Monday, November 23, 2009

Cleaning House on Fruitless Religion

Three reasons why you should beware of fruitless Religion:
1. Jesus is a Fruit Inspector
11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and came into the temple; and after looking around at everything, He left for Bethany with the twelve, since it was already late.

• Jesus comes into Jerusalem and He is doing a kind of reconnaissance. Jesus is scoping out the situation to seek what kind worship of the Father is taking place.
12 On the next day, when they had left Bethany, He became hungry. 13 Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.

• “in leaf”—this means that it was the time of year around the Passover when the fig tree would have leaves, but not only budding figs (paggim), not the full blown figs (te’enim). Hence, “for it was not the season for figs.” There were only leaves, but no budding figs. This was evidence that there wasn’t going to be any figs. It didn’t matter how long you waited the fig tree wasn’t going to produce figs.
14 He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!” And His disciples were listening.

• Was this just about the fig tree? Surely not!
Jesus in the same vein as the prophets of old was using this as an object lesson. God gives Ezekiel all kinds of object lessons to use and teaching tools for the people.

Ezekiel 4:1-3 1 “Now you son of man, get yourself a brick, place it before you and inscribe a city on it, Jerusalem. 2 “Then lay siege against it, build a siege wall, raise up a ramp, pitch camps and place battering rams against it all around. 3 “Then get yourself an iron plate and set it up as an iron wall between you and the city, and set your face toward it so that it is under siege, and besiege it. This is a sign to the house of Israel.

Luke 13:6-9 6 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. 7 “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?’ 8 “And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; 9 and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.’ ”

• This was an indictment against the fruitless religion of Israel:
Now for 3 ½ years they saw the miracles of Christ, they heard the teachings of Christ, they had the OT Scriptures that pointed to Christ, but were not willing to follow Christ to His death.
• The fig tree had the outward appearance of fruit but upon closer inspection, there was no genuine fruit. There was an outward acknowledgement by some that He was Messiah, “Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the coming Kingdom of our father David,” but Jesus upon closer inspection is able to see the fruitlessness.
App—the outward veneer of religiosity was unable to fool Jesus. Therefore, you must examine your own fruit
What fruits?
• Fruits of repentance and trusting in Jesus
• Fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. (Gal 5)
• Fruits of worshipful love for God and love for others to come to know God.
Ryle says, “Let us take care that we each . . . learn the lesson that this fig tree conveys. Let us always remember, that baptism, and church-membership, and reception of the Lord's Supper, and a diligent use of the outward forms of Christianity, are not sufficient to save our souls. They are leaves, nothing but leaves, and without fruit will add to our condemnation. Like the fig leaves of which Adam and Eve made themselves garments, they will not hide the nakedness of our souls from the eye of an all-seeing God, or give us boldness when we stand before Him at the last day. No! we must bear fruit, or be lost forever. There must be fruit in our hearts and fruit in our lives, the fruit of repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, and true holiness in our conversation. Without such fruits as these a profession of Christianity will only sink us lower into hell.”
What is frightening about Jesus’ indictment of fruitlessness is that it concerns the professing people of God. He is not talking about those outside the body of Christ.
2. Jesus is Angry Against Fruitless Religion v.15-19
15 Then they came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves; 16 and He would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple.

• Remember that this is Passover week. At a Passover week about 35 years later, Joseph says there were 255,600 lambs sacrificed. This doesn’t even include the birds that would’ve sacrificed by the lower-income families. 2,000,000 Jews estimated to here for the Passover.
What kind of fruit did Jesus see here:
a. Outward Preparation for Worship but Inward worship of money
• There was temple tax that would have been charged to each person.
• The priest would tell you that your animals aren’t fit for sacrifice and you must purchase the pre-approved animals in the court of the Gentiles.
• You must only use the currency of Tyre because there was no pagan symbols on it. Therefore, go and exchange your currency with of course a 10-12% fee.
b. Outward veneer of Worship but Irreverence Towards God
16 and He would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple.
• Evidently people were using the court of the Gentiles as a kind of shortcut to other parts of the city. Jesus puts a halt to this as well. Can you imagine the fear that Jesus must have struck. There would have been 1000’s of people. The court of the Gentiles was 500yds long and 325 yds wide with 150 by 100 yd court within it.
• Once Jesus gets everyone’s attention:
c. Indifference toward Lost Outsiders
17 And He began to teach and say to them, “Is it not written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER FOR ALL THE NATIONS’? But you have made it a ROBBERS’ DEN.”

Jesus being the narrow-minded fundamentalist that He was quoted Scriptures:
Isaiah 56:7 7 Even those I will bring to My holy mountain And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.”

• The court of the Gentiles was a kind of “outreach” section of the temple. It was specifically designed for those outside of Israel to be able to come and inquire about and perhaps seek in prayer the true and living God of Israel. But these Jews had no concern for the unbelieving Jews. They were content for them to go to hell. They were content for them perish.
“den of robbers”—this is a safe haven for robbers; Jeremiah said this during a time when the people had put trust in the temple as a symbol of God’s favor:
Jeremiah 7:4-7 4 “Do not trust in deceptive words, saying, ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.’ 5 “For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly practice justice between a man and his neighbor, 6 if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, nor walk after other gods to your own ruin, 7 then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever. . . 11 “Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers in your sight? Behold, I, even I, have seen it,” declares the LORD.

• Certainly this is bad fruit.
App—Just as Jesus was angry with fruitless religion 2,000 years ago, He is angry with fruitless religion today. Jesus demonstrates His Righteous Anger against their Insatiable love of money, Irreverent Attitude, and Indifference toward the Lost. They heard the teaching of Jesus for 3 years. They saw the miracles of Jesus for 3 years. They had the Scriptures that pointed to Jesus, yet they were still entrenched in their fake religion. How about you? What kind of fruit are you bearing?
Also, what kind of zeal for righteousness do you have?
3. Jesus Curses Fruitless Religion
19 When evening came, they would go out of the city. 20 As they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. 21 Being reminded, Peter said to Him, “Rabbi, look, the fig tree which You cursed has withered.”

• “the fig tree You cursed is withered”—Wow! What an indictment!
• They were mindlessly offering their sacrifices while the TRUE SACRIFICE was before them and they rejected Him. They put all their hope in the temple as a symbol of their favor from God and yet rejected the TRUE TEMPLE of God that was standing before them.
Mark 4:5-6 5 “Other seed fell on the rocky ground where it did not have much soil; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil. 6 “And after the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.

Hx—within 40 years of the temple would be destroyed, the sacrificial system would abolished, and Israel would be wiped off the face of the map.

John 15:6 6 “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.

Matthew 3:8-10 8 “Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; 9 and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. 10 “The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Matthew 7:21-23 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

18 The chief priests and the scribes heard this, and began seeking how to destroy Him; for they were afraid of Him, for the whole crowd was astonished at His teaching.

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