Welcome to the culmination of The Four Children. Today AMBrewster discusses the Soft-Hearted Child and how you can be used to soften their heart and how you can parent them through the Hard, Rocky, and Thorny responses to Truth they’ll probably continue having.
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Discover the following episodes by clicking the titles or navigating to the episode in your app:
“The Four Children, Part 1 | how they respond to Truth” (episode 55)
“The Four Children, Part 2 | Parenting a Hard-Hearted Child” (episode 56)
“The Four Children, Part 3 | Parenting a Rocky-Hearted Child” (episode 57)
“The Four Children, Part 4 | Parenting a Thorny-Hearted Child” (episode 58)
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Click "Read More" for today’s Episode Notes and Transcript.
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Welcome to the final episode of The Four Children. We have a full show today because we’re not just going to answer the questions “Who is the Soft-Hearted Child?,” “Do you have a Soft-Hearted Child in your home?,” and “How do you cultivate your child’s Soft-Heart like Jesus did?” We’re also going to investigate the questions “How is it possible for a Soft-Hearted Child to have a Hard, Rocky, or Thorny response to Truth?” and “How do you parent a Soft-Hearted Child who’s responding incorrectly to Truth?”
But more on that in a minute.
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Okay, so we’ve made it to the Soft-Hearted Child. But as we discuss them today, remember that simply having a born again child isn’t to goal. There’s soooooo much parenting that still needs to be done. In fact, this is the point that intentional, premeditated, disciple-making parenting starts.
So, question number one: Who is the Soft-Hearted Child?
For the last time we turn to Aaron’s Amplified version and read: “Other seeds fell on good soil and grew and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it and accept[s] it [and] hold[s] it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear[s] fruit with patience. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
Obviously, this child has as similar response to Truth that the Hard and Thorny children do. Similar to the degree that all three respond to it. Different to the degree that the Soft-Hearted Child accepts it all and genuinely puts his faith and trust in God and nothing else. He holds it fast in an honest and good heart. He’s not preoccupied with the Christian lifestyle, the religious benefits, or the shiny experiences. He’s enamored with God.
And we’re told simply that this heart produces real spiritual life with verifiable fruit.
As they mature, you’ll see snippets of genuine love motivated by God’s glory and the best of others, not merely loving acts motivated by self-pleasure or manipulation.
You’ll start seeing a real joy that bears up even under difficult and uncomfortable situations. This child will start to exhibit a spirit of unity that peacefully learns to handle disagreements and conflict — not simply because life is easier when you don't argue, but because God commands that we be peaceful. This child will begin to learn patience because they’ll start to understand that this life is far better than what they deserve, and that they can wait and be thankful in the waiting. You’ll see slivers of kindness motivated by genuine love. You’ll observe your children actually being good because they know it will honor the Lord and you. This child will also begin to be faithful in a way they never could before because the Holy Spirit will give them strength they never had. Gentleness will start to blossom because this child realizes how gracious God has been with him. And self-control will slowly be built up brick by brick — not simply because he can reign himself in long enough to endure your watchful eye and then return right back to his sin — but because he really, genuinely, wants to follow Christ.
And though all of this will look a little different in each Soft-Hearted Child, they will all be there and growing . . . for the right reasons.
And this is what Jesus was talking about when he said that some will bear 30%, some 60%, and some 100%. It’s a picture of maturity.
I remember over a decade ago talking to one of my former pastors, Mike Harding about the guys who had been in my youth group from his church. I lamented that only a couple of them were still aggressively glorifying God with their lives. He looked at me and without even the slighted hint of cynicism said, “Aaron, that how it will always be.”
What he was saying was that not every tree bears 60% or 100%. Some only bear 30%. Does that mean I’m unsaved if I’m not as mature as another deliver? Of course not. But it does mean I’m not as mature.
We’re going to talk about this more later, but one of our parenting jobs is to help our children be as mature as they can be. And for our born again kids, that means we’re helping them bear more fruit.
So, question number two . . .
Do you have a Soft-Hearted Child in your home?
Again, we can’t know our kids’ hearts with 100% certainty, but I John (and the multitude of Sanctification Lists throughout Scripture) definitely helps us understand what to look for. Again, I want to point you to the passages we looked at earlier in this study.
Passages like these present us with the fruit of maturity. But I just want to focus in on the two biggest indicators of spiritual life. The first is love for God.
I know. I know. After a while all preachers and counselors and parents and disciples and leaders start to sound like a broken record. But we all know the two greatest commandments are to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength. Its given to us in Deuteronomy and repeated by Christ in the New Testament.
You can’t be born again and not love God.
I plan to take a future episode to discuss what biblical love is, but for now, we can know that the word used here to describe love means that we are making a conscious choice to love God with everything that we are — nothing held back. And the same passage tells us that the second indicator of a regenerated heart is love for others. If your child loves the Lord and loves others, they’re born again.
And I say that with confidence because Jesus said, people will know you’re my disciples if you love each other.
And the best indication of a love for God and others is this — does your child enjoy sharing God with others? Do they have a heart for the Gospel? We’re going to see this lived out in two biblical Soft-Hearted examples.
So, how do you cultivate your child’s Soft-Heart like Jesus did?
Well, the first step is to introduce seed to the soil, and there are two people I’d like to use to illustrate this point. The first is the Samaritan Woman, and the second is the maniac of Gadara.
The account of the Jesus encounter with the Samaritan Woman is found in John 4.
I’m not certain, but I’d think that perhaps this woman had a Hard Heart when she met Christ. But I believe it was Jesus initial interaction with her that began softening it. She was genuinely surprised that a male Jew would give her the time of day.
Then he offers her a special gift — living water.
She’s still skeptical, so He tells her that anyone who drinks of the water He provides will never thirst again.
At this point I think she’s softened enough that she’s very interested, but she’s having a Thorny Response because she doesn’t truly understand the spiritual depth of Jesus’ comments. Either way, she wants that water.
So Jesus draws her to a deeper understanding by asking her something that will reveal the greatest need of her life. He asks her to go get her husband.
She tells Him she doesn’t have a husband, and Jesus uses her answer to reveal that she’s had five husbands and that the one she has now isn’t even married to her. He simultaneously exhibits His miraculous authority and draws her to the fact that she’s a sinner.
At this point, I believe she has a little bit of a Rocky response. She tries to distract Him with racial/political arguments, but Christ brings her back to the Truth of God.
She then admits that she waits for the Messiah, and He reveals Himself to her.
The second individual is the Maniac of Gadara. This account is found in Luke 8.
This man was the perfect picture of the Hard Heart. He had demonic forces residing in him and he hated all that was spiritual.
But at the word from Jesus, the evil spirits fled and the once possessed man wanted nothing more than to dedicated his entire life to Christ.
And the Scriptures tell us that both the Samaritan Woman and the Maniac of Gadara were used mightily to reach their country men. They couldn’t help but share the glorious news that lifted them from their bondage to sin and Satan.
So, before we move to the next point, take courage. Neither of these individuals started with Soft-Hearted responses. It was the careful cultivation of Christ that prepared the soil for genuinely receiving His word.
The great thing is, Jesus nurtured the spiritual life of His followers in the same way He cultivated their hearts to receive His Word. As you study the Gospels you see Jesus consistently loving and praying for and serving and preaching to His disciples.
How do you parent a Soft-Hearted Child? You keep the flow of Truth and love pouring into their hearts. This then can be used by God to mature the young saplings of spiritual life into towering plants that yield abundant fruit.
Too many parents feel they’ve somehow completed their spiritual job by introducing their kids to Christ. And once the child is saved and the Holy Spirit is doing His work, mom and dad turn the kid over to the Christian School and church to do the rest of the discipling. But that cannot be more wrong. It’s our God-given responsibility to help sanctify our children and assist them as they are conformed into the image of Christ.
And we accomplish that the same was we introduced them to Jesus — speaking and living the Gospel into their lives every day.
And the reason this is so important is that just because we’re Christians doesn’t mean we’re as mature as we could be. Our sinful flesh will still have Hard, Rocky, and Thorny responses to Truth even though we’re bearing genuine fruit of repentance. So that leads us to our fourth question . . .
How is it possible for a Soft-Hearted Child to have a Hard, Rocky, or Thorny response to Truth?
Do you remember when we discussed the hard heart in episode 56? One of the verses I cited told of the resurrected Christ appearing to His disciples and chastising them for having a Hard Heart. What was the issue? Well, they didn’t believe He would rise from the dead. Even though many of them had believed in Him as their Savior, they didn’t believe everything about Him — in particular — His resurrection.
This shows us that saving faith doesn’t equal perfect faith, we must always be growing in our faith.
I believe this is the reason that some of the plants in the parable bore 30 fold and some 60 fold and some 100. The hearts that bear more fruit believe more of the Bible. And remember, believing God’s Word is not simply knowing it or understanding it or agreeing with it. Belief bears behavior every single time.
Here’s an example: my children know that God wants them to obey me. But the times they choose to disobey show that in that moment, my children thought they had a better plan. In that instance, they didn’t believe that obeying dad was the best choice.
We’re going to dedicate a later series to this reality so we parents can understand why we do what we do, but we also need to be able to explain it to our children. I’m really looking forward to discussing the Merest Christianity with you.
But for now, let’s answer the final question of this series . . .
How do you parent a Soft-Hearted Child with a Hard, Rocky, or Thorny response to Truth?
We know that every born again member of our family will have immature responses to Truth.
When we encounter these Hard, Rocky, and Thorny choices, we need to address them the same was we would address the unregenerate Hard, Rocky, and Thorny hearts. So, here’s a quick review of our study:
A Hard-Hearted response to Truth requires . . .
Remember, the Hard Heart is a distracted heart.
When you present the Truth in Love you need to do it in such a way that they are forced to think about it. Lectures too often breed brainless responses. My mother tells a story of haranguing a young boy for his selfish choice. And when she was done, she asked the boy is he had any questions. His response was, “Do you know you got hair up your nose?”
First, please know that I wasn’t the boy. That’s important.
But second, we don’t want our Hard-Hearted kids to have a “hair up your nose” response to our admonition. Ask lots of questions of the Hard Heart.
A Rocky-Hearted response to Truth requires . . .
This means, always be looking for the fruit that shows the child finally believed the Truth.
Until their behavior aligns with their professed belief, you can know they don’t genuinely believe it the way they should.
This means that we must continually provide the child the opportunity to fail. I know that sounds negative, and yes, I could have said, provide him opportunities to succeed. But there really is a big difference.
If I expect five-year old behavior from my ten-year old, he will always be successful. But he’ll never grow. However, if I expect twelve-year old behavior from my ten-year old, I’m giving him a challenge for him to rise to; one that requires effort. Your Rocky-Hearted child will need enough pressure to break him of his self-sufficiency so he will see his need for Christ.
Lastly, a Thorny-Hearted response to Truth (even when it comes from a born again believer) requires . . .
A Thorny response is one rooted in comfort, pleasure, ease, and fluffy emotions.
Though genuine peace, joy, and happiness are ours in Christ, we need to help our kids become Optimistic Realists. Optimistic that God will get all the glory and that we will be blessed in our conformity to Christ, but realistic enough to realize that following Jesus is a weighty matter that requires sacrifice. We mustn’t follow Jesus because of what we can get out of it. We follow Jesus because He’s worthy it.
If I were to put all of those together, our parenting would consist of . . . .
Can you think of anything that’s missing? This type of parenting is founded on all that God is, empowered by His strength, and consumed with His glory. It’s also flowing with love and honesty and expecting great things from our little ones when they’ve submitted to their Creator.
That’s definitely the type of leadership I want in my life. How about you?
Don’t forget about our episode notes linked in the description.
Next time we’re going to discuss a parenting game that you should never plan. Don’t miss that one.
And I pray that the God of all comfort will keep your hearts and minds in His perfect care. Parenting isn’t easy, but being an Ambassador Parent is a calling of hope.
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