Thursday, February 27, 2014

Luke 13: Fruit Seals our Faith and Fate

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ab/Fig_tree.jpg Luke 13:1-9 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.  Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." And he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none.  And he said to the vinedresser, 'Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?'  And he answered him, 'Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure.  Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'"

When some people told Jesus about the Galileans who were murdered by Pilate while they were offering sacrifices at the temple, his reply was that their tragic death was not because they were greater sinners than others. He added that even the eighteen people who were killed when the tower in Siloam collapsed and crushed them were no worse sinners than anyone else. In fact, Jesus said that we all are sinners and therefore we all must repent--twice: "No, I tell you, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish" (vv. 3,5).

Then Jesus went on to tell them the parable about the unfruitful fig tree: An owner of that unfruitful fig tree wanted it to be cut down because it had not been bearing fruit for three years. But the gardener asked for one more year to add manure around it. If after that there was still no fruit, then he would allow the owner to cut it down.

What is the point of this parable? How is it related to what Jesus had just said about repentance?

It's the same message that John the Baptist and Paul the Apostle taught. John the Baptist told the Jews: "Bear fruit in keeping with repentance... Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire" (Matt 3:8, 10) and Paul told the believers in Galatia: "I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law" (Gal 5:21-23).

Both John the Baptist and Paul are saying the same thing as Jesus: If we have truly repented (put our faith in Christ), we will bear fruit in keeping with repentance. Like Paul, we should warn believers not to take faith for granted but walk by the Spirit in order to bear the fruit of the Spirit. It's not right belief alone that will save us (the demons all believe and confess that Jesus is the Son of God--see Luke 4:41, And demons also came out of many, crying, "You are the Son of God!"). It's fruit-bearing repentance that will confirm our faith and our fate. Only this will save us, not just confession. Going to church and reciting the Apostles' Creed does not automatically make anyone a Christian, any more than barking automatically turns you into a dog. You need turn away from the sinful lifestyle and walk by the Spirit.

Repentance (a mindset change) is basic to personal transformation: "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Rom. 12:2). The result of this mindset change (a change in attitude towards sin and Christ) is what will produce the fruit of character transformation.

Ultimately, true faith leads to repentance which in turn produces fruitfulness. Like the owner of the vineyard, God is looking for proof of faith and repentance in a transformed life that is marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. We can't fake the fruit of the Spirit.

Father, thank You that when we turn from the world to Christ, You gave us Your Spirit so that we might walk in steps with Your Spirit and bear the fruit of the Spirit. Amen.

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