Jeremiah 4:3-4 For thus saith the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.
This morning, I am reminded how easy it is for our hearts to become hard, and fallow. We are admonished in Jeremiah 4 to break it up. I see that three things are necessary when it comes to keeping my heart soft:
- An Acknowledgement – This may be the most difficult one. In order to start the cultivating process, I first must acknowledge that my heart is hard. And as a teacher and preacher, and Christian for now 20 years, this isn’t something that I want to readily admit. But it doesn’t take much time for the ground to become hard. I have overseen the grounds at PBC for years now. And my dad was a stickler about making sure they were immaculate. Sometimes, my dad would be gone, or he would not walk around the property for a week or so. Then one day he’d decide to to a “walk around”. He’d walk from his house (a block away), and begin inspecting the property. Then – the dreaded 3×5 would come out (he had a smart phone – but preferred the 3×5 for notes like this). And sure enough, I’d get a call or an email: “Joseph, have you seen the flower beds, they haven’t been turned. Weeds are starting to pop up all over. It’s bad.” I had passed the beds daily, and so it didn’t seem bad to me. Afterall, we had cultivated them not too long ago. But to my dad, who hadn’t seen them for a week or few, they were fallow. The same is true for us. Because we live with ourseleves, we may not realize that our hearts have become hard to the preaching, or the Holy Spirit, or to the needs of those around us. I need to start by asking today, “has my heart become hard?” And that acknowledgement is the first step to a soft heart.
- An Instrument – Once I acknowledge that the ground needs broken up, I must find a tool that can help me to do so. On the grounds, it was “the claw” or the hoe. And in some instances, we needed the hose to wet and soften the dirt before we began turning and pulling. The same rings true in our lives. Once we recognize our need, we need to get out necessary tools to help soften our hearts. The Word of God is primary. It “pierces to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart”. Next, some good preaching is a great way to begin softening the heart. There are some sermons that I pull out when I need my heart to be broken – for my sin, for the lost, for the sake of eternity. Good preaching is a good tool to help soften the heart. Finally, good music can help. Now, music shouldn’t replace the Word of God or good preaching, but songs that remind me of God’s goodness and His grace and that stir my soul and spirit can help get my heart back to the right place. These are some tools in the “shed” that I pull out.
- A Cleansing – Once the dirt was turned, our grounds crew would come behind the tool and begin to pull the weeds. We are admonished not to “sow among the thorns”. Because if we do, the good seed will simply be choked out by them. Once we make an acknowledgement, and we begin to apply tools to soften our hearts, we can ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the weeds and thorns in our hearts, and begin to remove them. Maybe its pride (this will harden a heart fast!). Maybe it’s moral impurity in thoughts or actions. Maybe it’s bitterness, or hardness towards people. Whatever it is, once I begin the process, I need to get out the weeds, so that when the “Father” does a walk around, and inspects the grounds of our hearts, he finds soft, cultivated ground ready for the good seed of His Word.
Spurgeon had good insight on this topic:
I FALLOW GROUND IS COMPARATIVELY FRUITLESS.
II FALLOW GROUND BEARS WEEDS.
III FALLOW GROUND IS SUSCEPTIBLE OF CULTIVATION.
IV FALLOW GROUND MUST BE BROKEN UP.
V IT IS OUR DUTY TO BREAK UP THE FALLOW GROUND.
VI THE DUTY OF BREAKING UP THE FALLOW GROUND IS GREAT AND PRESSING.
(1) in the world!— think of India, China, Africa, the godless of Europe;
(2) in the Church!— how many enjoy its privileges! How few maintain its work! and
(3) in our own hearts!— what faculties are wasted! What opportunities for good neglected!