Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Parable of the Fig Tree: The Limit of Mercy

“And He began telling this parable: "A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, 'Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?' And he answered and said to him, 'Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.'"”         Luke 13:6-9 NASB
If you're just joining us, here are the links to the previous posts in the series: The Fig Tree With No FruitLiving Like a Barren Fig TreeCut It DownRemoving the Cancer of Hidden SinThe Cost of Hidden Sin,  Why Does It Use Up Ground, and The Mercy of Change, as well as links to other "fig tree" posts: The Come Back TreeThe Lesson of the Fig Tree (One of my fav's), and My Daily Fig. (They'll open in a new tab)

We come to the final part of the fig tree saga. "But if not, cut it down." 

Those words break my heart and make me feel a little sick. The tree refused to do what the owner had planted it to do, despite the years the vineyard keeper had given trying to coax fruit out of it. Judgment was pronounced, but the vineyard keeper begged for mercy. "Give me another year. I'll pour out more blessings on the tree. More fertilizer. More digging." 

With the request for mercy came an acquiescence, as well. "But if not." The vineyard keeper acknowledged that there was a very real possibility the fig tree would not change. Fruit would not come. No matter what blessing was given in an attempt to cajole fruit from the tree, it would not change. 

Even the merciful vineyard keeper was willing to cut the tree down.

This principle is true for individuals and for nations. When we, as disciples, fail to bear fruit, fail to progress toward that which God desires for us, judgment may be decreed. I speak not of the final judgment that sends us to hell, but a judgment that will shake our foundations and propel us toward that which was God's intent for us all along. 

We are so fond of grace that we reject the notion of judgment, but God does not.

A loving father disciplines His children, and our Heavenly Father will discipline us, as well. I know this from experience.

The mercy of our Lord may delay the arrival of judgment, giving us another chance for change, but it does not negate the imperative of change.

I love the merciful, one-more-chance grace of God. I love it. The problem is that I've mistaken it a few times for something it is not. I've looked at the blessings and thought they were a stamp of approval for all that was in my life.

The vineyard owner's goal for the fig tree was fruit. The vineyard keeper's goal for the fig tree was fruit. Fruit is always the goal of those caring for the tree.

In our own lives, it is much the same. Our Heavenly Father desires fruit from us, change that makes us more like Him. Our Lord Jesus desires the same and our dear Holy Spirit works tirelessly as He strives to draw us to completion and fruitfulness. Fruit is always their goal.

Bearing fruit is always God's goal for us, and it needs to be our goal, as well.

There is such a tendency on our part to be extravagant with the last bit of mercy that we propel ourselves like a freight train roaring down the tracks, straight into judgment. Oh, how important it is to take stock of our lives on a daily basis. Are we pleasing God in our thoughts, actions, deeds? Are we bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives? Are we more like Christ today than we were yesterday?

It is critical that we steward the mercy and use it to bring us to God's plan for our lives, both individually and as the body of Christ. 

Mercy has been extended to the body of Christ and time is short. We must begin to be what God intended us to be. His blessings have not been given to allow us to have more, more, more. Our blessings are given so that we can be a blessing. To whom much has given, much will be required. 

We are the "to whom much is given." We are the "from whom much will be required." We must not squander our mercy nor our blessings on things that will not have eternal significance.

The time is now. Let us fall to our knees, thank God for His mercy, and beg Him to make us what He wanted us to be. Obedience to the will of God is the only thing that will stay the ax of judgment.
Our Father, forgive us of our busyness, our selfishness, our greed. Draw us to You and help us to obey where we have failed You so miserably. Make us what You wanted us to be. In Jesus' name, Amen.
#judgment #mercy #limitofmercy #disciple #Biblestudy #parableofthefigtree