Understand the Heart of Man by Larry Vann


We begin with the Parable of the Four Soils.  I’m going to read Jesus’ parable and his subsequent explanation of it side by side.

The Parable Mark 4:3-8    The explanation Mark 3:14-20

3  Listen!  A farmer went out to sow his seed. 

14  The farmer sows the word.

4  As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.

15  Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown.  As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.

5  Some fell on the 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.

16  Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17  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.

7  Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain.

18  Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.

8  Still other seed fell on good soil.  It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times.

20  Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop – thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times what was sown.

Satan is the prince of this world and tempts man to doubt and disobey God.  God sees both doubt and disobedience as evil.  They separate man from God.

Jeremiah 17:9, 10

9  The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?

Deceitful = synonyms dishonest, untruthful, insincere, untrustworthy, two-faced, etc.  We get the message. 

10  “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”

Who can understand man’s heart?  God can!  God does!  Believe it.  Don’t doubt it.  He knows it all. 

Sin includes any thought, attitude, action, or belief that is contrary to God’s will.  These things defile man’s heart.  God demands repentance.

Acts 17:29-31

29 Therefore since we are God’s offspring we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone – and image made by man’s design and skill.

30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.

31  For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed.  He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.

For those who determine they are not sinful and disregard God’s word, there can be no mercy.  Unless they change, they will be cast into hell.

Matthew 25:41

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. …’



Our sins must be repented of, confessed, and forgiven.  Then God will create in us a knowing heart that desires to serve him, through faith.  His Spirit then moves into our hearts to comfort and guide us.  Then, when our lives on earth are complete, God will accept us as his.




If the unbeliever’s heart is not ruled by God, then it is ruled by Satan. 

Matthew 12:30 

Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

Just like the seed in the shallow soil, some people will sort the word into what they like and what they don’t like.  Even the apparent good that such a person’s heart produces is unacceptable to God.  Trying to do good and proclaiming God does not exist or the Bible is only partially right is an attempt by Satan to confuse and distort the truth.  In reality, such “good works” are motivated by pride and self-justification – traits originated by Satan.

Pride, the driver of such a heart, values self-respect, material possessions, fame, honor, high-mindedness, and self-righteousness above all else (even God).  Such a person’s heart is easily offended or hurt and will often carry grudges.  It lusts for the acceptance of others.  Pride places emphasis on its good deeds while overlooking the efforts of others.

Pride, like Satan (it’s originator) was cast out of Heaven and people who are consumed by pride will not live within Heaven’s gates.

God gives grace to the humble.

1 Peter 5:5

…  All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

It is worth noting that the conscience of the sinner, who has heard the word, will be troubled.

1 Timothy 4:1,2

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.  Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.

Just as the application of that hot iron is remembered, the truth is also.  In the quietness of some moment the conscience will judge and condemn the heart, producing guilt and fear.  This is God’s way of reminding man that there is a judgement coming.

Ezekiel 18:4

For everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child – both alike belong to me.  The one who sins is the one who will die.

The sinful heart tries to console itself as it beholds the vast multitudes of similar hearts.  It turns from the Bible scriptures (which make it aware of condemnation) and accepts the vain council of other sinners.

Satan, without mercy, misleads the heart, through temptation to doubt or forget God.

But God continues to speak to this heart, and so should we.

John 3:16-18

16  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

17  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

18  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.



THE BACKSLIDDEN HEART which is choked out by thorns

Through the deceitfulness of Satan, sin and neglect can return to the believer.  The spiritual pleas of the brethren to return to the right ways of God’s word are rebuffed.

Through the cares of life or the casualness of our handling it, the tempter can return to mess with us with empty and deluded reasoning.  Gradually the sins of pride and doubt return.  Egotism causes the head to turn.  Bitterness, diminished motivation, and offense ruling the thoughts.

The ways of the church and their fellowship begin to seem narrow minded and of little value.  Complacency (another word for self-satisfaction) and excuses replace taking an active role as part of Christ’s Church.  Membership in the Church is taken for granted, but the word says …

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.  No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Don’t become complacent.  Purposefully make an effort to be what God intends, for regardless of what you think, time moves rapidly.  Disregard of the church is a trap.  The voice of God can be lost to us.

Genesis 6:3

… the Lord said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.”

That 120 years was a warning to the people of Noah’s day the time to change their sinful ways had a limit.  While 120 years seems like a long time, eventually the time ran out and the floodwaters swept across the earth.  It is an awful thing for the sinful heart in its dying time; no hope, no Savior, no light.  Wailing and gnashing of teeth and fire await as described in Matthew.

Matthew 13:41,42

The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.  They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

This doom awaits all sinners, whether they never turned from the slavery of sin or returned to it like the backslidden heart and were disqualified for the prize.

The trials of life present themselves, but there is nothing that the Christian  would consciously exchange for his soul.  It is by the wisdom and grace received through the council of God’s Word, the righteous heart seeks fellowship with other children of God.


The Holy Spirit always invites the sinner to look to Jesus for salvation.

As man recognizes the depravity of his heart he can cry out for mercy and be justified before God.

Luke 18:13, 14

… the tax collector stood at a distance.  He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 

Jesus said “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.  For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

The Word of God offers hope.  The presence of God’s authoritative Word will drive the devil from the sinful heart. 

God pays attention.

Isaiah 66:2

“Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” declares the Lord.  “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.

As a new heart is formed, and the goodness of the Lord is grasped, it desires God’s word all the more.


From repenting of sins, confessing Jesus Christ as savior, and being baptized for the remission of our sins, we are forgiven and added to the church, the body of Christ.  This results in the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit and the production of the fruits of the Spirit.

Galatians 5:22,23

… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.

The Holy Spirit purges the branches of the heart so that more spiritual fruit can be produced – thirty, sixty, or even a hundred fold.

Christ is the convicted heart’s hero and it seeks to please him by learning and growing through discipline – to gain the prize.

The Apostle John, in a vision, saw heaven.

In Revelations 7:9,10

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.  They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.  And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne , and to the Lamb.” 

Let’s you and I see it too – and live there some day.  Glory Glory Halleluiah!