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<< Discover the Book, with Dr. John Barnett

Discover the Book - Dec. 11, 2008

  • 2008 Dec 11

Hardened Wayside Hearts


This morning we return to perhaps the greatest story Jesus ever told. The depth of the message of these few words is astounding. Christ's insight into human nature is piercing. His analysis of human responsibility is sobering. And His explanation of life around us should make us pay much closer attention to our spiritual condition. All this because He was and is the Greatest Physician of the Human Heart.


This week with the three days of tornadoes many of us were listening to the radio more than normal. Have you noticed all the Heart Hospital ads. We have complete heart care, we have the best facilities, we have the best staff, and so on. Each of our different medical centers is promoting the fact that their team can deal better than anyone else with your heart.


If you want help preserving and protecting the 80 year rated, submerged pump in your chest (your physical heart) – those doctors and hospitals probably can really help. But if you are concerned about the real you, the spiritual, immortal heart that lives within you – Jesus says listen to my ad this morning. If you want to prepare to live forever with Me, Jesus says, Listen up!


That is what Mark 4 is all about. The Supreme Doctor of the Human heart lets us in for the first and only time, on one of His 35 plus parables. Jesus does the complete heart check up.


Mark 4 and the parallel passages in Matthew 13 and Luke 8 are an incredible treasure. We started on this treasure hunt yesterday and continue as we open again to the first 20 verses.



Mark 4:3-9 “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And it happened, as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds of the air came and devoured it. Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away. And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. 8 But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.” And He said to them, He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

The Sermon


Jesus takes the simple story and launches into one of the clearest explanations we could ever have about the inner workings of our hearts. No one knows hearts like Jesus. No one diagnoses the condition of a heart like Christ's diagnosis. His diagnosis is complete, accurate, and exact. So what does He say? If you listen carefully, Jesus explains everything we need to know about our spiritual responsibility to respond to God. Here are the questions answered by Christ's parable:


  • Why do some people never respond to the Gospel?
  • Why do some people hear God's Word and immediately respond and others wait so long?
  • Why do believers sometimes grow for a while and then stop growing?
  • What makes us cold as believers at times, and other times feel so distant from God?


Jesus enters into the unseen world of spiritual life…the invisible realities that govern the working of God in the hearts of mankind. Jesus explains to us what sin does in both believers lives and unbelievers lives in this amazing sermon on the parable of the one soil and the four hearts!

WAYSIDE HEARTS: What happens when God's Word falls on the Wayside Heart? Jesus says that He finds it IMPENENTRABLE, HARD, and INSENSITIVE.

What is a wayside heart? It is a heart that has gotten hard and resistant, living right on the edge of fruitful field. This is such a portrait of so many of the unconverted. They hear sermons but forget them. They are surrounded by God’s truth, but nothing sinks in; they are resistant and unstirred by God. God's Word doesn’t interest them. They have no fear of God, no faith, no experience of Christ.

In the Old Testament this type of person was called “stiff-necked”:

        Proverbs 29:1 A man who remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy. (NIV)

The hard hearted person in the Bible is unresponsive to spiritual things, unconcerned for the fate of their soul, unheeding of warnings from the Lord, and often opposed to the Gospel. The heart becomes hardened by a constant flow of bad thoughts and deeds. Often secret sins become welcomed and then sought after. There is never remorse, sorrow, or even guilt for sin, and so with each passing action more of the heart looses all feeling of sin consciousness. With no repentance the buildup of traffic makes the heart so calloused and stiff that even when seed is thrown directly onto that heart if just sits there until eaten off by Satan’s birds of distraction.

A tremendous example of the “wayside hearts” would be the religious leaders of Christ's day. They often came to attack Him when He was in Jerusalem. But before they came to denounce Him as false and of the Devil they still kept up their word as Scribes and Priests. Think of what that meant.

One of the most visible of the wayside hearts of Christ's time were the temple workers, or priests. As PRIESTS that means that they would be quoting the Word of God regularly during their ministry day; they would know by diligent study the prescribed rituals that Moses had laid down. Serving in the Temple they would perform the sacrifices, the offerings, and the cleansings. Thus all day long they were doing all the activities that demanded recognition of sin, confession of sin, offering of substitutionary sacrifices, and proclaiming the glorious Name of the Lord.

Isaiah 29:13 The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men. (NIV)

Their hands were stained by the blood of lambs sacrificed for others -- that they never applied to themselves. That is a wayside heart, the truth of God surrounds them but never enters them.

A second group of wayside hearts were the scribes known as the premier Bible scholars of Christ's day. As SCRIBES they were in the Word daily. Did you ever think of that? You can spend your life in the Word of God and it can never get past the surface of your life! A Scribe’s days were filled with copying the Sacred Word of God. They guarded, cared for, and produced scrolls of Scripture. They copied the words, counted the words, read the words, studied the words, held the words, and heard the words. But only with their physical ears. They did not feel the fire of God's Word in their hearts. The hammer of His Spirit never broke up their sin hardness.

Jeremiah 23:29 “Is not my word like fire,” declares the LORD, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces? (NIV)

Their minds and mouths were filled with God's Word prepared for others -- that they never applied to themselves. More important than being in the Word is that the Word be in you!

So Jesus makes His first diagnosis. Some hearts are so traveled with sin, so filled with the traffic of life, so trampled by everything but God – that He can’t find a spot to get into that life. A heart that persists in hardness is lost. A heart that never gets plowed up and softened is lost and hell bound. A heart that can’t take in the Word of God is hopeless. Listen He says to you this morning. Stop this trampling of His truth in your life; seek the Lord while He may be found. Christ's prescription: break up that unplowed, hard soil and let God's Word in!

This first heart was often faced by the Lord in the Old Testament times with the people of Israel. It is so hard that nothing penetrates it, yet that hardness can be broken up. Listen to what the Lord said through His prophets earlier:

Jeremiah 4:3 This is what the LORD says to the men of Judah and to Jerusalem: “Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns. (NIV)


Hosea 10:12 Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you. (NIV)

If you are hearing Christ's description and say ‘that’s me’ and I don’t have any response to Jesus from my heart. I am cold and indifferent to spiritual things. That probably means you are unregenerated, unconverted, unsaved, without a personal relationship with God, and not born again.

If you have never met the Lord then the response He seeks is for you to receive His implanted Word. Make room for Him in your life. Turn to Him in faith. Believe in Him for salvation. Ask Him to come in. Open your heart to Him and receive His forgiveness as you confess and forsake your sins. In an instant of faith Jesus does the miraculous surgery of the spiritual heart. He removes the old one dead in the cancer of sin, and transplants a new one that is alive and filled with the Spirit of God.

If you have begun in Christ, you have that relationship with Him but something just isn’t right. Did you hear His story this morning? You are becoming like that wayside again. You are getting away from Him and you know it. This morning, have the things of God gotten so familiar to you that they don’t really affect you any more? Does God feel distant? If so it may be that the traffic of life has slowly hardened you to the Lord. Was there a time that the Word used to thrill your heart and you just couldn’t get enough of it? Has that changed? Then it is time to ask God to plow through your life. Ask Him now to break up that trampled ground in your heart. Ask Him to make you soft and responsive to His Word, His Will, and His Spirit’s work.


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