THE FIG TREES OF GOD SHOULD ALWAYS BEAR FRUIT

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THE FIG TREES OF GOD SHOULD ALWAYS BEAR FRUIT

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
AND
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

22 MARCH 1992

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Song of Solomon 2:13
Jeremiah 24:1-10
Luke 13:1-9
Galatians 5:22-23
1 John 3:21-22

Preparation Verse: (1 John 3:21-22)

Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.

In the Bible, the relationship of a person to Christ is likened to the branches or vines of the grape; and all who believe are grafted in to the root, which is Christ, from whom we get our life and from whom we bear fruit.

The nation of Israel and the church today, and sometimes we ourselves, are likened to a fig tree; and our figs are the fruit of our life in Christ.

If we truly believe, and do as the Lord instructs us, then we will bear much fruit.

But, if we do not follow the Lord, we won't bear any fruit, or that which we bear will be rotten.

The believing Church's relationship to the Lord has also been likened to that of a bride adorned for her groom, who is Jesus Christ.

So, as we read the Song of Solomon 2:13, we should hear the Lord speaking to us, as Solomon spoke to his bride.

13. 'The fig tree has ripened its figs,
And the vines in blossom have given forth their fragrance.
Arise, my darling, my beautiful one,
And come along!'

As we looked at ourselves this morning when we first got up, and as we look at ourselves now, are we the ones that the Lord is calling?

We can also look at the Biblical land of Israel, and see a reflection of the church today.

From being God's chosen people, and having been given the best of everything, the nation of Israel began to turn away from God.

The nation divided, and the northern tribes went after idols; and the more they turned away from God, the weaker they became, and when there was little or no fruit left, they were carried away into captivity by the Assyrians.

Judah, on the other hand, was on a roller coaster. For a while she would follow God and then she would turn away; so that the highs were never as high as before and the lows were lower than before.

In Jeremiah 24, a time when Judah had sunk to the very bottom and could not rise again, the Lord speaks forth through Jeremiah, in both judgment and grace.

Let's take a look at this passage, beginning at verse 1.

1. After Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and the officials of Judah with the craftsmen and smiths from Jerusalem and had brought them to Babylon, the Lord showed me: behold, two baskets of figs set before the temple of the Lord!

2. One basket had very good figs, like first-ripe figs; and the other basket had very bad figs, which could not be eaten due to rottenness.

3. Then the Lord said to me, "What do you see, Jeremiah?" And I said, "Figs, the good figs, very good; and the bad figs, very bad, which cannot be eaten due to rottenness."

And since, as we said, the figs represent the fruit of our lives, can’t you likewise see both righteous and unrighteous deeds around us every day: in our homes, in our schools, in our businesses, in our towns, in our country, and most importantly, in our churches?

And since each one of us is also accountable for our own life before God, what kind of figs do we see our own tree producing?

Are they the good figs of true Godly love that extends to the whole of creation (to every other human being, to every other animal, and to the environment in which we all live) as good stewards, or are they the rotten fruit of a pursuit of the ways of the world that cause destruction, pain, suffering, and death to God's beautiful creation?

4. Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying,

5. "Thus says the Lord God of Israel, 'Like these good figs, so I will regard as good the captives of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans.

6. 'For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them again to this land; and I will build them up and not overthrow them, and I will plant them and not pluck them up.

7. 'And I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the Lord; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.

Sometimes it's very difficult to produce righteous deeds in an unrighteous place; thus the Lord will sometimes drive out those who truly desire to serve Him, so that they have a chance to grow and mature into a fig tree that brings forth good fruit.

And we do that when we are truly born again; that is, when we receive a heart of flesh in place of a heart of stone; for a heart that does not know God, is a hardened heart.

But what about those who refuse to submit to the Lord?

What happens to them?

8. 'But like the bad figs which cannot be eaten due to rottenness – indeed, thus says the Lord – so I will abandon Zedekiah king of Judah and his officials, and the remnant of Jerusalem who remain in this land, and the ones who dwell in the land of Egypt.

9. 'And I will make them a terror and an evil for all the kingdoms of the earth, as a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse in all places where I shall scatter them.

10. 'And I will send the sword, the famine, and the pestilence upon them until they are destroyed from the land which I gave to them and their forefathers.' "

We can never run away from God.

So, isn't it better to run with Him and away from the evil around us?

If our fruit is rotten, we will fall into judgment.

But if our fruit is good, God will make it even better, and surround us with His grace and mercy.

We are to continually observe our surroundings and our fruit, and do what we can to improve both.

In the beginning of Luke 13, Jesus tells us of some of the things He has observed. Note verse 1f.

1. Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.

2. And He answered and said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered this fate?

3. "I tell you, no, but, unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.

Remember that Jesus is speaking to the chosen people.

By observing the events that are occurring around us in the world today, do you think that the Lord could be telling us similar things?

I certainly think so!

But if you still have some doubt, listen to what else He says:

4. "Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem?

5. "I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."

Jesus doesn't tell us these things to hear Himself talk.

He tells us these things because He loves us, and wants only the best for us, if we are willing to have it.

He wants us to have the same love and compassion for others that He has for us.

He wants us to bear fruit, as He bears fruit.

So, Jesus then tells us a parable that we would hear and understand, and improve our way of life.

6. And He began telling this parable: "A certain man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it, and did not find any.

This fig tree could be any person sitting in any of our churches. It could even be one of us.

Or it could be any church in any town.

7. "And he said to the vineyard-keeper, 'Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?'

8. "and he answered and said to him, 'Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer;

9. and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.' "

When you look at our community as a whole, what kind of fig tree do you picture us as?

Are we bearing enough fruit, so that we won't be cut down; or perhaps, do we also need to cultivate ourselves more and add some fertilizer, so that we can do better this coming year?

Our cultivation is our repentance.

And our fertilizer comes from the Lord.

And just in case we may sometimes have trouble remembering what good fruit looks like, we are given a description of it in Galatians 5:22-23.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

The fruit of our tree should look like love, and have the glow of joy and peace.

It is always patient, and never falls from the tree too soon.

And it is full of kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

This is what good fruit looks and tastes like.

But it is we, each of us individually, who have to be willing to produce this fruit.

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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