The Thorny Heart Pt. 2

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Thorny Heart

Sunday 07/30/23

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The Thorny Heart Pt. 2

Last week we began but did not finish the Thorny Heart in Jesus’ parable of the heart soils. 

The point of greatest importance is to remember that this parable is about the message of the Kingdom of God

The application of this parable is regarding cultivating good heart soil for the reception and prosperity of the message of the kingdom.

It is also about the pitfalls to avoid.

Since this parable is offered with an explanation of its meaning, we will read the parable portion about this particular heart soil and then its later explanation as offered by Jesus Himself.

Remember that each account begins and ends with a charge TO LISTEN, and so I will include those words in these excerpts from the gospels.

We begin in Matthew…

Matthew 13:7, Consider the sower who went out to sow. As he was sowing, some seeds fell among the thorns, and they grew up and choked them.  (9)  The one who has ears had better listen!”

Luke’s account is found in Luke 8:5,

(5)  “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some seed fell among the thorns, and they grew upwith it and choked itAs He said this, He called out, The one who has ears to hear had better listen!

Finally Mark’s account of this parable.

Mark 4:3-9, “(3) Listen! A sower went out to sow. (4)  And as he sowed, some seed fell among the thorns, and they grew up and choked it, and it did not produce grain. (9)  And He said,Whoever has ears to hear had better listen!

The explanation:

Matthew 13:22, “Now the one sown among the thorns–this is one who hears the word, but the worries of this age and the seduction of wealthchoke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.”

Luke 8:14, “As for the seed that fell among thorns, these are the ones who, when they have heard, go on their way and are choked with worries, riches, and pleasures of life, and produce no mature fruit.”

Mark 4:18-19, “(18) Others are sown among thorns; these are the ones who hear the word, (19)  but the worries of this age, the seduction of wealth, and the desires for other thingsenter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.”

We concluded last week that the summary of all the accounts included 4 points:

  1. Thorns were already present BEFORE the message of the Kingdom arrived.
  2. Those with this type of heart DID honestly HEAR the message
  3. The thorns win out and choke the message of the Kingdom
  4. This resulted in the seed bringing nothing to harvest.

These cares, seductions and desires are not dormant. They are active and reactive! 

Despite the fact that they were already in the heart BEFORE the message of the Kingdom arrived, they are still said to enter in and do their “choking” work. 

The words “enter in” are used metaphorically and so it means that though they were already in the heart, when the message of the Kingdom was sown they Rose up and sprang up in the mind

So before the word regarding the kingdom entered, these cares, anxieties, desires for wealth & lust for other things were there… but when the message arrived these things stirred to greater activity and attacked the message, seeking to silence it and its effects

These things have been sowed there by the god of this world (satan) in order to stir up allegiance to his kingdom. 

They are the things James warns us will “draw us away” from God, devotion to King and kingdom and subsequently the benefits of the Kingdom. 

James said regarding the temptation of these things “don’t be deceived… anything truly good comes from the Father.”

The Thorns 

Jesus described these thorns as… 

  1. Cares – which were anxieties, cares that brings disruption to the personality and the mind

We covered this rather well last week.

One take away thought which I really want you to remember was that feeding anxiety and worry in your heart is a sin. You are not a helpless victim of worry. Worry is a choice and an evil one at that. 

Who can remember why?

It was found in Phil. 4 where we are encouragd to rejoice and not be anxious or worried about anything EVER. This was stated not as a soothing pat on the back, but as a command.

The reason it is so emphatic and stated as a command is because God IS with His children. We are NEVER alone. So worry is a statment against God. 

  • At best it is to walk unaware that He is present. 
  • At worst it is to fail to believe He cares for you. 

The only way things grow in the heart is when we lend them our attention and trust. It is like the example of The Two Wolves

Paul tells us in Galatians 5:17,

“For the cravings of the lower nature are opposed to those of the Spirit, and the cravings of the Spirit are opposed to those of the lower nature; because these are antagonistic to each other, so that you cannot do everything to which you are inclined.”

Both anxiety and trust cannot cohabitate long in the same heart. One will ALWAYS choke out the other, which is the word Jesus uses in this parable.

Choke as used here means – to throttle and thus suffocate. It is used figuratively as meaning to overpower.

The result is that it BECOMES unfruitful. The seed is not unfruitful, the heart where it is sown is!

It is interesting that the command not to worry in Philippians begins with an encouragement to worship BEFORE is tells us to not worry.

At this point last week we turned our attention towards the first four if the 10 commandments

We are told to… 

#1 Have No other Gods

Stop looking to ANYTHING other than God as the source from which your needs are met.

#2 No Idol worship

This is a command to not adore or revere anything above God. 

#3 Don’t take God’s name to no avail

Jesus said this command this way, 

“Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and don’t do the things I say?” Luke 6:46  

#4 Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy

I don’t know about you, but since I have been more accurate and deliberate in my keeping of the command regarding the Sabbath, it has had a grounding effect on my whole week.

It centers me again. It recalebrates my heart to be focus upon my Father

That is VERY Useful in avoiding the pitfalls of the Thorny Heart

Another meaning for this word “caresJesus employs in this parable is “distractions”.

These result from an undisciplined mind.

We are told to… 

  • Seek 1st (of primary importance) the kingdom and right standing with the king and ALL OF THESE THINGS will be added to you. 
    • This is the SAME kingdom this parable is ABOUT!
  • Jesus told Martha who was worried about many things, especially being an attentive host at the meeting where Jesus was teaching in their home, that in reality ONLY ONE THING IS TRULY NECESSARY and Mary who had chosen to sit and listen attentively to Jesus and the Word had chosen that BETTER PART which will not be taken from her! 
  • In the wisdom literature of Solomon as he looked back over his life and what he had learned said,

“(13) Having heard everything, I have reached this conclusion – this is the WHOLE DUTY OF MAN – Fear God and keep his commandments  (14)  For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” –  Eccl. 12:13,14

The other two things Jesus addressed relating to this Thorny Heart were: 

  • seduction of wealthmeaning material goods (myself as example) . The word “deceitfulness” means both deceit and delusion. In the passive sense spoken of anything which is deceptive or seducing.
  • pleasures of life or desires for other things. Things different than or inconsistent with the king and kingdom. 

These choke out the word, resulting in the message of the Kingdom bringing nothing to harvest in that heart.

Even if the consequences were not severe for the one with this heart, if one claims to truly  love the Lord this is an outcome to avoid with ALL of one’s efforts!

One of the last things Jesus told His disciples before arriving at the Garden to be tested before His trial and death was, “By THIS My Father is honored and glorified, that you bear MUCH fruit and thus showing that you are My disciples.” 

The seduction of wealth has less to do with needs and more to do with abundance. It is seductive and deceitful in that it presents as alluring, satisfying and fulfilling something it can never deliver.

Going back to James, he said that every person is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and then enticed by them. 

He then said that when a child of God one gives into these base cravings, they lead to separation from God – a disruption if you will in koinonia – fellowship with Him. 

He then boldly encourages them to see and know the truth of the matter which has been misrepresented to them in the form of Temptation and seductive desires. 

He said,  “(16) Do not be deceived and led astray, my dear brothers and sisters.  (17)  All generous giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with Whom there is no variation or the slightest hint of change.”James 1:16-17  

What temptation is leading us into… is death

What it is tempting us away FROM is intimacy with God which is found in knowing Him and trusting Him! These are foundational to the message of the Kingdom

Rich young ruler

Matthew 19:20-30, “(20) The young man said to Him, “I have wholeheartedly obeyed all these laws. What do I still lack?”  

(21)  Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.”

(22)  But when the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he was very rich.  

(23)  Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven!  (24)  Again I say, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter into the kingdom of God.”  

Now you need to understand that for many Israelites, due to the promises of prosperity and abundance for keeping the law under the OLD COVENANT – wealth appeared as a sign of God’s approval and blessing. 

So if it was hard for those under God’s approval and blessing to enter the Kingdom of God, then what chance did everyone else have?

Also, the wealthy always seemed to get what they wanted. No one ever denied them, so again… if eternal life and the Kingdom is hard for them, then what chance do the rest of us have?

“(25)  The disciples were greatly astonished when they heard this and said, “Then who can be saved?”  

(26)  Jesus looked at them and replied,“This is impossible for mere humans, but for God all things are possible.”

(27)  Then Peter said to him, “Look, we have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”  

(28)  Jesus said to them,“I tell you the truth: In the age when all things are renewed, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  (29)  And whoever has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.  (30)  But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

Far from money and material wealth being a blessing it most often serves as a curse to those who have it. Not because of any evil inherent in money and possessions themselves, but because of what they do to the human heart.

Great wealth and possessions stir up haughtiness and pride. The artificially generate a class system type separation and segregation.

It leads to poor management of money. They either horde it up, or spend it too freely.

Money is a type of authority in the earth and those who have it have been entrusted with a stewardship which comes directly from God. Jesus’ advice to the young man who had much was to sell it and give it to those who are poor.

Luke 12:13-21, “(13) Then someone from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”  

(14)  But Jesus said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or arbitrator between you two?”

(15)  Then He said to them, “Watch out and guard yourself from all types of greed, because one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

(16)  He then told them a parable:“The land of a certain rich man produced an abundant crop,  (17)  so he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’  (18)  Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.  (19)  And I will say to myself, “You have plenty of goods stored up for many years; relax, eat, drink, celebrate!”’  (20)  But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded back from you, but who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’  (21)  So it is with the one who stores up riches for himself, but is not rich toward God.”

It is not sin to store up a reasonable amount for you, your family perhaps even some of  your friends against the normal, somewhat predictable “emergencies” which arrise in life- but to sit on this kind of abundance to ONLY spend it on yourself and your leisures & desires is to have a heart which is contrary to God and His ways! God gives. God blesses. God invests in others.

Love does NOT seek its own, but looks out for the needs and interests of others.

John says if any wealthy person claims to know God and yet sees a brother or sister in continual need and does not do anything to relieve their suffering or meet their needs – the love of God is not in this one and they do not even know Him

Far from wishing we were the rich person, we should be praying for them. We should also use them as our examples.

Some men’s sins are apparent and go before them so all can see. For most of us however our sins are far more subtle.

We all have our gifts from God. They are given freely as a stewardship. What we do with them will be a large part of our judgment.

Paul asks in 1 Cor. 4, “what do you have that you did not receive? And if your received it, why do you boast as though you did not?”

So one may have money and another may have been made a political leader and those are obvious to all. Their sins are easy to identify.

However, what of the ones who have received salvation but do not share that knowledge with others.

What of the one who is able and gifted to study, discern and teach and yet pursues other careers in life for the sake of money, privilege or status?

Rather than judging the rich, we need to pray for them and look to ourselves before God.

I submit to you that even though wealth and great possessions do not apply to the greatest number of us – in spirit, the lesson applies to us all!

Revelation 3:14-22,“(14) To the angel of the church in Laodicea write the following: “This is the solemn pronouncement of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the originator of God’s creation:  (15)  ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot!  (16)  So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth!  (17)  Because you say, “I am rich and have acquired great wealth, and need nothing,” but do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked,  (18)  take my advice and buy gold from me refined by fire so you can become rich! Buy from me white clothing so you can be clothed and your shameful nakedness will not be exposed, and buy eye salve to put on your eyes so you can see!  (19)  All those I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent!  (20)  Listen! I am standing at the door and knocking! If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come into his home and share a meal with him, and he with me.  (21)  I will grant the one who conquers permission to sit with me on my throne, just as I too conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.  (22)  The one who has an ear had better hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”

So these things seduce the mind, the will and the emotions. They are golden gods made in our own image to which we bow down and pay homage. But they cannot satisfy and loving them… worshiping them… does not honor God Who gave them. All that can do is lead to death.

The last thorn was “the pleasures of other thingsand we will cover that next week.



Hi my name is Mark and though I am opposed to titles, I am currently the only Pastor (shepherd/elder) serving our assembly right now.

I have been Pastoring in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years now, though never quite like I am today.

Early in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our assembly (church) was not scriptural in that it was out of sync with what Paul modeled for us in the New Testament. In truth, I (like many pastors I am sure) never even gave this fundamental issue of church structure the first thought. I had always assumed that church structure was largely the same everywhere and had been so from the beginning. While I knew Paul had some very stringent things to say about the local assembly of believers, the point of our gatherings together and who may or may not lead, I never even considered studying these issues but assumed we were all pretty much doing it in numbers right?! Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong!

So needless to say, my discovery that we had been doing it wrong for nearly two decades was a bit of a shock to me! Now, this "revelation" did not come about all at once but over the course of a few weeks. We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until following 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We now understand and believe that the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keeps authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provide teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

For a while we had two co-pastors (elders) (myself and one other man) who led the church with equal authority, but different giftings. We both taught in our own ways and styles, and our leadership skills were quite different, but complimentary. We were in complete submission to each other and worked side-by-side in the labor of shepherding the flock.

Our other Pastor has since moved on to other ministry which has left us with just myself. While we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers.

As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my closest friend and most trusted ally.

As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught.

I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled).

Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then, "If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling." ~ Fredrick Buechner

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me.

I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!