When God Says Your Fruitless | Matthew 21:23-46 | 119

the-parable-of-the-tenants
the-parable-of-the-tenants
Mat 21:23 When Jesus returned to the Temple and began teaching, the leading priests and elders came up to Him. They demanded, "By what authority are You doing all these things? Who gave You the right?" Mat 21:24"I'll tell you by what authority I do these things if you answer one question," Jesus replied. Mat 21:25"Did John's authority to baptize come from heaven, or was it merely human?" They talked it over among themselves. "If we say it was from heaven, He will ask us why we didn't believe John. Mat 21:26 But if we say it was merely human, we'll be mobbed because the people believe John was a prophet." Mat 21:27 So they finally replied, "We don't know." And Jesus responded, "Then I won't tell you by what authority I do these things.Mat 21:28"But what do you think about this? A man with two sons told the older boy, 'Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.'Mat 21:29The son answered, 'No, I won't go,' but later he changed his mind and went anyway.Mat 21:30 Then the father told the other son, 'You go,' and he said, 'Yes, sir, I will.' But he didn't go.Mat 21:31"Which of the two obeyed his father?" They replied, "The first." Then Jesus explained His meaning: "I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do.Mat 21:32For John the Baptist came and showed you the right way to live, but you didn't believe him, while tax collectors and prostitutes did. And even when you saw this happening, you refused to believe him and repent of your sins.Mat 21:33"Now listen to another story. A certain landowner planted a vineyard, built a wall around it, dug a pit for pressing out the grape juice, and built a lookout tower. Then he leased the vineyard to tenant farmers and moved to another country.Mat 21:34At the time of the grape harvest, he sent his servants to collect his share of the crop.Mat 21:35But the farmers grabbed his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another.Mat 21:36So the landowner sent a larger group of his servants to collect for him, but the results were the same.Mat 21:37"Finally, the owner sent his son, thinking, 'Surely they will respect my son.'Mat 21:38"But when the tenant farmers saw his son coming, they said to one another, 'Here comes the heir to this estate. Come on, let's kill him and get the estate for ourselves!'Mat 21:39So they grabbed him, dragged him out of the vineyard, and murdered him.Mat 21:40"When the owner of the vineyard returns," Jesus asked, "what do you think he will do to those farmers?"Mat 21:41 The religious leaders replied, "He will put the wicked men to a horrible death and lease the vineyard to others who will give him his share of the crop after each harvest." Mat 21:42 Then Jesus asked them, "Didn't you ever read this in the Scriptures? 'The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. This is the LORD's doing, and it is wonderful to see.'Mat 21:43I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation that will produce the proper fruit.Mat 21:44Anyone who stumbles over that stone will be broken to pieces, and it will crush anyone it falls on. "Mat 21:45 When the leading priests and Pharisees heard this parable, they realized He was telling the story against them—they were the wicked farmers. Mat 21:46 They wanted to arrest Him, but they were afraid of the crowds, who considered Jesus to be a prophet.

What do I do when God tells me I'm fruitless?

I realize that the passage quoted for this posting is very long, but I couldn't leave any of it out. All of it deals with one big question; what happens when you become a fruitless Christian?

Because this is such a big subject, and I know it's big because Jesus deals with it in three different interactions, I decided to focus on one aspect of those interactions... How the Pharisee's and religious leaders responded to Christ's accusation that they were fruitless.

1. Jesus doesn't tell them that their religion or doctrine is wrong. Instead He points out that their practice of that doctrine is fruitless. Let me explain. The Jewish nation had the truth. They understood the scriptures and they knew the law front and back. From a distance they looked like beautiful trees, but understanding the truth and the law does not a fruitful tree make. Real faith - trust - belief in God results in action (fruit).

2. Their fruitlessness was taking from others what God intended everyone to have. They had lost the great commission (sharing salvation) and instead had become thieves of God's salvation, hording it for themselves and not sharing it with others. They enjoyed the prestige that their outward godliness afforded them. They were politically motivated and it was why Jesus was able to so easily wrap them in a net devised by their own words. They feared what the people would say (politics) and had lost sight of caring about what God said (faith).

3. They responded with murder plots to the call for repentance. When the Pharisees finally realized that Jesus was calling them fruitless; that He was naming them as the wicked farmers, they began to plot ways to arrest Jesus and get Him out of their lives. There was no breaking of their hearts. They avoided the stone and did not allow themselves to be crushed by it so that wonderful "fruit" could flow from their lives. They did not realize that they should desire to be crushed by the stone instead of avoiding the pain.

Heb 12:25  Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking. For if the people of Israel did not escape when they refused to listen to Moses, the earthly messenger, we will certainly not escape if we reject the One who speaks to us from heaven!

So, back to the original question. What do I do when God tells me I'm fruitless. The Answer. Respond with repentence.

Heb 3:8  ..don't harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested Me in the wilderness.

That is the simple answer. I should never think that I am too good or too bad to repent; but instead I should begin to allow myself to be crushed by the stone. If God points out a fault He always provides a way of escape.

1Cor 10:13  The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure.

If I find myself being fruitless, I need to allow the rock (Jesus) to crush me. This is always the right answer. Quite possibly the root of the problem was that I was trying to produce my own fruit instead of letting Him produce it through me. Jesus is the Good News, not you, not me.

Mat 24:14  And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come.

Dear reader. Repent of your sins, turn to Jesus and allow Him to produce good fruit through you. You can't do it on your own. You will only become a tree that produces beautiful to behold, but bitter and inedible leaves.

Prayer:

Dear Father in Heaven,

I praise You Lord for what You accomplished on the cross for us. I accept the gift that You offer me; a gift that You earned, that You paid for and that You have the right to give. I thank you so much for being willing to cover me with Your Righteousness. Now Lord, I ask for the promise that if I request it You will fill me with the Holy Spirit. I want the Mind of Christ. I want to be fruitful and nourishing for others. Today I am teaching Sabbath school. Please Lord, teach your people through me. Today I am meeting with one of Your sheep who has heard Your calling. Help me to speak Your words and not mine. I repent of my sins, and they are many, and ask that You will use me today. By faith I know that You will always keep Your promises...what a peace and joy that creates in my life.

Thank You for all that You provide. I ask that You will forgive the sins of my children; cover them in Your Righteousness and bring them safely home. Protect them from the enemy. Protect my family and friends. I ask for your blessing so that I may share it with others. I love You Lord. IN JESUS NAME. AMEN.

Fruitless = Hypocrite | Matthew 21:17-22 | 118

FigTree
FigTree
Mat 21:17 Then He returned to Bethany, where He stayed overnight. Mat 21:18 In the morning, as Jesus was returning to Jerusalem, He was hungry, Mat 21:19 and He noticed a fig tree beside the road. He went over to see if there were any figs, but there were only leaves. Then He said to it, "May you never bear fruit again!" And immediately the fig tree withered up. Mat 21:20 The disciples were amazed when they saw this and asked, "How did the fig tree wither so quickly?"Mat 21:21 Then Jesus told them, "I tell you the truth, if you have faith and don't doubt, you can do things like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain, 'May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,' and it will happen.Mat 21:22You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it."

Why does Jesus kill a harmless fig tree?

It is interesting that many atheists or even agnostics will look at this interaction and call it an act of violence or anger; but I see it much differently. First let's look at the interaction with the fig tree and then let's look at the following teaching.

Jesus was hungry. It was morning and time to break-fast, so as He was approaching the fig tree from a distance it had leaves and looked promising as a source of food. He approached it with a need- a need to be satisfied. When he got close to the fig tree He quickly realized that it had no fruit at all to give Him and help His hunger. Now He says to the fig tree, "May you never bear fruit again!" And it immediately withers up.

It is my belief that Jesus was not emotionally responding to a tree that wasn't giving Him what he wanted, but out of an opportunity to teach the disciples that were with Him. So what was the lesson?

What is the lesson in the withering of the fig tree?

Lesson: From a distance one can look like a fruit bearing tree, but when approached with true need they can bear no fruit at all. The problem is hypocrisy. The problem is lack of faith, because real faith produces fruit.

Why do I come to this conclusion about the lesson in the withering of the fig tree?

There are two reasons that I reach this conclusion. One based on what had happened previous to this encounter; the other based on the teaching that follows.

1. Previous to the withering of the fig tree Jesus had cleansed the temple. What was He cleansing it from? Hypocrites. They were fruitless and not helping anyone. This is shown by the fact that the sick and crippled were not allowed into the temple of God. Jesus cleans out the thieves who were stealing the blessing of God, keeping it for themselves,and the sick and crippled come to him in the temple to receive healing. This was the true purpose of Gods Temple on earth...to heal the "sick", not keep them out.

2. After the withering of the fig tree Jesus teaches about the power of faith. Notice that the problem he approaches is faith. What do we know true faith produces?...fruit. The disciples will remember this moment later and realize what Jesus was trying to get them to understand. It wasn't just about the ability of faith to move mountains (because asking for things is always done in the name (character) of Jesus) but about what faith produces - fruit. Faith without fruit (works) is dead (withered). True faith can move mountains, or cause a sinner to bear fruit. :)

Works is not "not sinning". Works produces fruit. Being fruitful when someone comes to you in need and having life giving "fruit" to share with them is works. Sometimes those who think of themselves as the worst sinners in the world are the most fruit bearing people of all.  Being fruitful is not being a hypocrite. Being a hypocrite is looking like a tree but having no fruit to give.

Prayer:

Dear Lord in Heaven,

I praise Your Name today Lord because I, a lowly sinner, have the promise of Your love and blessing and healing power if I come to You. I come to You today asking for the covering righteousness of Jesus. I praise You for supplying what I could never do. I ask now to be filled with the Holy Spirit that You may produce fruit through me today. Thank You for Your blessings. Thank You for Your mercy and love. Forgive my sin and keep my family safe from harm today. I love You Lord. Amen.

Den of Thieves - What are They Stealing? | Matthew 21:12-16 | 117

money-changers
money-changers
Mat 21:12 Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out all the people buying and selling animals for sacrifice. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. Mat 21:13 He said to them, "The Scriptures declare, 'My Temple will be called a house of prayer,' but you have turned it into a den of thieves!"Mat 21:14 The blind and the lame came to Him in the Temple, and He healed them. Mat 21:15 The leading priests and the teachers of religious law saw these wonderful miracles and heard even the children in the Temple shouting, "Praise God for the Son of David." But the leaders were indignant. Mat 21:16 They asked Jesus, "Do You hear what these children are saying?" "Yes," Jesus replied. "Haven't you ever read the Scriptures? For they say, 'You have taught children and infants to give You praise.'"

What is really being stolen at the Temple of the Lord?

I've been puzzling this passage over for quite a few days now, not sure which direction to go with it. I know that many people like to portray this scene as though Jesus were an angry raving-mad person who through violence forced the money changers out of the temple with whip in hand; but I know they are wrong to portray it that way.

Jesus emptied that temple with authority that shown from his countenance. They left because they were told to by the King of the Universe. Even the leading priest left, and I see that the end result was a scene of Jesus standing with a few of His disciples alone in the now empty temple. The silence must have been deafening. The sense of awesome power and authority...overwhelming.

Consider that time when you were a child who got caught doing something you knew you weren't supposed to do. Your mother or father need only to give you a look and it made your heart want to turn tail and run. You knew you had done wrong because your mother's eyes said it all. All these supposed great men, these leaders of religious services, and these money changers - felt that way. They felt it so intensely that they fled from His presence.

So, what was wrong with what they were doing in the temple. Was it the commerce? Was it the selling of items and the exchange of money that was the problem? We like to take it there but let's consider that maybe this was a spiritual problem and those things were only the outward display of the problem.

Notice that Jesus commands them with few words, but those words are a quote from scripture, Isaiah 56:7. He doesn't just tell them that it is wrong for them to buy and sell in the temple, He instead goes directly to the real problem which is that the temple is no longer a true house of prayer. The blessing that the temple should be to the people has been "stolen" and it is now a weight upon the shoulders of the poor.

Notice that they are in the section of the temple where the doves were being sold. This was the poor mans sacrifice; yet at this time sick, blind, crippled or diseased people were not let anywhere near the temple. Even a priest who had become defiled by disease or crippled by an accident was no longer allowed access to the temple. This was the true theft. Men had defiled the House of God by turning it into a place that kept out the very people God desired to lay His hands on. This was the real crime; the theft that God will not allow to continue.

His House will be cleansed. His people will be purified through the Holy Spirit. They will once again feel the deep need to repent and fall on their faces before their Holy God and they will rejoice once again as He lays His healing hands upon them. Amen.

Notice what the end result to this encounter with Jesus was...the sick, crippled and blind came into the temple that they had been denied access to for so long...and were finally healed by Him. They were the ones that did not flee from His Holy Authority; but instead, came to it without earned favor asking to be healed. And what did those healing encounters with Jesus produce? PRAISE and GLORY to the SON OF DAVID! PRAISE AND GLORY TO JESUS!

Dear Friend. Stop letting your sinful nature keep you from God's House of Prayer. Allow Him to cleanse your temple; He will and, let us not forget, only He can. Repent of your sins and seek the mercy that He is so willing to give. You cannot hide from God. You cannot flee to a place that He does not know your heart. Why run? Don't you know that you are sick and blind and diseased? Embrace His love and let it heal you.

Prayer:

Dear Lord of Heaven and Earth,

I praise You today for the healing love that You are so willing to give. I praise You for being the healer of my heart. Forgive my sins Lord. Cleanse my temple and lead me down Your path. I don't want to be anything but useful to You. Help me to stop running and to start coming to You boldly.

Watch over my children. Keep them safe and forgive their sins Lord. Cover them with your robe of righteousness. Bring them through this valley of death that we may see them together in your Kingdom.

Thank you for providing our needs. I love You Lord. Amen.

Will You Know Him When He Comes Again? | Matthew 21:1-11 | 116

Jesus-riding-colt
Jesus-riding-colt
Mat 21:1 As Jesus and the disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the town of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. Mat 21:2"Go into the village over there," He said. "As soon as you enter it, you will see a donkey tied there, with its colt beside it. Untie them and bring them to Me.Mat 21:3If anyone asks what you are doing, just say, 'The Lord needs them,' and he will immediately let you take them."Mat 21:4 This took place to fulfill the prophecy that said, Mat 21:5 "Tell the people of Israel, 'Look, your King is coming to you. He is humble, riding on a donkey—riding on a donkey's colt.'" Mat 21:6 The two disciples did as Jesus commanded. Mat 21:7 They brought the donkey and the colt to Him and threw their garments over the colt, and He sat on it. Mat 21:8 Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of Him, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Mat 21:9 Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around Him were shouting, "Praise God for the Son of David! Blessings on the One who comes in the name of the LORD! Praise God in highest heaven!" Mat 21:10 The entire city of Jerusalem was in an uproar as He entered. "Who is this?" they asked. Mat 21:11 And the crowds replied, "It's Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee." [NLT]

Will you know Him when He comes again?

We see here a large crowd, welcoming Jesus into the most important Jewish city of the time. They are praising him symbolically with palm branches and by laying their garments on the road in front of Him. They proclaim loudly their belief that He is sent from the Lord and that he is from the line of David. They praise God in Heaven for sending him. They completely miss the boat when they declare that He is a prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.

He had done many amazing things. He had healed the sick, raised the dead, turned water into wine, fulfilled prophecy about the Messiah step-by-step, and he had even faced the religious leaders of His time and won every "battle". But, they did not know Him. They still could only bring themselves to call Him a prophet. They did not know that He was "God with them".

How do I welcome the Messiah Jesus into my life?

I apologize for all the questions now, but in light of this passage I think we need to ask some tough questions of ourselves. And for my own sake, I will actually try to answer them honestly:

  • Why do I call myself a follower of Jesus? - For me, there are many factors. He has "healed" me. He has offered me eternal life. He is the only truly trustworthy person in my life. He has offered me a life without sin - what a relief that will be. He loves me. He loves me. He loves me, and He proved it beyond a shadow of a doubt on the cross. He teaches me with gentleness and helps me to want something better.
  • Do I really know Jesus as a friend, or is He just a Grand Magical Supplier of Gifts and Rewards? - I am such a selfish person in my heart. Even when thinking about Jesus I see what He did as a benefit to myself. I see the end result of what He offers me, and skip over the things that maybe should have more value. I am starting to change this way of thinking in my life. What good would eternal life be if Jesus wasn't there to share it with? What good would healing be if death was not defeated? What good would eternal life be, if we had to live it in sin. The greatest gift that Jesus offers me is His pull toward love. He is like a magnet that draws me into a loving relationship, with Him and with others. He is a burning fire that purifies, burning away the dross of selfishness. A loving relationship with Him, under any circumstance this evil world can throw at me, is the greatest gift offered to me and to you!
  • How do I stop being the "white-washed tomb" and start making the inner changes? - I am starting to realize that it is the presence of God that makes anything "good" or holy, including us. If our bodies are temples, then we must ask ourselves what was it that made the temple of the Israelites holy? It was the Glory of God. The cloud that led them also entered the temple whenever they stopped to camp. Is the "cloud" inside my temple? Who can make me clean on the inside? I now daily ask for the Mind of Christ through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. By faith I believe that I receive it and by faith I expect to be changed. My faith is not based on blind belief, it is based on the promises from God. The hard part is that the more God fills my "temple" the more I see how dirty it is...
  • Will I recognize Jesus when He comes again? - I see now how important study of the scriptures is. Pastors and preachers will often stick to the popular topics to appease the crowd. They won't tackle the tough questions for fear of looking foolish. It is so important that I study God's Word for myself and find a real personal relationship with Him. Many will be led astray in the last days and many will accept the false Christ because he will look how they have defined him. This can be true of anyone who is not grounded in the truth. Truth is NOT what you make it; it is simply what God has made it for He is the source of ALL truth. If nothing exists that was not made from His hand then He alone is the first and final source of truth. Do you value truth in your life, or do you like being lied to for the sake of your own personal comfort?

The Israelites welcomed Jesus as the Messiah, but they did not "know" their Messiah. They had defined Him in their own minds, and teachings, and philosophies as a conquering hero who would save them from the Roman oppression. They did not see that He had come to save them from the worst oppression of all, sin. So, I ask once more...will you know Him when He comes again?

Prayer:

Dear Father in Heaven,

I praise You Lord for the gift of Jesus, Your Son. I praise You that You think me worthy to know as a friend. I praise You for Your Love and Mercy and Your desire to remove sin from my life. Please today indwell me with the Holy Spirit. I want to have the Mind of Christ within me today. Thank You for keeping that promise.

Lord, forgive my sins and the sins of my children. Please cover me with the robe of Jesus righteousness. Please cover my children also. Protect us today Lord. Use me today in anyway that You need me. Amen.