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How to really open your heart to God …

Incredible as it may seem, the creator of the heavens and the earth is ready and willing to have a personal relationship with you and me. The biggest challenge to that for any of us, is usually for to us to be willing to open our heart to that concept in the first place. Once we get beyond that, there is a second challenge. We need to fully understand how to have and develop a growing relationship with God. In the first book of New Testament, Matthew chapter 13, verses 3-23, Jesus tells an incredible story about how you and I can really open up our heart to God. Jesus’ story is often referred to as a parable. Like Jesus often did, I want to begin by sharing with you a parallel story.

In 1868 a man by the name of Orlando McClean Scott received his release of military duty from the civil war. Orlando had decided he wanted to start a business. Since Orlando’s dad was a farmer, Orlando wanted to do something that he perceived as his father’s greatest challenge. How does one develop a field to grow crops in that is not full of dirty old weeds? You see in those days … there wasn’t really a special system for keeping weeds and seeds totally separated. So, often as you planted seed you were actually planting weeds at the same time! Orlando set out and over the next four years he developed a process that resulted in producing seed for sale that was 99.1% weed free. Over the next 100 years … with Orlando’s sons and family joining the effort, the company grew and continued to develop seeds for many things. One of those things was good old lawn-grass.

During this approximately same period of time … another man in another area, by the name of Otto Stern, began developing fertilizer. By the late 1940s Otto had finally managed to develop a tiny inexpensive water-soluble fertilizer. This extra boost fertilizer helped get “plant-starts” well established, thereby assuring customers’ gardening success. The product became known as “Miracle Grow!” Initially it was used for roses and tomatoes. Well the stuff really worked. In fact …  sales grew from $165,000 in 1960, to $55 million in 1980. In 1995 … the Scott Company bought out Miracle Grow for just over 195 million dollars. Today … the company … SCOTTS MIRACLE GROW (founded by Orlando Scott) has a research campus which includes four greenhouses, thirteen laboratories, a library, and over one hundred acres of experimental grasses.

NOW … I told you all of that to tell you this. Around two thousand years ago, God sent His Son into the world to help the human race with a similar kind of problem. You see, it seems that we as humans have weed problems too! We too have weeds in our lives. Things that we struggle with that just seem to come up from out of nowhere. These weeds are things that we wish we could just get rid of, but like Orlando’s father’s field they just seem to grow in the middle of even the good things we try to do. The worst part about these weeds, is that they often prevent us from having a good relationship with God. I want to share with you today how God has provided a way to help us with our weed problem.  In fact, in Matthew 13:3-23, Jesus describes God’s ability to help us with our weeds and give us spiritual miracle grow!

Jesus’ story talks about: BAD SOIL,  GOOD SOIL,  AND WEEDS. As Jesus alludes to this weed problem, He applies it directly to our personal lives. Jesus explains that like planting seeds properly in good soil, God wants to plant the seed of His love for us in our hearts. Let’s read the first part of the story exactly how Jesus portrays it.

Matthew 13 … 1 On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea. And great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seedfell by the wayside; and the birds  came and devoured them.Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth.But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away.And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them.But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

We must first understand that in Jesus’ story, He is using parallel word pictures to teach us a great truth. Jesus’ word pictures tell us that just like healthy plants need good weed-free soil in order to grow, it works the same way with us developing our relationship with God. There are four lessons we can glean from this story that Jesus shared. Four things that tell us how to overcome the challenge of ridding ourselves of the weeds (undesirable things in our lives, things that interfere with our relationship with God).

  1. WE NEED TO PLOW THE SOIL. (Matthew 13:3-4, 18-19)

The first type of soil Jesus describes in this parable can be called ‘the path’. Paths are places where the soil is packed down hard because of all the people walking on them. There are paths through and around farmers fields even today. One can easily imagine that at planting time, it is inevitable that some of the seed being scattered will fall upon these paths.  The thing is, most all of us have paths in our lives too. Places where we have been walking a certain way for a long time. Jesus describes here … how that, like these paths, sometimes people’s hearts are so hard that the truth of God’s love for us cannot penetrate their lives.

YOU SEE … Just as a seed cannot grow unless it penetrates the ground, the seed of God’s word cannot grow unless it can penetrate our heart. Farmers know that they can remedy this problem in their fields by plowing them. The plow breaks up the hard ground so that when the farmer plants the seeds they will be able to penetrate the soil.

Friends … just like those farmers, we may very well need to plow the soil of our hearts so that God’s word can enter in. So how do we, so to speak, plow our hearts (or prepare our hearts) in order to receive from God. Well, I have discovered that for most of us the best time to hear from God is by going to a good Bible believing church on Sunday morning. But even before going to church, let me share several practical things that you and I can do to prepare ourself for church.

First … get a good nights sleep. You’re not going to learn anything if you are too tired  to wake up, stay awake, and pay attention. Saturday night is not the best night to stay up late watching movies or playing games or anything else. It is a night to get to bed early so that you can come to church well rested so that you can give God your best. If you haven’t been getting anything out of church lately, maybe its because you haven’t been getting to bed on time.

Second … ask God to open your heart and give you understanding. We need to get to bed early on Saturday night so that we can get up early on Sunday morning and spend time with God before coming to church. We need to spend time asking God to help us to understand His word so that we will know how to apply it to our lives.

Third … we need to learn how God’s word applies to our life and not the person sitting next to you. See … anytime you walk away from a service and think, “That was great. I hope so and so was listening because they really needed that.” Anytime you walk away from a service thinking something like that, we have missed the entire point. The point of going to church is to hear from God personally. If you’re taking a look at your life today and you’re realizing that you haven’t been growing spiritually, maybe it’s because you have been hardening your heart to what God has been trying to teach you. Just like the farmer and the path … God will sow seeds, but your heart has to be open to receive them.

BY THE WAY …  As you can well imagine, plowing is not always a pleasant experience.

SOMETIMES … The plowing of God’s word, it might hurt a little, but the results are well worth it.

  1. WE NEED TO PUT DOWN ROOTS. (Matthew 13:5-6, 20-21)

The next type of soil that Jesus speaks of is shallow soil. He is not talking about soil that has rocks in it, but of a shallow layer of soil on top of solid rock. Because of the underlying rock … the plant is unable to put down deep roots.

We all probably have a basic understanding of plant life. Plants were basically designed by God to take in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen. We as human beings breathe and survive on that oxygen. The sun is a very important part of that process. The sun is absolutely necessary for a plants to grow. Without the sunlight the process of photosynthesis cannot take place and the plant will die.

Jesus tells us that when the sun comes out it can be difficult on a plant, it can even kill the plant, that is in shallow soil. The sun is a depiction of being tested or tried by some circumstance. It is important to understand that the real reason the plant dies is not because of the trial of the scorching sun, but because it doesn’t have deep enough roots to deal with the trial.  So what proves to be a devastating trial to the plant with shallow roots actually proves to be a life giving source to the plant with deep roots. We need to put down roots so that we can persevere in the face of difficulties.

I once read the story of a ten year old boy who decided to study judo. Despite the fact that he had lost his left arm in a devastating car accident, the boy began lessons with an old Japanese judo master. The boy was doing well, so he couldn’t understand why, after three months of training, the master had only taught him one move. “Teacher,” the boy finally said, “Shouldn’t I be learning more moves?” But the teacher replied … “This is the only move you know, but this is the only move you’ll ever need to know,” Not quite understanding, but believing in his teacher, the boy kept training. Several months later, the teacher took the boy to his first tournament. Surprising himself, the boy easily won his first two matches. The third match proved to be more difficult, but after some time, his opponent became impatient and charged … the boy used his one move to win the match. Still amazed by his success, the boy was now in the finals.

This time, his opponent was bigger, stronger, and more experienced. For a while, the boy appeared to be overmatched. Concerned that the boy might get hurt, the referee called a time-out. He was about to stop the match when the teacher intervened. The teacher insisted, “Let him continue!” Soon after the match resumed … his opponent made a critical mistake; he dropped his guard. Instantly, the boy used his move to pin him. The boy had won the match,and the tournament. He was the champion. On the way home, the boy and the teacher reviewed every move in each and every match. Finally …  the boy summoned the courage to ask what was really on his mind: “Teacher, how did I win the tournament with only one move?” The teacher answered, “You won for two reasons, first, you’ve almost mastered one of the most difficult throws in all of judo. And second, the only known defense for that move is for your opponent to grab your left arm.”

THINK ABOUT THAT … The boy’s biggest weakness had become his biggest  strength. Because his roots went down deep as he mastered that one technique. The reason that sometimes people wilt when they face the scorching heat of trials and tribulations is that they have shallow root systems. They have failed to “go on to maturity” We have to ask ourself the question, Is our relationship with God shallow or deep? Are the troubles of life knocking you out or making you stronger? Let me share with you a secret: You cannot go too deep. No matter how much you have grown in the faith you still have more growing to do. There is no such thing as having arrived spiritually.

Let me share with you a few practical ways to put your roots down deep.

First …go to church every Sunday. The Bible actually commands us to not skip church. “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing …” (Heb. 10:25) God knows that we can’t grow alone. We need each others love, encouragement, and support. We need to follow in the footsteps of more mature believers as they follow  Christ. We need to experience corporate worship and hear the God’s word proclaimed.

Second …read the Bible and pray every single day. God is a person and you can’t grow in a relationship to a person without spending quality time with that person. Prayer and Bible study is having a conversation with God. God speaks to you through the Bible and you speak to Him through prayer. We must communicate with God every single day. And by the way, don’t forget to do what God tells you to do. There is no quicker way to stunt your spiritual growth than through a lack of obedience. Remember, disobedience isn’t only doing something wrong; it is also not doing what you know you are supposed to do. If you have not been growing spiritually and God’s word has not been producing fruit in your life. Then you need to plow the soil and put down roots. But there is also one more thing you need to do.

  1. WE NEED TO PULL THE WEEDS. (Matthew 13:7, 22)

The third type of soil that Jesus spoke of was thorny or weedy soil. It can be very frustrating how that thorns and weeds grow up so quickly in a garden. I’m sure that we all understand that weeds in a garden consume the water and nutrients that should be being used for the nourishment of the plants. And so the plant becomes weak or might even die. These thorns in Jesus’ story represent the cares of life which choke the Word of God out of the lives of many people.

An interesting article appeared some years ago in the Wall Street Journal. It was an interview of six top executives, all of them making six-figure salaries. That means that they made somewhere between $100,000 and $1 million a year. Now you are probably thinking, “If I made even $100,000 a year, I’d be in great shape. No worries, and no problems.” But in the interview each of them were asked, what is your greatest fear? Each answered pretty much the same, using different words. Their greatest fear was that they would not have enough. When they were asked, “How much is enough?” They always answered, “a little more.”

It seems that the world’s goods never will completely satisfy. You find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and the price of gold falls. You strike oil, and the oil market deteriorates. Your ship come in, and it sinks in the harbor. Think about it, what is it today that could possibly be choking out your spiritual development. In Matthew 6:31, 33 … Jesus said, “Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’… But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” 

Let me give you some practical steps to putting God first in your life:

First … start tithing. If God doesn’t have your pocketbook, He doesn’t have your heart either. If you’re not giving God the first part of your income, you’re only fooling yourself if you think you’re giving Him first place in your life. Tithing is the Biblical command to give God the first ten percent of your income. That means before you pay Uncle Sam and before you pay the bills, you give ten percent to God and He promises that the remaining 90% will be sufficient to meet your needs. Maybe not your greeds … but your needs.

Second … start start serving others. Get involved in a ministry. Get your focus off of your needs and start focusing on the needs of others for a change. It will totally revolutionize your life to stop worrying about yourself and start caring for others.

  1. GET READY TO ENJOY GOD’S MIRACLE GROW. (Matthew 13:8-9,23)

if you really want to have a spiritually productive life, you can have it. Years ago I read the story of a student who came to his teacher and asked him how he could come to have true knowledge and wisdom. The teacher told the student to follow him and he led him to the river. The teacher waded out into the river and called for his student to join him. When he did, the teacher told the student to dunk himself under the water. The student thought that this was a bizarre request, but he did as the great teacher told him. As soon as his head was under the water the teacher put his hands on his students head and held him under the water. The student fought desperately, but he was unable to break his teacher’s hold. The teacher held his student under water until the student began to weaken and lose his strength. Then he released him and the student shot up and began to gasp for air desperately. The student yelled, “Why did you do that?” The teacher said, “When you desire knowledge as desperately as you desired to breathe the air you just breathed – then you shall find it.”

Disclaimer: please do not do this to anyone!

Jesus said something similar in Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” If you truly want to live a spiritually productive life, then plow the soil and prepare your heart to receive God’s word, put down roots and persevere through the trials of life, and pull the weeds of whatever stands between you and full commitment to God. If you do these things then you will have good soil. The seed of God’s word will produce a bountiful harvest in your life. Jesus said that the harvest would yield “thirty,  sixty, or a hundred, times what was sown.” We need to understand that at that time a sevenfold harvest was considered to be a good harvest. So a harvest of even thirtyfold would have been miraculous miracle growth! Not to mention sixty, or a hundredfold.

MIRACLE GROW !!! When you make your life match God’s model the results are miraculous.

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