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Repentance and Fruit

Jesus had been telling His disciples to get ready for the coming judgment, especially by repenting, but His hearers were determined to apply His words to anybody but themselves. When they heard that big judgment was coming, they assumed that big judgment was for big sinners, which means that big sinners should repent. They went wrong, however, when they didn’t acknowledge themselves as big sinners. Some of them told Jesus about a group of Galileans who had been slaughtered by Pilate while they were sacrificing, apparently asking for Him to confirm that those were the kind of particularly wicked people that He wanted to repent.

Jesus corrected their misunderstanding by including everyone, even fine, upstanding Jerusalem Jews in His category of “big sinners”. The preview judgments that you’ve seen fall on others, Jesus said, are meant to teach you a lesson. But this lesson is not about them; it’s about you. You can’t judge the size of someone’s sin by the circumstances of their death, and you certainly can’t conclude that just because they died horribly and you are still alive that God hated them and is pleased with you.

When you hear about some death or tragedy that strikes, you should not try to connect the dots between specific sins and specific judgments. Instead, here’s how Jesus wants you to think – Start with this universal truth: death comes for sinners. Add this universal truth to your thinking: all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. From those universal truths, draw this conclusion: everyone must repent or perish! And make it personal: “That person died because of sin. I’m a sinner, too. The same judgment is coming for me, unless I repent!”

Jesus went on to tell them a parable about a fruitless fig tree, representing Israel. Israel had received everything she needed to produce fruit in keeping with repentance, but when God came looking for His harvest, He found nothing. Even though Israel was planted in God’s vineyard, she was still at risk of being cut down if she didn’t bear fruit. In God’s patience, He waited until Jesus had finished His ministry to Israel, a final effort to bring the tree into fruitfulness, but even after all that Jesus did for her, she still didn’t produce fruit, and so in AD70, she was cut down.

Jesus’ parable comes as a warning: if you confess your sin all the time, and think that you are fine just because you are planted in God’s vineyard, think again. It is absolutely necessary that you bear fruit. Even if you are a baptized churchgoer, all that proves is that you are a fig tree in God’s vineyard; it doesn’t mean that you are a fruitful tree. God is patient with you, but He doesn’t ignore fruitlessness forever. If you don’t bear fruit, then you will be cut down, and you will perish.

If you think that other people are worse sinners than you, and that you don’t need to repent because you’re already a good Christian planted in God’s vineyard, then you’ve missed the whole point. God calls you to repent, and bear fruit in keeping with repentance!

If you are afraid of death and judgment and convinced that you need to repent (which is why Jesus spoke these words – He wants you to feel that way), then hear the good news: Christ Jesus was crucified for your sins, and raised to life so that if you repent and call on His name, your sins will be forgiven, and you will not perish, but have everlasting life. So when you are confronted with death and realize that you deserve death too, remember this: Jesus died for you.

And if you are eager to show your repentance by bearing fruit, then be encouraged: Jesus doesn’t bear fruit for you; but He does give you His very life so that in Him, you can bear fruit for God. So when you are confronted with the possibility of fruitlessness and the danger of being cut down, remember this: Jesus lives for you.

Jesus died for you, Jesus lives for you, and this is what He says to you today: “Repent and bear fruit.” What He commands you to do, He enables you to do, by the power of His death and resurrection, through the work of His Holy Spirit. So repent and believe the good news.

Posted on Wednesday, March 02, 2016 by CJ Bowen