ð One pastor decided to visit the children’s SS class. The SS Teacher introduced him and said, “Pastor, this morning we are studying the book of Joshua.”
- The pastor said, “That’s wonderful. Let’s see what you’re learning children; ‘Who tore down the walls of Jericho?’”
- Little Billy shyly raised his hand and said, “Pastor, I didn’t do it.”
- Taken back, the pastor said, “Aww, I know that but who really tore down the walls of Jericho?”
- The SS Teacher interrupted, “Pastor, Billy’s a good boy. If he says he didn’t do it, I believe he didn’t do it.”
- The pastor was flustered and left the room. He approached the SS Director and explained the situation, and he responded, “Well Pastor, we have had some problems with Billy before. Let me talk to his parents and see what we can do about fixing those walls.”
- By now the pastor was really bothered and called the Deacons together, relating the story and all the responses to them. One white-haired Deacon thoughtfully stroked his chin and said, “Pastor, I make a motion that we just take the money out of the benevolence fund to pay for the walls and leave it at that.”
The Bible is not meant to be hard to understand. In fact, God has done everything in His power to reveal and communicate Himself to us. “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2). Jesus has come and His teaching is simple enough for a child yet deep enough for scholars and theologians to converse. In fact, much of His teaching was in parables.
A parable is known as an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. They are illustrative of theological truth for the every day person. Essentially, parables are small stories with a big truth. And in Luke’s Gospel, which we are doing a lengthy study in 2012, it is filled with parables – of which 18 are unique to the book of Luke (meaning they are not recorded in any other Bible book).
So, today we will examine two brief parables to better understand the intention of Jesus for us, His children.
EXAMINE Kingdom Growth Luke 13:6-9, 18-30
God expects growth.
The parable that Jesus tells has one main point: God expects growth. God’s Kingdom is unstoppable. It is advancing and moving at a tremendous pace, often gaining momentum in the unlikeliest of places. The kingdom of God is growing, and if there is not growth then a question should arise, “Is this of God? Is this part of God’s kingdom?”; because God expects growth.
Many times when it comes to church life and ministry, people often settle for mediocrity. People can excel in business, communication, marketing, meeting needs in the community but somehow when it comes to church the vision changes from quality to inadequacy.
God expects growth. He cares about the fruit of one’s life; the results and effectiveness of what He seeks to accomplish in and through each life. In the kingdom of God, growth occurs when a person’s eternal destiny is changed from death unto life. This person is radically different and fundamentally changed that the purpose of their life is no longer hopeless or useless but is hopeful and capable. Such a one no longer seeks to be a consumer, always taking from everyone, but is not a producer, giving generously and blessing others – they make a difference in the world around them because God is their King and God expects growth.
However, in this conversation of expected growth we must be careful to understand the difference between the source and the result of growth.
Fruit and good works are not the source of salvation. Many people understand their religion to teach that they are saved by good works or living a moral life. The idea is that if a person’s good works (fruit) outweigh the bad then you are pleasing to God and He will accept you. The Bible does not teach this.
Rather, the Bible teaches that salvation is a free gift that we do not deserve. We can never earn or accomplish acceptance with God. “It is by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Therefore, one’s good works (fruit) is a result of salvation not the source of salvation. Christianity is entirely different from religion; whereas religion teaches humanity works the way up to God and Christianity teaches that God reaches the way down to humanity through the gospel of Jesus Christ in His birth, life, death and resurrection.
Do not miss this truth. Parents, you and your children fall short and the answer is not in do better but believe higher. Trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.
So the point can be made is that if there is no fruit then perhaps there is no root. If you are not growing then at the very least you are not healthy and at worse you are dead!
In this parable, Jesus says that a man came seeking fruit from the tree and when he found none, he wanted to cut it down; it was useless and taking up space.
It is a wonder how many “Christians” and “churches” are merely taking up real estate upon the earth than being a tree producing fruit for others to receive and enjoy?
But notice the character of the Vinedresser – He is patient. He is slow to anger and abounding in love (Psalm 86:15). His patience is persevering and faithful to continue working to bring about fruit from the tree; “leave it alone this year, until I dig around it and put on manure…” (13:8).
We must remember, God’s kindness and patience is meant to bring about repentance and growth (Romans 2:4).
The question to personalize is, “What if I am a fig-free tree? What if I think I am a Christian but I am not producing any fruit?”
Jesus says, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Luke 5:31). If you are not healthy then you need some help. How can you become fruitful?
2 helps for becoming a fruitful Christian:
1) Connect to the vine. We must sincerely ask ourselves if we are caught up in religion or are we captured by a relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus says in John 15:1-8
“I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the true vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”
John 15:9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love…This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one that this that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
The church is an extension of the vine. Connect to meaningful church membership…
2) Respond to the manure. God turns manure into maturity. Yet, some of us say I have too much manure in my life… and God is saying, “I’m trying to help you grow”. Do not bypass the manure pile; allow it to move you to maturity.
- Repentance of sin
Turn the pain of sin into a plan of righteousness (true repentance is turning away from something and turning toward something else)
- Relationships of healing
Allow people to nurture you toward health. God has a way of using His people, the church body and friends to speak words of challenge, caution and hope & healing to your soul.
- Revival of Scripture
The word that is preached will feed your soul and lead you to fruitfulness. (1Peter 1:25, 2:2)
µ Luke 13:18-21
“What is the kingdom of God like, and what can I compare it to? 19 It’s like a mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the sky nested in its branches.” 20 Again He said, “What can I compare the kingdom of God to? 21 It’s like yeast that a woman took and mixed into 50 pounds of flour until it spread through the entire mixture.”
µ Grow with God