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). 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).
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.
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.
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).
Oakwood Hills Church
DeFuniak Springs, FL
Date: June 20, 1999
Occasion: Gospel Meeting
 All Scripture citations are from The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984, unless stated otherwise.