Last week, Bill taught on the parable of the Good Soil out of Luke 8. I thought it was good enough to revisit this week. Here are my notes from yesterday, including 7 disciplines for keeping your heart soft and receptive towards Jesus.
Preparing My Heart to be Good Soil
Being receptive to God’s Word and bearing fruit are our top priorities as followers of Jesus. We want to be good soil. We do not want to be hard or calloused to God’s word, nor do we want to let the things of this world (anxiety, the love of money) choke out the life of Christ in us.
“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples,” John 15:8
- A transformed life that manifests the character attributes of Jesus described in Galatians 5:22 – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.
- Making disciples by proclaiming and demonstrating the Good News of Jesus’s death, resurrection and soon coming Kingdom.
- Loving God as our top priority and loving others with the same sort of sacrificial love with which Jesus loved us.
- Cleaning up your messes and Keeping Your Love On
Unless we deliberately choose to cultivate our hearts as good soil, we will default to oneof the other three types Jesus described in the parable:
(1) We will ignore God’s Word because we are hard hearted towards God and/or have no hunger for him.
(2) We will initially respond to the Gospel with joy, but only because we think it is a quick road to health and/or wealth. When persecution and hardship arise, our motivation to follow God quickly diminishes.
(3) We really want to follow God, but we keep getting distracted. Our family, our career, the love of money or other anxieties keep us from being as fully devoted to Jesus as we need to be in order to mature.
Fighting our natural tendency towards apathy and lethargy requires discipline – which is where the word disciple comes from. The following disciplines have an amazingly disproportionate return for the time they require:
Seven Disciplines for Cultivating Good Soil
(1) Personal Private Worship – Worship God in your home (or office) on your own time, by yourself, being as expressive/creative as necessary. Worshipping together as a community is great, but it won’t have the same transformative effect. Do whatever works for you, but do it with the intent of worshipping God and connecting with him.
(2) Prayer – Pray the Lord’s Prayer or any of the Psalms in your own words. Using that as a template, expand or contract your prayers accordingly. Remember, Jesus taught us to pray in the plural – so prayer isn’t just about you; it is also about your family, congregation, city, state and nation. Pray through a list of the people you love. Journal your prayers. Prayer is primarily about finding out what God thinks about something and then agreeing with it. Prayer is secondarily about expressing your feelings and needs and finding God in the midst of them.
(3) Bible Study – How healthy do you think you would be if you only ate one meal every week? That is how your soul feels if your only time spent in God’s Word is on Sunday morning. The Bible’s primary intent is to reveal the nature of God. Read it with the hope of finding out more of who he is, not as a “To Do” list.
(4) Fast – Our culture has an unhealthy obsession with food – health food and junk food alike. Your life is about more than food, what you eat or what you don’t. A regular practice of fasting helps free you from the stranglehold food has on many of us. Not eating for a day won’t kill you. Seek medical advice if you are on significant medications or are diabetic. Fasting once a week is a good place to start.
(5) Tithe – The love of money is deceitful and it can quickly become your master. We exert our authority over money by refusing to define our self-worth by our net-worth. We put that intention into action by giving money away and making it serve other people. There really is something special about tithing, giving 10% of your income back to God. Lesser amounts don’t do it. The tithe is supremely effective at freeing us from the love of money. You don’t tithe for God or the Church, you tithe for you.
(6) Small Group – Most of us are way too busy – our most important commodity is our time. But do the things we are “so busy” with really matter? Often, our schedules are filled up with voluntary commitments and obligations, not vital projects necessary for our survival. Getting together with other believers, people who will likely become dear friends, reminds us that we are a community – a family – and that other things can wait. If your goal is to be good soil, you will need the strength, encouragement and refreshment that being with other Christians brings.
(7) Rest – Take one day off each week and only do the things you love to do. Sleep in, relax, recreate. This has a way of uncluttering your life and helping you to determine what is really important in life.
One Way to Put it All Together
Because tithing has been, and continues to be, such a huge part of my life (and because I like round numbers), here are the goals I shoot for:
- A tenth of my day (2 hours 24 minutes) in worship, prayer and Bible study (I get up at 4am most days of the week to make this happen)
- A tenth of my week (16.8 hours or roughly one day of being awake) resting, relaxing, recreating or otherwise spending time with my family.
- A tenth of my month spent with other Christians doing life together (1-2 nights each week)
- A tenth of my year in fasting (the first 3 days of each month, Lent or some other combination)
- A tenth of my income to the congregation and another tenth to missions (the missions portion is because Dani and I want to. It isn’t required, it is just fun. :D)
Again, these are my goals. I think they are achievable by almost everyone, but you ultimately need to work out your own goals for yourself.
This plan is intended to war against the common idols of our culture: self-indulgance, the love of money, pride, busyness and self-sufficiency.
The Heart Behind it All
All of this will just be legalistic nonsense if it isn’t done from the proper heart posture. We don’t embrace these postures hoping to be good soil so that we can earn Father’s approval – we already have it. We embrace this rigorous approach to discipleship because we want to be a home for Holy Spirit and we want to give the life of Jesus inside of us the best possible chance of growing and maturing and, thereby, transforming us and making us new. It all boils down to love – we love God and want to be more like him. We want to bear fruit and share the Good News. Please be careful about picking and choosing from this list, it is about as distilled as it can get. If we are serious about being open and receptive to God’s Word in our lives, we will need a comprehensive plan to war against our default tendency towards apathy, lethargy and distraction.
Thanks for reading friends.