Summary: If we want to bear fruit for the glory of God and lead people to Him on a regular basis, then we must let Christ clean out the fruitless religion, and we must pray with hearts full of faith and forgiveness
A clergyman dies and is waiting in line at the Pearly Gates. Ahead of him is a guy dressed in sunglasses, a loud shirt, leather jacket, and jeans.
Saint Peter says to this guy, “Who are you, so that I may know whether to admit you into the Kingdom of Heaven?”
The guy replies, “I’m Joe Cohen, taxi driver, of Noo Yawk City.”
Saint Peter consults his list. He smiles and says to the taxi driver, “Take this silken robe and golden staff and enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”
The taxi driver goes into Heaven with his robe and staff, and then it’s the pastor’s turn.
He stands erect and booms out, “I am Joseph Snow, pastor of Saint Peter’s Church for the last 43 years.”
Saint Peter consults his list. He says to the clergyman, “Take this cotton robe and wooden staff and enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”
“Now, just a minute!” says the pastor. “That man was a taxi driver, and he gets a silken robe and golden staff. How come I only get a cotton robe and a wooden staff?”
“Up here, we work by results,” says Saint Peter. “While you preached, people slept. While he drove, people prayed.” (Ed Rowell, Franklin, Tennessee; www.PreachingToday.com)
That old joke always gets me to thinking about our ministry together here at Bethel Church. The last thing we want is to be a part of a ministry that gets no results. We as a church don’t want to put people to sleep with a fruitless religion. We want to lead people to the Living God who can move mountains in their lives and make a real difference for all eternity.
The real question is how. How can we as a church get real results in people’s lives? How can we lead people to God on a regular basis and see their lives transformed for all eternity? How can we, as a body of believers, bear fruit for the glory of God in the coming year?
Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Mark 11, Mark 11, where Jesus addresses the problem of fruitless religion in His day, using a fruitless fig tree as an object lesson for His disciples and for us today.
Mark 11:12-14 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it. (NIV)
Now, Jesus didn’t curse the fig tree as an angry reaction because he was hungry and didn’t find anything to eat. No. He cursed the fig tree because He wanted to teach His disciples a lesson. The text makes it very clear (vs.14), “His disciples heard him…”
Now, even though it was not the season for figs, this fig tree should have had some buds on it. It was April, Passover time, and fig trees in Palestine usually produced small edible buds in March, after which the large green leaves appeared. The buds were common food for the local peasants, but an absence of buds by April, despite the tree’s green leaves, meant that the tree would bear no fruit that year – none for the peasants or for anybody else, who might enjoy the ripened figs in May or June after the buds dropped off. (John D. Grassmick, Bible Knowledge Commentary)
It was an absolutely fruitless fig tree, and Jesus cursed it to teach His disciples a lesson. And that lesson is this: Jesus wants His followers to…
He wants His followers to make a difference in people’s lives. He wants His followers to lead people to God who can change them from the inside out.
You see, the Jewish religion of Jesus’ day had become fruitless. That’s what the fruitless fig tree represents here – Israel’s fruitless religion. In fact, many of the Old Testament prophets used the metaphor of a fruitless fig tree to describe Israel’s spiritual barrenness hundreds of years before Christ (Jeremiah 8:13; Hosea 9:10, 16; Joel 1:12; Amos 4:9; Micah 7:1; Haggai 2:19).
Well, when Christ comes on the scene, He picks up on that same metaphor to describe the barrenness of the Jewish religion in His day, as well. It had become a fruitless religion, not bringing them or anyone else any closer to God. In fact, their religious rituals and practices actually kept people from coming to God and became nothing more than an exclusive club for the comfort of its members.
It makes me wonder, “What are we doing in our churches today that keeps people from coming to God or at least makes it harder for them to meet Christ?”