There is loving and very serious warning from Jesus for people who profess to be Christians. We spend so much time acclaiming the grace, love, and mercy of the LORD which is good and right! I think He expects that of us. With that said, we should never forget our God is always completely Himself and does not change. This means that He must also be righteous, just, and all-knowing; not only that, Jealous is one of His names. What does this mean to us? What does this have to do with our daily living, relationships, and attitudes? It means everything. It also explains why we go through trials. It is a matter of eternal life, eternal assignments or eternal death.
God’s holy character is serious; and since Jesus and the Father share the exact characteristics, we need to think about what They expect concerning fruitfulness, specifically since They command us to produce. The Godhead is patient and long-suffering with us so that none of the redeemed perish, but they are not casual about our development.
Let’s be clear: we ARE NOT SAVED BY performance; we ARE SAVED UNTO productivity.
Before going further, I’d like to make one thing clear about the name “Jealous” and the LORD’s identity. We tend to apply our fallen emotions to God, which would be to bring Him down to our level.
The Creator has every right to expect creation to know where their source of life comes from since He reveals it to all; and, He is perfectly righteous in being angry when His exceeding greatness is attributed to anything created.
What an insult it would be to accredit Michelangelo’s skill in painting the Sistine Chapel to a 1-year-old! How much more insulting is it to ascribe God’s glory to things we make or cheapen it to a secondary priority?
I am amazed that people rightfully copyright material and ascribe great worth to the authenticity of an original work of art, yet still disdain the notion that a loving God has the right to be jealous of His character, creation, and the covenants He makes to redeem the lost. This seems like ignorance at best and hypocrisy at worst.
God values all of His creation. As far as humanity is concerned, He skillfully creates a unique spirit that is breathed into each embryo and He values the pricelessness of each soul. He also understands that we are human and prone to error; we sometimes have to learn through mistakes and grow in our understanding. Perhaps that is why God has been longsuffering with us individually.
If you follow this blog, you will see that the letter to the Romans has been heavy in my heart and mind for a couple of months now. Having just completed a study on the 3rd chapter, I believe the Holy Spirit has led me to consider the LORD’s planting before I move on to chapter 4. Romans 3 ends with this verse; using the New Living Translation it says:
- “Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.“
Hmmm. Fulfilling the law. If the law was given to teach us what sin was, and the more conscience of sin I am, the more I sin, how do we fulfill the law? Jesus said:
- “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever, therefore, breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. … “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:17 to 20 and 48).
You see, the Pharisees tried to practice the law void of a sincere relationship with God. They were trying to perform the actions or works of the law but they did not have the Spirit of the law. Let me demonstrate this with the words of Christ and Paul. They said:
- … “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ “This is the first and great commandment. “And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37 to 40).
- “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” (Romans 8:1 to 9).
The leading of the Holy Spirit quickens the Word in the soil of our hearts. As we encounter information and situations in the course of our lives, our minds will process this living Word along with the other data to help us walk out this journey righteously. The outcome of the Spirit-quickened Word in our hearts produces His fruit because His Seed is mightier than the natural mind! Romans 3:19 and 20 tell us that everyone is accountable to God because we understand what sin is. God has done everything possible to demonstrate what righteousness is, so the point of failure is on our part.
So, since He has done everything to save us and asked us to believe in His Son as the only requirement to gain eternal life, why shouldn’t He expect to see the fruit of the Holy Spirit? Since the Holy Spirit is the Seed deposited as proof or the guarantee of redemption, shouldn’t Father God expect this living Seed to grow?
Faith that is born of God results in regeneration that produces the fruit of His indwelling Spirit.
What is this fruit?
- “… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:22 to 25)…
I have heard people say “fake it until you make it”. If that is something occurring within churches, then there is a problem. If people are “acting” kind, “pretending” to be good, and leading people to think they are full of joy when their hearts are full of gossip, strife, unrighteous jealousies, selfish ambitions (and otherwise), then they are manifesting the work of the flesh or the natural man. This is hypocrisy. And if someone is faking it, they may be even fooling themselves. They may be comparing themselves to other professing Christians to see if they measure up, or simply trying to make sure they have ticked the Christian “right behaviours” box as a way to work themselves into the kingdom.
The fruit is the product (or outcome) of the function of regeneration (the Spirit’s input).
The fruit is not the way to engineer the Spirit’s regeneration. I think there may be some confusion about our role in manifesting fruit. Consider these passages:
- “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:12 to 17).
- “Therefore, … whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1st Corinthians 10:31).
From these passages, we can see the righteous motive for anything we do is because of redemption and for God’s glory. We are to put on the new nature (similar to putting on clothing) meaning it requires deliberate mindful action. The action is yielding to the Holy Spirit because we love the LORD and are thankful for redemption through Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice. Robes of righteousness can only be supplied by the LORD and we have to put them on. (Consider Luke 15:22; Philippians 3:9; Romans 13:14; Revelation 4:4 and Revelation 19:7 to 8).
If we are trying to put on the right behaviours or characteristics as a way to secure our place in heaven, we are falling from grace and not relying on faith in Jesus Christ’s finished work on the cross (Please refer to Galatians 5:4). Christ alone is the sufficient atonement.
Friends, fruitfulness is an outcome of the Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts that requires our willing submission and participation. Just like faith without works is dead, works without faith demonstrate hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy is to impersonate, play a part, insincerity, pretentiousness, and two-facedness. It is falsehood.
Jesus was teaching a large group in Luke 12, but He turned His attention to His disciples warning them to guard their hearts against hypocrisy. He said:
- …”Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore, whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.” (Luke 12:1 to 3).
In reading through Luke 12, we see Jesus teach us about the characteristics of the believer’s life. Jesus explained that we need to be:
- Maintaining the right perspective on the pre-eminence of the LORD above any other human (this is the fear of the LORD);
- Refraining from worrying about the future because we know the One who holds all things together;
- Remembering God values His children more than the rest of creation, and so if we believe Him, we will trust Him;
- Preparing our hearts through watchfulness anticipating the return of the LORD so that we do not begin to hurt one another and live solely to enjoy the moment;
- Professing Jesus as LORD regardless of any pressures from those with differing views (we are to guard our hearts against attitudes that are willing to blaspheme the witness of the Holy Spirit);
- Guarding our hearts against covetousness which keeps us focused narrowly on this life’s matters as opposed to eternity; and,
- Separating (or consecrating) our hearts unto God knowing there will be a division from those who do not have the fire of God burning brightly.
Jesus then summed up the teaching with the following verses.
- “Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time? “Yes, and why, even of yourselves, do you not judge what is right? When you go with your adversary to the magistrate, make every effort along the way to settle with him, lest he drag you to the judge, the judge deliver you to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. “I tell you, you shall not depart from there till you have paid the very last mite.” (Luke 12:56 to 59).
The events of Luke 12 occurred sometime around 30 AD which was in Jesus’ final year of earthly life. So, at this point, Jesus had taught the crowds, the Pharisees, and the disciples for approximately 3 to 3.5 years.
These verses indicate to me that Jesus asked this “sensible” crowd how they could not recognize this was the right time to settle things with God for eternity. The people living in Israel had witnessed Jesus perform miracles, teach with wisdom and authority, show such impartial and unmerited love, and fulfill many prophecies, and yet with all the presented evidence that He was the Messiah, they could not discern this time. How could they be so distracted with earthy things that they would rather wait to seek a pardon after the trial (after the verdict was handed down)? Were they carefree about the Judge or did they fail to consider the penalty of an eternity in hell?
Friends, they are not so different from us today. We too can become distracted by our cares, responsibilities, and dreams so much so that we can “de-prioritize” preparedness.
So, with the context of what Jesus was teaching established, consider what Jesus said next. Now it is unclear how much time has passed between the end of Luke 12 and the beginning of Luke 13; however, there is a correlation between these verses which is the topic of “season” or “timing”.
He continued teaching while responding to some people who opened a discussion on Pilate’s brutality when he had sent his agents to kill some Jews who were in the middle of sacrificing in the temple. I’m not sure if they brought this up because Jesus had just finished teaching about the fear of man; or, whether it was because Jesus had warned about judgment; perhaps it was because some wanted to entrap Jesus by causing Him to speak about the Roman rule. Let’s pick up this conversation as recorded in Luke 13:
- “There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? “I tell you, no; 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 sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” He also spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. “Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ “But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. ‘And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’ ” (Luke 13:1 to 9).
What a warning! I hear Christ’s warning to correct one’s thinking in terms of wrongly assuming poor circumstances (or in contrast, the lack thereof) has anything to do with a person’s sin or the reasons for repentance.
Certainly, there are consequences to sin but not all who find themselves in difficult places are there because of their sin. Likewise, what is perceived as deferred or a lack of judgment does not mean a person is not culpable. To top it off, Jesus made it clear that using life events to gauge one’s righteousness is dangerous. One might not realize that one ought to repent, and based on what He said a few sentences earlier, one should repent now. As it is written:
- “… exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” (Hebrews 3:13 to 15 English Standard Version).
Let us take a look at how the word “repent” is used in this passage. The original text has been defined in Strong’s G3340 from the Greek word “metanoéō” as a present, active, subjunctive verb. The word means to change one’s mind, to think differently, to reconsider morally, and feel compunction. Because the word is in the subjunctive mood it expresses wishes, hopes, and desires.
Therefore, in this passage, “repent” is an action that one is continually and willingly taking beyond the original initiating act.
Scripturally, repentance is to change one’s mind for the better; enthusiastically to amend with loathing one’s past sins. It involves turning away from sin (with remorse for it) and moving in the direction of God (with hope) which is the right condition to receive God’s forgiveness.
Within this multitude of people gathered to listen to Christ, there would have been a range of people with varying degrees of heart positions (hypocrites, impenitent, curious, believers, and so on). Contextually, Christ’s warning to everyone was to stop focusing on all the events of life and redirect one’s heart and mind to be right with God which requires a continual state of repentance. Living in a place of repentance is not a once-and-done activity, and yes, there is an initial and definite turnaround, an evident change. Our minds are prone to wander or drift and our hearts can desire many things. Whatever your heart desires the most, it will pursue above what you desire least. Jesus said in the prior chapter:
- “…seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. … For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (verses 31 to 34).
After Jesus told us to set our hearts on the kingdom of God, He proceeded to contrast a faithful servant with an evil servant.
Peter asked whether the parable was intended to be for the disciples or a broader audience. Jesus responded by saying:
- … “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns. But what if the servant thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,‘ and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk? The master will return unannounced and unexpected, and he will cut the servant in pieces and banish him with the unfaithful. “And a servant who knows what the master wants, but isn’t prepared and doesn’t carry out those instructions, will be severely punished. (Luke 12:42 to 47 from the New Living Translation).
Approximately 30 years later, Peter wrote:
- But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1st Peter 4:7 to 11).
Having served the LORD for approximately 30 years after Christ’s ascension, Peter still maintained that we need to be serious and watchful for the LORD’s return because there is too much to gain and too much to lose. He linked the state of preparedness with the act of loving the Body of Christ, and he made “loving each other” our top service priority to the LORD.
When we love Christ, we love what He loves and we hate what He hates (which is the sin that destroys His creation). If we have saving faith, we most certainly will forgive one another and we will use whatever gifts the LORD has given us to build up the Church and to glorify God. Yes, everyone in the body of Christ has been given a gift for the body. We will manifest the fruit of the Spirit and we will willingly serve the kingdom in some capacity. (Refer to 1st Corinthians 12:7).
This brings me back to the parable of the barren fig tree in Luke 13 and the warning of recognizing the time in Luke 12. Throughout Scripture, Israel has been symbolized as a planting of the LORD. As it relates to Israel, the mention of the vine pertains to spiritual blessings, the fig tree to national privileges, and the olive tree to religious honours. These symbols can be a separate study on their own. That said, chapters 3, 9, and 11 of Romans teach us that the calling and blessings of Israel serve a noble purpose including the salvation of people from every nation.
So, let’s think about this barren fig tree to see what application can be made to every believer.
Jesus instructed the group that repentance (an initial turning from sin and then a continued hatred of sin) is necessary to be spared from eternal destruction. Then He echoed the fig tree spoken of in Isaiah 5 within the parable in Luke 13. A pupil of the law would understand that in Leviticus 19:23 to 25, newly planted trees were not to be harvested for the first 3 years; but, in the fourth year, the LORD expected the fruit to be offered up to the LORD. After that, they were free to eat from the harvest. Here in Luke 13, it was nearing the end of the 3rd year of Christ’s earthly ministry, and the nation of Israel had not accepted Him as their Messiah despite all the evidence.
How long does God wait to see fruit in our lives? What does He have to do to bring us to maturity?
Well in this parable, the LORD is warning they are coming near the point of being cut down, the fourth year is approaching. The LORD is also showing that He is gracious and will give the fig tree another chance, but it will not be an indefinite stay. Indeed, the LORD is not done with the nation of Israel. Jesus said:
- “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing! “See! Your house is left to you desolate; and assuredly, I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!‘ ” (Luke 13:34 and 35).
John the Baptist also warned that repentance was due and that judgment was coming: He said:
- “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, “and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. “And even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matthew 3:8 to 11).
The LORD is faithful to His Word, and for God’s Glory, the nation of Israel will be saved! In the interim, there is a season called the age of grace or the church age. This is the acceptable time for anyone (Jew and Gentile) to come to the LORD for salvation. There will come a time when this door will close. It is written:
- “For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.” (Romans 11:25 to 27).
In the parable, the keeper wanted the owner to give the tree another chance. He said, “I will dig around it and fertilize it” and then next year you can decide.
Friends, our LORD is gracious to give us time to produce the fruit of the Spirit; and, our lives demonstrate what type of tree we are. Will we produce wild grapes spiritually? Will we be barren with nothing but leaves that profess to be a fig tree?
The Godhead loves us so much that He will disturb our roots. He will dig deep into that which surrounds every root and then He will apply fertilizer. It may smell like and look like manure! It is wrong to assume that trials are a result of sin. For believers, the LORD allows trials in our lives to:
- Glorify God by producing the evidence of the manifold wisdom of God to the angelic; He makes us overcomers!
- To prove that we are in Christ and the Holy Spirit is in us;
- Prevent us from falling into a pattern of sin, or making a critical error;
- Discipline for known sins that we need to turn away from;
- Humble us and steer us away from pride;
- Build faith that will cause more growth;
- Train us to be more obedient just as Christ sanctified Himself;
- Equip us to comfort and strengthen others;
We are so often trying to pray away our trials; and honestly, I have been known to do that! Why not! James 4 talks about not having because of not asking. But it also says that when:
- “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” (James 4:3).
We do enjoy our comforts!
God wants to bless us and give us abundant life but not at the price of losing what Christ died to purchase.
This parable also teaches us that God places time limits on development. There is a time for felling trees, and uselessness is the indicator that it is time to be cut down. There is an appointed time to give an account and no one knows their time.
- “He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, Will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.” (Proverbs 29:1).
- “For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened, not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. … So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.” (2nd Corinthians 5:4,5 and 9 English Standard Version).
Friends, let us not presume and be wrong. Let us rest fully on the grace of our LORD Jesus Christ knowing that our works are worthless. Let us yield to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and be thankful for God’s goodness during our times of testing. Let us learn to sincerely pray like the writer of this passage:
- “Every word of God proves true. He is a shield to all who come to him for protection. Do not add to his words, or he may rebuke you and expose you as a liar. O God, I beg two favors from you; let me have them before I die. First, help me never to tell a lie. Second, give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name.” (Proverbs 30:5 to 9 from the New Living Translation).
God is good! He is wise beyond our understanding and faithful to His Word. He will not give us anything that will cause us to stumble, and He will give us everything needed for life and Godliness, including trials. Our job is simply to bloom where He plants us. As it is written:
- “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2nd Peter 1:3 to 11 New International Version).
So friends, as we navigate this earthly existence among other God-loved, sin-prone human beings, when the opportunity arises to react from the carnal nature, if there is a moment of pause, recognize this might just be the Holy Spirit’s way of prompting you to yield to His ways. When that moment comes, produce the fruit He expects to see.
Or, if something affects our health or our loved ones, amidst your concern for well-being, refuse the natural reaction to worry. Instead, when worry arises, cast your cares on Him knowing that He cares so very much for what He died to redeem. Why not ask the church to pray with you as you praise Him for His character?
And, when you see the darkness around you, remember we are His image bearers so our job is to shine His glory.
And friends, when we fail 1st John 1:9 says:
- “If we confess our sins (to the LORD), he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
In all cases, ask Him to show you more about Himself and give you the grace to endure the trial. We are not given an eternity to get this right. But whatever we do here and now, we will reap for eternity one way or the other.
In bearing fruit, we do so for the glory of God, we will work out our salvation understanding God must stay true to Himself, and we increase our joy because we manifest more of Him. This is my prayer for you and for me while the Husbandman digs deep and applies fertilizer.