So, you made a New Year’s resolution that you weren’t going to get angry with your children. Your resolution lasted a few days, then the youngest got surly with you and mouthed off and you got angry. You wonder why good intentions and New Year’s resolutions aren’t enough to produce lasting and deep change in your life. And what do New Year’s resolution have to do with tilling soil?
Jesus lived in an agrarian culture, so he used stories of everyday life to illustrate points which he wanted to make. One such story was that of the different kinds of soils (often called ‘the parable of the seeds’). Jesus used a story of seed sown in four different types of soils – the footpath, rocky soil, weedy soil and good soil – to illustrate various conditions of our own hearts.
Matthew 13:20 “The seed cast in the gravel—this is the person who hears and instantly responds with enthusiasm. 21 But there is no soil of character, and so when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it. (MSG)
Jesus said that the seed sown in the gravel illustrates the person who has no soil of character. The Greek in this parable means literally from the Greek, “he doesn’t have a root in himself.” I believe that Jesus is talking about the roots of belief and character which go down into our inner being, genuine transformation. We could call this a lack of depth of character, or simply a lack of character. We all have hard places in our hearts – unforgiveness toward someone who hurt us, or anger at what God has done in our lives, or unbelief about what God’s Word says, or rebellion towards God, etc.
There are two major agents of transformation, God’s Word and God’s Spirit. Let’s talk about the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit shows us who we are inside (1 Cor 2:10,11). He reveals to us the deep things of God, but also who we are even when we are not aware of our own motives, values, or character. Without the Holy Spirit, we do not know how or what to change in our character, let alone how to go about the process of transformation. I know some things about myself, and I certainly know myself better than anyone else knows me, but there are parts of me that I don’t understand—and there are motives, values, and attitudes which are a mystery to me. Furthermore, I don’t know everything there is to know about God and His character. I have bits and pieces which have been revealed to me both in His Word and by living in Him and with Him, but the longer I walk with Him the more I realize how little I understand. If I don’t fully know myself and I don’t fully know God, how can I see transformation on the inside? That is where the Holy Spirit living within me comes in. He reveals my inner being and reveals God’s nature to me, but only a little at a time.
How does the Holy Spirit reveal my inner being? By asking Him to search our hearts and reveal areas where I need inner transformation. By confessing that we really don’t understand why we do the things we do. By looking to the Lord to both reveal our inner being and to give us the power to see genuine and lasting transformation at the depths of who we are. The good news is that He is able to totally transform us, if we are truly sincere in wanting change.
If you want further information about inner transformation, Frank’s book entitled “Christian Character, Remade in the Image of God” will be available soon. I’ll let you know when you can order a copy.