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The Stony Heart
Today we are going to look at the stony heart in Jesus’ parable of the heart soils. I already gave you a basic overview of each heart last week so we are already a little ahead of the game.
As I told you last week, every once and a while I like to return to the parable of the heart soils. It is such a rich analogy which aids us in uncovering truths about our own hearts.
Of course as I often do I want to warn you of attempting to take this or any other parable TOO FAR – meaning beyond its stated parameters because it would be easy to get off base and lead into the error of misconceptions.
Go ahead and turn to Matthew 13, so you will be ready with it when we get there.
I want you to recall three things of tremendous import regarding this parable as well as many others spoken by Jesus.
They address the ability and need to hear and understand, which is largely what the response portion of this parable is about.
The FIRST thing was spoken by Jesus to His disciples when they asked Him why He spoke to the crowds in parables.
He answered with a reference to Isaiah 6:9 saying, “although they look – they may look but not see, and although they hear – they may hear but not understand, so they may not repent and be forgiven.”
The important thing for us to get from this is that this truth was not about creating blindness but accommodating it. These people, if they heard might respond but we’re of the type of heart that would have apostate later on. Their love of this world eclipses all else. Thus parables both conceal or reveal depending on the receptiveness of the hearers. This heart condition of not honoring and valuing God and His word is also another reason for the parable. God the Father, out of honor to the Son, does not discover Him to just anyone. As Jesus said, “don’t cast your pearls before swine“. God does not take the preciousness of revealing His Son to those who treat and esteem Him lightly. This is a matter of honor with the Father. To honor disrespectful mankind, with a revelation of His Son would be to honor them more than Jesus and that would be dishonest and wrong. However, the Spirit works on the hearts of each person, encouraging them to desire to know Him and those who respond, receive.
The SECOND thing I want you to recall is that IN ALL THREE GOSPEL ACCOUNTS, the end of this parable has Jesus saying,
“Whoever has ears had better listen”.
We noted how different this sounded from the traditional “Let them hear”. The Greek however does not allow for so soft a rendering.
This phrase Jesus spoke carried the force of the third person imperative which makes this a command intended to wake them up and call them to action.
Now to press just how impactful this was, remember that the gospel accounts are not intended to provide word-for-word dictation of all Jesus said, but rather to clearly and accurately communicate the truths He taught. So it is really something of note that while all the gospel accounts agree, each of them specifically recall Jesus’ ending as being very forceful. That His last words carried the impact of a command. THAT is significant!
This was a VERY important teaching!
Remember Jesus also implied to His disciples that if they did not understand THIS parable, it is quite impossible for them to understand ANY of the parables. So the truths we learn here are not just important, they are foundational!
He said, “Don’t you understand this parable? Then how will you understand any parable?”
So Jesus seems to be implying that without grasping the meaning of this teaching, understanding any other parable would prove difficult if not impossible. THAT would make this parable very, VERY important indeed.
They are the kind of truths upon which other truths rely.
Finally, the THIRD thing I want you to recall before we begin today is that this parable is, at its heart, about the Kingdom of God. In fact a good case could be made that such was the focus of ALL of Jesus’ parables!
You all know that the kingdom of GOD, in its most basic form, is made up to two things. God’s reign and mankind’s hearts.
Inside of that is a world of things to be mindful of.
- We are to live in loving deference to our King.
- We owe Him our lives and our unwavering obedience.
- Our trust in Him is implicit.
- EVERYTHING is secondary to King and Kingdom.
- All we possess are gifts entrusted to our stewardship.
- We will have to give an account for our stewardship.
Now today’s lesson is not focusing on these things, but it is important to know and to hold them close at hand for reference as we go through this parable, since Jesus clearly told us that this parable was about the kingdom of God.
The stony heart we are learning about today sounds at first like a clear reference to a hard heart. However the hard heart was the first heart described as the Wayside heart. This is a different heart. Jesus clarifies that what He means by a stony heart is heart soil composed of a mixture of clumped up soil with rocks in it.
The intended picture or idea of the “stony” heart therefore is one of shallowness.
This type of Heart Soil is one which is unable to receive the seed of the word to any meaningful depth due to the abundance of stones riddled throughout the soil.
Now I assume you have found Matthew 13, let’s go down to verses 5-6 to read about the stony heart.
Matthew 13:5-6, “(5) Others fell on rocky ground, where there wasn’t much soil, and they sprang up quickly since the soil wasn’t deep. (6) But when the sun came up they were scorched, and since they had no root, they withered.”
Now let’s look at Luke 8:6,
“(6) Other seed fell on rock, and when it came up, it withered because it had no moisture.”
Finally Mark’s account of this parable.
Mark 4:5-6, “(5) Other seed fell on rocky ground where it did not have much soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep. (6) When the sun came up it was scorched, and because it did not have sufficient root, it withered.”
Now, let’s read Jesus’ explanation of this heart beginning again in Matthew.
Matthew 13:20-21, “(20) And the one sown on rocky ground–this is one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy. (21) Yet he has no root in himself, but is short-lived. When pressure or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he stumbles.”
Luke 8:13, “And the seeds on the rock are those who, when they hear, welcome the word with joy. Having no root, these believe for a while and depart in a time of testing.”
Mark 4:16-17, “(16) And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: when they hear the word, immediately they receive it with joy. (17) But they have no root in themselves; they are short-lived. When affliction or persecution comes because of the word, they immediately stumble.”
FIRST remember that all of this happens because a sower sowed the Good News of the Kingdom of God!
So it seems that of paramount importance is the sower who is either God, the Spirit of God or one of His messangers.
So EVERYTHING is central to the desire of God in this process.
So what are God’s plans, purposes and heart in all of this?
The passages say, “The Sower went out to Sow”.
So the word came to them.
These were not all seekers, but ones being sought.
What was sown? The seed of the Good News of the Kingdom of God.
Why seed? Well seed is potential.
In the RIGHT environment, seeds germinate and reproduce the image and likeness of the host plant. As such this seed reveals Jesus and contains the potential of becoming like Him.
So just like several of you picked up on last week, this seed is PRECIOUS! Treating it as such will place you much closer to the heart of Good soil in this parable!
This is partially what John was getting at in 1John 3:7-10,
“(7) Little children, let no one deceive you!
The one who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous. (8) The one who commits sin is of the Devil, for the Devil has sinned from the beginning.
The Son of God was revealed for this purpose: to destroy the Devil’s works.
(9) Everyone who has been born of God does not sin, because His seed remains in him; he is not able to sin, because he has been born of God.
(10) This is how God’s children–and the Devil’s children–are made evident. Whoever does not do what is right is not of God, especially the one who does not love his brother.”
This means that God’s children who are those with the seed of God planted in the fertile soil of their heart, are not able to give themselves entirely over to sin.
It also means that WHEN they sin, it is not coming from their nature but from their flesh which has temporarily gained advantage. This is NOT their continual state – because they have been born of God.
Have you ever had something ungodly in your heart, which you wanted to do or say?
Have you ever experienced the opportunity to commit that sin and it turn sour in your heart?
What was the result? Either you found yourself not able to follow through OR in the doing of it, there was little to no pleasure, only grief!
When a child of God sins, it runs contrary to them and this is all the more evident the closer you walk to and with Him.
There are places your flesh may want to go, that your heart simply cannot follow.
YOU ARE A CHILD OF GOD and HIS SEED REMAINS IN YOU – THEREFORE you are unable to sin with abandon like the children of the devil.
You have a NEW NATURE –
YOU BELONG TO HIM!
What were God’s intentions then in sowing this seed to ALL of these various hearts? To deposit within them, the potential of His kingdom and reproducing His image and likeness in their hearts.
Let’s read two passages which use this imagery and explain the desired outcome from God’s perspective.
Isaiah 55:1-13,“Come, everyone who is thirsty, come to the waters; and you without money, come, buy, and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost!
(2) Why do you spend money on what is not food, and your wages on what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and you will enjoy the choicest of foods.
(3) Pay attention and come to Me; listen, so that you will live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you, the promises assured to David.
(4) Since I have made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples, (5) so you will summon a nation you do not know, and nations who do not know you will run to you.
For the LORD your God, even the Holy One of Israel, has glorified you.”
(6) Seek the LORD while He may be found; call to Him while He is near.
(7) Let the wicked one abandon his way, and the sinful one his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, so He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will freely forgive.
(8) “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways.” This is the LORD’s declaration.
(9) “For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.
(10) For just as rain and snow fall from heaven, and do not return there without saturating the earth, and making it germinate and sprout, and providing seed to sow and food to eat,
(11) SO MY WORD THAT COMES FROM MY MOUTH
will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please, and will prosper in what I send it to do.”
(12) You will indeed go out with joy and be peacefully guided; the mountains and the hills will break into singing before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
(13) Instead of the thornbush, a cypress will come up, and instead of the brier, a myrtle will come up; it will make a name for the LORD as an everlasting sign that will not be destroyed.”
Hebrews 6:1-12, “(1) Therefore, leaving the elementary message about the Messiah, let us go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, faith in God, (2) teaching about ritual washings, laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. (3) And we will do this if God permits.
(4) For it is impossible to renew to repentance those who were once enlightened, who tasted the heavenly gift, became companions with the Holy Spirit, (5) tasted God’s good word and the powers of the coming age, (6) and who have fallen away, because, to their own harm, they are recrucifying the Son of God and holding Him up to contempt.
(7) For ground that has drunk the rain that has often fallen on it, and that produces vegetation useful to those it is cultivated for, receives a blessing from God.
(8) But if it produces thornsand thistles, it is worthless and about to be cursed, and will be burned at the end.
(9) Even though we are speaking this way, dear friends, in your case we are confident of the better things connected with salvation.
10) For God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you showed for His name when you served the saints–and you continue to serve them.
(11) Now we want each of you to demonstrate the same diligence for the final realization of your hope, (12) so that you won’t become lazy, but imitators of those who inherit the promises through faith and perseverance.”
So clearly God’s intentions are that we bear fruit unto His likeness and so become light and salt which further His kingdom.
Now regarding the particulars of this Stony Heart
You can readily see that this heart doesn’t sound “stony” at first in that it IMMEDIATELY, receives the Word with joy and gladness.
Something in the message of the Good News appeals to this heart. They see something in it worth believing.
However, it has stones which afford it no depth of earth for a root system.
Remember, the words Jesus used as taken from all three gospel accounts were…
- They hear the word
- Immediately receive it and welcome it with joy and gladness
- They have no root system
- Their believing response is short lived
- Testing comes to this and the last two hearts in the forms of pressure, persecution & affliction
- Their faith proves shallow with no root system and they stumble and depart from the truth.
All of this is connected with them having stones riddled throughout the soil of their hearts.
So we are left with three questions.
- WHAT are these stones?
- What kind of heart is shallow?
- What does the sun represent?
Well when we consider this response in others we see in scripture it appears that the stones are selfish interests in the benefits of the kingdom without any commitment to the kingdom.
That in itself defines the shallow heart. A shallow heart is the same in this parable as it is in everyday human relationships. They are hearts which make everything about themselves.
The first question when approaching anything in their lives is – How might this benefit me?
This is one of the reasons why I have so often warned you about using lists of “pros and cons” when trying to determine God’s will! God’s will is about His Kingdom and worthiness, His rule and His reign. It is NOT about our comfort, interests and earthly or sensual advantages. So such lists are nearly always doomed to lead you in the wrong direction.
The kingdom comes with an impressive array of benefits. Even David said that those who know and love God should be careful NOT TO FORGET all His benefits.
Psalm 103:2-6, “(2) My soul, praise the LORD, and do not forget all His benefits. (3) He forgives all your sin; He heals all your diseases. (4) He redeems your life from the Pit; He crowns you with faithful love and compassion. (5) He satisfies you with goodness; your youth is renewed like the eagle. (6) The LORD executes acts of righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.”
Two of the greatest benefits of being in the kingdom is security and peace.
Knowing you belong to God and have His favor, love, mercy, grace and above all the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in and upon you is the highest level of living possible for human beings.
These and many more are some of the things which the world would find appealing in the Good News.
What they do NOT find appealing is that it will cost them everything they have held dear up to this point in life. All the earthly things and interests they have built the security of their lives upon. The fact that these things mean more than God’s word and His kingdom reflect upon and reveals the shallowness of their hearts
Which introduces “the sun with its scorching heat”. This can be satan directly or it could be any of a plethora of various heart narcotics – friends, family, work, promotional opportunities, addictions, status, reputation…etc.
The message of the Kingdom is all “birds and sunshine” until we have to suffer the loss of any of our foundational heart addictions to keep it.
What did Jesus say, “You cannot serve two masters! He will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.”
So when it comes down to a choice, a choice will have to be made.
This heart loves the pleasures of this life, the securities of earthly priorities and the praise and affirmations of man. In the end this is an issue of values.
The Stony Heart plays marbles with diamonds. They see only passing value in what is invaluable and see as invaluable what really only has passing worth.
Seeking the approval and validation of others has led more humans to hell than probably any other single thing. In fact, once you have enough money and resources to be secure and have some nice things, MOST expressions of wealth are more about impressing others than it is about being happy and fulfilled.
“(41) I do not accept glory from men, (42) but I know you–that you have no love for God within you. (43) I have come in My Father’s name, yet you don’t accept Me. If someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. (44) How can you believe? While accepting glory from one another, you don’t seek the glory that comes from the only God.” – John 5:41-44
Perception is everything! What do you value?
I’ve looked up studies along this line many times and you know the stories. People are not made happy, content or even reliably secure by money, people and things.
They are empty wells!
I looked up a few extreme examples of this where people either purchased, built or refinished extravagant homes which they either never lived in, or only lived in for a short time. For times sake however, I am not going to read those to you, but I will have them on the website as examples.
The entire purpose of these examples was to convey the point of the uselessness and emptiness of things and the fading admiration of people.
Perhaps the first sign that you have paid WAY too much money on a home is that you feel the need to name it.
The co-founder of Friendly’s Ice Cream Prestley Blake spent $7.5 million to painstakingly build a perfect replica of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello home.
He only used it once to throw a party for his 100th birthday.
Another home quaintly referred to as “The Stone Mansion” is located in Alpine, New Jersey. This is one of the most expensive zip codes in which to live in the entire U.S.A.. It sits uninhabited even though the yearly tax bill alone is almost $300,000. Evidently its owners enjoy warmer climates.
Inside the 30,000 square foot mansion are 11 bedrooms, 19 bathrooms, a movie theater, a sports bar overlooking a basketball court, and a grand ballroom trimmed in 18-karat gold.
IIt sports top of the line security. Has two-foot thick walls and 29 security cameras that can be monitored anywhere on the planet. It has a walk-in vault to secure the owner’s valuables which are never stored there and the wine cellar protected with biometric authentication.
Yet another, the Le Palais Royal, has the distinction of being the most expensive home Florida. With less than a year left to the construction the owner decided he no longer wanted to live there and already listed it on the market for $139 million.
It is 60,000 square feet, sporting 11 bedrooms, 17 bathrooms and lots and lots of gold. The gate to the estate has 23-karat gold leafs on it. The front doors were handmade project from Germany taking more than a year to construct at a cost of $500,000. A $2 million dollar marble staircase made and imported from Italy which was adorned in gold. It has the distinction of being the world’s first in-home IMAX theater.
Yet it sits on only a 4.4 acre lot on Millionaire’s Mile in Hillsboro Beach, Florida. It has a 465 foot beachfront and a 492-foot private dock.
Finally, the Palazzo di Amore is a massive megamansion in Beverly Hills, Calif. Its famed developer also has built some of the most lavish hotels and mansions in the world.
The house has Bavarian walnut hardwood floors which were hand sanded by artisans in order to create the appearance of age. A Moroccan room constructed by artisans of a royal variety evidently requiring special permission of the King of Morocco.
It has 12 bedrooms, 22 bathrooms, a 15,000-square-foot entertainment area complete with a 50-seat movie theater and a 1,000 person occupancy party room with a spinning dance floor. It has a 150 person infinity pool, a reflecting pool, a tennis court, a 24-car garage and parking for 150 cars.
It has a guard house, private driver’s quarters, guest house, wine cellar, spa, formal gardens and city-to-ocean views
It sits on a 25 acre lot and has a 12 acre vineyard which is capable of producing 500 cases of privately label wine yearly.
It was finished in 2007 and yet the taste for living there ended quickly the owner saying that it’s just “too big”. The owners put it up for sale by 2014 and was still on the market in 2019 – still unlived in!
The point of course is clear. The poor person in America comparatively lives better than kings of ancient times. They have food, clothing, running water and dependable shelter, are largely free from war and danger and have more variety in all of these things than were typically available to monarchs of yesteryear. So it follows that billionaires of today potentially have more money and international influence than Monarchs over huge empires had thousands of years ago. Yet for all of that they are always seeking for happiness which only proves to be more and more illusive!
Now these hearts I’m mentioning are probably not candidates for anything but the wayside heart, but they do reveal the shallow fixations of the stony heart.
The stony heart wants the benefits of the kingdom, without the investment!
- They are like the guy who wants the girl, but not the wife.
- The girl who wants the security and money of the guy, without love and devotion of being his committed wife.
- The child who wants the love, gifts and provisions of their parents without the obedience and respect they deserve.
- The employee who wants the raise without the performance or commitment.
- The citizen who wants the government handouts without contributing their part to the greater society.
- Or the illegal immigrant who wants citizen rights without becoming a citizen.
And the list goes on and on!
Scripture speaks to this, predominantly from the vantage point of God’s actual children. You are very familiar with the passage we are about to read so it will not be difficult for you to connect with and we will end with this.
Turn with me to 1Peter we are going to kinda speed read through chapter 1 and 2. This is to illustrate three things from our lesson today.
- How persecution comes after the word is sown.
- The benefits of the kingdom which come not just because we believed, but because when the “sun came with its scorching heat” we did not walk away.
- How valuing God, His word and embracing His purposes as our own are invaluable keys to the kingdom in our own lives and they unlock the benefits of the kingdom to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.
1Peter 1:3-2:12, “(3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (4) and into an inheritance that is imperishable, uncorrupted, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, (5) who are being protected by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (6) You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to be distressed by various trials (7) so that the genuineness of your faith–more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire–may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (8) You love Him, though you have not seen Him. And though not seeing Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, (9) because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (10) Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that would come to you searched and carefully investigated. (11) They inquired into what time or what circumstances the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating when He testified in advance to the messianic sufferings and the glories that would follow. (12) It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you concerning things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Angels desire to look into these things. (13) Therefore, get your minds ready for action, being self-disciplined, and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (14) As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance (15) but, as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; (16) for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy. (17) And if you address as Father the One who judges impartially based on each one’s work, you are to conduct yourselves in reverence during this time of temporary residence. (18) For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from the fathers, not with perishable things, like silver or gold, (19) but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. (20) He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the times for you (21) who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. (22) By obedience to the truth, having purified yourselves for sincere love of the brothers, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, (23) since you have been born again–not of perishable seed but of imperishable–through the living and enduring word of God. (24) For All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like a flower of the grass. The grass withers, and the flower drops off, (25) but the word of the Lord endures forever. And this is the word that was preached as the gospel to you.”
1Peter 2:1-12, “(1) So rid yourselves of all wickedness, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all slander. (2) Like newborn infants, desire the unadulterated spiritual milk, so that you may grow by it in your salvation, (3) since you have tasted that the Lord is good. (4) Coming to Him, a living stone–rejected by men but chosen and valuable to God– (5) you yourselves, as living stones, are being built into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (6) For it stands in Scripture: Look! I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and valuable cornerstone, and the one who believes in Him will never be put to shame! (7) So the honor is for you who believe; but for the unbelieving, The stone that the builders rejected–this One has become the cornerstone, and (8) A stone that causes men to stumble, and a rock that trips them up. They stumble by disobeying the message; they were destined for this. (9) But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (10) Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (11) Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and temporary residents to abstain from fleshly desires that war against you. (12) Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that in a case where they speak against you as those who do evil, they may, by observing your good works, glorify God in a day of visitation.”