Dallas Burdette

June 17, 1999

                                                                                                         

Thrust Statement: God created men and women to serve Him.

 

Scripture Reading: Mark 11:12-14, 20-26

 

            Are you producing good fruit in your life for the kingdom of God?  Are you a servant of God, or are you a servant of Satan?  Have you rejected Jesus as the Son of God?  Have you rejected Jesus as your Savior?  Are you bearing righteous fruit or wicked fruit?  Are you bringing forth fruits commendable of repentance?  Is your righteousness internal or external?  In other words, do you perform what you practice to be seen of men or do you carry out what you discharge to be seen of God?  This message is not only about the “fate of fruitlessness” in the lives of men and women, but it is also about bringing forth fruits worthy of repentance.  God is concerned about His people generating good fruits in their relationship to Him and to others.

 

THE GOOD NEWS AND REPENTANCE

 

            When one hears the good news of salvation, repentance is necessary for the reception and enjoyment of God’s salvation through Jesus.  When John the Baptist came on the scene announcing the kingdom of God, he called upon the people to repent (Matthew 3:1).  But repentance involves a change in one’s life style.  When John saw many of the religious leaders come to his baptism, he said, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (3:8).[1]  Following his castigation of these leaders, he warned them about the “fate of fruitlessness” in their lives: “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (3:11-12).

            This prophecy no doubt came to pass in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE.  In Matthew 24, Jesus told the disciples about the impending destruction of the city for their unfaithfulness.  In his denunciation of the religious leaders, Jesus also referred to them as snakes and vipers (23:15).  Jesus then told the leaders that their house was left unto them desolate (23:38).  Then Jesus proceeded to predict the utter overthrow of Jerusalem for their refusal to repent and to produce fruits in keeping with repentance.  Following the ministry of John, Jesus, after His baptism and temptation, also proclaimed in Galilee: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (4:17).  Mark also records that following the sending out of the twelve by Jesus: “They went out and preached that people should repent” (Mark 6:12).   After the resurrection of Jesus, shortly before His ascension, He reminded His disciples that, according to the Scriptures, “repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations” (Luke 24:47).

 

THE BARREN FIG TREE

 

            During our Lord’s last week of ministry to Israel, He cursed a fig tree to illustrate the barrenness of Israel and her judgment for fruitlessness (Mark 11:12-14, 20-26).  Beginning with Mark 11:20 and concluding with 12:44, one witnesses Jesus’ controversy with the religious leaders.  Following this controversy, Jesus proceeds to predict the destruction of Jerusalem (Mark 13).  This chapter (Mark 13) is an expansion of the only miracle of judgment performed by our Lord Jesus Christ against the nation of Israel for its failure to repent.  For three and a half years, Jesus sought to bring the Jewish nation to repentance and faith in God, but His efforts failed in bringing the nation as a whole to repentance and faith in Him as the Savior of the world.  In fact, John the apostle wrote that “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” (John 1:11).

            To address the “fate of fruitlessness” on the part of Israel, Jesus enacted a parable that is known today as the cursing of the barren fig tree.  This was a parable of judgment for fruitlessness in the nation of Israel.  God must judge fruitlessness wherever He finds it. When Jesus looked upon the leafy tree, He expected to find fruit.  Israel too was fruitless.  Jesus had come to His own people to bring them to repentance, regeneration, and righteousness, but they rejected Him.  Shortly before the crucifixion, Jesus bemoaned Israel’s rejection of Him. Matthew records Jesus’ reaction: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.  Look, your house is left to you desolate” (Matthew 23:37-38).  As stated earlier, Matthew 24 is a brief description of this desolation. One might also add that the book of Revelation is a fuller description of this annihilation.  Are you refusing to consider repentance, regeneration, and holiness as a way of life?  If so, you also face condemnation in your refusal to repent.

 

Repentance

 

            One must repent in order to obtain the forgiveness of his/her sins.  On the day of Pentecost, Peter exclaims: Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).  Paul in speaking to the Athenians said: “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead” (17:30-31).  Later, Paul, in his farewell address to the Ephesian elders, declared: “You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house.  I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus” (20:20-21).  For Paul, repentance and faith are both prerequisites for salvation.

 

Regeneration

 

Jesus not only preached repentance, but He also preached the message of the new birth.  Jesus instructed Nicodemus about the importance of the new birth: “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3).  Again, our Lord develops this regeneration by saying: “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit” (3:5).  Is water baptism involved in this verse?  If this is not water baptism, one wonders why John immediately speaks of the water baptism of John: “Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were constantly coming to be baptized” (3:23).  Is this teaching of “water” and “Spirit” what Paul refers to in his letter to Titus?  It appears that Paul does join water baptism and the Spirit in this short epistle.  Listen to Paul as he explains:

 

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.  But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone (Titus 3:3-8).

 

John the Baptist began his ministry with baptism; Jesus began his ministry with baptism.  As Jesus concluded His personal ministry with His disciples, He instructed them to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20).”  The Holy Spirit certainly plays a part in the rebirth.  Paul writes to the Corinthians: “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (1 Corinthians 1:13). 

Paul’s other great passage on baptism is in the Ephesian epistle: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:25-27).   Have you been baptized?  If not, then you have rejected God’s purpose for you just as the religious leaders did in their rejection of John’s baptism.  John records: “All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John. But the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John” (Luke 7:29-30).  Are you acknowledging that God’s way is right by being baptized?  Is baptism from heaven or from men?  Jesus asked the religious leaders this same question: “John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or from men?” (20:4).

In order for the rebirth to take place, one must believe that Jesus is God’s Anointed One for salvation and submit to one institution expressive of it, namely baptism.  On one occasion, Jesus tells the religious leaders that “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24).  Has the Savior come to your life seeking the fruit of repentance and found nothing but leaves?  Has the Savior come to your life seeking the fruit of regeneration and found nothing but leaves? 

 

Righteousness

 

When one is baptized, this act of regeneration demands a change in one’s life style.  It is in this regard that Paul writes to the Romans: “We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:2).  Paul again reminds them what has taken place in baptism (6:3-10).  And, as a result of this death with Christ, Paul surmises:

 

 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.  Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace (6:11-14).

 

            Paul is only repeating the teachings of Jesus as set forth in the Sermon on the Mount.  In this Sermon, Jesus says: “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).  God wants righteousness from the heart, not just external righteousness.  God’s people are to be filled with the fruit of righteousness.  It is in this same vein that Paul writes: “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,  so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11).

 

CONCLUSION

 

      Do you know what it is to rise in triumph by the power of that imputed righteousness through Jesus Christ to the glory of God?  Is your life a life of righteousness, or has Jesus come to you again and again only to find nothing but leaves?  Just as in this parable of The Barren Fig Tree, so is it also in the lives of many people—He found no fruit.  Can this be said of your life?  Do you remember these words of Jesus:

 

 Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23). 

 

Today, the church is full of people who can use all the rigid formulas of evangelical Christianity.  They say, “Lord, Lord,” but they do not perform.  They do not obey Him as Lord.  My prayer is that Jesus will never say to you or to me: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men” (15:8).  You must judge whether you really are a barren fig tree waiting for the judgment stroke of God.  It does not matter how many leaves you show, but it does matter as to whether there is fruit in your life. In the parable of The Sheep and the Goats, Jesus depicts the utter destruction of those that do not produce fruit in their daily lives: “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matthew 25:46).

 

 

 

Oakwood Hills Church

DeFuniak Springs, FL

Date: June 20, 1999

Time: 6pm

Occasion: Gospel Meeting

Present

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



[1] All Scripture citations are from The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984, unless stated otherwise.