TLP 57: The Four Children, Part 3 | Parenting a Rocky-Hearted Child

What does a “Rocky-Hearted Child” look like? How is parenting them different than parenting a Hard-Hearted Child? Find out today as AMBrewster helps Christian dads and moms parent like Christ!

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Welcome back to our study of the Four Children. Last time we discussed the Hard-Hearted Child and today we’re going to tackle the next in line: The Rocky-Hearted Child.

But more on that in a minute.

Lord willing, on episode 65 we’re going to start a three part episode with mom and author, Natasha Crain. We’ll be discussing her ministry, the best devotionals for your kids, her books, and taking a full episode to answer your parenting questions. Please feel free to send us whatever questions you may have to

And if you haven’t subscribed yet, I heartily encourage you to do that. I recently subscribed to a new podcast and was happy I did. When the next episode came out, I immediately knew it could help me in my ministry.

You rarely know what we’re going cover from day to day, so subscribed and be surprised!


Okay, so let’s figure out who the Rocky-Hearted Child is, if you have one in your house, and how you can cultivate the soil of their heart to receive the Truth of God.


1. Who is the Rocky-Hearted Child?

Let’s start with biblical account that I’ve synchronized from the books of Matthew and Mark.

“Other seeds fell on rocky ground [the rock], where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away because [they] had no moisture.

“As for what was sown on the rock, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself; [he] believe[s][and] endures for a while, and in time of testing when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.



In Wisconsin we have a TON of rocks. You can’t put a shovel into the ground without bringing up three to four tennis ball-sized rocks. It’s ridiculous. But, that’s not the kind of soil being discussed here.

Agriculturally speaking, this soil isn’t littered with pebbles and stones, in fact, it may appear to have no rocks in it at all! But below the surface of the soil is a rock shelf. Imagine one, gigantic, flat rock inches below the surface of the dirt. The farmer likely wouldn’t even know it’s there because the rock is just deep enough to be missed by most farming implements.

However, the rock is not so deep that the plants have room to lay down sufficient roots.

But, because the soil is just as nice as the rest of the farmland, and nothing like the hard soil of the footpath, the seeds land and sink in.

So, when a plant can’t grow down, it expends more energy growing up. Interestingly enough, this type of soil may appear to be more fertile than others, because — when compared to the rest of the field — these plants grow up much faster than the rest. But it’s hard to tell why. Did it grow well because that patch of land had the right mix of sun and water and nutrients, or did the plants sprout so fast because it was shallow?

Well, the average farmer may not know until the dry weather sets in.

A shallow root system may be able to thrive when the soil is nice and wet, but those few inches of soil can dry out very quickly under the hot middle-eastern sun, and those roots may as well be laying out bare on the hard soil of the footpath.

Drought season reveals the rocky soil as all the green withers and dies.

So, if you’re like me, you’re wondering — “How can that happen? How could my child seem so interested in God and yet still not be saved?”

That’s what we must understand or we’ll never be able to parent the Rocky-Hearted Child.

This child may live in our homes until their eighteen, and we may never know. It may not be until they graduate from high school that they reject the Lord. It may not be until they’ve graduated with their master’s degree and started teaching at a Christian school that they walk away from everything they’ve ever professed. It may not be until after they’ve started working at a church and married a nice girl and had children that they one day say they’re no longer a Christian and leave their family to cohabitate with a homosexual partner.

My friends, I know people — people who are dear to me, people I went to school with, people I’m related to — who have done the three things I just spoke of.

They were Rocky-Hearted Children and adults, and no one knew. In fact, in all three cases, most of the people who knew them believed they were genuinely born again.

Here’s how it works:

Imagine an inner city child who’s never known anything other than cement, steel, and glass being introduced to a book that gloriously displays and proclaims the amazingness of nature. He learns that you can grow your own food, live off the land, and enjoy the incomparable health benefits.

Then he goes on his first field trip to the country. He sees the animals, feels the sun, smells the air, and touches the trees. He’s hooked. He knows that as soon as he can, his city living is over.

So the boy grows up, backpacks through exotic lands, starts a homestead, and becomes the largest proponent for off-the-grid sustainable living.

But then one day his daughter contracts a rare disease, and he has absolutely no access to treatment in their remote home in the mountains.

Even with his advanced knowledge of herbs and natural remedies, he’s not equipped to heal her.

So he moves back to the city — as close as he can to the best doctor he can find. And for the next five years lives and works back in the heart of the city to care for his daughter and her ongoing treatment.

You see, an idea can capture a person. It can radically change everything about them. It can set a flame under them that warms everyone around them. But it’s just an idea. It lacks divine power. It’s like a health-food kick, a New Year’s resolution, or a fad. The motivation lies in the idea itself, and when the idea dies or fails or another idea comes along that looks nicer, the idea will be left behind.

And the can be said for religious ideas.

That is the case with the Rocky-Heart. When they hear the Truth, it sticks. They’re often amazed by it. They receive it with joy. They believe in it.

There’s even change in their lives. Perhaps they become more obedient or break bad habits or start attending church and memorizing their Bibles. They may join the choir or volunteer at the local shelter. They may become the model teenager. Like the boy in the illustration, they may change everything from the clothes they wear to their friends to their music. They may become miniature versions of their Christian moms and dads.

And everyone around them is likely praising God for the glorious work He’s done in their lives.

But, one day — after a string of troubling times and some slips in their behavior — or maybe, just maybe, after a season of hidden doubt; tucked deep below their pristine facade — one day the individual jettisons it all. And they turn their back on God.

At first everyone’s stunned. But certain people will reflect, and when they look back they realize there never was any real fruit.



You may not have understood it at the time, but we talked about this person in episode 45: The Second Most Important Question to Ask Your Kids.

This is the individual in Matthew 7:23 who — despite prophesying and preaching and performing miracles — whom Jesus looks at them and says, “Depart from Me. I never knew you.”

It’s because they believed a religious idea. They loved a religious way of life and the feelings and benefits they gleaned from living the way the Bible commands.

This feeling is experienced by every follower of a false religion. People blow themselves up for a religious ideas that have no divine power.

The Pharisees based their false religious beliefs off the inspired Old Testament.

Why are we so surprised that someone can believe in biblical Truth and not be saved?

In Jesus’ metaphor, the Rocky-Heart actually accepts the seed of Truth. In fact, she receives the Truth with joy and even endures in it for a time. Mark tells us this heart actually “believes” the Truth.

I don’t know about you, but that verse freaked me out a little.

As we mentioned in the introduction, neither the Hard-Heart, Rocky-Heart, nor Thorny-Heart in this parable represents a born again believer. However, this heart is described as actually “believing” — believing — the Truth, and then it dies and doesn’t bear fruit.

Is it possible the person was saved at some point in the past? Could this be a picture of someone losing their salvation?

Well, we can rest soundly knowing that when you allow Scripture to interpret Scripture, we can know two things: 1. No one can lose their salvation, and 2. There is a faith that doesn’t save.

Most of us are familiar with the passages that teach we can’t lose our salvation.

But are you familiar with the story of Simon the magician in Acts 8? Here’s an example of someone who the Bible says believed the word of the apostles, but who ended up being a phony

The real issue is they believe . . . to a degree. They believe . . . but not in the right thing.

I can believe that being good brings positive consequences without believing that the only consequence that matters is God’s glory.

I can believe that forgiving people makes life easier without believing that my forgiveness needs to be motivated by my forgiveness in Christ.

I can believe that being a Christian is a way of life without believing that being a Christian is a living and vibrant relationship with the God of the universe.

And I can say I believe all those things, and still not really believe it.

You may ask, “What’s the difference?” And I would answer, “An eternity.”

In this parable, Jesus tells us that this person’s faith is shallow. It not only lacks depth, it’s lacks a firm foundation. The roots aren’t grounded in the Truth. They don’t reach down and embrace every part of it. So when difficulties arise because of the Word, they shrivel up and show that they never really had life. They never really produced fruit.

2. So the next questions is, do you have a Rocky-Hearted Child in your home?

And this is where I have warn you. The Rocky-Hearted person is the most dangerous member of your family.

I’m not saying they’re the ones who will come after you in the night. No, they’re dangerous because they’re the ones who look so good. They’re doing all the right things, and they really enjoy it. But they don’t actually have real spiritual life.

You may think that the Hard-Heart is worse because of its flat rejection of Truth and demonic involvement.

But the Rocky-Heart gives the appearance of genuine conversion. Not only does he receive the seeds of Truth, but he does so with joy, and there’s even a season of verifiable change. But it’s not until the dry weather of life comes that the heart is revealed to be unbelieving.

These are the ones who look so good all their lives, become pastors or pastor’s wives, and then run off with an affair and deny God. They were Rocky-Hearted.

Remember. You can’t lose your salvation. So if someone denies God later in life, you can know for certain they were never born again regardless of how they lived up to that point.

In fact, it’s observing the Rocky-Hearted people of the world that has lead so many people to think that it’s possible to lose your salvation.

But Jesus makes two points: 1. There was never any fruit of repentance, and 2. He says this behavior occurs during a “time of testing when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, [and] immediately he falls away.”

This is what makes this heart so dangerous — especially in America. We and our spouses and our children can go for decades without realizing there’s a problem.

For the most part, our families have been spared significant persecution. In fact, for many years in the US and other countries, Christianity was not only encouraged, but expected. People all around the world have been able to live a quasi-Christian life without them or anyone else knowing their roots were only skin deep.

Some of these Rocky-Hearts may never experience a significant drought. They may live most of their lives before the encounter a time of testing or persecution strong enough to cause them to fall away.

And from what John said, there will be many who die and while they stand before Christ will think that their Rocky-Heart should be allowed into Heaven.

This is what makes it so hard to know if you have a Rocky-Hearted Child. A Hard-Hearted Child is easy to see. But the Rocky-Heart takes special perception.

So, how do you know?

Well, I believe you can know, and I believe the book of I John can help so much. All throughout the book, John flat out calls people liars. James does a similar thing when he challenges the Rocky-Heart to prove their faith without works. It doesn’t matter that your child claims to be a Christian. Get into the Word and see what God says are the indicators of salvation.

As I mentioned in episode 45, we too often look at our children’s good behavior and mistake it for good fruit. The Bible does use the picture of fruit to describe what we do. Christ-honoring behaviors are often called fruit. But, the fruit of repentance, the fruit of the Spirit, are not behaviors.

Did you know that obedience is not a Fruit of the Spirit. That’s right. An unsaved person can obey a parent or a police officer.

Telling the truth is not a Fruit of the Spirit. Unsaved people can be honest.

Being a diligent student, or a good sportsman, or a fascinating pastor are not Fruits of the Spirit. Unsaved people can do every single one.

The best way to tell which of our children may have a Rocky-Heart is to look for actual fruit of repentance.

What are those? You ask. We’ll talk about that as we answer the third question . . .

3. How can you cultivate your child’s heart like Jesus did?

The great thing about parenting a Rocky-Hearted Child is that you don’t have to know you have a Rocky-Hearted Child to parent them well. Let me tell you why.

The best example of a Rocky-Heart in the Scriptures is Judas. He believed in what Jesus was doing enough to forsake his family and job and the comforts of his life. He followed Christ for three years. He memorized his messages. He preached His messages. With a unique gifting of the Holy Spirit, Judas was able to prophecy and preach and perform miracles. He witnessed handicaps healed, storms abated, dead raised.

And yet, he was lost. He looked like an ardent follower of the Messiah. He experienced persecution and served and worked and probably changed some in his time with Christ.

But he was never born again.

So how did Jesus treat Judas? The exact same way He treated the other disciples.

With only a few exceptions, everything Jesus said to Judas was said to the rest of them. Everything Jesus did with and to Judas, He did to and with the other twelve.

He preached to him, taught him, walked with him, ate with him, and washed his feet.

So I want to end our time by looking at five important things Jesus did with Judas’s Rocky-Heart that will help us parent our children better.

  1. Pray without ceasing.
    1. Jesus prayed all of the time.
    2. And Jesus prayed for the Rocky-Hearted just as much as He did for the Hard-Hearted.
    3. It’s very hard to despair while praying. It’s hard to be annoyed while praying.
  2. Speak Truth without ceasing.
    1. Whether it was Judas’s conniving unregenerate heart or Peter’s arrogant unbelieving heart or Thomas’s despairing doubting heart, Jesus never ceased to preach and teach and illustrate and model and remind and lead.
    2. It doesn’t matter if they’re Hard-Hearted or Rocky-Hearted, they need an ever-constant stream of Truth.
    3. But isn’t that true of all of us?
  3. Love without ceasing.
    1. If I ever need to be humbled, I turn to the Last Supper.
    2. I watch as the God of the universe not only washed his creations dirty feet, but I watch as He knowingly washed the feet of the man who was about to betray Him.
    3. You’ve been placed on this planet to serve your children — I don’t mean “serve” like the misinformed world. I mean “serve” like Jesus did. That might mean making their bed for them, but it may mean making their bed with them, or it may mean having them make their bed under your watchful eye, or it may mean them making their bed without you around. Each of those may be an act of service if it’s the experience your child needs in order to become more like Christ. You mustn’t arbitrarily choose one of those depending on how you feel.
    4. “I’m in a good mood. I’m going to make my child’s bed.”
    5. “He’s never makes it the way I want him to. I’m going to watch over his shoulder until he gets it right.”
    6. Instead, we determine which actions we should or should not take depending on which will help my child best understand and respond to the Truth of God.
    7. Okay, we need to pray and speak Truth and love without ceasing. We also need to
  4. Look for fruit without ceasing.
    1. This point is the key in figuring out if your child has a Soft-Heart or a Rocky-Heart.
    2. You know the Hard-Hearts because they don’t give.
    3. But the Rocky-Hearts can seem so good!
    4. The reality is that we should be encouraging our children to bear biblical fruit of repentance, not just be “good.”
    5. This point must be understood. Please redefine your concept of a “good kid.” It doesn’t matter that your child’s highest aspiration in life is to get straight A’s, eat healthy foods, and be a missionary. If your child wants to get straight A’s to prove to you that he’s better than his older sister, and she wants to eat healthy foods because she thinks she’s fat even though she’s not, and they want to be a missionary because it sound like an adventure . . . there’s absolutely no Christ-honoring fruit there.
    6. Please remember, a Christian child should be a good kid, but a “good kid” may not be a Christian.
    7. Christians are people who do what unbelievers cannot do.
    8. “Well, what are those things?” you ask. I want you to get out your Bible and spend some time reading the following passages. And I want you to recognize that none of these verses tell you what you should do. They tell you who you should be. And the ultimate motivation for being what you should be is God and His glory. Please read. . .
      1. Galatians 5: 16-24
      2. II Peter 1:3-11
      3. Ephesians 6:10-18
      4. Read these passages and compare your children’s lives to them.
    9. Of course, no one will do this perfectly, but if you child truly desires the Lord’s glory in their own little way, and they manifest an understanding that being kind is not simply a checklist of words and behaviors but the outflowing of a heart that desires another’s best above their own, and your child is growing in Christlikeness — slowly though it may be — then what you’ll be seeing in their life is the Fruit of Repentance.
    10. So, in review you need to pray and teach and love and search.
    11. But it’s the last thing Jesus did with the Rocky-Heart that will be the key to exposing your child’s heart to them:
  5. Keep the pressure increasing.
    1. Remember Jesus’ words: “As for what was sown on the rock, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself; [he] believe[s][and] endures for a while, and in time of testing when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.
    2. The time of testing is pictured by the drought. It’s a stressful, pressure-filled time that shallow plants cannot bear up under, but fruitful plants — whose roots are deep in the soil of Truth — can continue to thrive like a tree planted by the rivers of water.
    3. And we parents need to be part of that time of testing.
    4. Now, let me tell you what I’m not suggesting. I’m not suggesting that you persecute your children for their belief in God. I’m not telling you to bring tribulation into their lives. The world and Satan will take care of that. But please keep in mind, I believe with all my heart that there are more Rocky-Hearted people in our churches than there are in China. Persecution does a fantastic job of revealing the heart and separating the wheat from the chaff. Countries where being a Christian is punishable by death has fewer pretenders.
    5. Here in America we’ve been pretty sheltered, and that’s why we see so much turnover in the church. In fact, might I suggest that this epidemic of millennials leaving the church has less to do with their generation, and more to do with the fact that a bunch of Rocky-Hearted kids are finally realizing they don’t really believe in God the way they thought. So they leave. Why wouldn’t they?
    6. And we’re part of the problem. Our kids aren’t being tested for Christ. They’re enough like the world that the world doesn’t judge them. Their Christian schools are focusing too much on grades and not on character. And their parents are happy when they accomplish the simplest of tasks: Seriously. A kid manages to get himself out of bed, dress intelligently, make some food, do well at school, finish his homework, brush his teeth and go to bed without being a jerk and we think we’re parents of the year. But where was God? Where was the pressure to become more conformed to the image of Christ.
    7. So I’m not saying you persecute your kids. The words tribulation and persecution were used in Matthew and Mark, but Luke’s passage simply calls it “a time of testing.” That word testing is a time of proving and disciplining, or an experiment.
    8. I believe this needs to be a part of every parent’s interactions with their kids.
    9. If our child professes Christ, we need to expose them to Truth, and we need to lovingly expect that they will respond to that Truth to one degree or another with the power of the Holy Spirit. The high biblical expectations of an Ambassador Parent are part of that testing.
    10. Our houses mustn’t be a twisted, religious version of the Saw films. I say that because I’ve encountered too many homes just like that — mom and dad plotting how to make their kids’ lives unbearable just to prove some quasi-religious point. No! Instead, it’s just like Jesus did. Why did He fall asleep in the boat in the storm? Why did He leave them alone to cross the sea in another storm? Why did he send the disciples out to do their own preaching? Have you ever noticed that the disciples weren’t with Jesus for the full 3 years. There as s significant chunk of time that they couldn’t comfortably sit in His shadow. In addition, Jesus was constantly testing the pharisees and the faith of the people who listened to Him.
    11. And it’s that testing that exposed the Pharisee’s hearts, helped the disciples understand their inability, and bring healing to many of the sick in Israel.
    12. There’s nothing better than high biblical expectations to reveal a Rocky-Heart. This is why.
    13. Remember, a Rocky-Heart believes part of the Truth to a certain degree. But their ultimate motivation is still selfish.
    14. A person can bear up under stress for about 2-4 weeks without cracking. But if the pressure continues and their strength is spent, the individual will cave.
    15. Again, I’m not saying you put your kids though some arduous boot-camp experience. But I am saying that you have to parent them as if when God said, “Be holy as I am holy,” He was serious about it. Yes, you do it in Truth and Love, but the expectation has to biblical, which means that it’s inherently too high for any of us to do without the power of the Hold Spirit.
    16. May I say that again? Your expectations for your children need to be impossible for them to achieve in their own strength.
    17. And if you child fails and their motivation is revealed that they didn’t truly believe the gospel, you will have done yourself and them the greatest service in the universe. You will have shown them they need Christ, and you can start the process of helping break up that shallow rock so they can accept the seed of Truth in a heart that will grow its roots deep into he truth of God.


To parent a Hard-Hearted Child we need to pour as much Truth and Love onto her as possible. To parent the Rocky-Hearted Child, we need to keep the same amount of Truth and Love flooding into his life, but we also need to test the commitment he claims to have. We need to lovingly equip him and keep him accountable to bear the fruit of repentance and become more like Christ.

Next time we’ll discuss the unique way to parent the Thorny-Hearted Child.

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Even a $1 a month would go a looooong way in helping us connect God’s Word to parents all over the globe. Just click the “Support TLP” link in the description to learn more.

And don’t forget about the episode notes which are also linked in the description.

The Parable of the Soils, and the entirety of Scripture, was given to you in part to help you parent your kids.

There is hope for your family, and His name is Jesus.

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