3. Fruitlessness produces nothing good.
I think we want it to be different. I think we want to be a part of a vibrant movement of faith. But fruitlessness produces nothing good. In Mark chapter 11, on their way to the Temple in Jerusalem, Jesus and his disciples passed by this healthy, good-looking fig tree. The tree really looked great. The leaves were incredible. But Jesus stepped in for a closer look and discovered the good-looking fig tree had a problem. It had no figs. The fig-tree was fruitless. Jesus got quite upset and he cursed the tree! They all went on to the Temple, which was busy with religious activity and looked healthy and vibrant, and full of people attending and doing their religious duty. But Jesus stepped in for a closer look and he was frustrated by what he saw. The Temple- a place where people were supposed to come and be changed by their focus on the Lord- was not rooted in God anymore. In the Temple that day were distracted hearts. There were marketers, set up to sell their goods and make a profit, stealing attention from God and probably stealing some money from the people who had come. This practice was cheapening the spiritual formation of the people. And everybody seemed to be just fine with it all. Except for Jesus. He got really upset. And he cursed the Temple! He went around overturning all of the selling tables and driving out everyone associated with this unfaithful system. He chastised everyone saying, “My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations but you have turned it into a den of thieves.” Quite a day! ☺
The next morning Jesus and his disciples passed by the same old fig tree again. But this time, when they saw the tree, the disciples noticed that it didn’t look very good anymore. In fact, this fruitless fig tree, was completely shriveled-up and dead! Mark notes that the tree had withered from the roots up. It dried up from its source. All of the sudden what looked to be pretty and impressive on the outside was cut off from its source and couldn’t draw up the nutrition it needed.
No matter how impressive the expression of religiosity, no matter how grand of a building or prestige or reputation they once had, if at their roots a generation rejects the opportunity to grow down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love and draw up life from him, that generation or that person or that system of religion will shrivel up.
I fear that if Jesus took a close look at our good-looking expression of Christianity from the 20th and 21st century in North America he might be really upset with the lack of fruit… with the shallow roots… with the poor spiritual nutrition. It is clear in Scripture that those who claim to be religious but who are actually only dressed up, only appearing to be good in their church habits, do not please God. Read Matthew 25 or Luke chapter 11. The harshest words in Scripture are reserved for those who pretend outwardly to be close to God but who lack the inner heart of faith to produce fruit from God.
Matthew 7:17 says “A healthy tree produces good fruit… And every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire.” Faithlessness produces fruitlessness and fruitlessness produces nothing good.
Full audio version of this sermon. Download June 21 09 Ken Castor