Is Your Heart Good Soil?

Sadness and terror simultaneously fill my heart when I think about all the departures from the Christian faith I’ve witnessed in my short six years of following Jesus. I have seen so many friends experience what seemed to be a legitimate conversion only to then prove its illegitimacy by despising the gospel they once supposedly cherished. One moment they appeared to be joyfully walking with God, and then out of nowhere—to my shock and horror—they began trampling all over his Son (Hebrews 10:29). I’m not talking about just a little backsliding or a bit of stumbling. These guys and gals flat out rejected Jesus. Today, they proudly admit that they couldn’t care less about the biblical realities of sin, judgment, or God’s gracious offer of redemption. They are utterly finished with Christianity.

Watching people you love turn from Jesus and strut toward eternal destruction is obviously a somber experience. But it doesn’t just grieve me—it also scares the mess out of me. My friends so convincingly appeared to be born again! I was involved in many of their journeys toward a decision to follow Christ, and you could not have persuaded me that they had become anything less than bona fide believers. Their transformations looked just like mine. They walked, talked, prayed, and praised just like me. If they could so easily fall away, how can I assume I won’t eventually do the same?

Matthew’s gospel offers us some scary yet potentially life-saving insight. If you aren’t familiar with Jesus’ parable about The Sower, please check out the entire passage here. For length’s sake, I’m only going to paste the section I want to focus on in this post:

Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away . . . As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.”­ – Matthew 13:5-6, 20-21

Sadly, my friends who fell away were “rocky ground” kind of people. There was something inside of them that initially found the gospel appealing, but it wasn’t enough to sustain faith and repentance. Maybe the dominant motivation of their heart was to sail smoothly and happily through this life, and they thought Christianity would give them that? Maybe desperation to find good friends or a decent spouse drove them to Jesus and his church? Maybe they were just afraid of Hell? I can’t know what was going on in their hearts, but I can know—because they now reject the gospel—that 1) they didn’t long to be rescued from the penalty and power of sin, and 2) they didn’t see a relationship with Jesus as the most valuable treasure they could ever possess. As soon as life wasn’t running smoothly, church friendships weren’t as dreamy as anticipated, potential spouses were scarce, and the paralyzing fear of God’s fiery wrath wore off a little, they bailed. Gratitude and love weren’t tethering these folks to Jesus. Something else—something incapable of sustaining the Christian life—was keeping their fake-faith afloat.

I don’t know about you guys, but at all costs I want to avoid being rocky ground. I want my heart to be the good soil that Jesus speaks of in his parable:

 “Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty . . . As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” – Matthew 13:8, 23

How do we ensure the “soil” of our hearts is suitable for the survival of our faith? Well, the Holy Spirit is the one who possesses heart-transforming power—not us. He has to make our hearts into good soil—we can’t. However, Paul does instruct professing believers to test themselves to see if they are following Jesus for the right reasons (2 Corinthians 13:5). The author of Hebrews does the same (Hebrews 3:12) and encourages his readers to draw near to the throne of grace for mercy and help (Hebrews 4: 16). In many different words, the Bible exhorts us over and over again to keep watch over our hearts (Proverbs 4:23) and to stick close to the God who helps those who trust in him (Psalm 37:39-40). Therefore, I think we have two big roles in perseverance:

1) We need to regularly survey our hearts, asking ourselves hard questions and answering them honestly: Why am I really following Jesus? Do I see how desperate my need is for salvation? Do I love Jesus or is there something else motivating me to follow him? Am I in this for temporary blessings? Do I just want my best life now?

2) We must continually draw near to God and ask him to do what only he can do: Lord, soften my heart! Uproot my faulty motivations and impure intentions! Protect me from the heart-darkening deceitfulness of sin! Keep me from the Evil One! Give me eyes to see and ears to hear! Sustain me!

There is both bad and good news for every single one of us today. The bad news is that we are all going to find scary things lurking about in our hearts. Most of us will discover genuine affection for God and a desire to obey him simply because he is worthy. But we are also going to see less-than-godly motivations mingled in there as well. Such is the struggle of being wholly forgiven but only partially redeemed (for now) people! However, the fantastic news is that God doesn’t withhold good gifts—like the empowering presence of his Spirit—from those who love him. God is happy to display the marvelous power of his grace by refusing to allow our sinful desires to get dominion over us and lure us away from his saving love. If we want to hold tightly to Jesus, God is faithful to strengthen our grip. If we want to stand firm in the grace of the gospel, God is faithful to plant our feet. Simply wanting these things indicates that he is already keeping us in a good-soil state!

Watching people fall away from the faith is terrifying. It should motivate us to examine our own hearts and repent as needed, lest we find ourselves in the same position one day. But if today we are trusting solely and wholly in Jesus, we have all the reason in the world to be confident that God will see us through to the very end! We must be watchful and prayerful, but we can also rest in the truth that God is not willing to let those whom he has foreknown, predestined, called, and justified fall away before they reach glory (Romans 8: 29-30). If we are in Christ, we are secure in the sovereign Father’s hand—no one will snatch us from him (John 10:29).

  • Bradley Joel Morton

    I was there. When God didn’t remove my same sex attraction and the church I went to decreed that all gays go to hell, I quit seeking Him. I lived a life that would be shocking to some, others not so much. It took me years to come back and even then I wasn’t seeking Him fully. It wasn’t until I had the stroke in 2012 and my mind was emptied of all the bitterness and anger I felt that I could come back. I pray that I will never forsake Him again.

  • Lyle Nelson

    This is yet another reason to be in close godly community. Not just a “social group”, but a heart-to-heart group where you can feel comfortable pouring out your heart without fear of rejection when doubts or troubles begin to creep in, and that faith that once seemed so rock-solid begins to develop some cracks and feel a bit shaky. The time to talk about these things is when they first begin to manifest themselves in your heart, if you wait until you’re ready to walk away, it may be too late to stop the landslide. If you have no such group, go to your pastor.

    Also, I’m reminded of the parable of the prodigal son. This illustrates that it is never too late to turn around and come back. If you have friends who have walked away, let them know there’s no such thing as “too late” where God is concerned. Make yourself available to talk with them about whatever issues caused them to go astray. And keep them in your prayers, that the rocks would somehow dissolve. God can do anything; don’t give up hope!

    • Shawn Ruth

      Yes where there’s life there’s hope…

  • Shawn Ruth

    I have often fretted whether or not I have the good soil…do you think we only have one type of soil our whole lives?

    • Rebekers

      Just as we can amend soil here on earth, I believe that God can amend the soil of our hearts.

  • Shawn Ruth

    Please pray for me…I have no motivation to live for or follow Christ…back at the beginning of April I broke off a very unhealthy relationship with another man. I tried to recommit my life to Christ and I did really well for the whole month of April…then little by little I have gone back to the old habits. I’m miserable. I’m to the point that I just want to die. Today I forced myself to read two chapters of Scripture. I said to God “take this from me or take me out!” I will NOT commit suicide. I fear too much that is a ticket straight to hell…

    • David Alliger

      There are better reasons not to commit suicide than the fear of hell. I’d wager you are surrounded by people who love you very much, even if they don’t always understand you. They would be devastated if you left this world. But even more importantly, life can be an absolutely beautiful, rewarding experience. There’s a lot of ugliness in this world, sure, but there’s also a lot of beauty. I’m sorry to hear you were in an unhealthy relationship with another man… You might benefit from hearing that it’s possible to be in a healthy, fulfilling relationship with another man. But you need to have a healthy relationship with yourself first. That means examining why you feel suicidal, and taking steps to get better. Getting professional help, if needed. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. If your faith brings you peace and joy, that’s wonderful. But if it’s making you contemplate suicide… Maybe it’s doing more harm than good in your life. There are SO MANY different ways to live in this world. The possibilities for your life are endless. But only if you stick around. I’m thinking of you.

      • Shawn Ruth

        David-I know that you are trying to be kind in your own way. There are certain things that I am sure of: 1. The Bible is Truth 2. The Bible reveals who God is. 3. The God that these Scriptures reveal has declared that sin separates us from Himself. 4. Homosexual practice is sinful. Being that I am sure of these truths doesn’t make life any easier. Life is not something to be enjoyed-for me, but something to be endured…several months ago…I was walking through the underground parking at work…I had a suicidal thought pass over me…I was looking for reasons to live…I did think of my mother and my niece…and what my death would do to them…then I thought that was a sad reason to keep living. I have no friends. The older you get, the fewer people are in your life…college years were filled with casual friendships, but most moved on to careers and families. I used to be a person who worked hard to maintain friendships and kept reaching out to people, but I realized that I was the one doing all of the reaching out…maybe I need to get a dog…
        Mind you I have no immediate plans to kill myself. I made a promise many years ago that suicide would not be a way out…The last counselor that I saw-a retired Baptist pastor encouraged me to not go back to an Evangelical church and pursue a marriage with another man. I only saw him that one time…Psychology is by and largely a religion in and of itself founded on secular humanistic principles .
        I live my life day to day trying so imperfectly to strive for godliness and holiness…such a struggle…but at least I am still in the struggle. I would like to be in a church, but I have been bitten so many times…I am very conservative theologically and someone struggling with homosexuality doesn’t exactly fit into those kind of churches…so I’m kind of stuck in a catch 22…

        • David Alliger

          Hi Shawn. I’m glad to hear you plan to keep living 🙂 I don’t hold the same beliefs you do, but I can respect that they’re an important part of your life and identity. I still think seeing a professional might help. There are Christian counselors, and even the secular ones just want to help. You don’t necessarily have to follow their advice with regard to relationships. You can take what’s helpful to you and leave the rest. Regarding making friends, I’ve found the same things to be true. As you get older, it seems harder to make new ones. I think finding and joining groups in your area related to your interests could help. I used to do local theater and I made a lot of great friends that way. There might be hiking or rock climbing groups or something like that near you, too. Also, yes, I think getting a dog or a cat can help if you’re able to take care of a pet. Anyway, none of this is professional advice, just trying to be helpful based on what I know from my own experiences. Try to stay positive. I’m sure you’ll find plenty of things that enrich your life and make it worth living.

        • Bradley Joel Morton

          Hi Shawn! I was cured overnight from depression when I found God, but it didn’t happen in a church. There were no Jehovah’s Witnesses or street preachers or Bible tracts. It was in my cruddy apartment, surrounded by prostitutes and drug addicts. I was dealing with the suicide of my best friend and the prospect of being a homosexual myself (which is really looked down upon where I live). I wanted to kill myself, but God had other plans (and He tends to get His way!)
          Life isn’t easy. I have had to end most of the relationships I had, including an exboyfriend, to be the man of God He meant me to be. Have faith. Love you! God loves you! You are His child! Love yourself! See the value you have in His eyes!

          • Shawn Ruth

            I am so fatigued by my double mindedness. If I really was one of God’s I think that I should have victory and not just wallow in my sins…I want the Lord to change me, but there are so many competing desires…oh wretched man that I am. Maybe if I had a tattoo on my arm to remind myself of who I belong to…

          • I hear you and feel you. Just yesterday I was having a hard time dealing with being torn by temptation. I really helps to have another brother (or sister) to strengthen you when you are at your weakest. I had mine (and he just happened to text me at the right moment). He also deals with same sex attraction issues, and was able to hold on to my faith, to look to the Lord and what awaits us in the future instead of fleshly desire in the now. If you need, I will be your support. It is hard to leave this lifestyle. I know, but it can be done. Have faith in God! Look to your brothers who are also struggling and depend on them, then be a support for them in their time of testing.

          • Also this…I was plagued with the poisonous idea that if only I was more faithful I wouldn’t be gay anymore. This is a crock. Homosexual desire is part of sin nature and it is a deception from Satan to believe otherwise. A person can’t fully come before the Lord unless they are fully willing to trust Him in ALL temptations and trust in Him to forgive ALL your sins. God has already forgiven our sins (even the gay ones) but we have to trust in Him.

          • Martin O

            Shawn, I hear you. I too and sick of my double minded thoughts and behavior. I am over 40 and struggle like you. I am in the same boat.

          • Don’t seek to be changed physically, seek a change of the spirit. There is a reason why we go through the things we do. Often times we can’t see it because we are so focused on ourselved, rather than the Father’s Kingdom. Find your purpose in God’s Kingdom and allow Him to change your thinking and your spirit.

        • I was there. A marriage to a man is not the answer, nor is nessarily to a woman. Some of us think that if we were only married we wouldn’t be gay anymore. I thought this too. I was wrong. I wasn’t seeking God’s Kingdom first and what He wanted for me. Never the less I got married, and paid for it with marital strife, even though God blessed the marriage with children (it is still a miracle to me that these children were even conceived by me, because I am not attracted to women).
          Join a community of believers and share your story. The best way to have a friend is to be a friend. I too faced depresion and sadness. I nearly took my life over this because I was gay (and dealing with the suicide of my best friend seven years earlier).
          We are all lonely sometimes. But I am willing to be your friend, if you let me.

  • mike

    I used to think that the different soils represented different people whose heart condition remained the same all their lives, but I’ve come to realize that the soils in fact represent the heart at different moments in a person’s life.
    Our job is to be the sower and sow no matter what the person’s heart condition is. It seems like a waste of a seed. Shouldn’t we inquire about the heart in that person first? Shouldn’t we first till the soil. No. We sow the seed generously and indiscriminately.
    But God does till that soil that was rocky. Later on another generous sower obeys Jesus teaching here and another seed gets planted. That seed may yet remain idle until another Apollos comes along and waters that seed (1 Corinth. 3:6) and God gives the growth!
    How wonderful God’s mercy and provision. There is hope for your friends!

  • Shawn Ruth

    Navel gazing by searching our motivations won’t help…focusing on what a great sinner I am isn’t going to help…it’s better to focus on what a great Saviour He is…

  • Russell

    With all due respect and in sincere love I am saddened by this article. The Bible makes it very clear that the sole condition to receive eternal life is belief or faith in Christ. Nothing else is required. The Bible also makes it clear that salvation is a free gift. A gift, not a trade. In other words God does not say give up your sin and I will give you the gift of eternal life. That would be a trade. He does not say keep the 10 commandments and place your faith in Christ and you will be saved.
    In the Gospel of John, the only book in the Bible that’s stated purpose is to evangelize, the sole condition for salvation is to believe in Jesus Christ. In other words trust in Him alone for salvation. In Galatians, a book written to defend the gospel, Paul never mentions turning from sin. In Romans, a book written to explain the theology of salvation repentance from sin is not mentioned.
    In the parable of the sowers the first soil did not believe and that person was not saved. The next three they do believe and are saved. To say they were not saved because they did not evidence enough fruit or they fell away is to deny what the Scripture says.
    Your are saved by the power of God and you are kept saved by the power of God. Your persevering has nothing to do with it. The Bible says that whoever believes has been given, past tense, eternal life. Eternal life that can be lost is not eternal.
    Matt, your self examination must be very draining. Am I loving enough? Have I forsaken enough? Have I repented enough? Did I do it all for the right reasons? Do I love enough?
    If your right, Matt, then you can never know if your really saved. You can never know for sure if you will stay saved. You can never know if your producing enough fruit or the right kind. Your salvation is based on you.
    I know that some of you will say to me that I am presenting “cheap grace”. I am not. I am presenting free grace. The only kind of grace God gives. This does not mean that a believer has a license to sin. God expects and wants us to live holy and obedient lives. If we don’t we lose out on reward and will be disciplined by God. But your salvation does not depend on how you live your life and how much you obey and it sure does not depend on how faithful you are. You are saved and kept saved by Gods faithfulness. His word says that salvation is by grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone. It is foolish to look at your actions to determine if your saved. Your salvation must be based on what Gods Word said.
    Lastly, I can understand how sad it is for Matt to see friends stop living in obedience. Only God knows for sure if they are saved. If they really did put their faith in Christ then they are still saved.

    • WARD KELLY

      If this is the case… ” I’m not talking about just a little backsliding or a bit of stumbling. These guys and gals flat out rejected Jesus. Today, they proudly admit that they couldn’t care less about the biblical realities of sin, judgment, or God’s gracious offer of redemption. They are utterly finished with Christianity.” I would find it hard to believe that they were ever saved in the first place. We Christians, think by observing certain behaviors in people that we can evaluate with some level of certainty that someone is saved. They talk the talk, they pray, they serve, they worship, they say they love Jesus. Yet all throughout scripture we read of those who are among us, who are able to appear to be Christians. Only God knows the heart. I think what is missing for additional discussion in this article is the environment in which America bestows the title “Christian” on supposed new believers. Are we giving a clear understanding to a seeker of what becoming a Christian is and entails? Or are we having repeated altar calls and trying to get people to come forward for all the wrong reasons, not giving them a clear picture of salvation and the Christian life, not following up afterwards, and “welcoming them to the family”? Churches should be less concerned with numbers and more concerned with souls.

      • Marsha Murphy

        Please help I fell away and got all mixed and want to be saved and a he’ll thought got stuck in brain thought it was from God and thought had to accept it so told God would go there and then threatened him I will destroy Christian business of mine and then my self and hardened heart against God and left faith. Now God said cut out of family and jesus said I am going to he’ll for that since rejected him. I have been wanting to be saved again. Marsha

        • Sherri Bush Kelly

          Marsha the passage that you have focused on is more in depth than just its initial reading. I suggest you read the link I am posting which gives a full explanation using other scripture to pull out the true meaning of the passage. In your case Marsha, either you were never saved in the first place, or you have been saved and the devil is trying to make you doubt that salvation. Satan knows that that if he can make one doubt their salvation they will never be effective for God. The fact that you are concerned about losing your salvation leads me to believe that you are in fact a Christian as a lost person wouldn’t be concerned about losing it. Read the article. If you have called upon the name of Jesus, asked for forgiveness, repented of your sins truly you are saved. Scripture says Jesus will make us “new creatures in Christ”, but that doesn’t mean we won’t have occasion to stumble or doubt. If you feel you have done so, re-commit yourself to serving God, read the word, put it in your heart, pray, and stay on the narrow road. God bless. Oh by the way for some reason this is posting in my wife’s name.

          https://carm.org/about-can-person-lose-salvation

    • Randall Burke

      “Faith without works is dead.” ‘Even the demons believe and tremble.’ “You say you have faith? Show me your deeds….” James chapter one, among other passages. Faith — true faith — involves heart change. No heart change. No true faith.

      • Randall Burke

        Many passages talk about us enduring to the end and keeping good fruit of repentance. The bible has plenty to say about repentance. Only a modern world tries to teach that we can “believe” without obedience. If we truly believe, our hearts will be changed.