Bearing the Fruit of Repentance
Then He told this parable: "A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?' 'Sir,' the man replied, 'leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.'" (Luke 13:6-9)
Cultivating grape vine requires a suitable environment, good soil and adequate care. The fig tree on the other hand does not need the above conditions of cultivation for it to bear fruit normally. In the parable given, the fig tree is actually planted in a vineyard and receives the master’s special care for three years. It is plain that this fig tree is different from others of its kind. The master has lavished on it a multitude of graces in the hope that it will grow strongly and bear much fruit. During those three years, the master comes often to the tree hoping to find fruit, but is disappointed when he finds none. So the master orders the caretaker of the vineyard to cut down this fig tree so that the land may be cleared to plant other trees, and no more time and effort need to be wasted on a non-fruit-bearing tree. But the caretaker intercedes on behalf of the fig tree, obtaining not just the master’s concession but in fact extra blessings (tilling and fertilizing) for it in the hope that it can still bear fruit, but failing that it would be cut down.
Jesus used the above parable to illustrate that if a man does not repent while in grace and live out the new life of the Lord, God’s judgment could come at any time. When judgment is delayed, it is because of God’s compassion in giving man the chance to repent. If there is anyone among us who believes that he is already a believer of Christ and has attended services for many years, but still does not exhibit behavior in keeping with repentance in his everyday life, then he is like that non-fruit-bearing fig tree and takes the risk of being cut down. John the Baptist had also warned those who came to him to be baptized, saying, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance….The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matthew 3:8, 10) This clarifies a simple truth - if a person truly repents to God and accepts Jesus Christ as his savior, his behavior after conversion must show change. One who really believes in the Lord and has been saved will have the Holy Sprit dwelling within his heart. Through obedience to the instructions of the Bible and submission to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the renewal of his inner being (rebirth) will bring along changes in character known as the behavior of the new man. Just as Paul said, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17) A person who truthfully repents to God naturally and unconsciously expresses dispositions of joy, peace and overflowing love. If he continues to pursue knowledge of God, willingly forsakes the wanton habits and sinful behaviors from before his conversion, and determinedly follows the word of God, the spiritual fruits that he bears will not fall off before they ripen. A Christian who does not have the fruit of repentance is a false Christian. Though he may call himself a Christian, and perhaps has even been baptized, attends Church regularly, and is often in the company of Christians, that is no more than weed hidden in a wheat field. When confronted with minor trials or difficulties, his life as weed will be exposed, and he will immediately forsake the Lord.
Dear friends, this writer hopes that you will seriously contemplate your relationship with God. Don’t spend your days in a fog; don’t waste the opportunities and grace that God has bestowed on you. If you want to be clear about your religious situation, you are welcome to contact any of our Church’s fellow workers.
By: Daniel To