Monday, January 17, 2011

Ahhh, That Poor Fig Tree!

I'm telling you, we have a terrible image of God. We are either too far to one side with judgement or we are too far the other side with love. God is both of these and so much more. He gets to do things according to his wisdom which is often beyond our comprehension. Not only do we need to know this passage from Isaiah, we also have to accept it:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, 
   neither are your ways my ways,” 
            declares the LORD. 
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, 
   so are my ways higher than your ways 
   and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8-9)

One of the incidences with Jesus that I have a tough time reconciling with my image of Jesus is what happened with the fig tree. My image of Jesus is one where he is gentle, loving, compassionate, patient, accepting and so on. This is how he is with people. Growing up in the age I have grown I also assumed that Jesus was a "tree hugger", caring for animals and plants, all of creation. So when I read that he cursed a fig tree and it died it was a shock to me:

Early in the morning, as he was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!”Immediately the tree withered. (Matthew 21:18-19)

Even to this day it makes me feel uneasy. What a foolish man I am. I guess I failed to notice what he said would happen to us if we failed to bear the fruit the Spirit produces in us:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." (John 15:1-2)

Note though that we do not produce the fruit, we only carry it. The vine, Jesus, produces the fruit we need to carry. If we do not then it reveals to the Father that we do not belong and he cuts us off from the Vine. So if this is a spiritual reality for man why should I be shocked that Jesus would curse a none producing fruit tree? The farmer who has an apple tree in his orchid that has stopped producing will chop that tree down and plant another in its place. If he finds a branch has died on a tree and no longer carries fruit he cuts it off and throws it into the fire.

The question is, why did Jesus do this? It is the only record we have of Jesus doing such a thing and we know there was purpose in everything Jesus did. Perhaps it was to provoke his disciples to ask the question concerning faith. Perhaps it was a way of revealing God's heart concerning the matter of fruit. Perhaps it was to plant that image in the memory of his disciples so that when he would speak to them of the vine and branches they would better understand. We could pick any of these if we want. The important thing is that we do understand God's heart in the matter of being fruit bearers.

Too many Christians have taken our position with God as a right. We are acting like a privileged class of people who are entitled to riches and fame without having done anything but be born into the right family. Can I tell you, our Father doesn't have grandchildren. You cannot ride on your parents faith. You cannot just exist in the family of God. You have responsibilities. You have been given directions. There is a relationship you must do more than just maintain; you must develop it and grow. You must submit yourself to the Spirit and allow that fruit to be produced in you and then you have to carry it so the world can eat from you. You are a servant serving in some of the hardest conditions but you are still a servant and must serve.

When I say "must" I mean in order for you to grow and be what God wants us to be. You always have a choice; you can be a useless branch that will be cut off. Some of you understand the conditions we must sometimes face in order for that fruit to be produced in us. The three most important things that must be produced in us is faith, hope and love. Some would include joy but joy tells us that we have the other three in place. Faith must be exercised to grow so we will often find ourselves in places and situations that require faith. Hope must be real so again we will find ourselves in situations where we must lean on this hope which causes it to be even more real to us. And love; well what can we say about love? Love costs. Love is a giving thing. The more we give, the more it costs, the more it will grow and become something that will permeate everything we do and say. Life with Jesus is anything but dull because, if we are doing it right, our days are filled with fruit being produced by the Spirit and consumed by the world.

I do not want to end up like that fig tree. When Jesus checks me I want to be over laden with fruit. I do not want to be void of the things he has been desiring to produce in me. I do not want to be a disappointment to him. I do not want to be whithered or cut off. I want the world to see that I am his and he is mine, in sunny days as well as dark. I do not want to fail him in the testing of my faith, when he desires to glorify himself through my weaknesses. Lord, according to your righteousness and for your name's sake.


Anonymous said...

Pastor, What an amazing article you have written today. And so true it is! The only account of Jesus judging anything was that Fig Tree, but as you said it has to mean something. There many things it could mean, but we always have to remember that we are not serving God for our own Benefit, we are serving God for his benefit, and through his benefit, we benefit too. We have to have faith in the good times, and in the bad times. We have to love Jesus and our brothers and sisters in the good times and in the bad times. We need to have hope, in the good and bad times. If you have these, and you follow the way the will of God wants us to follow, and you do as you should do, then you will be blessed. If you find yourself not blessed here on Earth, then maybe you are not doing as you should, but it could also mean that you will be blessed with many great fortunes in Heaven.

Pastor Paul said...

And that is the other part of it - recognizing what those blessings are. Sometimes they are in the form of friends who stick with you through all diversities.

Anonymous said...

Indeed. I know that God was reaching out to me one day. The day I finally picked up the Bible and said I will read this, not because I want to, but because I know something inside of me is moving me to do this. That day, I must have read so much, for I remember it was hours later when I finally looked up at the clock. I know God was reaching out to me since then, for I was becoming more and more depressed, and he said to me, somehow, I could feel, he wanted me to come to him. Since then I have been reading his Word, reading the word of several pastors who teach very well (yourself included), praying, and praising the Lord. For I know he must have felt my pain, and he has helped me overcome.