Produce by Pastor Abidan Shah

Produce

PRODUCE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  As many of you know, this was a very busy week for me. I had to give the oral defense for my PhD dissertation. It’s an exam that you have to take before you can officially get your doctorate. I had passed my dissertation already but I was very nervous about this exam because it determines whether or not you really know your stuff and deserve the title of “doctor.” I was so nervous that I asked David to drive me to Wake Forest. By the way, that morning, the entire staff and their families showed up at the house to pray with me. It really meant a lot to me! After 2 hours of sitting in the hot seat answering questions, I was told that I had passed the exam. Needless to say, I was very happy and relieved. Listen carefully:Christian life doesn’t end at “I’m saved and when I die, I’m going to heaven.” If you’re saved, you’re facing an exam where God the examiner is coming around to see whether or not you are producing fruits worthy of repentance. Fruit bearing is the natural outflow of salvation. By the way, these fruits are not what you might think. They are acts of mercy. And, one more thing, your clock is ticking. Are you producing fruits worthy of repentance? That’s the title of our message today—PRODUCE—in our series on the parables of Jesus.

Luke 13      6 He also spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, “Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ 8 But he answered and said to him, “Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 9 And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’”

Question: Parables are like mirrors. They reflect who we are. Are you a fig tree that is bearing fruit or one that is barren? Do you know that your clock is ticking? You may have 3 years left or you may have 3 hours left. Are you saved? Are you bearing fruit?

Background: Compared to the parables of the Wheat and the Tares, the Prodigal Son, or the Good Samaritan, today’s parable of the barren fig tree is not as popular. But, it is a very important parable. It is a continuation of last week’s message on the parable of the Good Samaritan. In fact, this parable was given on the same journey that Jesus embarked on in Luke 9:51. If you remember last weekend’s message, Jesus knew that the time had come for him to be ascended and he started making his way towards Jerusalem. As he is making this one-way trip, he sends his disciples out into the fields that are white unto harvest and they return with joy saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” (Luke 10:17) In other words, lives are being transformed and demonic strongholds are being broken. Jesus praises God and blesses his disciples because they are participating in building God’s kingdom and they are seeing and hearing the things of eternal life. Then, a certain lawyer wanting to get in on the action tests him saying, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus asks him what is in the law. He replies, “Love God and Love Neighbor.” Jesus tells him to go do that. Then seeking to justify himself, he asks, “Who is my neighbor?” Then Jesus gave the parable of the Good Samaritan. The message of the parable is “Don’t ask ‘who is my neighbor?’ but instead ask, ‘who needs a neighbor?’” If you remember from last week—“A True Neighbor is someone who shows Mercy. Mercy is the distinguishing mark of those who have Eternal Life. If you want to know whether or not you have Eternal Life, ask yourself ‘Are you a Good Neighbor?’” Don’t just have pity, put some money behind it.

Application: By the way, I am so encouraged to see and hear the testimonies from so many of you of how you have used your $100 cross! Wow! Many of you are still praying for God to send the right person in your path who needs your gift. That’s wonderful. I am glad to hear that you are getting it! It’s not enough just to have pity. You have to put some money behind it. Unfortunately, not everyone will get it.

Not everyone got it when Jesus told the people to show mercy and put some money behind it. Luke 11    53 “And as He said these things to them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to assail Him vehemently, and to cross-examine Him about many things, 54 lying in wait for Him, and seeking to catch Him in something He might say, that they might accuse Him.” In other words, they missed his message of mercy completely! Instead, they were trying to cross-examine him! Listen to Jesus’ warning to them— Luke 12    40 “…be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect… 42 “…Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to givethem their portion of food in due season? 43 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 44 Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has. 45 But if that servant says in his heart, “My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. 47 And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 “…For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required…56 Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time?” In other words, Jesus was saying “I’m teaching you the importance of Mercy and you are trying to cross-examine me? What you don’t realize is that I’m the Examiner and your exam has begun!”

Human beings are masters of deflection. We call that “changing the subject.” Listen toLuke 13     1 “There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.” We don’t have any historical record outside of the Bible regarding this incident but this is very much like Pilate. He was a very cruel man. In fact, once he was even ordered back to Rome to stand trial for a similar act that he did against the Samaritans. What was the reason for this discussion? Who knows! We love discussing current affairs. We love making small talk. 2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all otherGalileans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” Jesus gave them another useless small talk to bring them back to his main point.

Application: Do you like to deflect what the Holy Spirit is telling you? Do you like to make small talk? Do you like to joke about the message or discuss something useless to ease the pressure of conviction? God knows your heart.

At this point, Jesus gave the parable of the fig tree. Listen again, Luke 13    6 “…A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. By the way, the fig tree was a symbol for Israel but it still applies to all of us. 7Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, “Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ Here’s where people make a big mistake—they think that fruits worthy of repentance are stop sinning, start going to church, don’t do drugs, don’t cheat, don’t lie, etc. Like the adage – “I don’t drink. I don’t chew and I don’t go with girls who do.” That may be true but this is not what’s implied here. To find its true meaning, we have to back up to Luke 3where John the Baptist used the same imagery—7 Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 9 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Now listen very carefully—10 So the people asked him, saying, “What shall we do then?” 11 He answered and said to them, “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” 12 Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than what is appointed for you.” 14 Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, “And what shall we do?” So he said to them, “Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.” Fruits worthy of repentance are acts of mercy!

Application: Are you a merciful person?

Let’s go back to the parable one more time—7 Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, “Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ 8 But he answered and said to him, “Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 9 And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’”

Invitation: You are living on borrowed time. Will you show mercy and put money behind it? Mercy is not the requirement for salvation. It is the verification of salvation. Have you received God’s Mercy through the death of Jesus on the cross? Are you saved?

IS THERE SOMETHING MISSING IN YOUR CHRISTIAN LIFE?

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IS SOMETHING MISSING IN YOUR CHRISTIAN LIFE? by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

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John 15 1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

Upper Room

Upper Room (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Road to the Garden of Gethsemane

Road to the Garden of Gethsemane (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Garden of Gethsemane

Garden of Gethsemane (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Overall Background: The passage we just read was spoken by Jesus just a few hours before He was betrayed. It was probably somewhere between the Upper Room and the Garden of Gethsemane by the Mount of Olives. We were there just a month ago and I tried to imagine what it might have been like for the disciples. They had just left the upper room where they heard their Master make some of the most bizarre statements ever! As they were celebrating the Passover, He held up the bread and the cup and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you…This cup is the new covenant in My blood…drink it…” That’s cannibalism! No Jewish person in his right mind would ever say that! But, that wasn’t all! He went on and said things like – “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me” (Which your pastor explained last week). Again, John 14:10 “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me?” Again, John 14:19 “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. 20 At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” Now, if they walked past the Temple, they probably saw the golden vines above the gate of the Temple. You can imagine Jesus stopping there and pointing to them and saying, “I am the true vine. You are the branches. Abide in Me.” That was heavy! Is it any wonder that the disciples fell asleep when they got to the garden?

Listen very carefully this morning – the passage we just read and the verses I just quoted are the very heart and essence of Christianity.

Application: If you feel that something is missing in your Christian life, then this is the message for you. If you are tired of trying to live the Christian life, then this message is for you. If you are tired of religion with all its traditions and rituals and rules and obligations, then this message is for you. If Christianity has lost its joy and purpose, then this message is for you.

Three things we will see in this passage. Let the Holy Spirit bring you to Christ in a way you’ve never seen Him before.

I. THE TRUE VINE 

1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.

Background: The imagery of the vine was often used in the Old Testament to refer to the Nation of Israel. Psalm 80:8 “You have brought a vine out of Egypt” referring to the Hebrews. Jeremiah 2:21 “I had planted you a noble vine.” His disciples were familiar with this imagery. Even Jesus had used this imagery in His parable of the vineyard, where He referred to Himself as the son of the vineyard owner who was rejected by the vinedressers – referring to the chief priests, the Pharisees, and the scribes. But in the wee hours of the night, Jesus gave that imagery a whole new twist. No longer were the people the vine living under the control of the vine dressers, but now Jesus Himself was the true vine, and the vinedressers had been replaced by God the Father Himself.

You can imagine the look on the faces of these disciples. They’d never heard stuff like this before. What’s more? Listen to verse 2 “Every branch in Me.” Meaning: Now, they were no longer the vine but just the branches on the vine. Their job was to simply abide/remain/be connected to the vine and they will have all the necessary nourishment – food, water, and nutrients to survive. Everything they needed will be supplied to them. They are to feed upon Him – the bread and the cup.

By the way, this was not a new concept. This was always God’s plan. Even the Old Testament saints were eagerly waiting for this promise. Listen to Paul in Colossians 1 26 “the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. 27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

Nothing has done more damage to Christianity than the false idea that we need to live a good life for God. He’s up here and you are down here. Just do the best you can for Him. That’s Hinduism and Islam and religion. Jesus came to turn religion up side down! It’s no longer God up here and you’re down here and never the twain shall meet. Now, it is the Living and True God coming to dwell in you and living out through you what you could never live out by yourself. Now God is pleased not because of you but because of the One who lives in you. In fact, you are dead! Listen to Paul again in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” Nothing will so revolutionize your life than realizing that Christ is your life. You have to admit that you don’t have it. You will have to make sure that your lines of communication are open with Him. You will have to make sure that you are available to Him.

Application: What is Christianity? What does it mean to be a Christian? Is it just a list of dos and don’ts? Is it just your self-effort? Is it just trying to do the best you can to please God? If you are saved, ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes of faith to who you are in Christ. If you are lost, you are not in Christ. You need to be grafted – saved.

II. THE CASTAWAY BRANCH

2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

Background: Just when you think that such a life is too good to be true and that people will abuse it or take advantage of it. This is just a life of passivity. Jesus goes on to clarify. 2 “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit…” What are these fruits?

  • Christ like temperamentGalatians 5 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control.
  • Winning the lost – Romans 1:13 “…I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also…”
  • Sacrificial Giving – Romans 15 26 For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem…28 Therefore, when I have performed this and have sealed to them this fruit, I shall go by way of you to Spain.

Did you notice how the fruits benefit other people? Have you ever seen a branch eating its own fruits? They are for others. Victory is when the world says of you what this book has said of you. You don’t have to go around advertising who you are. It is obvious. Jesus said in Matthew 7:20, “Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”

What happens when there is no fruit? 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; What does that mean? Some people have built big theological schools on just a few verses. I don’t believe that at one o’clock in the morning, trying to walk down in the dark towards the Kidron Valley, Jesus is trying to discuss the fine points of theology! Who He is thinking of is Judas. Just a couple of hours ago Jesus had said to His disciples – “One of you will betray Me.” Immediately, they began to question – “Is it I? Is it I?” Even Judas asked and Jesus answered, “You have said it.” That would’ve been a good time for Judas to fall on his face and repent but he didn’t. Jesus gave him a piece of bread and Satan entered him. “He then went out immediately. And it was night.”

It is possible to be in church all your life and do all the stuff and be active and still be fruitless. Those people just get taken away.

For e.g. During the fall, dry leaves just fall off the trees. Imagine if you had to go and pluck them. How does that happen? The sap (the life of the tree) just pushes them out. People who do not have Jesus in their lives, they are not connected to Him, they are not saved, they are pushed out by the truth of Jesus.

Do you know the only time the leaves keep hanging on even though they are dead? If the entire tree itself is dead.

You can hang on to your emptiness like dead leaves to a dead tree and you’ll remain dead. Christianity is Christ. Taking Christ out of Christianity (as someone said) is like taking notes out of music, numbers out of mathematics, and blue out of the sky. It’s dead and empty.

Application: What kind of a branch are you? Are you a living branch? Are you a fruit-bearing branch? Are you connected to Christ? Is His life flowing through you? If you feel like the castaway branch, today is the day of salvation.

III. THE FRUITFUL BRANCH

2 “…every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

Background: If you like gardening, you understand this very well. I remember watching my dad going through the garden with a pair of shears. I didn’t understand why that was necessary. In fact, it looked almost painful. But he knew what he was doing. He was cutting away the dead wood that only bred insects and worms. Not only that, He was even cutting away the live tissue. Why? To keep the life of the plant from dissipating. Sometimes even clusters of grapes are cut so that the rest of the crops will be better.

So also, God prunes us to bring out the best in us – Sometimes it comes in the form of messages like this. Sometimes it comes in the form of trials. Sometimes it comes in the form of discipline. Sometimes it comes in the form of weakness or thorn in the flesh. Praise God that like a parent He knows what is best for us. He cuts off only that which has been draining strength from us. One thing we have to realize is that the pruning shears are in the hands of our Heavenly Father. He is never closer to us than when He is pruning us. It’s a sign that we belong to Him. Don’t believe the Devil’s lie that God is holding out on the best for your life or God is not giving you what you deserve or if you follow God, bad things will happen.

Listen to this promise – verse 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

Two Questions:

1. Is Jesus your vine? Are you saved?

2. If He is your vine, are you connected to Him this moment?

3. Are you bearing fruit?

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