“And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away”
“The man, I told you, is to represent to us God the Father; by which similitude he is often set out in the New Testament.
Observe then, that it is no new thing, if you find in God’s Church barren fig-tree, fruitless professors; even as here you see, is a tree, a fruitless tree, a fruitless fig-tree in the vineyard. Fruit is not so easily brought forth as a profession is got into; it is easy for a man to clothe himself with a fair show in the flesh; to word it, and say, ‘be thou warmed and filled’, with the best. It is no hard thing to do these with other things; but to be fruitful, to bring forth fruit to God, this doth not every tree, no not every fig-tree, that stands in the vineyard of God. Those words also John 15:2, ‘Every branch in that beareth not fruit He taketh away,” assert the same thing. There are branches in Christ, in Christ’s Body mystical, (which is His Church, His Vineyard), that bear not fruit, wherefore the hand of God is to take them away: ‘I looked for grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes;’ Isa. 5:4, that is , no fruit at all that was acceptable with God. Again, Hosea 10:1 ‘Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself,’ none to God; he is without fruit to God. All these, with many more, show us the truth of the observation, and that God’s Church may be cumbered with fruitless fig-trees, with barren professors.”
– John Bunyan from his book “The Barren Fig Tree” He is also the author of one of the most popular books every written by man… Pilgrims Progress.
“Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head”
Ecclesiastes 9:8 (ESV)
The great gift afforded us of the garments of salvation require our attention to keep them white and clean. We walk in a world filled with contamination, temptation and sin at every turn. Uncleanness in conversation, things which would corrupt our thought life and offenses from which bitterness and unforgiveness may arise all threaten to stain our garments. Our exposure to all of these things in their varied forms require His grace and power to cleanse us from “all unrighteousness”; otherwise the residue can poison our minds and spirits. There is an aggregate effect upon us. John encourages us to deal faithfully with the sins and offenses in our life.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’
1 John 1:9
His dealings with sin in our life are not only to forgive but His power is released to also cleanse us from any residue. Many who deal lightly with sin never go deep enough in their transactions with God to the point of knowing and experiencing the cleansing which should accompany the regenerating work of grace. Bitterness, anger, sins of the flesh, anything which impairs our newness of Life in Him, needs to be fully worked out until we are clean and pure again in His sight.
“Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled”
Bitterness that is not dealt with will always spring up defiling not only ourselves but others. Its rancor and poison cannot be kept from the tongue unto the spreading of malicious gossip often accompanied with unwholesome deeds that bring damnation and judgment upon many. May we be instructed in the way of the Lord by the simplicity of His words:
“And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me”
It is important for us to reacquaint ourselves often with the words of Jesus during his earthly walk. Let those words reverberate within our hearts and pierce through the rhetoric. There is something so uncompromising about His Call. May we meditate upon these words of His and allow them the full and undivided attention of our hearts. The solemnity of His Call to us is not to a mere forgiveness of sins (as overwhelming and precious as that is). His Call is to Himself. Our redemption is for His glory and the following of Him. His whole design is to bring forth a people who are no longer their own, but rather “As He is, so ARE WE in this world” (1 John 4:17).
Look at the depth of His conversations with those who heard His Call:
“He said to another, “Follow me!” But he said, “Lord, allow me first to go and bury my father.”
“But Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead, but you go and announce God’s Kingdom.”
“And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house”
“And Jesus said unto him, no man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God”
There is power in the Call of Christ that defies logic. There is a stark contrast between then and now; between the perception of Jesus in our day and the Jesus presented to us in the Gospels. The Call of Christ is to the “whole” of us, not just a portion. Our response is not to be a casual one where we fit His Call into our daily life as if it were a part-time occupation. The Call is to Him; to sacrifice and to a determined relinquishment of all that we are.
Paul reiterates this in his plea to the Church at Rome.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service”
There is a pleading in the ministration of the Call of God that this becomes an experiential truth. The things we allow in ourselves, and in the lives of those who claim to know Him, reveal our ignorance of His claim upon us. Sin no longer disturbs the majority. We look lightly upon the issues of others because we look lightly upon the issues within our own hearts.Lethargy is contagious; as contagious as any pandemic with eternal implications far beyond the loss of life here on earth.
Paul left no doubt with the Church at Colosse as to the purpose of the true ministry of God.
“Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus”
What did this intensity of heart look like?
“Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily”
The mighty working of Christ within is revealed in a life of labour without; it is the exposé of His claim upon us. There is no place for the lethargy and indifference men and women display to the Call of God.
We Are Not Our Own
We may declare such things, we may present our claims of following God, but the reality of the life we live may reveal something different. The works of a life reveal the faith of the life. In Revelation God declared unto every location of the Church in that day, “I KNOW THY Works”. God is ever beholding our works for by them He knows our faith.
The validity of our love for Him and the power of Him working within us is readily expressed in our interaction with our brothers and sisters. Paul sums up his expression of the workings of Christ within: “Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom…”. If mere confessions of faith were sufficient (as is commonly taught today), why did Paul express warnings, admonitions, and exhortations to the people of God? To the church at Ephesus, one of the crown jewels of the early church, Paul declared:
“Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears”
The deception and lethargy of a confession-based gospel has produced the slumbering church of our day! It produces a blindness to the magnificence, grandeur, and enormity of His Holiness. We have reduced Him to professions which require nothing more than a mental assent which consequently requires nothing, costs nothing, and correspondingly produces nothing. A confession without sacrifice leaves people without resources to face what lies ahead. Ministries must heed the Call of God to build up His Church and to prepare His people for the storm which is about to engulf our land. He is coming first of all to judge His church to the intent that in righteousness He may then be free to judge the world.
“For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?”
1 Peter 4:17-18
The time IS COME upon us! Let those who have ears to hear tremble and seek Him afresh that we may be found “doing” when our Master returns. Take no comfort in confessions and doctrines which do not produce the Fear of the Lord, that do not bring forth a growing holiness and purity of heart. Forsake the delusion of heart which enjoys hearing the word, discussing the word, while yet refusing to obey the word.
A New Ministration of Mercy
It is a day to seek a new ministration of His Mercy; a mercy which produces sacrificial living and bringing forth of a new worship which is costly, pure and holy.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice…”
The true mercy of God enables men and women to give themselves wholly unto God, not to comfort them in their sins and rebellion.
May we as His redeemed rise up to respond wholly to the Call of God in Christ!
“Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of His goodness, and the work of faith with power”
2 Thessalonians 1:11
“Think for a moment how Jesus was at home among the things of His Father.
What was His place of prayer? Not the Temple, but the mountaintop.
Where does He find symbols whereby to speak of what goes on in the mind and before the face of His Father in heaven? Not in the Temple. Not in its rites, not on its altars, not in its Holy of Holies. Rather He finds them in the world and its lovely, lowly facts–on the roadside, in the field, in the vineyard, in the garden, in the house, in the family, and in the commonest of affairs: the lighting of the lamp, the leavening of the meal, the neighbors borrowing, the losing of a coin, the straying of a sheep.
See how He drives the devils from the souls and bodies of men, as we the wolves from our sheepfolds!
The World has for Him no chamber of terror. He walks to the door of the sepulcher, the sealed cellar of His Father’s house, and calls forth its four days dead. The roughest of the world’s servants do not make Him wince; none of them is so arrogant as to disobey Him. He falls asleep in the midst of the storm that threatens to swallow His boat. Hear how, on that same occasion, He rebukes His disciples! What, the children to tremble at a gust of wind in the house! God’s little ones afraid of a storm! Hear Him tell the watery floor to be still! See how the wandering creatures under it come at His call! See how the world’s water turns to wine! How its bread grows more bread at His word! See how He goes from the house for a while, and returning with fresh power, takes what shape He pleases, walks through its closed doors, and goes up and down its invisible stairs!
All His life He was among His Father’s things, either in heaven or in the world–not only when His parents found Him in the Temple at Jerusalem.
He is still among His Father’s things, everywhere about in the world, everywhere throughout the wide universe. Whatever He laid aside to come to us, to whatever limitations He stooped, He dealt with the things about Him in such a lordly, childlike manner as made it clear they were not strange to Him, but the things of His Father.
He claimed none of them as His own, would not have had one of them His except through His Father. Only as His Father’s could He enjoy them–only as coming forth from the Father, and full of the Father’s thought and nature. That the things were His Father’s made them precious things to Him. He had no care for having, as men count having.
All His having was in the Father.
To be lord of space, a man must be free from bonds to place. To be heir of all things, His heart must have no things in it. He must be like Him who makes things, not like one who would put everything in his pocket. He must stand on the upper, not the lower side of them. He must be as the man who makes poems, not the man who gathers books of verse…
Oh, for His liberty among the things of the Father! Only by knowing them as the things of our Father can we escape enslaving ourselves to them. Through the false, the infernal idea of having, of possessing them, make we them our tyrants, make the relation between them and us an evil thing.”
– George MacDonald from an article titled: “Jesus, Son in His Father’s House”
“As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing;
as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things“
2 Corinthians 6:10
In losing we gain, in giving we receive and in dying we live. In having Him we are free to let go of all other things. We are to be faithful to things He gives us as stewards and yet entirely free from their hold on us.
“You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am ….I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master…”
John 13:13, 16
“To have a master and teacher is not the same thing as being mastered and taught. Having a master and teacher means that there is someone who knows me better than I know myself, who is closer than a friend, and who understands the remotest depths of my heart and is able to satisfy them fully. It means having someone who has made me secure in the knowledge that he has met and solved all the doubts, uncertainties, and problems in my mind. To have a master and teacher is this and nothing less— “…for One is your Teacher, the Christ…” Matthew 23:8
Our Lord never takes measures to make me do what He wants. Sometimes I wish God would master and control me to make me do what He wants, but He will not. And at other times I wish He would leave me alone, and He does not.
“You call Me Teacher and Lord…”— but is He? Teacher, Master, and Lord have little place in our vocabulary. We prefer the words Savior, Sanctifier, and Healer. The only word that truly describes the experience of being mastered is love, and we know little about love as God reveals it in His Word. The way we use the word obey is proof of this. In the Bible, obedience is based on a relationship between equals; for example, that of a son with his father. Our Lord was not simply God’s servant— He was His Son. “…though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience…” (Hebrews 5:8). If we are consciously aware that we are being mastered, that idea itself is proof that we have no master. If that is our attitude toward Jesus, we are far away from having the relationship He wants with us. He wants us in a relationship where He is so easily our Master and Teacher that we have no conscious awareness of it— a relationship where all we know is that we are His to obey.”
“Spirit filled souls are ablaze for God. They love with a love that glows. They serve with a faith that kindles. They serve with a devotion that consumes. They hate sin with fierceness that burns. They rejoice with a joy that radiates. Love is perfected in the fire of God”
– Samuel Chadwick
“And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness”
Genesis 9:22 – 23
The sanctified heart is disciplined in its seeing and its speaking. There is within its development a constraint to walk carefully and circumspectly in the ways of God. It is freed from the lust of seeking and spreading the salacious things of others. The issue presented here was not the sin of Noah, but the response of his son Ham. There is something deep and wretched within the core of the unsanctified heart. There is a secret delight found in the exposure of the condition and misery of another. We see the news media today profiting from the exposure and publicizing of the lives of others. We see the gossip mongers spewing forth their tantalizing tidbits to a world anxious to hear, read and watch the sordid “news”. Millions of dollars are spent in the pursuit of “knowing” the facts of peoples’ most intimate things.
“And he said, Cursed be Canaan (Ham); a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant”
Nowhere is this more pronounced than within the confines of religious circles where it is cloaked in a garment of religious “concern” about another and passed on quickly like wild fire through a “grape vine” of eager ears. Not only is the retelling of it shameful but in doing so the facts are further distorted and magnified. I have heard far too much about others while simply sitting in a prayer meeting.
“I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it”
1 Corinthians 11:18
People who walk and live in the fear of the Lord are not carried away with the rumors of the Christian community. How we need discipline to walk circumspectly in this hour, to have sanctified hearts that become a shelter for the confidence of our brothers and sisters; a place of refuge where we can stop the “firebrands” of the tongue and walk in the wisdom and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is interesting to me that Shem and Japheth walked backwards in response to the situation at hand. This is not a natural walk, but one compelled by love and compassion for their father! Upon further reading of this incident we discover that the posterity of Ham was cursed and Shem and Japheth were blessed. May the Lord bring forth in us a walk that is the result of His heart of love and compassion.
“A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter”
“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake”
“For unto you it is given … to believe on him”
“It is represented here as a privilege to be permitted to believe on Christ.
(1) It is an honor to a man to believe one who ought to be believed, to trust one who ought to be trusted, to love one who ought to be loved.
(2) It is a privilege to believe on Christ, because it is by such faith that our sins are forgiven; that we become reconciled to God, and have the hope of heaven”
“But also to suffer for his sake”
“Here it is represented as a privilege to suffer in the cause of the Redeemer – a declaration which may sound strange to the world. Yet this sentiment frequently occurs in the New Testament. Thus, it is said of the apostles Act 5:41, that “they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name” Col 1:24. “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you” 1Pe 4:13. “But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings” compare Jas 1:2; Mar 10:30; see the notes at Act 5:41. It is a privilege thus to suffer in the cause of Christ”
– Albert Barnes
“Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?”
“Here is another instance of sectarianism being thrown into disadvantageous contrast with the magnificence of Christ Life. It is hard for the little sect to comprehend the universe, but easy for it to condemn all who are not enclosed in its shallow limits. Men are known by the inquiries they propound. Great men put great questions, tiny spirits perplex themselves with tiny riddles. The persons in the text put a question about “fasting,”– they were still in a very material and grovelling condition,– it is noticeable, however, that men who could abstain from food could not abstain from censoriousness; so true is it in all human experience that it is easier to restrain the bodily than the mental, easier to conqueror dust than spirit…
Our spiritual life is not to be partly Christ and partly something else,–old and new, but all Christ; independent, solitary, alone, because Divine. The Christian is free of the old law in its formality, but never free from law as an expression of love. We do not keep the Decalogue (ten commandments) because of its outward form and claim upon us, but we keep the commandments because we love the Commander. “Love is the fulfilling of the law.”
– Joseph Parker
“Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law“