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Matthew 21:18-46

The Fruit of Living Faith

  • Rich Jones
  • Weekend Messages
  • June 19, 2011

Spiritual fruit is the result of real, genuine, sincere faith; a loving devotion to God from the depths of our soul. In Matthew 21, we find the story of the fig tree. We can apply much wisdom from this lesson to our lives today. Our faith must not wither as the fig tree did, but we must have living faith and bear spiritual fruit which is pleasing to the Lord.

  • Sermon Notes
  • Scripture

The Fruit of Living Faith

Matthew 21:18-46

As we continue in Matthew chapter 21, we picked up the story the day after the famous triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. If you remember, that day of Christ's entry into Jerusalem was one of the most significant days in all of human history.

God the Father has sent His Son to redeem a world lost in sin, to carry our burdens Himself, to fulfill all prophecy and to bring the life and light of God into a dark and hopeless world.

When He entered Jerusalem that day, He immediately went to the Temple and overturned the tables of the money changers and those taking advantage of people who wanted to sincerely worship God. Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the Temple, and He healed them.

Step back for a moment and realize how significant this was to them and also to us. God had called Israel His chosen people and placed His name there. He caused His glory to be among them that it might be a picture for all people that God desires to be "Emmanuel," God with us.

God had also chosen Jerusalem, the "possession of peace" that His name might be there forever. And so here was Jesus, the Son of God, healer of the blind, the lame, the deaf, champion over demons, the One who raised Lazarus from the dead; this should have been a day of triumph, of celebration, of rejoicing, but instead it was a day of confrontation.

They had all the appearance of religion, there were many leaves on the tree, but there was no fruit. Where were those who followed after God sincerely, genuinely loving God from the depths of their soul?

The next morning as Jesus was returning to the city, He came to a lone fig tree by the road. It was covered with leaves and therefore it had the promise of fruit, of figs, but there was no fruit, there were leaves only, so Jesus said to it, "No longer shall there be any fruit from you." And it withered at once.

As we will see as we study through this chapter, God does things with purpose and there's much purpose and life lessons for us in what happened to the fig tree.

In fact, the rest of this chapter is about the fruit of living faith that God desires to see in our lives as well.

I. Godly Fruit comes from Living Faith

  • When the disciples saw that the fig tree had withered at once, they marveled and asked Jesus how it withered.
  • They didn't ask why, they asked how. But both questions are important to answer.
  • Why? Because over and over in Scripture God compares Israel to a fig tree and this fig tree was covered with leaves and so it had all the appearance, the promise of fruit. And there we see a great danger.

A. Beware of having leaves and no fruit

  • There in Jerusalem was the famous Temple of God that Herod the Great had built. They considered it one of the great wonders of the world.
  • There were more than 20,000 priests and Levites, there were tens of thousands of rabbis, there were daily sacrifices and the smoke rising from them could be seen throughout Jerusalem.

  • But where was their heart after God? The purpose of fig trees is figs, not leaves. They had all the appearance of religion, many of their leaders studied the Word of God, but they didn't take God's Word into their heart. They simply found a way to use God Word to their advantage, to maintain positions of power and control.
  • If God's Word was written on their hearts, their lives would have reflected the sincere and genuine result of God in their lives.

Jeremiah 31:31-34 God will make a New Covenant and write God's Word on their hearts.

Matthew 3:4-10 John the Baptist called them to have fruit

  • There are in some churches even today those that have the outward appearance of religion, but do not believe that the Bible is the Word of God, or that Jesus was literally raised from the dead, or that He was born of a virgin, or that He healed the blind or raised the dead, or that He is the only way, the truth, and the life, that no man comes to the Father but through Him, and they do not believe that Jesus is returning to rule and reign.

B. Faith; trusting in God’s purpose and power

  • The next verses in Matthew 21 have been misunderstood and misapplied for many years.
  • Once again we see that God has great purpose in what He does, for the withering of the fig tree and the casting out of that mountain are related.
  • Does God’s Word talk about moving a mountain? Absolutely.

Zechariah 4:6-7, Then he said to me, "This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become a plain and he will bring forth the top stone with shouts of “Grace, grace to it!”’”

Revelation 8:8, The second angel sounded, and something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea;

  • That scripture is a picture for us of the wrath of God that will be poured out in the Great Tribulation that is yet to come.
  • There is great symbolism here to signify what God will do to Israel because of the lack of fruit, of not believing God’s Word or God's Son.
  • Israel is to be compared to a great mountain that will be cast into the sea, in other words, dispersed among all the nations of the earth. But God is not yet done with Israel as we will see that the nation of Israel has great significance in fulfilling the prophecies of the latter days of which we are now entering.

Amos 9:14-15, "I will bring back my exiled people Israel; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them," says the Lord your God.

  • It's also sad to see some who have taken verses 21 and 22 as a formula to get God to do what they desire.
  • But what is living faith? It is believing, completely trusting, leaning heavily upon God’s purpose and power. It is coming with the humility to trust in the heart of God.

Illus - this is not a formula, like some would have it, as a lamp to be rubbed so that a genie pops out and says, "Yes, Master, what shall I do for you?"

  • It's finding out what God is doing and saying, "Yes and amen" and "not my will, but your will be done in my life."

II. Go Work in the Vineyard

  • When the chief priests and the elders came to challenge Jesus as He was teaching, they asked by what authority was He doing these things.
  • Jesus turned back toward them and asked them a question, "The baptism of John was from heaven or from men?" They answered falsely that they did not know.
  • So Jesus gave a parable that was to be like a mirror so they could see their own lives and change.

A. Say ‘yes’ to God; that’s true faith

  • The parable is about a man who had two sons, both were told to go and work in the vineyard.
  • The first one said, "I will, sir," but did not go. The second answered and said, "I will not," but afterward regretted it and went.
  • "Which did the will of his father?" Jesus asked.
  • The chief priests and elders gave the appearance that they had said "yes" to God, but it was those who had been lost in sin and far from God whose hearts became broken and said "yes."
  • Saying "yes" to God is what brings real change and the fruit of God in our lives.

App – Workers in the vineyard is an important picture because it's about encouraging fruit in other people's lives. That is what God is doing and we are most blessed when we're doing what God is doing.

John 15:5, "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing."

Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

  • Learning to say "yes" to God comes from having a living relationship where we abide on the vine and grow because of His life in us.

Illus – In Africa many want to have the spirit of this or that prayed out of them, but we grow by living daily, abiding on the vine.

  • But Paul gives us the picture of one helping another in their relationship to Christ, learning to say "yes" to the things of God.

2 Timothy 2:2, The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

B. The fruit of God is revival

  • Jesus gave another parable about a landowner who planted a vineyard and rented it out to vine growers and went on a journey. And when the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the vine growers to receive his produce.
  • But they took his servants and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third. This is a picture of Israel to whom God sent many prophets…

Illus – God kept sending more prophets, like a GPS that keeps recalculating… Until you turn it off, that is.

Luke 13:34-35, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it. Behold, your house is left to you desolate."

  • Finally, the son of the landowner is sent and he is killed also. That's a picture of Israel rejecting Jesus as their Messiah.
  • Jesus then shows them that this is the fulfillment of the scripture which says, "The stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief cornerstone… And it is marvelous in our eyes"
  • Jesus then makes the explanation clear; that the kingdom of God would be taken away from them and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it.
  • That nation is us and we are to be producing the fruit of the kingdom of God. And in fact it is to have an effect on the people of Israel who had rejected God's Son.

Romans 10:19, Moses says, "I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding."

  • The fruit of the Spirit is the life and character of God in our lives.

Galatians 5:22-23, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Illus - What a contrast to sour grapes; that's the fruit of unforgiveness and bitterness and carrying the hurt and wounds of many years in a bitter soul.

But fruit is good. It tastes good, it's pleasant and a blessing to everyone around it. God never talks about the brussel sprouts or the broccoli of the Spirit.

Jeremiah 17:8, "For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit."

Matthew 21:18-46      NASB

18 Now in the morning, when He was returning to the city, He became hungry. 19 Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He said to it, "No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you." And at once the fig tree withered.

20 Seeing this, the disciples were amazed and asked, "How did the fig tree wither all at once?" 21 And Jesus answered and said to them, "Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' it will happen. 22 And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive."
 
23 When He entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him while He was teaching, and said, "By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?" 24 Jesus said to them, "I will also ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?" And they began reasoning among themselves, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,' He will say to us, 'Then why did you not believe him?' 26 But if we say, 'From men,' we fear the people; for they all regard John as a prophet." 27 And answering Jesus, they said, "We do not know." He also said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.
 
28 "But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, 'Son, go work today in the vineyard.' 29 And he answered, 'I will not'; but afterward he regretted it and went. 30 The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, 'I will, sir'; but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him.

33 "Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey. 34 When the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce. 35 The vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third. 36 Again he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same thing to them. 37 But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' 38 But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, 'This is the heir; come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.' 39 They took him, and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?" 41 They said to Him, "He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons."

42 Jesus said to them, "Did you never read in the Scriptures,'The stone which the builders rejected,This became the chief cornerstone;This came about from the Lord,And it is marvelous in our eyes'? 43 Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it. 44 And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust." 45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them. 46 When they sought to seize Him, they feared the people, because they considered Him to be a prophet.
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