God in his word has given us a mandate to go out and teach and make disciples of all nations. But at the same time he also wants us to be learners in the process of teaching and following him. In that, he desires that we have a teachable mind, receptive spirit, and obedient heart.
Deuteronomy 32:1-9 is a song that Moses taught the Israelites to be a witness against them when they stop listening to God. God deliberately journeyed his people to the Promised Land for forty years on what was normally an eleven day or so distance so as to teach them lessons on God, faith, humility, identity, and obedience. He taught and corrected them. Similarly, a life of a believer in Christ is a lifelong learning experience.
In this short-write up I want to focus on how to cultivate a teachable spirit/heart/attitude. But to cultivate a teachable spirit, we first have to acknowledge the fact that God is a teacher. He delights in showing us the way we should go.
He uses His word, circumstances, godly people, and His indwelling presence in us to teach and lead us in his ways.
And so there is no excuse if we fail to listen Him. God is always guiding and teaching his people. But the challenge to all of us is having a teachable spirit or a receptive heart.
In Mark 4:1-23, Jesus taught his disciples about four kinds of people/ hearts. The four soils represent four different ways people respond to God’s message. In the parable, a farmer (God) went out to sow his seed (word); and the seeds it fell in four different grounds (hearts)- pathways, rocky surface, thorny ground, good soil). Let’s have a look at each of these four grounds.
Those that fell along the path– Some seed fell along the path and the birds came and ate it up. Interpretation: Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan, like birds, come and takes away the word that was sown in them.
Those seed that fell on rocky places- It sprang up quickly because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched and they withered because they had no deep root. Interpretation: they hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. Like people who only want miracles and blessings, when trouble come or persecution comes they quickly fall away.
The Seed that fell among thorns– The seed grew up in good soil but chocked by the thorns, so that they did not bear grain. Interpretation: Such people hear the word 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. Remember, God cuts off unfruitful branches and throws them into fire, (Jn. 15:2,6).
The seed that fell on good soil– The seed came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even hundred times. Interpretation: Such people hear the word, accept it, produced a crop-thirty, sixty or even hundred times what was sown. The seed doesn’t return empty (Isa. 55:11).
From this parable, a teachable spirit/receptive heart: hears the word, accepts the word, and produces fruit.
On the other hand, the unreceptive heart/ unteachable spirit, the word is planted, it may look like it is making progress, but it produces no fruit.
It is true that many relationships/ marriages have disintegrated because of unteachable(unwillingness to learn) spouses, many children are not in good terms with their parents because they can’t stand to be rebuked, many employees have lost their jobs because they reject learning. The challenge is real to us. What soil are you? Do you personally have a teachable spirit before God? A spirit that hears God’s word, accept it, and yields to it.
So how can we develop a teachable spirit/ obedient heart?
Ways we can cultivate/develop a teachable spirit/heart?
- Ask God to give you a heart that is teachable– ask God the giver of all good things. What is the hope of a thorny or rocky ground? Can it be made a good soil? Humanly speaking, No. But it is possible with God. He can burn the thorns and break the rock into pieces and turn it into good soil! He says, “Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” (Jer. 23:29).
There may be certain areas of our lives we think it is impossible for change to occur! Don’t lose hope! God is able. Pray to him. He will listen; and give you a changed heart. He promises, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezek. 36:26-27).
The reason Pharaoh adamantly refused to let go the Israelites was because of hardness of heart. Out of his stubborn mind and stony heart he preferred to stay one more night with the frogs (Ex. 8:9-10). You see, hardness of heart is something that creeps in gradually; what we see as ‘small sins’ graduate making us grieve the Holy Spirit and be blind to God’s leading and soon or later our conscience becomes dead. Thankfully, the finger of God is able to break such kind of a heart and make it obedient to Christ.
David prayed a profound prayer, “create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” Psalm 51:10. Also in several verses in Psalm 119, he also prayed, “teach me”- your way, your laws/decrees/precepts, to follow your will, you wisdom, your knowledge. So when you pray, ask God to give you a heart that hears his word, accepts it, and is transformed by it. Ask God to teach you his ways, his will, his statutes. Ask God to become your teacher. It is only God who can change our hearts and incline it to his ways.
- Be a true Disciple of Jesus– The word disciple means a learner, or a follower. The Bible uses the word “disciple” 282 times, “believers” 26 times and “Christians” only 3 times. The number the word “disciple” is repeated in the NT shows us that there is more to learn on what it means to be a disciple.
A true disciple of Jesus is someone who has heard God’s call to message of salvation, accepted it, and has been transformed by message.
On the contrary, the know-it-all believers are unteachable, full of themselves, they do not accept correction or listen; even when warned of an impending danger. They are fools (Prov. 12:1).
Learners have a teachable spirit, have room for correction, have a childlike heart (Matt. 18:2-4), they have inquisitive minds and learners have a receptive heart for God’s word. It is because of learning attitude that the disciples implored on their Master, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Lk. 11:1). Learners are always growing and transforming. And so if you are not growing then you have expired and if you are expired then you have outlived your usefulness in the kingdom of God. If you have stopped learning you have stopped marveling at the greatness of God.
- Let the word of God planted in you transform you– Many of us have had numerous opportunities to hear the word of God. We should allow this word should change us. It should produce fruit in us. Jesus instructed, This is to my Father’s glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples Jn 15:8. But in order to bear fruit however we must have a teachable attitude/spirit.
You see, the Holy Spirit works in your life as a believer in Christ to transform you into Christlikeness. He renews us inward out. He works to produce the fruit of Holy Spirit. And as this fruit (of love, joy, peace, faithfulness, kindness, self-control) gets manifested our minds and hearts are renewed to receive the word even more. And as we come nearer to Him we see him as he is and we see things as they are. And as the word of God takes root in our hearts our attitudes change.
But have you ever wondered why many people remain the same even after many years of salvation? It is because the word that is planted does not find a receptive heart. Immediately it is sowed, the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth and desires for other things come in and choke the word making it unfruitful, Mk 4:19.
Finally, when we want to know something today we quickly go to a dictionary or Google. But I urge you to let God be you teacher. Let him be the One that guides/informs you in the way you should go. If we hope to grow and mature in faith, we need to have a teachable mind, receptive spirit, and obedient heart. A heart that listens to the word of God, keeps it, and produces fruit.
Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near (Rev. 1:3).