In this post I want to share with you how you can determine the spiritual receptivity of a person for living for Christ. As I broach this topic I clearly understand that some are going to have the hairs on the back of their neck stand up as they become disturbed by the subject of this topic. So, let me clearly state, here, at the beginning, that I am not advocating that we, as people, can look into the hearts of men and decipher their motives and intent! On the contrary this post is saying quite the opposite. Looking into the hearts of people to clearly only something that God can do and not men.
Well then, if we can’t look into the hearts of men how then do we determine the spiritual receptivity of a person for Jesus? The answer may surprise you and it may not be what you wanted to hear.
The answer is found in a parable that Jesus told in Matthew 13:1-9; 18-22,
“9 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear …18 Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
LET ME SHARE WITH YOU THREE (3) STEPS:
Step 1: Identify The Different Areas of Receptivity:
From this passage we first learn that we need to indentify the different possible areas of spiritual receptivity! The different kinds of grounds represent the different kinds of spiritual receptivity to Christ. Each ground represents the different possible conditions of a heart and how receptive those hearts are to Jesus and the Kingdom of God. So, having a clear understanding of the four different types of receptivity that a person can have is the starting point.
There are four of them:
- Hard Ground: This is the ground where the seed feel on the path. The path is a dirt road. Remember, back when Jesus was writing this there were no asphalt roads or concrete side walks out on the highway. It was just hard and packed down dirt from people walking on that path over and over again. No seed was able to penetrate down into the dirt to take root and as a result no growth would happen.
Some people’s hearts are just like that packed down path! For whatever reason their heart has become so hardened and impenetrable that no amount of sharing Jesus is going to make a difference. They aren’t even willing to consider the possibilities of Jesus’ claims and what he can do in their life.
Sadly, the birds that represent Satan, swoop down quickly and steals the seed away on the off chance that the seed just might sink into the ground and begin to take root.
- Shallow Ground: The next ground is the one where the seed fell among the rocky ground. Now understand, this is not referring to a field that is filled with lots of hand size stones that need to be picked up and removed. No, this is referring to a field where the top soil looks great but about 2 to 3 inches below the soil is a solid limestone that prevents the roots to go deep and begins to wither the heat from the sun.
This person is the one who hears about Jesus, gets excited about Jesus but when the trials and tribulations come because of following Jesus they fall away. Some have referred to these people as those who are highly emotional, receive the news of Jesus with much joy but don’t possess a strong enough commitment of character to endure to the end. When things get tough, they are the ones who drop off.
- Busy Ground: This is the ground where the seed falls among the weeds and eventually gets choked out. The weeds, according to this story, are two things: 1) The worries of life; 2) The pursuit of riches.
This choking out process and eventual death happens when people’s focus leave from following Christ and is placed on other things like riches and life’s problems. Eventually, these other things take over the field (mind or attention) and begin to kill whatever growth had occurred. Faith in Christ cannot grow where the weeds of worries and riches exists.
- Well-Prepared Ground: And, finally there is the Well-Prepared Ground. This is the ground that has been tilled and rocks and weeds have been removed. This is the ground that yields a harvest of thirty, sixty and hundred times more than the seed used to plant it. It is a highly productive piece of ground.
This is the field we are working to find. I said, “Find” not “Develop” because only God can prepare this kind of field. This field represents the HIGHLY RECEPTIVE PEOPLE TO JESUS! Not only does their faith survive but it also thrives and reproduces.
Step 2: Test People For Receptivity
There’s only one receptivity test needed!
THAT’S RIGHT! ONLY ONE TEST!
We don’t need to run a whole series of test to see if a person is a well-prepared field that’s going to yield a crop of 30, 60, 100 fold. NO, JUST ONE TEST WILL DO!
WHAT IS THAT TEST?
Simply To Go SOW THE SEED! Tell People The Good News!
THIS IS IMPORTANT! Did you notice in the story that the individual, who went out to sow the seed, sowed the seed to all of the different grounds? All four types of ground had the seed sown on it! The person going out sowing didn’t go out to pick and choose which fields he thought was prepared and which he thought were not! No, he cast the seed on all the ground!
The seed was sown on all four types of ground!
We really need to understand this! It comes back to what I was talking about at the beginning. As people, we are not God and because we are not God we are unable to look into the hearts of men to see if they are receptive to Christ or not. Our only way to see if they are receptive is to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and observe to how they respond. Only the Holy Spirit convicts people of sin, righteousness and judgment; only God the Father draws people to Jesus and only Jesus can receive whom the Father drawn.
If that’s God’s job then what’s our part? Our part is simply to sow the seed, to share the gospel and tell people about Jesus. THAT’S IT!
Step 3: Evaluate Their Response.
Once we’ve planted the seed of the gospel we begin to look to see which people begin to yield a harvest of 30, 60, 100 times and which ones are hard, stony or weed filled.
People will eventually reveal their own receptivity and to what field they fall into once the gospel has been shared with them. How a person responds to the gospel reveals their receptivity.
- The Hard Ground: It won’t take very long at all for this person to reveal their receptivity. You can almost immediately see their receptivity by the expression on their face and through the look in their eyes. They are the ones who are basically telling you that they don’t care about what you are sharing, so leave them alone.
- The Shallow Ground: This person will take a little more time to reveal their true receptivity because they start off so full of joy, excitement and energy. Many times pastors and Christian leaders get excited about this person at first! They think they’ve got a hot one who’s really going to serve Jesus because they are so emotionally excited. But remember emotional excitement doesn’t always translate into a well-prepared and reproducing field. Usually, within six months or so these people have dropped off the radar and are no longer showing an interest meeting together for discipleship.
- The Busy Ground: This person will eventually begin to reveal their true receptivity within a few weeks to a few months through their conversations. They seem to be living from crisis to crisis and unable to be consoled through instruction or prayer. Everything they talk about is one problem after another.
Or, the person seems to only talk about their next big business deal or money making opportunity. They are consumed with getter bigger, better and more of everything. Why? Because, they’re problems or their worldly desires are bigger than their faith in God.
So, why is this at all important? Obviously, not to determine what person we should share Jesus or the gospel to. We are to cast the seed on all grounds! Then why do I need to determine the spiritual receptivity of a person to Christ?
In Order To Know Who To Focus On!
When we scatter the seed and the person’s heart is revealed as being either hard, shallow, or rocky there’s really nothing more we can do for them except to pray. I can’t soften their hearts! Only God can do that! I can’t create any depth in them! Only God can do that! I can’t even begin to remove the weeds or the desire for wealth from them! Again, only God can do those things! Understanding what I can’t do is just as important, as understanding what I can and must do! There are some things that only God can do and changing the hearts of men is one of them. So, if I try to do the things that only God can do then I am wasting my time and will be unproductive.
But when I see a person who is the good soil and they are producing a harvest of 30, 60, or 100 fold then that’s the one I’m to focus on! When I see a person that’s sharing their faith in Christ, telling people the Good News about Jesus and others are coming to receive Christ because of them, then that’s the person I need to spend the bulk of my time with for encouraging and equipping.
WHY? That’s Where God’s At Work!
That’s The Heart That God Has Prepared!
Paul speaking to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2 says,
“And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.”
In this verse Paul is instructing Timothy go take all his training and entrust it to FAITHFUL PEOPLE who in turn can teach others. Why are these people the ones that we should focus our attention and time on? Because they are the FAITHFUL people who will be able to teach, train and equip others if we focus our time and efforts in them.
These are the ones who will be able to produce a hug harvest! At least 80% of our time and resources should be invested in those men and women who have shown themselves to faith disciples who have an even greater potential for an even great harvest. To not focus on them could severely the productivity for the Kingdom of God.