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20 Oct 2019

Jesus Curses The Fig Tree [Matthew 21:18-22]
  • Topic: CHRISTIAN LIVING, EVIDENCE FOR THE FAITH, FAITH, SALVATION, WORSHIP

Overview

We are saved by faith alone, but it is not faith that is alone. In other words, we are saved by faith that works, though it's not faith and works (Eph 2:8-10). Spurgeon once said, "The first Adam came to the fig tree for leaves, but the Second Adam looks for figs. " Jesus desires and looks for the fruit of faith in a Christian's life. So what is fruit? How do we know if we have fruit? Discover the answers to your question in this sermon. And learn how fruit-bearing is the key to experiencing the assurance of one's salvation too. May God help us to be bearing much fruit too, that He may be glorified thereby.

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Sermon Transcript

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As a church, we want to help people come into a life changing relationship with Jesus Christ. That's the most important thing of life, that you may know Christ, that you may be saved from your sin and through Him be reconciled to the Holy God who made you. And we believe that the best way that you can come into a life changing relationship with Jesus Christ is to know Him in God's Word.

The Bible is written by God that He might reveal to us how we can come back to Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. So as a church, we have been taking our people through the Bible, and today we arrive at Matthew, chapter 21. If you have your Bibles, you may want to turn to Matthew 21. Though we have read some five verses in scripture reading, we just go to focus on two verses today - Matthew 21, verses 18 and 19.

I want to say that maybe in our generation, in our society today, a lot of effort, a lot of money, a lot of time is spent on looking good. Don't you think? We spend a lot on cosmetics. We spend a lot on clothing. We spend a lot on diets, and we spend a lot on Botox. The world today is fascinated with looking good. Even though you may be suffering from some disease, you want to look good.

Now I want to say that there is really nothing quite wrong in wanting to look good unless it becomes an idol. It's certainly better to look good than to look bad. But when it comes to the spiritual life, it's not quite the same. God hates people who want to look good spiritually when they are empty on the inside. Jesus hates hypocrisy! Jesus hates spiritual cosmetics!

That's the issue that was highlighted to us last week, when we saw Jesus entered the temple to cleanse the temple. The temple was meant to be a place of worship and devotion and love to God. But He said, “It was all empty! It was all a show! It was all hypocrisy! Though they had a lot of sacrifices, ceremonies and rituals, it was not because they love God, but they were putting up a show that they may rob God's people. They have made the house of prayer, a den of robbers.”

So today, we see the next story of Jesus cursing a fig tree. Now you might see, you might think that these two events are quite separate, but I think they should be read together. Jesus, after cleansing the temple is now moving to this fig tree to curse it as a kind of object lesson, as a live demonstration of the fate of the empty religion in Israel in those days.

So this was not accidental, this was intentional. He is giving a life parable as to the fate of Israel because of their emptiness, because of their hypocrisy, they will soon be set aside. And this is what we read in Matthew 21, verse 28, “In the morning, as He was returning to the city, He became hungry.” “And seeing a fig tree by the wayside. He went to it and found nothing on it, but leaves. And He said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.”” [Matthew 21:19]

Now here in Singapore, we are not very familiar with fig trees. We are more familiar with papaya tree, banana tree, mango tree, durian tree. But you see, Jesus did not walk in Singapore, He walked in Palestine and in Palestine the popular tree is the fig tree. So let's learn a little bit about the fig tree.

In Chinese, we call the fig tree, 无花果树 【wú huā guǒ shù】It's a no flower tree. Actually, I did a little bit of research, it's not that there are no flowers in the fig tree. It's just the flowers are unseen, it's hidden, but there are flowers.

But maybe for Singaporeans, the most familiar thing about the 无花果or the fig is that of a snack, that you might eat when you were younger. The snack looks like this. Remember this? A product of Malaysia, alright, and it's sold here in Singapore. I'm sure many of you when you were growing up, you would have taken this.

This, this is dried figs and they are actually derived from the fruit itself, the fig, which looks beautiful, luscious, colourful. It's a sweet fruit and figs grow on trees that look like this. These are the branches from which they hang. So figs are very important trees in Israel. Now, do we have fig trees in Singapore?

The first fig tree that I noticed, I must have come across quite a few fig trees in my life, but I didn't notice it. But the first fig tree I noticed was the one at this place. You can take a look, it's taken some years ago with my son, Shawn, when he was still very small, alright. This was a long time back. And so when I saw this fig tree, I made sure I took a photo because I know someday I will preach a sermon about figs. So after taking it many years ago, today is the day. I've been waiting for a long time!

Now anyone knows where this fig tree is found in Singapore? This is the fig tree at Bollywood Veggie. Or [sounds like yam in Hokkien dialect, the context here is I finally I get it], hung zi, or … Bollywood Veggie alright, but after I noticed the fig tree there, I also realized that it is found quite easily here. Where is this? Botanic Gardens. This is Jacob Ballas - the children garden, the children department or the area for Botanic Gardens.

So you can actually find fig trees here in Singapore and can see the fruit, just don't pluck it, alright, you'll be caught. So this is Botanic Gardens and this is the fig tree.

As I've mentioned, the fig tree is very significant in Israel. It's a tree that offers a lot of benefits. Of course, the fruit is a benefit and the tree itself can be quite big. It can grow up to 20 meters tall. It has big leaves, it’s luscious and so it is quite common for people to rest under the fig tree. For example, we read in John 1:48, “Before Philip called you, Nathaniel, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”

So it is common for people to take a rest there. It's hot in central, in Palestine and Middle East and so people treat the fig tree almost like an ancient day ‘Starbucks’. So if you want to rest, you want some air con, you want some fruit juice, you can just sit at the ‘Starbucks’, called the fig tree.

Moreover, this is the promise given to Israel when they were about to enter the promised land. What is the Promised Land? Most of us think only about the milk and honey, but actually God promises more than milk and honey in the Promised Land. Deuteronomy 8:8 tells us, “The promised land is a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees, of pomegranates, of olive trees and honey.”

So it's a luscious land in that it produces a lot of sweet delectable products that delights a man. And the Bible also tells us, in Isaiah 36:16, in the future, this is the promise given to Israel, in a day that you will come back to Me, in a day that you will own Me as God, “Make your peace with Me and come up to Me then each one of you, will eat of his own vine in each of each one of his own fig tree and each one of you will drink the water of his own cistern.”

So the fig tree or the fig is now a symbol, an emblem, a representation of prosperity, of blessing, of favour of God to His people. It's the same, there are many texts, I just list three here for you. There are many texts in the Old Testament that exalts the fig tree to be a symbol of blessing.

Zechariah 3:10
In that day, declares the LORD of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbour to come under his vine and under his fig tree.

Now, of course, as I've mentioned, the fig tree is valuable for its shade, for its leaves. But of course the crown jewel of the fig tree must be the fig itself, the fruit itself. They are beautiful fruit. They are sweet and luscious and juicy and typically they grow in such a fashion.

Let me pause in this picture and explain a little bit about the fig. You could see that at the bottom, maybe you could see my laser here, at the bottom here is a big fruit. This bigger than the ones on top, because this fruit came out earlier. The fig is interesting in that there is the first blossoming of fruit during the time of spring, typically in March, April period.

Now by the way, April coincides with the Passover ceremony. So that's why Jesus in the last week of His life, after He entered Jerusalem, as He was about to enter the day where the Passover lamb will be sacrificed, He would find a fig tree and He would expect some fruit from it, because this is the time for the first harvest.

Now this fruit here would be the first blossom and they will come from the old branch. So this is the branch that was from last year. It did not bear fruit yet, so this year, it had a chance to bear fruit and the fruit from this old branch, this first fruit will be called the, ‘breba’. It's a technical term, you don't really need to know.

Then later on in about August, September time, so that's about four/five months later, the second crop will come up. But the second crop doesn't grow from the old branch. The second crop grows from the new branch. So you will see on top, the smaller fruit. Now this is not called the, ‘breba’, this is called, ‘the main fig’. They look smaller now but they will grow to be bigger, don't you worry because they come from the new branch. You could see all these new offshoots, they will be the main fig. So that is a little FYI for you.

Another thing that you should know about the fig is this, that the fruit comes before the leaves. This is interesting! Most of the time, you have leaves first, then you have the fruit. But the fig is unique in that you have fruit first, then you have the leaves.

So when you see a tree with leaves, when you see a fig tree with leaves, what should you expect to see? Fruit. Because the leaves are kind of saying, “The fruits are already here and that's why my leaves are here.” So this is interesting, therefore, when “Jesus went to this particular fig tree, He found nothing on it, but only leaves.” [Matthew 21:19] This is … this is wrong!

This is inappropriate! “You as a tree are telling people you are ready, you already have fruit but when I come to you there is no fruit.” And therefore, the Bible says, “He cursed it and said, “May no fruit ever come from you again.”” [Matthew 21:19]

You say, “What's the problem here? Is it because Jesus is so upset with the tree, He has no food to eat?” No! It will be so out of character with all that we have learned about Jesus Christ in His life. This was not a kind of vindictive, personal, selfish cursing of the tree, but He was intentionally teaching His disciples that the emptiness of religion that you see in the temple is out of character with what God wants, and they will be put aside.

In other words, Jesus is using this illustration of this fig tree to say, “There is a promise of fruit in Israel. There is so much religiosity, ritualism, ceremonies. They are telling people that they are a people of God. They have a lot of leaves, they have lot of, they have a lot of promise, but when you look closer, there is no produce. There is no fruit. There is no devotion. There is no love. There's no real godliness in Israel.”

And so Jesus is teaching us judgment is for that which promises fruit but produces not fruit. So you really got to read this two incident or incidents together. The emptiness of the religious climate in Israel will now be cursed and judged and Israel will be put aside. And it did not take very long because some 30 over years later, Israel, Jerusalem will be absolutely destroyed when Rome came in AD 70.

So this is a very short explanation of what took place that day - Jesus came and found nothing but leaves in Israel. [Matthew 2:19] There is no fruit. There is a promise of fruit but there is no real produce of fruit. There are a lot of ceremonies, a lot of rituals, a lot of religious people, but there is no one who really loves God.

And so they will be judged, they will be put aside. And as you know, Israel till today are in a sense, by and large, bypassed by God for blessings and for representing Him in the Gospel. I want you to know, however, elsewhere in the Bible, it teaches us Israel is not permanently set aside, that generation is set aside. But there will come a day where Israel will be saved in great numbers, and they will be a great blessing to the world again. We know that from Romans 11, but for that generation, they are set aside.

I like this quote from Spurgeon. He said, “The first Adam came to the fig tree for leaves….” Now for those of you who are not churched, in other words, you have never read the Bible, I know this statement would be a bit bizarre. You say, “What is this about?” This really brings us back to Genesis, the first book of the Bible where after Adam and Eve sinned against God, they suddenly felt shame.

They suddenly realized they were naked, and they had to hide. And the way they hid themselves is to take some fig leaves and cover themselves. So the fig was a tree they went to, to cover their shame.
So the first Adam came to the fig tree for leaves to cover their shame. However, it's very interesting Spurgeon went on to observe, “The second Adam came to the fig tree for figs.”

Who is the second Adam? Jesus, the Bible teaches us just as Adam represented a sinful humanity. The second Adam, i.e. [in another word], Jesus would redeem a, another humanity. So, first Adam was a representative of a sinful people. The second Adam, Jesus is the Saviour of a redeemed people. So the first Adam went to the fig tree for leaves to cover their shame. The second Adam comes to look for fruit in His people.

And I think that's where I want to apply it to ourselves. When Jesus looks at His people, when Jesus looks at His church, what is He looking for? What delights the heart of God? What does God look forward to in His people? Is it a large building? Is it a lot of programs? Is it a lot of rituals? No! What God looks for is figs – fruit. This is what Jesus taught His disciples in John 15:8, “By this My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples.”

Now let me be clear. Don't … Jesus is not saying, “Produce fruit in order to become My disciples.” No! He’s saying, “My disciples are proven by their fruit.” So we are not saying that you can do good, be charitable, sin less to become a Christian. No, no, no, but Jesus is saying, “A Christian will bear fruit, and that is what delights the heart of God.”

So God is always working in a Christian's life. Let me say this, “I believe God is always working in a Christian's life, that he may bear forth more fruit.” Where do I learned that? John 15 verses 1 and 2. The Bible describes God as a farmer, He's always pruning, purging, tending to the vine and the branches so that it might be more fruit bearing. And that's God's desire for your life.

When God looks at your life, does He see leaves only, or does He also see fruit? Are you really a Christian? How do you know if you're really God's child? How do you know if you are really a disciple of Jesus? Check! Are you filled with leaves only or do you also have fruit? You say, “Pastor, what is fruit then?”

You say, “I need to check for fruit. I, I don't see any. I see one big one here[Pastor points to his stomach], but I don't see any other fruit.” So what is fruit? How can I recognize the marks of grace in my life? Well, let me kind of a bring you to a little discussion on fruit. From this verse - what is fruit? What is the definition of fruit?

John 15:8, Don't tell me 水果. What is the definition of fruit? I would try this, alright. Fruit is anything in a disciple’s life that brings glory to God. Simple? “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so proved to be My disciple.” [John 15:8] So what is fruit? Fruit is anything in a disciple’s life that brings glory to God. General idea.

Now does the Bible specify further how I can glorify God? Yes, and I like to summarize them into five Ws. Can? Can you help me with that? W not many words. P a lot, S a lot, M a lot, but W very few. So let's try it together as a church. Biblically speaking, there can be five ways by which you glorify God.

1] Words
So first thing, I think the Bible speak about our words. Does the Bible say we glorify God with our words? Yes, for example, Hebrews 13:15, “We should give a sacrifice of praise to God.” So instead of offering animals today, God wants us to offer praise with our lips.

I'm going to run through the verses quite fast. I'm, I don't think we have time to really look at each and every verse in detail, but if you like you can take down the verse reference and that's it. So we praise God and a man who praises God brings glory to God, appropriate praise, of course. I've met people who everywhere they go, “Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah.” I don't think that's quite what it means, it should not be empty, it should be meaningful, alright, so praise.

But not only do we glorify God with what we say, we also glorify God with what we do not say. For example in Philippians 2:14-15, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing that you may shine as lights.” I find this verse so relevant especially in our day and age. We … we hear of so many people complaining about so many things in life.

We complain about our school. We complain about our boss. We complain about our mother our father. We complain about our government. We complain about the world. We complain about Donald Trump.
We complain about everything. We complain about a weather, global warming. There is no one who does not complain, it seems! Unless you are someone who is abiding in Jesus, you are someone who is following Him in His Word, and God is working in your life to bear the fruit of words, that you will shine as lights.

Wow! That's a mark of God's grace in a man's life! How do I know if you are Christian? Well, look at the way you give thanks to God. I look at the way you refrain from complaining when everyone else is complaining. I see that you're shining as lights. Praise be to God! So this is how we glorify God right with our words.

2] Wealth
The second W which everyone missed actually is the biggest predomination or the biggest occupation of Singaporeans today. Sorry? Wealth. That's right! The second is wealth. None of you believe that you can glorify God with your wealth. You know why? Because you have thought that the wealth is for yourself. Isn't it true? I think that's our problem.

We don't think about wealth. We don't think about money. We think that money is for me and I just live a holy life. No! Someone said, “The last place to be sanctified is the pockets.” Often times of Christians, because money is so, so dear and close to the human heart, but this is where you can glorify God.

You use your resources, your wealth for His Kingdom. We read, for example, in 2nd Corinthians 9:12, “For the Ministry of this service …” It's clear that it's about giving. 2nd Corinthians 8 and 9 is the context about giving.

So Apostle Paul writing 2nd Corinthians is saying, “That your giving will result in many thanksgiving to God. It results in glory to God.” When a poor person and a poor church and a poor community receives gifts and support from God's people, not only are they relieved, but they'll give thanks to God for His provision. So your giving results in glory to God.

Not only that we read that Paul said, “When you gave to me, I was in prison and you gave to me. I'm glad not because that I received that thing from you. But that I'm glad because I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.” [Philippians 4:17] “I'm delighted that you gave not because I got the thing, but because I see growth. I see the marks of grace. I see the evidence of the divine life in you and that's why I rejoice.”

But you see, we bear fruit when we give. We bear fruit when we steward the money, the wealth, the resources God has given to us for the furtherance of His Kingdom.

3] Walk
Number three, you all have highlighted this, we glorify God also with the way we live. We glorify God with our conduct, with our character, with our walk. “For the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace …” [Galatians 5:22-23] These are the character traits.

“You were such a rascal, but now you're such an angel. Wow! That brings glory to God.” I think this is one of the main things we are praying for as a church, that we will be shining as Gospel Light here in Punggol. Just with our preaching? No! With our walk, with our lives.

Again, we read in 1st Peter 2:12, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honourable …” Live in such a way that even the unbelievers will find your life honourable, “ … so that they may see your good works and glorify God on the day of visitation.”

Now, it's interesting when I'm seeing people see you live well, well, i.e. [in another word] godly lives, they may not praise God today and they may not admire you today. They may not say anything to you today. But on the day of visitation when God comes in judgment, they will have no choice but to give glory to God. Wow! I now remember that my Christian friend, he was different and it is the work of God. So your life brings glory to God the way you walk.

4] Works
Number four, we glorify God with our works. When God's people are zealous in helping one another, doing good works, helping cases of urgent need, they are not unfruitful. And then again, we see in 1 Peter chapter 4:10-11, “That we use our gifts to serve one another and God be glorified thereby.” You want God to be glorified? Let me ask you, “Are you serving?” That's the question.

No point! It really is empty religion! It's empty religion if it is all about you coming to church - listen to a sermon, sing some songs, go back and we call that worship. I don't think that's quite it at all. Worship, giving glory to God involves works, involves service. Let me be clear, don't serve in order to get saved. Nope! No one gets saved by serving but serve God because you are saved by God's grace and because you are loved by His deep love and because you want to glorify Him.

5] Witness
And then number five, lastly, it's witness. We see that Paul wrote to the Romans 1:13 and said, “I have often intended to come to you that I may reap some harvest among you.” “I wish I could win some of you to the Gospel.” And that's fruit bearing!

If you are a true follower of Jesus Christ, you cannot live a life that does not want to witness for the Gospel. “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” This is God's great commission to us, “Go and make disciples.” [Matthew 28:19] How do I know if I am a child of God? How do I know if I'm a Christian? Very simple, where are your fruits?

How do I know if this is a mango tree? Very simple, look at the fruit. If you are a disciple, you will bear fruit. There will be a change in the way you speak. There will be a change in the way you look at your money. There will be a change in the way you behave yourself. There'll be a change in the way you give yourself to serve others. There will be a change in that you will be living a missional life to share the Gospel.

Those are the objective markers of a Christian, not leaves. Leaves are things that seem to tell people you are a Christian, but it must be backed up by this real deal, these real fruits. So fruit is anything in the disciples life that glorifies God. It can be your words. It can be your wealth. It can be your walk. It can be your works, or it can be your witness.

Remember this, when Jesus comes, He's not looking for the size of this building. He's not even looking at how eloquent the preacher is. He's looking for figs. He's looking for fruit. He's looking at your life. And I pray that you will have that desire because you know Jesus, you've been touched by the Gospel, and you want to glorify Him with your life.

So you'll be all about fruit bearing, you will be praying, “God make me more fruitful. Lord, as I read Your Word, cleanse my life, that I may be more fruitful, and so proved to be Your disciples.”

Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you may bear forth, much fruit,.” John 15, verse 10. I want to end with this, one day Jesus will come back, regardless of your eschatology, regardless of the different frameworks you have, with regards to prophecy- what happens in the future. Almost everyone would agree, Jesus is coming back again.

And when Jesus comes back, He's going to come as a Judge, and He's going to judge all people of this world. Can I ask you, “On what basis will be judged this world? On what basis will He say this group joins Me in eternal life and that group will be separated from Me in eternal damnation?” On what basis will that judgment be made?” You're not clear? You're not clear you are in trouble, you know! If you take your exam and you do not know what your exam is about, you're in trouble, right?

So there will be an examiner there will be a great test, this test cannot fail. Every other test fail you still OK lah, but this test you can't fail. Do you know on what basis will God judge you, or Jesus judge you?
Goat and sheep. So what is the characteristic of goat and what is the characteristic of sheep? Actually, I can't tell them apart, but okay.

You know what many people think? Many people think that when Jesus comes again, in His Second Coming, there'll be a judgment and they believe there'll be a group that goes to church and there'll be a group that doesn't go to church. Or they think there'll be a group that says, “I believe Jesus. And there'll be a group that says, “I don't believe Jesus.”

Do you know that is not the way he's going to judge? Not at all? Not based on whether you've been to church. Not based or whether you've said a prayer. Not based on whether you've been baptized. These are absolutely not the way he's going to judge! How is He going to judge? He's going to judge you by your fruit. He's going to judge you by your life. He's going to judge you by your works.

Let me show it to you. The Bible says, Jesus said it himself, “On that day many will say to me …” Say ah, say, say, kong tiah [say only in Hokkien dialect], bo chiak [didn’t eat in Hokkien dialiect]. Leaves only, no fruit. They will say, “Lord, Lord, did we not do all these things?” And what did Jesus say? “I will declare to them, “I never knew you, depart from Me.”” Why? “You are workers of lawlessness.” [Matthew 7:22-23]

You have impressive leaves, by the way. Your leave very impressive. Wah, your leaves cast out demons, prophesied, do many miracles. Why it's impressive leaves! But when I look closer, no fruit, no obedience, no love for God, no keeping to His Word. You don't do what I tell you to do. You are full of leaves. You are like the religious leaders in Israel time, full of ceremony full of sacrifices, but no love for God, no obedience from the heart. “Depart from Me.”

It goes on to say in Matthew 13:23, four kinds of soil, but there's only one good soil. And the good soil is known by its fruit. Doesn't matter if they have a little bit of shoot, or little bit of branches. The key thing is good soil will produce good fruit. And if you have no fruit, you are not good soil. How do I know if I'm a child of God? “Oh, my mommy prayed for me.” “Oh, I said a sinner’s prayer.” “Oh, I've been to church my whole life?”

No! Is there fruit in your life? And what is fruit? Is there a change in your words? Has there been a growth in the way you look at your money? Is there a change in the way you behave? Are you more and more holy or are you still as sinful as before? Is there a change in the way you serve? Are you reaching people with the Gospel?

Now we're not saying you need to be perfect in all these areas. No one is! But surely fruit, there is growth and development, isn't it? So if you are never any different then I say, “Perhaps you only had leaves and no fruit and you should really consider yourself, not yet having a life changing relationship with Jesus.” And that is why you need to hear God's Word today that you may really come to Him today, if you have not already done so.

You talked about the sheep and goats and that's exactly what I'm going to say here. There will be a group on a right they are the sheep, they are the blessed ones. They are the ones who will inherit the kingdom. [Matthew 25:34]

Who are they? How do you know them? How did the, how will Jesus distinguish them, identify them? Very simple, not with by what they say, what they profess, or whether they've been to church by but by their works. “Because you will be giving God's people food and drinks and welcome and clothing and visitation and so on and so forth.” [

In contrast, the goats who think they are God's people, “They will be cursed, they will be sent to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Why? Because they did not do these things. [Matthew 25:42-43] There is no fruit in their lives. This is a shocker! Maybe to some of you today, say, “What is this? What the Bible says?”

Yeah. That is exactly what Jesus confronted Israel with. When He was in a kind of a heated dialogue with the religious leaders, the religious leaders say, “Abraham is our father. Don't tell us we're not God's children.” [John 8:39] “We are God's children because Abraham is our papa, is our father, is our ancestor. And if Abraham is God's people, is God's man, God's friend then I am, because we are born of Abraham.”

You know what Jesus said? Nothing to do with genetics. Nothing to do with heritage. Everything to do with this. “If you are Abraham's children, you would be doing the works Abraham did.” [John 8:39]
In other words, there will be fruit in your life. There will be change in your life. There'll be love for God, obedience to God, but there is none in you. “So you're not of Abraham, your of your father the devil.” Wow! That's so harsh! That's exactly right!

Don't deceive yourself that you are God's child when there is no fruit in your life. I'd rather you know it today than you know it on the last day. It will be way too late. This exposing of the hypocrisy is helpful so that Israel will know you can't just wing it. You really got to make sure Jesus is your Lord and Saviour. No wonder Jesus said, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven.” [Matthew 5:20]

Wow! This is a shocker also! Jesus’ words are really a shocker to our modern Christian understanding, you know that! Because so often in churches today for many Christians, they think, “As long as I say a prayer, as long as mommy prayed for me, as long as I entered the waters of baptism, as long as I read the Bible, I am God's child.” No!

How do you know if you are God's child? When your righteousness exceeds that of the religious leaders. [Matthew 5:20] Wow! How? The religious leaders are so godly. They look so godly. But that's what Jesus is saying. There 'll be a real love and obedience for God that even the religious leaders could not have. Why? Because that's the miracle of the new birth. That's the miracle of salvation. That's how you know you have divine life, because you are now a divine tree that will bear divine fruit.

When your words are different, where the way you look at money is different, where the way you walk is different, where the way you serve is different, where the way you witness is different. There will be a real objective difference!

Let me try to be clear. Jesus is not saying, “That trying to be righteous will save you.” Alright! Let's be clear about that. We are not saved by works! This verse is not saying that trying to be righteous will save you. But Jesus is saying, “The saved will do righteousness.” That's the point! That's how you prove yourself.

So righteous deeds are not the means to salvation, they are the manifestations of salvation. Righteous deeds are not what you do to earn salvation, but to evidence salvation. Totally different! Or if I may put it this way, we are not saved by works, but we are saved by grace through faith. But that faith is a faith that works, even though it's not faith and works.

Anybody got what I said? No. So let me say this again. We are not saved by works, but we are saved by grace through faith. But it is a faith that works, even though it is not faith and works.

绕口令 [tongue twister in Chinese] ah, but did that so that you may pay attention to what I'm putting up here, alright.

We are not saved by works, because there is none righteous, no, not one. All of (our) works, our righteousnesses are like filthy rags. Nobody earns his way to God. We are saved purely by the grace of God, when God sent His Son, Jesus Christ to die for us on the cross, and those who turn from the sin, those who repent and look to Jesus and believe in this free gift of salvation, we are saved by this grace.

However, this faith that believes is a divine miracle. So this faith is a faith that works. It is a faith that produces works. It is a faith that is alive, that brings forth life change. But you must always remember, you are not saved by faith and works. There's a big difference between faith that works and faith and works.

If you are lost, email me, talk to me, call me, I'll explain to you further. But Ephesians 2:8 and 9 is helpful here, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, not by works, it is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Clear?

Anyone saved today because you gave money to the poor, you spoke nicely, you behave nice. Are you saved by that? No, you're not! Not at all, not of works. But when you are saved, you will be ready for good works. So you see that there is not a result of works but for good works.

And the key is that you are created in Christ Jesus, you are born again. You are given this new life from God. So this is what you need, if there is no fruit in your life, I'm not telling you go try to do more fruit. No! I'm telling you, “If there's no fruit today, you need to come to Jesus.” Ye must be born again.

Just as Jesus said to Nicodemus 2000 years ago, “Nicodemus, don't ever think it's your religiosity that saves you. It is that you must be born from above. God must give you eternal life. So you come to Him humbly, you cry out to Him, like Israel looked to the serpent long time ago, you are now to turn and look to Jesus, the Messiah, who would give His life to you.” And when you are saved, when you are created in Christ Jesus, automatically, this is the miracle, there will be the beginning of fruit bearing in your life. You are now created, a new creation for good works.

So let's be clear, We are not saved by works but by grace through faith, but this is a faith that works and not a faith and works issue.

I know some of you will be upset with me today. Pretty sure about that, because I've had this before. But I want you to know I'm not preaching this, saying these things from the Bible because I want to shake your assurance and make you un … unsure about your salvation. No, not at all! God's Spirit wants to give you assurance, that's what the Bible teaches. But God's Spirit wants to give you assurance based on an objective reality that there is fruit bearing in your life.

So if you look at your life, and you see no mango, no durian, no nothing, you cannot say, “I'm a mango tree.” My purpose today is for those who have always assumed you are saved, to simply examine yourself, to see if you're really the real deal. And if you're not saved, don't start by doing good works. Today, cry out to God at the foot of the cross and say, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner. All my church attendance, all my prayers, all my baptisms, all my supposedly charitable deeds, they don't save me, only Jesus saves me. Help me come to You.”

There's a man I want to share with you, this is his story. He says, “When I was a child of about four, my mother shared the Gospel with me through a tract. I remember sitting in a study with her, and she told me about Christ on the cross, but I did not understand. Baptism came when I was eight and again, I never knew the significance of that ordinance. So I was born into a Christian home, grew up in church, heard the Gospel, was baptized and saw absolutely no life change.

Let me ask you, “If this person is in church, what will we say about this guy? Without this last statement if he was baptized and where he was raised in a Christian home, what will you say about him?” He is a Christian.

But deep down in his heart, he realized, “I may have all these leaves, I may have been born in Christian home, grew up in church, I was baptized, I have all these leaves, but there is no fruit. There is no life change. I found no desire to read the word, no desire to be holy and sanctified. No true love for the people in the church and consistency.””

Can this be someone in our church? Can it be someone sitting right here? Can it be your child? Well, this is not fictional. This is our brother, Mark. I say, “brother,” because I think I believe he's born again since then. But this is his reflection when he was growing up. I've seen him grown up in this church. I've seen him active in some youth activities, in camps. I was never sure, but I'm glad that he wrote a testimony and I had an opportunity to read it.

He went on to say, “Things reached a head in the army towards the last few months of my service, I received a brand-new Bible and told myself that for once I had to read it through.” Seeing the emptiness of his life. He didn't want to fake it anymore. He didn't want to assume it anymore. He wanted to make sure for himself if he really is born again.

“It took me a year to do so. And in the process, I realized, I realized that I might not have been saved in the very first place. I discovered a new love, a new love …” Not outward things. It's from the heart, friends. “I discovered a new love for the things of God, a greater appreciation of theology and most importantly, an overwhelming desire for Christ, His work and His glory.”

Okay, my sermon' coming up soon, don’t worry, ending soon. Now I will say, “This has been just a couple of years or so, Mark, if I'm not wrong. I am longing to see more chikus and papaya and bananas come up from his life.” But I hope we'll see more and more and more of that and that's how I know he's a tree, he's a sheep in God's house.

Finally, he said, “The grace of God is enduring and as the spirit continues to bear witness to my soul, that I have been united with the Son, to the glory of the Father. I can rest in that promise that as long as I persevere as He perseveres, I will be conformed to His image and rejoice with Him forever.” Quite a few theological things here, but which is great.

But I share this with permission from Mark, of course. I hope today, you will not just want to be a church attendee, it's not good enough. It's scary to be a church attendee because God hates … what? Hypocrisy.

I would encourage you to keep coming to church. Why? Not to think that you're coming to church gets you saved, but that you may hear God's Word, hear the Gospel, that perhaps God through His Word will work in your heart and bring you to real life and salvation. That's my desire.

As I serve in this church, the goal is not more and more people alone. The goal is that you will really enter the Kingdom of heaven. May God have mercy on us. Let's bow for a word of prayer together.

I've preached a long time, I know you're tired. But I just want to give you that opportunity right now to reflect upon your own life. Please, please, please understand my purpose and the purpose of Scripture is not to shake your assurance at all. No, but it is for those who might have assumed and presumed that you may have the mercy of God to think about yourself before you face Him as Judge on the last day. It will be too late then!

But today is still the day of salvation. Today may still be the day you repent and believe in Jesus. Today might be the day God gives you the new life. Yu must be born again. So would you today, humble yourself and look to Jesus alone. Oh, you're not saved by works, never saved by works, but you are saved by grace through faith. Would you ask God today for the gift of faith? Would you today repent and believe in Jesus?

I speak to my young people here, just because you're raised in a Christian home means nothing on the final analysis, unless you personally repent and believe in Jesus. I speak to Gospelighters, you who are really born again, are you actively pursuing fruit bearing in your life or are you so absorbed with winning accolades, getting a pay rise, rising in a corporation or is your focus on bearing fruit for the glory of God?

I pray we will be a church generous in our giving, in our service, gracious in the way we carry ourselves, active in witnessing and careful with our words. I pray we will be a beautiful, luscious tree with beautiful fruit that when the world looks at the forest around, they say, “This tree is really different because it has divine fruit.” May that be your life. May that be Gospel light. May we come to Jesus today.

Father, thank You for Your Word. Bless each one, grant salvation and life please. And may we bear forth much fruit to bring You glory. Thank You, we ask in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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