So, we began a new series a few weeks ago that we are calling “The True Vine,” which is essentially a teaching on how to be fruitful. And we have been learning that just as Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, there is a True Vine which shows us the Way of the kingdom, the Truth of how His kingdom operates and the Life we can have in His kingdom. Yes, this is the kingdom principle.
So, we opened up this series by asking the question: How do we bear this fruit that He spoke of? How can we practically apply this truth to our lives so that we can produce His fruit in and through us? And the answer to these questions is found in John 15:7. Yes, this profound verse teaches us the two steps to receiving what we desire from God. Now I am hesitant to even say it that way because receiving from God is not in a formula; receiving from God is simply like receiving fruit. It just comes by submitting to His kingdom principle. Amen.
But what I want you to see in John 15:7 is that there is an absolute, concrete, and positive way to receiving all of these desires that we ask the Lord for 100% of the time! In other words, there is a fool-proof way to always getting the results we desire from God.
Notice that Jesus tells us the two things at the beginning of verse 7 that cause us to enter into the manifestation of our heart’s desires:
So, if we want to receive what we desire from the Lord, we need to find out two things: What does it mean to abide in Him? And what does it mean for His Words to abide in us? Because Jesus said if these two things are a reality in our lives, we will ask what we desire and it shall be done! How many of you want this? Amen! So do I! So, as we go through this series of teachings, we will answer these questions.
In part one of this series, we looked at one particular parable that the Lord taught us in Mark 4:26-29—the Parable of the Growing Seed. And we learned some very basic, practical ways in which Jesus said that His kingdom operates. In other words, we looked at the overall process of the kingdom—how it simply grows in our life by the principle of seedtime & harvest. No, it is not by our own self effort or our own intellect; the kingdom comes by sowing & reaping.
But again today, let’s go back to the beginning of this chapter and look at what Jesus taught that led up to John 15:7 in order to get the proper foundation laid:
We have seen in verse one that Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.” Again, by Jesus referring to Himself as the “True” Vine, He is implying that there are false vines out there too—that is, there are people, belief systems, all sorts of things that man tends to see as their source of life, peace, joy, etc. Likewise, there are things that we can tend to rely on, thinking they will make us fruitful and produce what we desire, such as our church, our pastor, a new teaching or ministry, etc.
And so our King—the Lord Jesus Christ—has given you and I the very laws of how His kingdom operates. Yes, the True Vine has taught us the very principle of His kingdom and we will see today that again, the physical laws of seedtime, harvest, and fruit-bearing are involved. And that is why I call this the “Kingdom Principle (for bearing fruit)” because it is only going to come by our connection to the True Vine Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Then, last week, we looked at verses 2&3 and saw how the Lord went on to tell His disciples: “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.”
We saw how we must be careful to not let our experiences and things we’ve seen in others form our interpretation of what it means to be “pruned.” Many interpret this “pruning” to be sickness, disease, tragedy, suffering, etc., but we need to let the Scriptures interpret the Scriptures. In verse three, we see Jesus telling His disciples that they are “already clean…” The word for “clean” here is from the same Greek word translated “prune” in verse two! So, Jesus was telling His disciples that they were already pruned. How? Because of the word which He had spoken to them. In other words, His Words are what purge us—not circumstances and situations. So, His Word has a cleansing effect on us and what causes us to grow!
Jesus said something similar in John 17:17 when He prayed to His Father, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your Word is truth.” Therefore, it is clear that it is the Word of God that makes us fruitful—not circumstances, like some have interpreted John 15:2-3 to mean. No, church, it is not our circumstances that bring forth fruit; the Word does! Therefore, we will not yield more fruit simply by the situations we find ourselves in throughout our lives. The way God grows us is through the Holy Scriptures! In fact, we saw how Psalm 119:9 tells us— “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to your Word.” Again, how are we purged, pruned or cleansed? By taking heed according to His Word! And God wants us to remind Him of His Word (Isaiah 43:26). Not that He has forgotten, but He wants us to stand on His Word and say, “God, You said…” and claim what His Word says about the situation you are dealing with. Once we have done this, God is obligated to perform what He has promised.
And that is what we camped on last week: Last time, we talked about the seed itself from this seedtime & harvest process: We saw in Mark 4:14 that Jesus said that the seed is the Word. Therefore, we saw that if all fruit began with a seed, and the seed is specifically referred to as the Word, then how on earth (and in God’s kingdom) do we suppose we will ever bear any fruit without God’s Word? It’s just not going to happen! The Word is the most critical element in us bearing the fruit that we desire in our lives. Amen.
Now one very important point that we made was that there is a big difference between one who sows and one who is a sower. For example, a farmer is different than one who farms occasionally. Why? Because a farmer is one who does this for a living, where one who simply farms might just be doing it as a hobby or for fun. In other words, one who farms for a living describes his or her lifestyle. Anyone can plant seed here and there, but if we are a sower—meaning, we do this as an occupation or a profession—then we are living our lives focused on sowing & reaping. The fact is that this sower in Jesus’ parable was intentional. In other words, He went out specifically for the purpose of sowing to get a harvest. Therefore, we need to see ourselves as “sowers” and live purposeful lives of going to and fro sowing seed wherever we go.
But we also learned that we need to be intentional in what specific seed we are sowing. I brought this out because it sparks a very good point: We need to know specifically what kind of seed we are planting. In other words, what is the specific Word that we are planting? You see, it is not good enough to just be general. We need to be specific and sow specific seed that we want a specific harvest in. You see, we wouldn’t go into a nursery and just grab a bunch of miscellaneous seeds to sow in our garden or field, would we? We wouldn’t say, “Oh, this looks like a seed. That’s what I need” and take it to go plant. No, we would search out the specific seed that we need, right?
You know, many Christians say things like, “Well, I’m just trusting God.” But what are we trusting Him to do? Specifically, how are we trusting Him? What is our trust based on? We need to be specific in our faith and not just general. When we do that it just shows our ignorance of how His kingdom operates.
No, when we are planting a garden, we prepare the ground. We buy specific seed. We systematically sow it. We then guard our garden—sometimes with some pretty extreme measures. We go through certain concentrated and calculated steps to get the fruit, flower, vegetables, etc. we want. So why would we do it any different in God’s kingdom? Saints, I’ll tell you, we need to become more deliberate, purposeful and intentional in what we are sowing into our lives—because, as a general rule, our lives are a fruit today of what we planted yesterday! Amen!
But we also looked at the fact that there is both a natural and a spiritual side to all of this. Many get in one ditch or the other when it comes to these things. Either they will get totally spiritual, believing that all that is important is God’s Word and it doesn’t matter what they do in the natural or they will put all their hope in their observance of natural laws. But we need to do our best to sow good seed first naturally and then after that, spiritually.
But we learned that as important as these natural things are, just doing them will in no way guarantee one that they will not lose all of their wealth or their health. The reason is because we live in a fallen world that leaves us subject to economy crashes and sickness & disease that do not come because we did something wrong. This is where God’s kingdom principles come in!
So, we learned last week how we sow the seed of God’s Word so that we can receive the fruit we desire in these specific areas. We used the example of our mental & emotional state and if we need to see fruit in that area, how do we sow God’s Word to reap that harvest in our soul. So, from this example, we saw that after we have gathered the specific seed that pertains to our area of need—this being what God’s Word promises us in that area—we now have the seed to sow.
Then I illustrated to you how we then take that seed and begin to sow it: Regarding the example of prosperity in our soul, we would take those promises and say something to the effect of: “Father, I thank You that You, as my Lord and Good Shepherd, restore my soul (Psalm 23:3). You have promised to do so, to restore even the years that have been stolen from me. Thank You for restoring my soul. And I praise You that you have given me Your Word that You said converts my soul. So, I implant that Word in my heart and it is saving my soul. Glory to God, I have a sound mind that is already delivered and prosperous in Jesus name.”
So, I say all of this to say, what do you want to see changed in your life? Where would you like to see growth? What is your need? Well, I’m here to tell you that for every need, there is a seed. So, our only real need is to find out the seed and then plant it!
YOUR ONLY NEED IS THE SEED
Friends, the fact is—everything starts with a seed? Yes, everything with life in it starts with a seed! For example, you started with a seed. Each and every one of us started out as the seed from our father and then when that seed was planted, you and I were conceived.
It is the same spiritually: The new creation that we were born again into, started with a seed. As the Scriptures teach us, we were born of God and His seed remains in us. And First Peter 1:23 tells us that we were born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible seed, through the Word of God which lives and abides forever.
Now Peter had the same kind of seed in mind here as our physical birth: He is referring not to a seed of a plant, but to the seed of a man. The Greek word used in this verse for “seed” is sperma—which is obviously where we get our word “sperm” from. Peter was saying that just as we are physically born after the seed of a man is planted in the womb of a woman, likewise we are spiritually born again after the seed of God is planted in our hearts. Yes, the analogy is correct. When one is born again, he or she has received God’s spiritual seed!
Now we understand that the seed of a man is the carrier of all the nature and attributes of the man that it originated from. Therefore, it should not surprise us that the seed of God that we receive when we hear and receive the gospel contains the nature and attributes of our Heavenly Father! Wow! That is a powerful truth! And we know from Scripture that we are spiritually recreated in His likeness and image which includes His holiness and righteousness (Ephesians 4:24). The reason this is possible is because we have been born of Him! This changes everything! As Paul said, “Old things have passed away. Behold, all things become new!”
This is why the Apostle John said in 1 John 3:9– “Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.” What this verse is saying is that when we are born-again, we will not continue to practice sin because we have become new creations and, therefore, no longer have the same sinful tendencies. Certainly, we do still commit sins after we are born again. That is not what John was saying. He was saying that the difference between our former life in the world and our new life with Christ is that our nature has changed and the lack of awareness of sin and the desire for sin has been crucified with Christ. We now have the law of God written on our hearts and have God’s divine nature that causes us to desire the things He loves and abhor the things He hates.
Yes, when we were born again, we received a new nature that will compel us to grow up to be like our Daddy. Just like we grew up to resemble our natural parents in appearance and personality, likewise we will grow up to resemble our Heavenly Father in spiritual appearance and personality. It is in our spiritual DNA!
Therefore, when we heard the Gospel and it impacted us, the seed of God was placed in our hearts and we were born again. Hallelujah, the Gospel was God’s divine seed that impregnated us and now Christ is being magnified in us until we end up having the same testimony as the Apostle Paul in Galatians 2:20— “It is no longer I who live but Christ living in me!” Glory to God!
But another point that 1 Peter 1:23 was making is that, naturally speaking, when one is born into this world, that natural seed that he or she is born from has death abiding in it. Therefore, mankind is corruptible. Eventually, after we have grown and matured, we will begin to decline and will eventually die. Our physical bodies will begin to become wrinkled, spotted and will begin to slow down. This is the inevitable consequence of the curse of sin that is in this world.
Of course, we as believers have the ability to supernaturally live above this curse-ridden world to a certain degree, but there are certain things that are inevitable such as physical death. This is just a part of being born of “corruptible seed.” But the good news is that although the outward man is perishing, when one is born again, the inward man is renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16)! This means that although our physical self has death abiding in it, the spiritual part of us never ages. It maintains the same newness and perfection day after day. In the spiritual, eternal realm we do not go from birth to death; we go from glory to glory. Our flower will never fade. Hallelujah, this is the beauty of the new birth!
The seed of God has no death abiding in it—only life everlasting! Therefore, we are born again of an incorruptible seed because the Word of God lives and abides forever! Hallelujah! We now have eternal life!
WHAT IS THE SOIL?
So that leads me to this next part of this series: We found out what the seed is; now where are we supposed to plant it? In other words, what is the soil that we plant the seed of God’s Word into? Well, just as Jesus tells us plainly what the seed is, the Parable of the Sower also plainly tells us what the soil that we sow this seed into is: It is our hearts.
In Luke’s gospel, Jesus specifically referred to the ground as being the heart of man (Luke 8:12&15). This should be fairly obvious even if Jesus would not have specifically mentioned our heart, for where else could the Word have been sown on the inside of us? Our hearts are the ground that, when seeds are planted in it, will produce the fruit of the seeds planted therein.
But when it comes to Jesus’ explanation of both the seed and the soil in His Parable of the Sower, it is noteworthy the vast difference in how much time He took describing them both: In fact, in Mark’s account of Jesus explaining this parable, we have 5 words used to describe the seed and around 150 words used to describe the ground. So, for every 30 or so words that describe the various conditions of man’s heart, we have one word for God’s Word. That teaches me that the issue is mainly not with the seed; it is with the heart of man that the seed is sown into. And the truth is that this is exactly where we see the difference in most Christian’s ability to be fruitful: the answer is found in the condition of our own hearts.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE HEART
Now, let’s look at a few Scriptures in the Bible that describe just how important the heart truly is:
So, our hearts are evidently super important, and through these Scriptures we can clearly see why: It is because it is where both the good treasures and the evil treasures of man’s life are conceived. Yes, how we think in our hearts is what we become in our lives. It is because we will bear the fruit of whatever we have treasured in our hearts. This will also produce the fruit of our lips—which are very important. And, finally, God is not just looking for the fruit that is produced from our hearts; He is looking at the heart itself.
So, the condition of our hearts is vital. Just as it is with the earth, our hearts hold the power to produce whatever is planted in them. You see, the earth’s soil does not discern what seeds are sown into it and then decide which ones to produce. It does not say, “I don’t want to produce these corn seeds that are planted in me. I think I will just produce tomatoes instead.” No, it does not have the ability to discern between good seed and bad seed. The earth will simply produce the fruit of whatever seed that is planted in it.
And our hearts are no different: Just like the earth’s soil, our hearts will just accept whatever seed we allow to be sown into it and then begin to produce the fruit of that seed. This is why it is so important that we watch what is sown into our hearts! Again, it is because as a man thinks in his heart, so is he. It is just that simple.
So, just as that little muscle that weighs less than one pound plays such a vital role in our physical life, likewise our spiritual heart plays a similar vital role in our spiritual life, with even the power to affect the natural as well.
GUARDING THE HEART
The wisest king Israel ever had understood this very well: We see Solomon exhorting us in Proverbs 4:23 to guard our hearts with all diligence for out of it spring the issues of life.
First of all, notice what Solomon says comes from the heart: He says out of it spring the issues of life! Now the words “spring” and “issues” give us a word picture that I believe is extremely helpful to understanding the heart: The word “issues” oftentimes was used in the times of the Old Testament to describe the “outgoings” of a body of water or you could say the “channels” that come from that body of water. So then when you combine this definition with the word “spring” the picture is painted of water that flows up out of our heart like a fountain or spring.
But it is not water that Solomon says flows from our heart; He says that the issues in our life are what flow out of our heart. You see, most of the conditions of our life are directly tied to the condition of our heart. Whew, that was a powerful statement! Let me say it this way since we are talking about a spring of water: The purity and satisfaction of our life is determined by the fountainhead of our heart! If our heart is corrupt and impure then our life will be corrupt and impure.
In the Middle East—especially during the days of Solomon—fountains and wells were watched over with special care. Why? It was because if the source of their water was contaminated, then their supply of water was useless. There were not many sources of water in those days, so they protected the ones that they had at all costs. It was vital for them to do that! Likewise, the part of us that all the issues of our life stem from must be protected at all costs, lest we allow the enemy to contaminate our life. This is a vital issue for us as well!
But not only do we see the analogy of a wellspring being used, but we also see the analogy of a garden:
Any of us who have ever had a garden understand fully well that it takes work to keep a productive garden. In many cases, if you do not spray it down with insecticides or put an electric fence around it, different kinds of bugs and animals will devour your harvest. Likewise, our hearts are like the garden and we must keep it with all diligence.
Let’s now look at this phrase— “Keep your heart with all diligence”: The word “keep” literally means “to guard.” It describes keeping something in a safe, secret place, and then, guarding that place. So, Solomon was saying that we are to keep our heart in a safe and secret place similar to how we would keep our wallet, checkbook, or jewelry in a safe and secret place.
Did you know that in the world an extremely valuable jewel is oftentimes placed in a high security vault with all kinds of motion detectors, etc.? And they do this for a rock which only has temporal value! How much more, should we apply this same kind of diligent guarding to our heart, which has eternal value?
Notice what Solomon goes on to say: He says that we are to guard our heart “with all diligence.” Actually, the Hebrew word for “diligence” here means “keeping or guarding.” That’s right—It has the same meaning as the word “guard” at the beginning of this verse! So, what the first portion of this verse literally says is— “Guard your heart above everything else you guard!” In other words, the Holy Spirit through Solomon was saying that the most important thing you have to guard is your heart. Therefore, guard your heart more than you would guard your most valuable possessions.
BREAKING UP THE FALLOWED GROUND
But the point I want you to get today is this: there is the principle that we see in Jesus’ Parable of the Sower: Once one takes the seed of God’s Word and sows it in a heart that is good, soft, & unadulterated, there will be a harvest that will come—for some thirtyfold, some sixtyfold, and others one hundredfold. It absolutely, positively will work 100% of the time!
But the fact is that Jesus taught us in this parable that only one out of the four conditions of ground bore fruit that remained. That means that the odds are not in our favor that we will bear the fruit that we desire. But at the same time, it doesn’t mean we just throw our hands up in the air and say, “Que Sara Sara.” No, we can purposefully and deliberately cultivate the ground of our hearts, so that it is the good ground that Jesus said bore much fruit. Amen?
So, if the ground of our heart is so vital to the seed’s ability to do what it is programmed to do, we ought to first guard it above everything else we guard. One of the ways we can do this is by paying particular attention to Jesus’ Parable of the Sower which deals directly with the four different conditions of the heart of man. Now, a couple of years ago, we did a very thorough teaching on these four different types of ground entitled “Guarding your Garden.” In this series, we looked at Luke’s account of this parable and saw how these four different kinds (or better yet, “conditions”) of hearts according to Jesus’ teaching are the wayside ground, the stony ground, the thorny ground, and, last but not by any means the least, the good ground. It was a very good teaching that went into much more detail than we will in this series. So, if you are interested in learning more on those four conditions of heart and their remedy, just let me know.
But the fact is, some of us have hearts that have already been molded and shaped into the condition they are in. Therefore, we need help, not just in guarding our hearts going forward, but in fixing the ground that is already in the condition it is in.
So, what I felt led to do this week is give you a good, general way to reshape and refashion our hearts to becoming the good ground that bears the fruit we so desire. So, are you interested in learning how to do that? While it is very simple, it is not easy. But if it were, then everyone would be doing it, right?
So, considering this analogy of cultivating good ground, a good question would be—How do we “till” this ground and make it good ground that receives the seed, understands it, and keeps it? The Lord showed me the answer. So, are you ready?
Second Timothy 2:15 says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” So, what we see here is how we can eliminate the wayside, stony, and thorny ground from our hearts.
First of all, it’s diligence! It’ll take work, and you need to understand that! That ground did not get that way overnight. It has taken years to get in the condition it has gotten into, so it isn’t going to get softened overnight either. It will require diligently working that ground. How? By, first of all, being a laborer of that field who is unspotted from the world (i.e. presenting ourselves approved to God)—that is, not conformed to the world. This worker is not half-hearted and double-minded. They have removed themselves from the world and have set their hand to the plow, not looking back. Amen? This echoes what we see in Romans 12:1-2—that the first and foremost key to not being conformed to the world is by the renewal of our mind.
Finally, Paul tells us this by telling Timothy how we do this: By rightly dividing the Word of Truth! The words “rightly dividing” in the Greek literally mean, “to cut a straight line.” This Greek word was used to describe the cutting of a straight furrow in a field or laying out a straight road. The making a straight furrow can refer to preparing the ground, which is making it good ground to produce the seeds planted in it. And laying a straight road can refer to laying concrete and a new path to travel on. So, the way we break up that wayside ground and make it good ground again is by cutting straight furrows in it—which comes through rightly dividing the Word.
Saints, the key to seeing the ground of our hearts changed is diligence in the Word of God—letting His Word renew your mind through diligent study, reading and meditation. As the Apostle Paul says in Second Timothy 2:15: this is what digs and lays straight furrows in that ground! So, as Hosea 10:12 & Jeremiah 4:3 say, “break up your fallow ground.” This means to break up that untilled ground so that the seed you sow gets where it can perform what it is meant to perform! But Hosea tells us how break it up. “Sow for yourselves righteousness; Reap in mercy; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the Lord, Till He comes and rains righteousness on you.” So we can break it up by using declaration such as, “Thank You, Lord, there is therefore now NO condemnation for those in You, so this that I’m feeling in my heart is not from You. I am not condemned, I am free from sin.” And we need to worship Him, focusing on Him and being changed into the image of who we behold. As we break up that ground, as well as being diligent to study the Word, we make room for that good seed to be planted and thrive. Selah!