by Dan Nelson, pastor
FBC Camarillo, Calif.
Fallow ground is symbolic of our hearts. It is hardened ground that must be disced and cultivated to get to the subsoil. If that ground could talk it would say don’t put that plow into me. It hurts and disturbs me. But it is needed for the soil to be rich and able to receive the seed into its furrows. You can have the greatest seed in the world but if you don’t have the soil ready it will not be productive.
The gospel is the greatest message in the world. It has the power to change people’s lives when we receive its message. But the soil of human hearts must receive it in order for God to use it to effect change in people’s lives.
R.G. Lee once said, “Our natural hearts are hearts of stone. The Word of God is good seed sown on the hard, trodden, macadamized highway, which the horses of passion, the asses of self-will, the wagons of imaginary treasure, have made impenetrable. Only the Holy Spirit can soften and pulverize the soil. The .gospel is good seed but good seed cannot make good soil. Paul may plant and Apollos may water but God must give the increase. “
Hosea speaks to the Northern Kingdom which was deep into sin to break up your fallow ground for now is the time to seek the Lord. Don’t wait, come to Him in repentance and trust in all that He is.
So the church is filled with many who have not repented. They didn’t even know they should repent. When they see how it is a constant theme in scripture but as long as it is viewed as a general subject they are all-right. But when we break down what they need to repent of it becomes a lot dicer and even irritable to them. Yet, we need to repent at these times”
When we hear the gospel in order to be saved, vv. 1-4
Hosea said Israel was an unproductive vine. They were divided in loyalties’ between the true God and idolatry. He prophesies how they would be stripped of a king and how they had broken God’s covenant because of false swearing against God. They had poisoned any stream of God’s goodness and protection toward them. They were partaking of poisonous vines like hemlock not even knowing they were headed for destruction.
We see this same trend in America and even in Bible-believing churches. There is the false assumption because God has protected us in the past he will continue to do so. We check off the boxes of being in church and being good enough to pass as a Christian. We think as Wesley did before he trusted Christ. He said he had a kindness toward religion.” The devil will have a kindness toward religion, especially the wrong kind.
When in reality God is calling all to repent of sin come under the conviction of sin and come to Christ as Savior. First and foremost repentance speaks to our need for salvation or the lack of it.
Vance Havner said, “Alas, we have today a dry-eyed generation-pure in its own eyes but not washed from its filthiness. Sin has been minimized until it is nothing to cry about. Of course, we do not-mean that every genuine conversion must be accompanied with great bitterness and tears, but we have gone to the other extreme, and men join churches with heads erect and wills unbroken, and with stiff necks and proud looks and hard hearts, lugging their sins along. Neither before nor after such professions of faith is there any burden over the plague of one's heart. It all springs from the modern attitude toward sin and hell and judgment and our new version of the Christian life as a glorified good time.”
Repentance is almost a lost note in our preaching and experience and the lack of it is filling churches with baptized sinners who have never felt the guilt of sin or the need of a Savior.
Some years ago it was prophesied that there would come a day when we would hear thepreaching of religion without the Holy Spirit, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration and heaven without hell. We have arrived. “
I hope you have been persuaded how repentance is very much a part of becoming a Christian. We are not asking God to endorse our life and then we will join His fan club. No we need a new one only He can give. We also need to repent:
When we have let other priorities take the place of Godly ones, vv. 5-8
The prophesy of captivity coming is given and God accuses them of exalting high places for idols such as in Aven. These will be destroyed and like the people deceived in Revelation 6 :16-17 in the last days who will wish these false God’s will hide them from God’s wrath against their sin and betrayal of first loyalties’.
So often we give God the scraps of our life and say we will do more when he have more time. Obviously the more time never comes and we play this game of serving God with our mouth but in reality disobeying Him with our lives.
Vance Havner said, “Paul speaks of spiritual babes who won't grow up. Some of these 150- to 200-pound church babies keep the pastor busy running around with a milk bottle when they should have been on beefsteak years ago. When the church calls a new pastor, these infants may be heard to complain, "I don't like the new preacher—he changed my formula!"
It starts innocently you quit this job, then that job and pretty soon you wind up out of church. I heard that one man wrote a Pastor from jail that used to be involved in church. He said, “It all started when I quit teaching my Sunday school class.
In special meetings people say I will come one night. People today say I will come to church if I can work it into my schedule. But we love to holler at football games when they go into overtime or when the baseball game goes into extra innings. No problem we are staying till the end no matter how long it takes. (Matt. 10:32-33). We also need to repent:
When we have Un-confessed Sin, vv. 9-11
God says that they had been sinning for a long time since a certain battle was fought. This is the reason why God had chastened them. They were bound like a shock of wheat. They would not listen but were as a heifer that would not be led. There was hope that they would turn to the Lord and plow a straight furrow as a farmer plows a straight row.
R.G. Lee said, “Unless there be a taste for spiritual things, spiritual surroundings are not happiness. Put a gambler in heaven would he be happy? No! Put a liquor lover in heaven will he be happy? No! He will not find a barroom even on the back streets of heaven. Put all who roll sin as a sweet morsel under the tongue would they be happy in heaven? No! Put a liar in heaven would he be happy? No!”
The Psalmist enjoins God to search us and see if there be any wicked way in our hearts. This is like going through a body scan at the airport but we need a spiritual scan (Ps.139:23-24). The Psalmist also said, “If I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me (Ps. 66:18). Our prayers are hindered if we have bitterness to our wives as husbands (I Pet. 3:7).
God does discipline those who stray from his paths. Whatever stands in the way of our relationship with God we must repent of that sin.
I heard of a lady that told the Pastor I want to lay all my tongue (referring to her gossip) on the altar. He looked at the altar and looked at her. He said , “I don’t know if that altar is big enough but you can try. We finally need to repent when:
When we have a broken relationship with someone, vv. 12-15
Relationships we are alienated from, need to be restored. He says to break up that ground that cannot receive the seed of God’s Word.
Seed can’t germinate in a hard heart which is why we can’t argue someone into heaven. Hard hearts hold back God’s blessing in any relationship and is as useless as trying to plant seed on hard fallow ground. God says to break it up that ground and receive the good seed of God’s Word in our hearts (James 1:21).
Notice the command to sow in righteousness. Then God will send a rain of righteousness and we will be refreshed. God promised to raise a tumult over their sin and backsliding. Even when God says we need to repent He always offers hope and forgiveness if they would repent.
R. G. Lee said, “So many people feel that they have a right to harbor hard feelings against one who has hurt their feelings, or otherwise injured them. So many believe they have a right to be resentful because their ideas were not given rushing acceptance, because they could not have their way in matters, because their opinions were not accepted as commands by others and as orders from superiors.”
I heard that two members who were influential leaders in a church would not speak to one another. One was convicted to make things right in a revival meeting. He went to the other man and said let’s go forward and make things right. The other man elbowed him back and said get away from me. From then on the church began to decline and was never where it used to be in its glory days when many were being saved.
Remember if you are fighting with someone in the church lost people will never want to be involved in that as well as other believers looking for a church home.
We need to live with a spirit of forgiveness instead of bitterness. Jesus said, "Be ye merciful, even as your Father who is in heaven is merciful." (Lk. 6:36) There is no virtue more beautiful in its character, or more important to the Christian, than that thus enjoined by the Son of God. The spirit of forgiveness infinitely transcends all the effects. of mere human philosophy, and allies man to his Maker. In this amiable quality, Christmas Evans, the great Welsh preacher at the turn of the 18th century was never wanting. He took a thousand times more pleasure in pardoning the offender, than the offender in asking his pardon.
It was only," says his Welsh biographer, "for the person who had given offence to make some sort of acknowledgment, to say there had been a misunderstanding Mr. Evans would anticipate him with : O, say nothing about it! let it be buried! very likely I have been in fault myself!'" The spirit of Mr. Evans diary everywhere corroborates this description of his character. We extract a single paragraph :"I trust that by the grace of God, I have overcome my natural disposition to anger and revenge. I have been enabled to forgive my greatest enemies, and pray that they may be forgiven of God. I can say from my heart, with Stephen; 'Lord, lay not this sin to their charge!' I have no wish that any of them should suffer for their attempts to injure me, but that they may all be led to repentance, and settle their matters at the mercy-seat, where I hope also there the multitude of my own trespasses will be covered and forgotten."
His mercy was as impartial as it was cordial. He had held a controversy with a minister of another sect, who, forgetting the rules of Christian courtesy, treated him very unkindly before the public. This minister was afterward arraigned and imprisoned on a very serious allegation. If he had been convicted, degradation from the ministry would have been the smallest part of his punishment. Mr. Evans, earning the fact, and believing the prosecution unjust and malicious, felt greatly distressed for his polemical opponent. On the day of trial, he retired to his room, and poured out his heart to God on his behalf, for a long time, and with peculiar fervor. Then he waited with great anxiety for the issue. As he sat at the table, with several friends and brethren, a minister, who had been at court, entered the room, and said: "Mr.______ is acquitted!" Mr. Evans instantly fell upon his knees, with tears streaming down his face, and exclaimed : “Thanks be unto thee, O Lord Jesus! for delivering one of thy servants from the mouth of the lions!" He then arose, saluted his friend, and joined in the mutual congratulations of the company.
Evans, was riding horseback one Saturday afternoon on his way to preach, was "convicted of a cold heart." He tethered his horse and spent hours in the woods in prayer until his heart was thawed out "like the breaking up of a hard winter." He did not get over it," but, unlike some of us, he found it out. Vance Havner said, “A preacher had better stop in his tracks if he finds himself moving from the apostolic to the mechanistic stage; he had better do something radical then and there. He had better drop everything and get into the woods with his Bible and read until he has a new Bible and pray until he has a new prayer, and come back a new man with a new message. A lot of churches think they need a new preacher when they simply need the same preacher renewed. Many a preacher thinks he needs a new pastorate when he needs to be renewed in the same pastorate. The church needs to be renewed also. When we repent the way we should then we will be all of what God wants us to be
 Robert G. Lee, The Must of the Second Birth and Other Sermons, (Revell: Westwood, N.J., 1959), 73.
 Vance Havner, Hearts Afire (Revell: Old Tappan, N.J. 1952), 52.
 Vance Havner, compiled by Betsy D. Scanlon Treasury of Vance Havner (Baker: Grand Rapids, 1988), 146.
 Vance Havner, Pepper N’ Salt (Revell: Old Tappan, N.J., 1974), 18.
 All Scriptural quotations or citations are taken from the King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise indicated.
 Lee, 65.
 Lee, 86