Pastor James J. Barker

Text: JEREMIAH 4:1-4


  1. My text this morning is found twice in the Bible, in Jer. 4:3 and in Hosea 10:12 – “Break up your fallow ground.”
  2. The Israelites were a nation of farmers, and therefore we often find references to farming in the Bible.
  3. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.  For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Galatians 6:7, 8).
  4. In Matthew 13:3, our Lord said, “Behold, a sower went forth to sow.” He went on to say that some seeds fell by the way side, some fell upon stony places, some fell among thorns, and other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit (Matt. 13:4-8).
  5. Our Lord’s disciples asked Him to interpret this parable and He said, “Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.  When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side” (Matt. 13:18, 19).
  6. Notice our Lord said in Matthew 13:19 that the ground represents the heart of man.
  7. Therefore, when the prophets say, “Break up your fallow ground” (Jer. 4:3; Hosea 10:12), they are referring to the heart of man.
  8. Fallow ground is hard ground.  It is inactive and uncultivated.  It is thorny ground.  The Lord says, “Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns” (Jer. 4:3).
  9. Our churches are filled with thorns. A proud heart is like ground untilled. A hard heart needs to be broken up by the Spirit of God.
  10. (And only He can do it.)
  11. Matthew Henry said a hard heart “is ground which may be improved…but it is fallow; it is over-grown with thorns and weeds, the natural product of the corrupt heart. Let us entreat the Lord to create in us a clean heart, and to renew a right spirit within us; for except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
  12. I have divided my exposition into three parts: REPENTANCE, REGENERATION, and RETRIBUTION.



  1. “The plowshare of conviction must overturn the hardened soil of the heart” (HA Ironside).
  2. Sin must be dealt with (Jer. 4:1). Just like fallow ground must be broken up, sin must be put away out of the heart.
  3. The word “abominations” (Jer. 4:1) is a strong word.  The word refers to things God hates – witchcraft, immorality, pride, idolatry, false religion, etc.
  4. Even true worship is an abomination if done insincerely or done with the wrong motives.  In the days of Isaiah the prophet, God told the Israelites, “Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me…” (Isa. 1:13).
  5. The Israelites were stealing, murdering, committing adultery, lying, and burning incense unto Baal and other heathen gods (Jer. 7:9).  Then they would go into the temple and try and worship the true God of heaven.
  6. God calls this an abomination (Jer. 7:10).
  7. In fact, our Lord quoted Jeremiah 7:11 when He threw the moneylenders out of the temple (Matt. 21:13).
  8. A lady visited our church and said she saw a fight break out in the choir loft in her church.  Choir members were cursing each other out!  And then they’d stand up and sing!
  9. Sin must be dealt with. Jeremiah 4:1 says, “Put away thine abominations out of my sight.”
  10. The Bible says homosexuality is an abomination. Leviticus 18:22 says, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.”
  11. When this crackpot from Iran, Ahminajihad, spoke at Columbia University the other day, the foolish students cheered and clapped as he denounced our country and denounced Israel.   I heard that the only time they booed him was when he said that there are no homosexuals in Iran.
  12. I wish we could pack up all the homosexuals here in America and send them off to Iran (along with some of these Columbia University students).
  13. God says homosexuality is an abomination but today in America it is celebrated as an “alternate lifestyle.” And they want to make it a so-called “hate crime” if you speak out against it.
  14. America needs to repent.  And Christians need to repent.  America would not be in the awful state it is in were it not for the backslidden condition of most churches (cf. Jer. 23:9-12).
  15. God says, “Break up your fallow ground,” but the flesh shrinks from that.   Repentance is painful at first but afterwards it produces a tremendous blessing.
  16. True repentance means confession of sin (to God), turning from sin to God, and getting things right with God.  The apostle Paul wrote in I Thessalonians 1:9, “How ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.”
  17. Paul said in Acts 26:20, “That they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.”
  18. The great revivalist Charles Finney said for Christians to break up the fallow ground they must repent of all known sins.  He said they first must deal with their sins of omission, and then their sins of commission.
  19. Sins of omission referred to by Finney include:
  • ingratitude
  • coldness toward God.  Our Lord said to the church at Ephesus, “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” (Rev. 2:4).
  • neglect of Bible reading
  • neglect of prayer
  • neglect of family duties.  Some parents are pushing their children to hell.
  • neglect of self-denial.  Finney said, “They think they are doing a great deal for God, and doing about as much as He ought to ask in reason, if they are only doing what they can do about as well as not; but they are not willing to deny themselves any comfort or convenience whatever, for the sake of serving the Lord. They will not willingly suffer reproach for the name of Christ. Nor will they deny themselves the luxuries of life, to save a world from hell.”
  • skipping Sunday School and church services.
  • unbelief
  • no burden for the souls of men.  Finney said, “You have stood by and seen them going right to hell, and it seems as though you did not care if they did.”
  • lack of interest in missions
  1. Sins of commission referred to by Finney include:
  • worldly mindedness. Finney asked, “What has been the state of your heart in regard to your worldly possessions?”
  • pride
  • envy
  • a bitter spirit   
  • slander
  • lying
  • cheating
  • hypocrisy
  • robbing God
  • bad temper
  • hindering others from serving God.  Finney said, “What a wicked servant is he that loiters himself, and hinders the rest!”



  1. Here is where the rubber meets the road.  Many church members have never been born again.
  2. The Jews thought they were saved on the basis of their circumcision.  This sort of thinking carried over into the apostolic church.  In Acts 15:1 we read, “And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.”
  3. Paul and Barnabas and some of the others dealt with this false teaching. 
  4. God wanted them to circumcise their hearts (Jer. 4:4a; 9:26).  This refers to regeneration, not ritual. But worldly, carnal religionists prefer ritual.  The flesh likes ritual.
  5. God wanted their hearts circumcised (4:4).  This meant radical change.  They needed to be born again.
  6. In Deut. 10:16, the LORD told the Israelites, “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.”
  7. “And be no more stiffnecked.”   Christians often wonder why some church members are so stiffnecked, so obstinate, so unteachable, and so stubborn.  It could be that many of these stiffnecked church members were never saved in the first place.
  8. Remember what our Lord said about the sower (Matt. 13:18-23).
  9. In Romans 2:28, 29, the apostle Paul explains that circumcision – the circumcision necessary for salvation – was not “outward in the flesh.”
  10. It is the inward circumcision of the heart that God requires (cf. Col. 2:11).
  11. The circumcision of the flesh is physical and visible.  It was a visible token of the covenant God made with Abraham and his descendants, the Jews.
  12. But the circumcision of the heart is spiritual and invisible.
  14. Men like physical demonstrations of their religion – circumcision, baptism, confirmation, liturgy, bar mitzvah, high holy days, etc.  Ministers with colorful robes and pretentious titles, big candles, holy days and liturgies, and chanting and incense and pomp and ceremony.
  15. But God is unimpressed with all of that ecclesiastical rubbish.  In fact, in Isaiah 1:13 He calls it an abomination.
  16. Religion without regeneration is an abomination.  Please allow me to be blunt – the biggest racket in America today is not the gambling business; it is not the drug trade; it is not pornography; and it is not the alcohol business.
  18. The biggest racket in America today is the religion racket and it is more wicked and more corrupt and more dangerous than drugs, alcohol, gambling, and pornography put together (cf. Jer. 14:14).
  19. Unregenerate men like to listen to false prophets.  They call them great moral leaders, even though they are often very immoral. Second Peter 2:14 says they have “eyes full of adultery” and they “cannot cease from sin.”
  20. These wolves in sheep’s clothing are lifted up as heroes, while Gospel preachers are often maligned and despised.
  21. Unregenerate men want religion without genuine repentance, without genuine regeneration, without genuine salvation.
  23. Always keep in mind that the flesh does not mind a little religion, but the flesh hates the circumcision of the heart.  But Jesus told Nicodemus, that very religious man, that great Pharisee, “Ye must be born again.”
  24. God says, “Break up your fallow ground” (Jer. 4:3).  But most of what passes for preaching today has no effect on the fallow ground – it is like a man digging with a broken shovel or a broken pickax.
  25. Backslidden, carnal and unsaved people like this weak, anemic preaching because they do not have to change.  No demands are put upon them.
  26. They can continue on in their worldly ways, but God will not put up with it for long.  This brings us to our last point.



  1. Jeremiah 4:4 contains a warning, “Lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings” (cf. 17:4b).
  2. This is what we mean by “eternal retribution.”  It means separation from God forever.  It means spending eternity in hell with the devil, his demons and the damned.
  3. Jesus said it means weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.  He called it “outer darkness.”
  4. Hell is bitter memories, tormenting remorse, agonizing despair, and unquenchable fire (4:4).  Five times in Mark 9, our Lord warned about “the fire that never shall be quenched.”



Over 100 years ago, William Booth wrote these words: “In answer to your inquiry, I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell.”

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