God’s Word has a whole lot to say about our hearts, and for good reason. Your heart drives everything you do (Proverbs 4:23). If your heart is not well, it will be displayed in your actions. If your heart is in the right place, your life will be on the right course.
In Luke 8:4-15, Jesus compares the state of a person’s heart to the condition of soil in a field. The parable shows us that different hearts will have different responses to the Word of God. While we usually think about this parable as only relating to a person’s initial response to the gospel, it really applies to our whole lives. The condition of your heart today will determine how you respond to God’s truth today. And that means Jesus’s parable is relevant to all believers, all of the time.
Jesus lists four types of soil in Luke 8, listing four different ways in people can respond. In a way, I’ve probably lived through all four types myself at different times in my life—sometimes more than one type at once. By recognizing the current condition of our own hearts, we can each identify where we need to take ground and determine how to improve our “soil.”
Based on the four soils, here are four questions you can use to examine your own heart:
1. What truth am I refusing to believe? Like the seed thrown on the path (Luke 8:12), there may be some aspect of God’s truth in your life that is being trampled or snatched up before it can take root. Your reaction to this truth could be hostile or apathetic; you either reject the truth or just ignore it long enough that the “birds” come and take it away.
Take an honest look at what truths are being spoken into your life that you are refusing to believe. What advice or admonishment from community are you dragging your feet on? Is there anything you are intentionally avoiding? Any sin in your life you are justifying?
2. What truth do I no longer believe? When we neglect to consistently drink from God’s Word, we start to wither away like the seed thrown on the rocks (Luke 8:13). As a result, we fall when tempted or fail when tested. Jesus calls us to drink from the living water that He offers; when we do, we need never be thirsty again (John 4:14).
What promises of God did you once cling close to that you now rarely think of? Are you more in love with Jesus this year than you were the last? Remember that the Christian life is a journey, not a sprint. We need to frequently preach the gospel to ourselves so that our hearts remain encouraged.
3. What truth is being overshadowed by lies? If we believe the lies of the enemy and allow sin to grow in our hearts, it will choke out the truth and keep us from growing (Luke 8:14). When we don’t prioritize God’s truth, it will become overshadowed by the pleasures or concerns of the world.
What “thorns” are currently choking you? It might be a secret sin you don’t want to confess, such as an addiction to pornography or alcohol. It could be the distractions of entertainment or social media, and the materialism or envy that they tend to feed. Regardless of what these thorns are in your life, your response to them should be the same: turn away from them and turn to Jesus. When we focus on God’s goodness and truth, sin and lies start to fade.
4. What truth is bearing fruit in my life right now? Even in the most difficult of times, when our hearts are deeply hurting, the Spirit is still at work in us. God is shaping you to be more like Christ in spite of you. That is why we can be confident that when our hearts are receptive to God’s truth, something will grow. Fruit will be produced in abundance (Luke 8:15).
Take a moment to look for where the Spirit may be working in your life. What fruit do you see? If there is no fruit, that would be a reason to examine your faith and consider whether your “soil” has accepted the “seed” of the gospel.
Based on your answers these questions, what is the condition of your heart? Are you in a relatively healthy place, or can you think of times when your heart has been more aligned toward God? What changes could you make in your life to better embrace truth and produce fruit?
Regardless of whether times are good or bad, these are questions we should regularly be asking ourselves. Ultimately, examining our hearts and seeing ourselves clearly requires prayer (Psalm 139:23-24). We need the Spirit to give us the eyes to see. We need God to reveal to us what He wants to change, and we need His power to change it (Philippians 2:13).
Asking these questions may be the heart check the Lord uses to begin changing your heart and equipping you to better serve His Kingdom.