This is a stern message to Christians. It’s hard to preach a message like this when it comes back to me personally letting me know my own shortcomings. It should speak to our hearts and challenge us.
Luke 13:6 He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. 7 Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? 8 And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: 9 And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.
This owner possessed a vineyard. He had a fig tree planted. His vineyard. His tree. He had the right to expect fruit from the tree. It was taken care of and yet we see this sad story. He came to inspect the fruit, not gather it. He wanted to see if fruit was abundant, ripe…just look it over. He found no fruit at all. What’s the trouble? The owner? The vineyard? The vinedresser? I don’t think so. Apparently this was a good for nothing tree. Apply this to Christians. We could say there are some good for nothing Christians. Is the state of the tree permanent or temporary? On all previous visits he found no fruit. We all have times of unfruitfulness. Thank God he doesn’t judge us in those moments. However, if this is our permanent state, we’re in trouble. That’s a sad condition. The owner said for this tree to be cut down. It wasn’t a shade tree. It wasn’t there for looks. It was there to bear fruit. In verse 8 the dresser of the vineyard asked for a pause. Wait another year. It may seem on the surface there is disagreement between the owner and the dresser. But the owner agreed. The owner is God. The vinedresser is Jesus Christ. He intercedes on our behalf. We pray to God and our mediator, Jesus Christ the Righteous, goes to the Father for us. We have a great High Priest who ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God. There he makes intercession for us. The idea is not that God is severe and Jesus is not. God is a stern and severe judge, but he’s also a patient and loving Lord. Some say don’t preach the judgment or hellfire and brimstone. They want only the love of God. The God of love is also the same God of judgment. To preach the whole counsel of God, both must be preached. Notice some things.
God expects fruit. Verse 6 says so. Christians bear fruit at church, at school, and on the job. This tree was an unfruitful one. We are to bear fruit continually. Paul says we are saved by grace through faith. James says Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Are they contradicting each other? No. We are saved by faith but can people see faith? You know I am a Christian by the fruit I bear, the works. Bad fruit is not acceptable.
God is patient. Verse 7 tells us the owner had come for three years to look at the tree. He came in expectation of fruit. We see his patience. Aren’t you glad for God’s patience! I appreciate all the items you all brought us from your garden this summer. You planted it and expected it to grow and produce. You had every right to expect it. God saved us and is expecting us to bear fruit as well. His patience wears out. He waited for 120 years in Noah’s day. He gave Pharaoh 80 years. Judas was unfruitful, removed and replaced. Thank God for his patience.
The importance of intercession is seen in verses 8-9. We see examples of intercession in the story of Abraham and Lot. I believe it was Abraham’s intercession to God on behalf of Lot that got him out of Sodom before destruction came. He started out broad asking for the city to be spared if 50 righteous were found. He went down to 5. Put people’s names on the prayers. Don’t just pray for “the lost.” Say their names.
What makes an unfruitful person fruitful? Dedication to God will do it. Chastisement from God will do it. I don’t like whipping from anyone. But love disciplines. When we do wrong, God loves us and will chastise us just as a good parent will his children. Sometimes affliction is needed. Pruning is sometimes necessary to get a tree to bear fruit. Dead parts are removed. We need to remove unnecessary things. This makes us more fruitful in the vineyard of God.
Judgment is irrevocable. The time will come. Even though Hezekiah prayed and got 15 years added to his life, he still died. God is faithful to keep his word. God can deal with our sins in different ways. There is a gentle way as seen in First John 1:9. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. God taps on our heart and we respond. It can be severe. Weakness or sickness may come. This is not to say when people get sick it’s always because of a sin. That’s not true, but it can be the case at times. God can remove us. Cut us down. Get us out of the way. Don’t wait for this in order for God to get your attention.
Be fruitful. Bear fruit, more fruit and much fruit. The way to do it is by staying attached to the vine. God is patient, but his patience can run out. Respond to his gentle touch today.