In Mark 4:1-20, Jesus tells the "Parable of the Sower." This story tells us about a farmer sowing his seed in different types of soil — hard soil along the path, rocky soil, weedy soil, and good, rich soil. The underlying message is about the human heart and its ability to receive God’s word.

The “hard” heart has no ability to receive the word. The shallow, “rocky” heart is quick to receive, but when challenged, it turns away. The “weedy” heart receives the word, but carnal desires smother the word so there is no growth. Only the good, “rich” heart receives God’s word and produces crops of 30, 60 or 100 times what was sown.

What about the rocky, weedy and hard-hearted? During our lifetime on Earth, God provides an abundance of good news to prepare hearts to receive the good seed. Anyone who rejects removal of the “rocks” in their life, cultivating the “weeds” or plowing up their “hardness,” could never produce a crop, and failure to produce a crop results in condemnation.

Jesus makes this clear: “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light [truth] and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:19-21)

God looks at the heart, not the outward appearance (see 1 Samuel 16:7). Religious people who honor God with their lips but not their hearts (see Isaiah 29:13) may be very articulate and appear to be of great faith and knowledge. Some may hold important positions of authority in the church but are not able to produce any real fruit. (See John 8:42-47.)

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me, he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned." (John 15:1-6)

Paul wrote, “… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23) (Note, this is the fruit of the Spirit, not our own fruit.)

When we look at our own hearts, what kind of fruit do we see? As we see our need to grow more fruit, we could pray, “Lord, cleanse me of everything that hinders your work within me and fill me with your Holy Spirit.”

"From the Pulpit" runs on the Saturday faith pages and features reflections from area religious leaders. To contribute, contact Life Editor Meredith Williams at 701-429-1749 or