven, and enter into righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, then you must take the path that leads there. If you don’t, you will not get there either. This road is the way of the cross, the narrow way that leads to life. If we walk that way, the kingdom of God will grow and develop within us. Luke 17:21 On this way, we become heavenly and citizens of heaven. God has not given us His word so that all we have to do is believe it. No, indeed! That is a deception. James 1:22. If the words of the Son of Man are not carried out, then faith is dead. His words are then of no effect and cannot lead us to heaven, and neither will faith be reckoned to us as righteousness. Faith will be perfected when it is accompanied by works, and the scripture will be fulfilled, says James. James 2:14-26. In this way we also establish where the doctrine truly comes from. “And the Jews marveled, saying, ‘How does this Man know letters, having never studied?’ Jesus answered them, and said, ‘My doctrine is not Mine but His who sent Me. If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.” John 7:15-17
The fact that we are to do the words of Jesus has nothing at all to do with wanting to justify ourselves by our works. Naturally the heart of good ground understands from the instruction of the Spirit that according to the flesh he is through and through corrupt and incapable of doing anything good, and that by his own wisdom and in his own strength he cannot achieve anything good enough, pure enough or righteous enough for God. But when, by living according to the doctrine of the Son of Man, he believes that he is no longer in the flesh, but in the Spirit, then he will also believe, as a member of the body of Christ, that he can also allow himself to be lead by the Spirit to fulfill all the scriptures which is, of course, the good will of God. For, “…..without Me you can do nothing,” Jesus said. John 15:5. But in Christ Jesus we can do everything that He has asked us to do. We can do all the will of God.
To believe in Jesus is, of course, to do – to live – according to His words; His gospel and teaching. If we do not live according to His words in practice, in the multitude of situations that come up in our daily lives, then we actually do not believe in Him. That’s how simple it is. The saints of old were not justified by faith alone, and neither are we. By faith they brought sacrifices, built, left their lands, dwelt in tents, bore children, hid children, refused to be called great, forsook, upheld righteousness, gave commandments, stopped the mouths of lions, were valiant in battle, suffered mockery, tribulations, resistance, etc. And such people became, “…heirs of righteousness by faith.” Heb.11:1-40
Our lives are not helped by us just believing in God’s existence. Neither does it help to just believe that Jesus is God’s Son, and that He died for our sins. If that is all we believe, we will remain in the world and in sin the rest of our lives. The only thing that can help us and be to our benefit is to follow the instruction of the Spirit in the preaching of Christ. Suppose Abel, in his daily life, had only believed that the sacrifice of a lamb was better than that of vegetables – without actually slaughtering the lamb and offering it to God as a sacrifice! Would he then have pleased God with his faith and been declared righteous? Heb. 11:4. Suppose Noah had done nothing more than make drawings of the ark, and study them, as he went about his daily business, simply believing that the ark would float on floodwaters – without actually building the ark! Would God then have saved him from the flood and reckoned to him the righteousness that is according to faith? Heb. 11:7.
Or, suppose Moses had just believed that he was a son of a Hebrew, but had continued to live as an Egyptian, etc. No! By faith, Able put his knife in the lamb and removed the fat. Noah in every detail did as God had commanded him. And, by faith, Moses refused to be called the son of Pharoah’s daughter, choosing to suffer affliction with the people of God. He esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches that the treasures of Egypt, because, just as the other heroes of faith in the old covenant, he had a living faith.
Just as God worked in the saints in the old covenant to do according to His word by faith, he works in those of us who believe in the same way today. If we do this, we will be justified by faith, and God’s creative powers will enter in and begin to transform our lives. It starts with our conversion to the Son, by faith, and it continues with us fulfilling His word, by faith. Then the power of the Holy Spirit will come upon us, and it is given to us so that we can do His works – fulfill the words of the Son of Man. The heart of good ground receives and understands this.
Keep it with a noble and good heart
The heart of good ground is a humble, truth-loving, meek, and deeply sensitive heart. Its soil is good, and easily cultivated, and it exercises itself in holding on to the seed (what it learns), says the Son on Man. It does not thrive alongside its own evil nature. That’s why it is a noble and good heart, and that’s how it has been from the beginning. Of course, everything can and should become better, also so far as the heart with good ground is concerned.
Let’s go back and take another look at the condition of the various hearts when it concerns holding on to the word in the many situations we meet. The first heart, the ‘wayside’ heart, heard something that tickled his fancy a little and went off to some of his friends to ask what they thought about it. Then the word was laughed at and crushed. After that, the ‘wayside’ heart wanted nothing more to do with it, and let it go.
The second heart, the stony heart, immediately received the word with joy, but when the trials came along, or he was persecuted for the sake of the word, he took offense. At this point, the stony heart also let go.
The third heart, the thorny heart, held out even longer. But as he walked further on the way, he also let go; the cares of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, or the lust for material things entered in. Then both the word and the thorny heart were stifled.
The heart of good ground, on the contrary, keeps the word in a noble and good heart, says the Son of Man. He fights to fulfill the conditions in the word so that he can partake of the promises of the word, resulting in salvation and fruit. He does not give up, and does not let go of faith in the word, even if others reject and ridicule it. Neither does he lose faith when the word leads him into trials and persecutions; nor in the midst of the cares of the world, the deceitfulness of riches or the temptation to lust for other things. We can put it this way: as the heart of good ground experiences mockery, trials, dishonor, the cares of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, or the lust for material things, he understands that he must suffer for his faith and put to death the lusts that are awakened and which the Spirit testifies against. Such a person keeps the Scriptures and preserves his life by faith, and in this way he begins to bear fruit for God.
Even if a person’s heart is made of good soil, as a human being he has just as many faults and failings as other people do. The corruption that some come out of and start to flee from can indeed be deep. 2 Peter 1:4. However, if success is not immediate, the heart of good ground does not give up. No, indeed! The heart of good ground practices, fails, prays and tries again, falls, is chastised, prays and repents again, increases his efforts, flees, tries to lay hold, fights, puts to death again and again, until it succeeds. By practicing in this way, his hatred for sin and self grows little by little as well as his love for God. The heart of good ground does not resist the truth and does not play the hypocrite before God. He does not allow the evil one to sow anything in his heart, and does not put on any pretenses as a Christian. This heart does not tolerate guile. Wherever he senses lying and hypocrisy, he very quickly turns away from such. His is an honest heart that lives and walks before the face of God. He loves the truth and in his love for the truth he fears to disappoint his God. May we, therefore, as many of us as understand this, believe in our calling and election and exercise ourselves in these things more than ever. He is faithful who has promised! Heb. 10:22-24. 1 Thess. 5:23-24.
And bears fruit with patience
It is always blessed to sow in good earth. This earth provides the seed with particularly good conditions. Both the Son of Man and his sowers work with hope for an abundant harvest. However, we see that this can only completely succeed in a heart of good ground. Thirtyfold is a large amount, but notice that thirtyfold is actually the lowest amount that the Son of Man mentions. It can be much, much more than that! Suppose an ordinary farmer could get such a return from the seed he sows! He could sow a hundred kilo of grain in the earth and would harvest three tons, or six tons, or ten tons!!! With patience, it is possible to come to such an abundant harvest, says the Son of Man – He who sows His children. He can, if it succeeds to the fullest, cause us to bear fruit ‘by the ton’: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Gal. 5:22-24. Flesh that is crucified with its passions and desires, and the fruits of the Spirit, are closely connected. It is like two sides of the same coin. They cannot be separated.
Every step on the way towards bearing fruit depends on whether a person understands the word by faith and keeps it – and is patient. By doing so, the heart of good ground enters into the good fight of faith and lays hold of the eternal life to which he is called. This can only happen when a person departs from and cleanses himself from the things the word and the Spirit convict him of, and when he crucifies and puts off those things that must be crucified and put off. Besides this, it happens when he flees from everything that the Scriptures and the Spirit tell him to flee from according to the understanding that the light has given him at that point, and when he pursues the things the Spirit exhorts him to pursue in order to lay hold of them. 1 Tim.6:6-16. If these things do not take place, both the present and the future are doomed to produce a barren and unfruitful Christian life. Indeed the Apostle Peter says: “For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:8-11. Yes, when these things are ours, and we continue in them so that they grow, then we make our calling and election sure, and we will be guaranteed an entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
It is quite another matter when it concerns fruit in an outward sense (spiritual children). This has to do with gifts of grace and a number of other things, so in this area it is quite seldom that a grain of wheat results in a harvest ‘by the ton.’ In spite of this, a heart of good ground has a burning desire to save people. Christ has indeed died for all. Because this is always uppermost in his heart, he is ready to speak to people everywhere if by any means he might save some of them. Though there may be few who will actually receive the gospel of the grain of wheat, it makes no difference, because “The love of Christ compels us.” 2 Cor. 5:10-21 The fact that only few respond, in spite of the long and purposeful work of the sower, simply makes those few all the more precious.
On the contrary, we have seen at times that the tares can be very fruitful when it concerns getting followers. At certain revival meetings we can well say that they not only bear fruit a hundredfold, but even a thousand-fold. Various preachers actually boast of millions of ‘children.’ Where Africa is concerned, some seem to be particularly fruitful – in their words at least.
The grand conclusion
To sum it all up: Up to now we have seen that the word that Christ’s sowers bring is not received in the hard ground of the “wayside” heart. Every grain from heaven rolls off this road and is snapped up by the birds, if it is not crushed. There is no receptivity for anything. The heart that is like a hard country road – the “wayside” heart – cannot imagine disappointing, disgracing, or going against his worldly friends or family. Nor can he imagine giving up his plans in this world. It will soon be the weekend, and he doesn’t want to miss the “fun,” and so on. Therefore the “wayside” heart is and remains on the outside.
The stony heart received the word at once and with joy, and appears to have given up everything in this world. Because of this he becomes part of the field for a time. All the same, so long as a person only wants forgiveness for his sins and does not seek to be freed from them we can consider this a form of trickery. Worst of all, when the sun rises and the stony heart will not in reality put off and crucify the old man, and yet continues to work with and preach from God’s word, he ends up in the sieve of the evil one. In this sieve, the word becomes as a fire for him, and like a hammer that crushes rocks, yet he will not acknowledge the truth about his trickery and repent. So he bows out. In this way, he becomes scorched, and becomes a tare that goes to seed – a false worker.
After that we took a look at the thorny heart. He also gets into the field, and the majority of thorny hearts remain there. They are not led astray by the evil one in the same way as the stony hearts, and are not sifted in his sieve; neither are they scorched with the rising of the sun because they have some roots, and moisture is still there. This means that the possibility of bearing fruit for God is open to them. However, it still does not succeed, unfortunately. Thorns – the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and desires for all kinds of other things – eventually creep in and choke living faith and the word of the living God. The result is small, immature fruit or no fruit at all.
Now we have also glimpsed at the heart made of good ground. Of course, we are going to take a much closer look at that, because it is the heart of good ground that is the most interesting of them all. For a tiny grain of wheat, to spend time with such people is the most pleasant, edifying, nourishing, refreshing, enlightening, instructive and stimulating experience to be found on this earth. In particular, older hearts of good ground are like fountains of living water from which we can drink. In our own poverty of spirit, we can feel like we are sitting at the table of a rich landowner, bringing forth delicious dishes from a vast spiritual storehouse. The most appealing and nourishing dishes are served, both from the New as well as the Old Testament, and we are strengthened to cleanse ourselves even more in the obedience of faith and hasten forward in the footsteps of Christ. Matt. 13:51-52.
God places every human heart under heaven in one of these four soil categories. Everything follows spiritual laws and is decided according to how a person receives and aligns himself with God’s word in his heart when that word is preached in truth and Spirit. Sorting in this way can only be done by a sower who himself is genuine and not false. A genuine sower must have been personally taught by the Son of Man and preach the gospel of Christ and His doctrine to those he meets on his way, or to those he is working with. Mark 4:33-34.