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Hard Hearts and Shallow Hearts

When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. . . . This is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary.
—Matthew 13:19–21

Why do some people accept the Word of God and other people reject it? It has to do with the condition of a person’s heart. And that’s the point Jesus makes in the parable of the four soils in Matthew 13.
First, the hard soil represents the impenetrable heart. Look at verse 19: “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road.” This hard heart is the result of someone who has repeatedly rejected the truth that has been shared with him.

Why do people reject God? It’s not because of a lack of evidence about God; it’s because of a lack of desire to know God. When a person is living in rebellion against God, he doesn’t want to believe there is a Creator to whom he is responsible. He chooses a philosophical position that allows him to continue in his immorality and unbelief. We find that in the book of Romans. In Romans 1, Paul explains that everyone has knowledge of God just by looking at creation. To those who accept that knowledge, God gives more light and leads them to know Jesus Christ. But those who reject the light, God gives them over to immorality. And thus begins the cycle of rejection, sin, and unbelief.

Did you know it is possible to say “No” to God once too often? It is possible to reject the truth so much that you come to a point that you are no longer able to receive the truth of God. We see a great illustration of that in the story of Pharaoh. In the book of Exodus, Moses came to Pharaoh asking for release for the Israelites. The Bible says ten times God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. And then it says ten other times Pharaoh hardened his own heart so that he could not believe. Some people say it’s unfair that God would harden Pharaoh’s heart and then judge him for it. What’s interesting in the story of Pharaoh is, yes, God did harden his heart. But Pharaoh hardened his own heart seven times before the first time God hardened his heart. You see, when we reject the truth God has given us, there comes a point when God will harden our heart so that we cannot believe. This is the impenetrable heart.

The second kind of heart Jesus talked about is the shallow heart. “The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away (vv. 20–21). I bet you know people like this. Perhaps you are a person like this. This is the person who hears the gospel and immediately responds. Or the person who experiences some miraculous healing and suddenly he is on fire for the Lord. He is at church every time the church doors open. He is sharing his faith with everyone. In many ways, he is like the plant that blooms larger and more quickly than those around it. Everybody looks at this person and says, “I wish I could be like that.” It is a person who receives the gospel and appears to have great fruit in his life. But then something happens. A trial comes. He or she becomes ill. Or they lose a loved one. Or they suffer a financial setback. And they have no foundation because they haven’t developed a deep-rooted relationship with God that is built on the truth of God’s Word. When trials come into their life, they fall away and you never hear from them again.

By the way, a lot of times in church we talk about the value of trials. We quote James 1: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (vv. 2–3). That’s true, sometimes, but not all the time. The fact is, sometimes trials strengthen us, and sometimes trials destroy us. It all depends upon our foundation—a foundation built not just on experience but on the truth of God’s Word.

Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Matters of the Heart,” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2008.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.


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