Give It Another Year!

Luke 13:6-9: "And he spake this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard;
and he came seeking fruit thereon, and found none.
He said unto the vinedresser, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit
on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why doth it also cumber the ground?
He answering saith unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also,
till I shall dig about it, and dung it: and if it bear fruit thenceforth, well; but if not,
thou shalt cut it down
. "

In Luke 13:6-9 Jesus speaks of the parable of the barren fig tree.
This parable is an invitation to repent, to change one's life and produce
the fruit of genuine repentance.

A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard.
Every Jew of that time in history would know about fig trees.
The owner came looking for fruit from the fig tree and found none on it.
Finding no figs was real disappointment.
The purpose of the fig tree was to produce figs.

So he said to the gardener, "For three years I have come looking for fruit
on this fig tree, and I find none
."
The owner had been coming for three years to look at this fig tree and it had not
produced any fruit in three years.

The owner says, "Cut the tree down because it is wasting the soil."

If a Christian is not loving God or others as God commanded, then that person is wasting the time
and the life that the God has given.

The gardener said: "Let the fig tree alone this year also until I dig about it and fertilize it.
And if it bears fruit next year well and good; but if it does not, then cut it down
."
There is some hope for the the fig tree.
There would be another year for this fig tree to bear fruit.

Christian, there is still time for you to bear fruit.
There is still time to dig around the fig tree (your life, my life) and loosen up the ground
and then put some fertilizer around it.
"If it bears fruit next year, well and good. But if it does not, you can cut it down."

In our Scripture passage we are told that there is still time for repentance.
God is giving us time to change, to grow up, and become mature Christians and to bear fruit.
Thank God, there is still time to repent -- to change -- to bear the fruit of the Spirit

The tragedies of the execution of the Galileans and the eighteen killed
by a falling tower were two specific occasions that caused people to think about their eternal destiny.
Today, the tragedies in our world are an invitation for us to make changes in our own lives
so that we can produce the fruit that God deserves and respects.

In Galatians 5:22-23 we learn about the fruit that God expects.
"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, meekness, self-control; against such there is no law
."

Paul says the "fruit" of the Spirit,not the fruits.
Verse 22 uses the singular "fruit" and not "fruits"?
The Greek tells us that "fruit" is in the singular.
The Fruit of the Spirit is love and that the other eight fruits are ways in which love is made known.
The fruit is like a cluster of grapes.
The fruit of the Spirit is like a cluster of grapes with nine different grapes.
One grape may taste sweet.
Another grape may have a beautiful color.
Another grape may be smaller.
But they are all grapes.

We must learn that God is expecting to find the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.
God is the divine Gardener.
He walks through His garden and He looks for fruit in your life and my life.
What kind of fruit does He find?
Does He find the fruit of the Spirit?
Does He find abundant fruit?
Does He find people growing and maturing in the faith?
If you are a Spirit-filled Christian then you are a fruitful, growing Christian

Alexander Maclaren divides this cluster of grapes into what he calls triads.
There are three triads (love, joy, peace) comes first describing the life of the Spirit.
The second triad (longsuffering, kindness) is the life as it is seen by others.
The third triad (faithfulness, meekness, self-control) is the life in relation to the world and its
difficulties, and of ourselves.

The first of these three triads includes love, joy, and peace.
The source of all three lies in the Christian's relation to God.
They are the result of our communion with God and are manifestations of the life of the Spirit.

Love is first as the foundation of all the others..
It is that fruit which includes all the other fruit..
This love implies self-giving service..
Love fills the spirit filled Christian with an attitude and desire for the good of others
without expecting anything in exchange..

This love is to God and to our families and friends and to people that we don't know.
This love is detailed in the love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13.
Read that chapter when you go home, and read it often and pray that you may love like that.

This love puts others before itself, and is not for the purpose to draw attention to oneself,
but for the joy of giving love to God.
This love is the opposite of selfishness and self-centeredness.
Does your life manifest this fruit in your life?

The remaining two members of this triad result from the first -- love.
Joy is in the life of Christians because the love of God is in our hearts.
Jesus Christ promised that His joy would remain in us, and that our joy should be full.
There is only one source of permanent joy and that comes from loving God.
God gives us this joy, and that joy comes from communion with Him,
That joy should always be present in our lives.

Joy is not found in circumstances.
Anyone can be happy if the circumstances are good.
Joy is in our hearts even when troubles and trials are in our lives.
When we remember that our sins are forgiven and that God has given us eternal life
and a home in heaven where there is no more death, no more sickness,
no more sadness, then joy should be an evident fruit in our lives even when times are bad.

My greek professor in seminary was Dr. Curtis Vaughn, and he has written:
"The absence of joy at any time in a Christian soul is due solely to the fact that his faith
for the time being, and during all that time of paralyzed comfort, is not doing justice
to the truth of the glad gospel of infinite grace"

Do you have the fruit of joy in your life?

Peace is that serenity that comes from knowing that Christ lives in us
and He is greater than he that is in the world.
This peace is a fruit in our lives that comes from knowing that our lives are in the
hands of God and He is our refuge and nothing can separate us from the love of God.
(Romans 8:35-39)
The knowledge that we have peace with God enables us to live at peace with others.

Is the fruit of peace in your life?

The second triad is long-suffering, kindness, goodness.
All three refer to our spiritual life as it is seen by others.

Longsuffering describes the attitude of patient endurance towards those
who cause us heartache.
Longsuffering comes from our love depth of our love when it is being tested.
Longsuffering has to do with our attitude and actions toward others when we are being mistreated.
Having the fruit of longsuffering enables us to bear up when others hurt us.
Calvin said that we can meet mistreatment not with an attitude of "whatever,"
but with "gentleness of mind, which disposes us to take everything in good part
and not to be easily offended
"
-- John Calvin, CNTC, 105

The fruit of longsuffering should help us to be patience even when we have been wronged
The fruit of longsuffering should be in your life and mine.

The second and third members of this triad which includes kindness and goodness.
Kindness and goodness expresses the Christian attitude towards all others
whatever their attitude may be toward us.

Kindness is having compassion for others as Jesus had when He looked upon
the multitude.
Matthew 14:14 states that when Jesus saw a great multitude that
" ... He was moved with compassion toward them."

So, the kindness that Jesus had will be reproduced by the Spirit in our lives as Christians.
This fruit of kindness is reproduced by Jesus Christ who lives in us.
And we show this kindness by having compassion for others as Jesus did and does.
The fruit of kindness will be in our lives if are bearing the fruit of the Spirit.

The fruit of goodness shows generosity toward others.
It manifests itself in the giving of our time and energies to others in practical ways
that shows we care and of our concern for them.
This fruit is the opposite of having a critical, crabby temper.

Christians having this fruit sincerely desire not only to abstain from every appearance of evil,
but to do good to others to the best of our ability.
This fruit springs from a heart filled with love which is purified by the Spirit of God.
Do you have the fruit of goodness in your life?

The third triad — faithfulness, meekness, temperance — points to the world
in which the Christian life should be lived even in the midst of difficulties.

The fruit of the Spirit should be in the life of every Christian and will express faithfulness
in the faithfully discharging of all duties and the dealing with all responsibilities that are his.
It is being true and trustworthy.

Someone has said that the Christian must not be like the chameleon which changes colors
according to his surroundings.
The Christian should be consistent and reliable in all circumstances.
Just as our Lord is dependable in all things, we as Christians must have this characteristic
in our lives.
The Christian must be faithful to his word and promises.
The Christian must be a person who can be trusted and be one in whom others can confide.
The Christian must be faithful.
The Christian must be faithful to his family and to others.
Do you have the fruit of faithfulness.

The fruit of meekness must have a place in our lives.
The word, "gentleness," has been translated as "meekness" in the King James Version.
We generally think of meekness as that of a person who is mousy and can be pushed around.
But that is far from the true meaning of this term.
Gentleness implies that a Christian's natural strengths, abilities, and mental powers are
brought under control of the Spirit of God for the good of God's kingdom and others.

When the fruit of gentleness is in a Christian's life it is seen as a genuine humility,
and follows the leadership of the Holy Spirit
Emmett Fox, author of a book on the Sermon on the Mount, states
that this beatitude ";is among the half dozen most important verses in the Bible."

To be meek is to be like Christ for He tells us in Matthew 11:29 that He is
"... meek and lowly in heart".
Meekness is valued in our aggressive, self-centered world.
Many associate it with weakness, so that people today do not admire others for being "meek".

Jesus says of Himself in Matthew 11:29: "Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart."
Jesus also said: "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."
Meekness is impossible unless we learn to have the right estimate of ourselves.
We should desire to be like Jesus.
We can do this when we come to God in deep penitence and with a knowledge
of the difference between ourselves and who He is and what He intends us to be.

Self-control is the ninth and last of the fruits of the Spirit listed by Paul in Galatians 5:22-23.
Though it is listed last, it is extremely important in our Christian lives.
Every Christian must have his or her life controlled by our great God.

Self control means that we will resist sinful pleasures and sinful passions.
Every Christian must exercise personal discipline over his or her life and lifestyle.
Paul was an example of self control as seen in I Corinthians 9:24-27, when he tells how he
disciplined his life, and that he brought his body into subjection to Christ.

It should shame us when we realize how little control we have over ourselves.
We find ourselves addicted to habits harbored in our lives over years of addiction.
There is probably more over which we exercise no control than that which we do.
God does not ask us to control that which is beyond us.
If we will keep our focus on God, and we will become more concerned about controlling ourselves.

If there are times times when you loose control of your anger, or your language,
and if you are always insisting on your rights, you must confess to your gracious God
that you are out of control.
Then, you must bring your need of self control to God so that He will
give you the strength to have this fruit.
Then, we will become more like Jesus.
Pray that you might have the fruit of the Spirit in your life!

God is expecting to find the fruit of love in our lives.
When Jesus was asked Matthew 22:36-40 what was the greatest Commandment,
He answered, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart,
and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
This is the great and first commandment
."
And then He added: " A second like unto it is this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
these two commandments the whole law hangeth, and the prophets
. "

The love of God is the first and great commandment of all.
God is to be loved in the first place, and no one or anything must be loved before Him.
Jesus said in John 14:15: "If ye love me, keep my commandments. "

Before this message, if I had asked you to raise your hand if you love God,
I believe that many Christians would have raised their hands.
When you have just heard what Jesus said in Matthew 22:36-40, and now I would ask
you if you love God more than anyone or anything to raise your hand -- could you?
Do you love God with your all your heart and soul and mind.
Do you love God like that?
If I don't, then I have sinned by breaking the greatest commandment.
If you don't love God like that, then you have sinned and have broken the greatest commandment.
So when God looks for that fruit, and doesn't find it, I am so grateful that He will
give us more time to bear that fruit.

We don't know how much time we have left.
But God comes to us every day looking for the fruit that He expects.
And Galatians 5:22-23 tells us the fruit of the Spirit should be in the life of every Christian:
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, meekness, self-control; against such there is no law
. "

CONCLUSION:
To expect to see the Fruit of the Spirit in the life of each believer may seem to some
that God is expecting too much of us in this world in which we live.
Bearing the fruit of the Spirit in our lives is not the result of more faith, or more work.
It is the result of normal Christian living and the result of surrendering daily to His will.
God would have us show the fruit of the Spirit to our families and friends.

The fig tree in Luke 13 enjoyed the richness of the earth and the sun for six years.
There were three years to become ceremoniously clean, and three more to bear fruit,
and it should have produced.

The question is what are we doing with our lives?
With all the blessings that God has given us we should be producing the fruit of the Spirit.
Centuries ago Brother Lawrence said, "We ought not to be weary of doing little things
for the love of God. It regards not the greatness the work, but the love in which it is performed
."

This fig tree is like many of us.
It has failed because it stands in the sun on a choice piece of ground drinking up
the nourishment that God has provided and never fulfills its purpose of bearing figs.

Our sin is that we are not bearing the fruit of the Spirit after all we have received from God.
We have received His great salvation and having all our sins forgiven and have been given
eternal life and a home in heaven.
There is nothing more important and amazing and incredible than that.
Like the fig tree, we have been placed on a fertile place of the garden, and we have received
so many abundant resources.

If the fruit of the Spirit is not manifested in our lives, God is giving us another day, another month,
another year to bear this fruit in our lives that God expects and deserves.

In the opera, Les Miserables, there is a song that says: "One more day, one more hour."
Jon Valjean sings: "One more day. One more hour."

He sings:
"Tomorrow we'll be far away,
Tomorrow is the judgment day
."

Then, others join in the song with these words:
"Tomorrow we'll discover
What our God in Heaven has in store!
One more dawn
One more day
One day more
!"

It could be that we will only have one day more...to change... to grow up...to do the right thing
...to live as God created us to live...to be people who love God and love their neighbor...
and to bear the fruit of the Spirit.

Have you just been drifting through life, and not doing hardly anything with the life
that God has given you.
Your life may have been like a fig tree, providing only shade for people around you,
providing a pleasant setting for those who are your family and friends.
But God has created us to do more than that.
He is expecting for us to produce the fruit of love.

As we daily surrender ourselves to God, He will enable us to manifest all nine virtues
in our daily lives.
Our lives should daily demonstrate the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

But thankfully we are still here -- we still have time to please God and bear the fruit of the Spirit.
Our final day has not come.
We still have time to be fruitful.
Let live every day by being faithful to our loving God and let us produce the fruit of the Spirit
that He demands.

-- Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White and adapted from many resources