Courage for life Blog

Four Ways to Identify Your Receptivity to Truth

March 27, 2024

What is society’s receptivity to truth? Or a better question is, what is your receptivity to truth?

In a world of deep fakes, artificial intelligence, identity theft, video editing, and photo filters, how receptive or accepting are you of truth? This concept is not new. In fact, Jesus taught a parable** about people’s receptivity to truth in Mark 4:1-20.

**A parable is a specific type of Bible passage in the New Testament used by Jesus to teach life lessons. A parable is a common story used to illustrate a concept or a principle. To better comprehend the life lessons Jesus taught the hearers of His day, you should practice identifying the characters, items, and actions in the parable and what each of them means to the overall teaching.

Jesus teaches in Mark 4:10-13 that this parable, often called The Parable of the Sower, is significant because it describes “the secret of the kingdom of God” but also the foundation for understanding all other parables about the kingdom of God. Jesus shares that people will “see” the things He does, but “they will learn nothing” from it. People will “hear” what Jesus says, but “they will not understand” it. Jesus knows that not every person will understand the kingdom of God because if they did, they would repent (i.e., turn from their disbelief and disobedience) and receive God’s forgiveness (Mark 4:12). This fact is not because Jesus is a poor teacher but rather because of people’s receptivity to the truth about the kingdom of God.

As you read this parable in Mark 4:3-9, consider the four types of soil described. What does each verse communicate about the soils, the seeds, the plants, and the external characters, such as the birds, rocks, thorns, and sun?

Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seed. As he scattered it across his field, some of the seed fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate it. Other seed fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seed sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plant soon wilted under the hot sun, and since it didn’t have deep roots, it died. Other seed fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants, so they produced no grain. Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” Then he [Jesus] said, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.” Mark 4:3-9

Notice that some seeds fell on the “footpath,” and the birds ate the seeds (Mark 4:4). Footpaths are usually hard ground with compacted soil because of the constant traffic by the farmers, workers, animals, and carts. The seeds are taken away by all the people and things treading along the path.

Some seeds fell on “shallow soil” with little depth because of “underlying rock” (Mark 4:5). Usually, shallow soil on top of a rock bed has minimal nutrients because the rocks provide an avenue for water to rush over and take any loose soil to other areas. The rocks are not only obstructions in the soil but also facilitate keeping the soil shallow and making plants unable to establish roots, causing them to be scorched by the sun.

The third type of soil is described as having “thorns,” which means the soil has some capacity to sustain plant life. However, this soil is already dominated by thorns that don’t allow new plants to co-exist or thrive. The thorns take the soil’s nutrients and water, making the new plants compete for survival and eventually die.

Finally, the seeds fall on “fertile soil.” Fertile soil is produced over time by breaking down minerals and rocks and building up plant life. The formation of fertile soil results from the constant weathering and decaying of rocks, plants, and animals and the farmer’s cultivation. This fertile soil supports crop production 100 times more than the number of seeds planted.

On some occasions when Jesus taught parables, neither the people listening nor Jesus’ disciples understood the meaning. Therefore, the disciples would ask Jesus for an explanation or an interpretation of His teaching so they could comprehend its meaning. This parable in Mark 4:3-9 is an example of Jesus explaining its meaning to His disciples. Jesus explains:

The farmer plants seed by taking God’s word to others. The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message, only to have Satan come at once and take it away. The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced. And the seed that fell on good soil represents those who hear and accept God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted! Mark 4:14-20

The seed represents God’s Word, including the truth about Jesus. The four types of soil represent the human heart and mind, specifically people’s receptivity to the truth about Jesus. Every person has a different level of receptivity to the truth, meaning how accepting they are of what they “see” Jesus has done and what they “hear” Jesus has said.

The truth of God’s Word is sown on the “footpath,” which represents people with hardened hearts and confused minds. Your heart may have been hardened because of all the people and things in your life that have trampled on it, resulting in its hardening. Your mind may be confused because of being deceived by so many lies both in your past and the present. Your heart has become hard, almost impenetrable, with the truth about Jesus because of the reality of your life circumstances. Also, your mind refuses to consider Jesus as who he says he is because Satan, represented by the birds in the parable, is constantly alert to any truth about Jesus that has been shared with you. Satan wants to immediately snatch any truth about Jesus away by any means possible, so you have no time or space to reflect or contemplate the trustworthiness of the truth you have seen and heard about Jesus.

The truth of God’s Word is sown on the “shallow soil,” which represents people with unstable hearts and shallow minds. Your heart may be unstable, producing emotional responses to everything in life, including sharing the truth about Jesus. Your emotional responses, coupled with your shallow mind that is unwilling to consider the meaning or the cost of responding to the truth of about Jesus, results in minimal or lasting life change. You love the thought of all the benefits Jesus can bring to your life. Still, you have no desire to grow emotionally to have a genuine relationship with Jesus. In fact, you often resist establishing real, lasting relationships with others because you don’t have the emotional health to establish relational “roots”; you expect everyone to meet you on your terms or not at all. Your heart and mind are not receptive to the truth about Jesus, genuine repentance, or God’s forgiveness, just the emotional benefits of how Jesus makes you feel. The sun represents persecution and trials when you try to share your emotional encounters with Jesus. When you begin to communicate to others about Jesus, you get emotional, but when others question you about your belief in Jesus, you are unable to articulate the truth about who Jesus is or why what Jesus says and does is so significant. This inability causes discouragement and also exposes your shallow understanding and belief about who Jesus is and His expectations for you.

The truth of God’s Word is sown among “thorns,” which represent people with preoccupied hearts and obsessed minds. Your heart may be consumed with temporal, unproductive, or destructive feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that were established in your life long before you heard the truth about Jesus. These well-established patterns in your life are destructive but also serve as distractions, pulling you in a variety of directions, like tug-a-war, resulting in torn lives and severed relationships. Your worries and the deceitfulness of wealth consume your life, and you falsely place your trust in yourself, your abilities, and your prosperity rather than the truth about Jesus. Your personal lusts and desires are unquenchable to the point of addictions, obsessions, bondage, and sometimes complete life destruction. You may consider the truth about Jesus, but the worries of life, the pursuit of wealth, and the lusts of your body consumes you, so you can’t or don’t allow the truth about Jesus any room to grow, produce repentance, or result in the abundant life Jesus offers. Your pre-existing destructive way of living “chokes” out the life Jesus promised you and the truth about who Jesus is.

The truth of God’s Word is sown on “fertile soil,” which represents people with responsive hearts and open minds. You may have a responsive heart and an open mind to hear the truth of God’s Word and receive and accept the truth about Jesus through responding with repentance, resulting in forgiveness, reconciliation with God, and living productively in and for the kingdom of God. You have worked hard over the years to eliminate as many external “robbers” of truth while exploring, contemplating, scrutinizing, and eventually receiving the truth of God’s Word as your own. The more you read and meditate on God’s Word, the more your heart and mind can “see” and “hear” the truth about Jesus and establish a foundation for your life and relationships to flourish.

This parable teaches about the receptivity to the truth of God’s Word, including the truth about Jesus. Unfortunately, in this parable, three out of four types of soil (footpath, shallow, and thorn-filled) are not as receptive to the truth of God’s Word as the fertile soil. Remember, in Mark 4:10-13, Jesus informs His disciples that many people will “hear” what Jesus says, but “they will not understand” it. Many people will “see” what Jesus does, but “they will learn nothing” from it.

Which type of soil best describes your receptivity to the truth of God’s Word?

No matter your level of receptivity, Courage For Life serves to help you cultivate the “soil” of your heart and mind in hopes that you understand your next step and respond with God-given courage. Maybe you need to break up the hardened footpath, or remove the rocks and obstructions in your life, or eliminate the distractions and defeat the destructive thoughts and behaviors that rob you of the life God intended for you.

A responsive heart and open mind are keys not only to receiving and accepting the truth about God’s Word and Jesus but also to experiencing the abundant life Jesus promises while you enjoy helping others cultivate their hearts and minds to encounter the truth about Jesus.

What are some ways to cultivate a responsive heart and open mind to the truth of God’s Word?
  1. Prayer: Talk to God about everything – your doubts, your destructive habits, your fears, your lack of receptivity to the truth, your emotions, the challenges from your past, the obstacles in the present, the people and things that have hardened your heart and confused your mind, etc. Pray about everything!
  2. Read & Meditate on God’s Word: Read the Bible often, daily, if possible. Pause and meditate on small sections of Bible verses. Think about the words of God, what do they mean? When you put in the effort to read and meditate on God’s Word you are offering to God an act of love and demonstrating you want to grow your level of receptivity to truth. According to Luke 8:15 perseverance and patience are necessary to produce results even in “fertile soil.” Read God’s Word slow and steady! God will honor your efforts and reveal more and more of Himself to you (2 Corinthians 3:16-18; Romans 12:2; Ephesians 1:18-22).
  3. Journal: Write down the characteristics of your heart and mind. What is one thing God is motivating you to do that will begin to grow your receptivity to the truth of God’s Word? Are you willing to begin the cultivation process so that your life will produce a multiplication of God’s Kingdom for God’s glory? Over time, faithfully journaling the work God performs in your heart and mind will provide you encouragement and content to share with others. Schedule time to review God’s transformative work on your heart and mind to motivate your continued effort to cultivate your receptivity to the truth of God’s Word.

As your receptivity to the truth about God’s Word grows, look for opportunities to embrace your God-given courage for life. Share what God is doing in your heart and mind with others to help them know God wants them to have an abundant life through belief in the truth about Jesus, too!

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