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Living on Borrowed Time B

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
May 23, 2024 4:00 am

Living on Borrowed Time B

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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May 23, 2024 4:00 am

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Grace To You
John MacArthur
Grace To You
John MacArthur
Grace To You
John MacArthur

You're living on borrowed time, judgment is near, and there is nothing about you that earns that borrowed time so it is purely at the merciful discretion of God that you live another day and His patience is not permanent. Welcome to Grace To You with John MacArthur. I'm your host, Phil Johnson. Of course, Jesus didn't play the stock market when He was on earth, but He did emphasize the importance of making investments, specifically spiritual investments.

So what did Jesus say about laying up treasure in heaven, and how can you be sure you're doing that at church and in your home or at work? John MacArthur has answers today as he continues his series, Stories With Purpose, with a lesson that will show you how to maximize the time that you have left on earth, time that, according to God's word, is fleeting. But before you get started, John, not long ago some of our staff members attended the National Religious Broadcasters Convention, which is always a great opportunity for us to connect with people at radio networks and individual stations that carry the Grace To You broadcast. These are important partners in what is still a very important broadcast platform, and that is radio. Well, we've always said that radio is the contact point, that's the starting point for our ministry, and that's where we introduce ourselves to people who then find their way into the website and all the resources beyond that. And I believe that radio still has a very, very high priority, and I think it's going to last.

And I was saying that just a few moments ago to you, the podcast world and the YouTube world and all the social media world is so voluminous that it's virtually impossible to understand all that's out there. Whereas radio is confined to only a certain number of stations, and the simple reality of that, I think, is always going to attract people. So radio will, I believe, continue to have a high impact, and we're seeing that in our ministry.

It's been around for a hundred years or so, and for many decades it has served Christian ministries very, very effectively. With a variety of other media available, people are just overwhelmed, but they do know where their Christian radio station is, and they can go there and trust what they hear. Interesting fact, recent statistics predict that throughout 2024, radio will be listened to every month by about 4 billion people worldwide.

Imagine that. That is half the Earth's population. And podcasts, only about 1.5 billion per month. So radio is still the winner in that relationship. From the folks we hear from all the time on a daily basis, we know that radio is the means by which many, many people, hundreds of thousands of people, millions of people, are hearing the Word of God, hearing grace to you and other Bible teaching programs. And we're grateful for the team at each radio station that presents our program because they are real partners in proclaiming God's truth to a wide and needy audience. So pray for the people at the radio station you're listening to. Let them know you're praying and that you appreciate them. Call or email them and you'll encourage them more than you know. Yes, friend, you definitely will.

So please contact the team at this radio station as soon as you have a moment. And now to encourage you from God's Word, here is John with today's message. JOHN KASTORO Luke 13, let's begin at verse 6. And he began telling this parable. A certain man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard keeper, behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down.

Why should it even use up the ground? And he answered and said to him, let it alone, sir, for this year too until I dig around it and put in fertilizer. And if it bears fruit next year, fine.

But if not, cut it down. It is not unusual to hear people talk about living on borrowed time, pretty common expression. What we mean by that is somebody is alive who should be dead by all accounts and if things were sort of normal in the way they should be, those people would be dead but they're alive and that's what we call borrowed time.

You're all living on borrowed time. And it's due to the fact that God though just and righteous and a hater of sin is at the same time compassionate. Let's go back to Luke 13.

Now it should be obvious what it means. And so, as would be understood by everybody, this man had a fig tree which had been planted by him or by someone else in his vineyard. It had been there a while and he came looking for fruit on it and didn't find any.

This was unexpected. The fig trees did really well and they particularly would do very well in vineyard soil because vineyard soil was cared for and watered and fertilized and cultivated. It was the best place or as good a place as any to plant a tree and this is great disappointment. His disappointment is manifest in verse 7. He said to the vineyard keeper, the gardener, whoever cared for it, Behold...that's a word that indicates surprise...this is not expected.

Three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down. Why does it even use up the ground? Now this is not some technical assessment of the negative impact of a fruitless tree on the grounds resources for the vineyard. That is to say, he's not saying, you know, it's using water the vineyard could use, it's using nutrients the vineyard could use. This is not a technical assessment. This is just an expression of disgust. I mean, why does it even use up the ground? Cut it down. There's a level of irritation in this of disgust, of anger and justifiable because it's fruitless, it's useless.

And they would understand that who were listening that day. But here comes the point in verse 8, and he, the gardener, the vineyard keeper, answered and said to him, Let it alone, sir, kurie...which is the same word as Lord, it could be a term of respect for someone you served, sir, and it also can refer to the Lord which it does most of the time in the New Testament and that will give you a little idea of who's in view here in the illustration. Let it alone, Lord. Don't cut it down now. For this year, too, let it alone until I dig around it and put in fertilizer. Would you give this tree one more shot? Just give me one more opportunity to do what I've always done every year with this tree.

This isn't like, okay, I'm going to do this and I've never done it before. He doesn't say that. This year, too, he says, like in every other year, he was a faithful guy in the story who was taking care of this man's crop. Let me dig...that's the word scopto, only used by Luke. Let me loosen the soil which aerates the ground and allows the water to get into it. And let me fertilize caprion, put some dung or manure on it.

I've done it all along and there must have been a certain way they did that, loosen up the soil, keep the water flowing and fertilize it whenever was appropriate. And then in verse 9, and if it bears fruit next year, and you'll see the word fine is in italics, do you see that? Or if you have a New King James, is it the word well?

There's really no word in the Greek. It would probably go like this, and if it bears fruit next year, how do you translate a shrug? You know, if it bears fruit next year, it's a sort of Jewish expression. And if not, cut it down. That's the end of the sermon.

Boy, that is a dramatic ending. You think they got it? I think they got it.

What would they be thinking of? John the Baptist, chapter 3 of Luke, down at the river, talking about the Messiah coming and saying, you better bring forth fruits fit for repentance because the ax is already laid at the root of the tree. Right? Luke 3, 9. The decree has already gone out, cut it down. The ax is laid at the root of the tree, ready for the first blow.

Hold that ax for a minute. Just one more opportunity. Could you give that tree a little borrowed time? It doesn't even say in the Greek, next year. It says literally, in the coming time. I don't know how long that time would be. In the coming time, it's open-ended.

If it bears fruit in the coming time, and if not, cut it down. The grammar here is very dramatic. I'll give you a little lesson in Greek. You know what a conditional clause is, or a conditional phrase? If then...if then. That's the condition is if and the response is then. If this condition, then this occurrence. In the Greek, when you ever see if then in English, if then, you go back into the Greek language and by virtue of the words that are used and the construction that is made, you can find out whether it's a first-class, second-class, or third-class conditional. And based upon the structure of the language, you know whether it's a condition that is likely to happen or likely not to happen because it's built into the language. The first if is a third-class conditional...third-class conditional. If it bears fruit and a third-class conditional is unlikely. If, and it probably won't happen, it bears fruit and that's the reason there's no response because it's an unlikely reality and so it leaves you with nothing but a sort of shrug, an, dot, dot.

The second is a first-class conditional which means it is likely to happen. What was more likely if Israel had been given some time? That they would believe or not believe?

Not believe. The tree is really living on borrowed time with dim hope. But God is by nature compassionate, gracious, kind, merciful, even though hope for fruit is dim. Well by now you know the meaning of the story, right? And I can...I can quit because it's clear, but I'm not going to because I want to show you five implications that come out of the story.

Five implications. First of all, the tree is a solitary tree. The tree is a solitary tree and therefore it has individual application. It has individual application, first of all, to a nation and then to individuals.

It is both national and personal. The fig tree, first of all, certainly has to be viewed as Israel. This is...this is the patience, if you will, of the Lord saying, as it were, to the Father, just hold back your judgment and give them a little more time. Like in Isaiah 5, Israel was planted in a very fertile hill. They were blessed with everything God could give them. Like Romans 9, 4 and 5, they had the revelation of God, they had the prophets, they had the Scriptures, they had the covenants, they had the adoption and from them came the Messiah.

They had it all. They were already apostate when Jesus arrived. They were apostate when John the Baptist began to preach. The ax was already laid at the tree when it started. Before Jesus ever began the ministry, John said the ax is laid at the tree because the nation was already apostate. They already had departed from the true faith in the true and living God and created a system of works righteousness that was an abomination to God. And now after the three years nearly being up, there's number of months yet until it's all over, but here they are into the last year of Jesus' ministry and they're fixed in their unbelief.

The ax is still at the foot of the tree and yet there's a pleading here for a little more time. There were a few months before the crucifixion. There were some more miracles, the incredible miracle of the raising of Lazarus from the dead, which everybody knew about, which prompted the Hosannas on Palm Monday, it actually was a Monday. There were some pretty dramatic things going on, the cleansing of the temple on Tuesday of the Passion Week. More teaching from Jesus, more powerful displays from Jesus.

They still had some time. The hope was dim, but the heart of God was willing to be patient even when the hope was dim. Look at verse 34 of Luke 13. Jesus says, O Jerusalem, Jerusalem...He's headed there, He knows He's going to die. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets, 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 wouldn't have it. Behold, your house is left to you, desolate." It's over. It's over, but there's still some borrowed time. In chapter 19, as we move closer to the cross and the time, the borrowed time passes, Jesus approaches the city, going there knowing He's going to die. He weeps in verse 41 of Luke 19. If you had known in this day even you the things which make for peace, if you only knew the peace that was offered to you, eternal peace, but now they've been hidden from your eyes, that's what I was saying. You have time, borrowed time until you die, until Christ comes, or until God says, it's over, I'm not available to you. You can't come now, it's hidden. Verse 43, the days will come when your enemies will throw up a bank before you, a siege surround you, hem you in on every side, level you to the ground and your children within you slaughter your children, leave you without one stone upon another because you didn't recognize the time of your visitation.

That's when the axe really falls. And the destruction of Jerusalem took place at the end of the Roman Wars from 66 A.D. to 70 A.D., about a period of 35 years from the time our Lord was teaching in Luke 13. They had some time. They had some time before His death.

They even had some time before the destruction of their nation, their city. Jesus addresses the issue again in chapter 20 in a parable. Verse 9 talks about a vineyard was given to some vine growers by the man who owned the vineyard. The man wanting to find out how they were doing sent some of his servants and they killed all his servants. He finally sent his son, they killed his son. And he says to them, verse 15, when they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him, what therefore will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He asked them, well what do you think the owner would do to somebody to see a group of people who killed his servants and killed his son? He will come and destroy these vine growers and will give the vineyard to others.

That's exactly what Israel did. They killed the prophets and they killed the son. And the vineyard of blessing was taken away from them and given to the church.

The axe cut them down. Oh, according to Romans chapter 11, they are temporarily set aside and some day they'll come back to faith. There will be a generation of Jews in the future who will embrace Christ as their Messiah and they will be grafted back in to the trunk of blessing and they will receive salvation and the Kingdom.

But for now they're set aside. In chapter 21 he says it again. Chapter 21 verse 20, when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, recognize her desolation is at hand. Verse 24, and they'll fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive into all nations. Jerusalem be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles till the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. That was fulfilled historically in 70 A.D., as well as looking ahead to the further destruction of that place that comes in the time of Tribulation. Jesus confirmed then over and over that judgment was coming, judgment was coming, judgment was coming.

John the Baptist said the axe head was at the tree. Jesus said, cut it down and yet God is willing to wait and give them some borrowed time. I want you to turn to Matthew 21, a fascinating Scripture. Matthew 21 verse 18, when Jesus had come in His triumphal entry and entered into Jerusalem, of course that was the week of His death. The people had given Him a fickle affirmation on that Monday with all the Hosannas. On Tuesday He cleansed the temple.

The next day, verse 18, Matthew 21, He returned to the city and He became hungry. Verse 19, seeing a lone fig tree by the road. Oh, here we have another fig tree. And again it's isolated, it's a lone fig tree. And both the fig tree, this one a real fig tree, the other one a fig tree story, there's one fig tree. It has that solitary significance, a lone fig tree.

This is emblematic of Israel again. He came to it, found nothing on it except leaves only, pretense of life, religion, false religion gives a pretense of life but no fruit. And He said to it, no longer shall there be any fruit from you. And at once the fig tree withered.

Mark says, gives the parallel account, it withered from the roots up. And the disciples were just absolutely stunned to see it die in front of their eyes. So in reality, they had time but they didn't have much time. They had months as a nation to change their attitude about Christ. And that would only happen if individuals changed their attitudes about Christ. And when Jesus came in, two days after Hosanna to the Son of David, hailing Him as Messiah, two days later He cursed the nation and it was over.

That wasn't new. God had cursed the generation that came out of Egypt. God had cursed the generation that went into Babylonian captivity because of the same thing, disobedience, rebellion, unbelief, impenitence. And here the Lord Jesus curses them again because of unbelief. And Israel is still even to this moment under divine judgment as a nation until they come to affirm their Messiah which they will some day do. They will look on Him whom they pierced, mourn for Him as an only son, the prophet said, and a fountain of cleansing will be opened to Israel, their sins will be washed away and they'll receive the Kingdom and the King.

So this is a dramatic illustration that tells those Jews in that massive crowd of tens of thousands of people, you're on borrowed time and you don't have much of it left. But this is not just national. Let me give you four things to think about to complete this little five-point implication list. He's talking about individuals here. It's a solitary tree.

It's not just a solitary nation, it's a solitary individual. Every one of us has to do something with Jesus Christ. And let me just have you think about this. Those who have no spiritual fruit will be judged. If there is no spiritual life in you that comes only through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, you will be cut down and cast into the fire, as John the Baptist put it. That's eternal punishment. Those who bear no spiritual fruit through a relationship to God by means of Jesus Christ will be cut down and that judgment is forever. The next thing to keep in mind is that the judgment is near. He says, next year, or until the time. And the idea is just one more chance. The tree has had its whole life and I've checked it for three years, I'm going to give it a little time. Your judgment is near.

The sand is running fast out of the hourglass. It was a very brief stay of execution, borrowed time. And the next thing to keep in mind is this, borrowed time is not due to your worthiness. When he says, why should it even occupy the ground? He's saying it in disgust and God has every right to be disgusted with us as sinners, every right. Why does he even live? Why does she even exist in this world?

That's the disgust of God. It's not that you're better than the people who the tower fell on, or you're better than the people who were killed by Pilate's soldier, or the people who died in a calamity or got cancer or heart disease or whatever it is. You're not any better. You're any different. You're a sinner. You deserve to die. You're living on borrowed time, which takes me to the last point, borrowed time is not permanent. God's patience is not permanent. These points are easy to understand in this little story.

In fact, they're virtually unmistakable. The tree is a solitary tree. It's a nation, but it's an individual. If you have no fruit, you will be cut down. You're living on borrowed time, judgment is near. And there is nothing about you that earns that borrowed time, so it is purely at the merciful discretion of God that you live another day. And His patience is not permanent. And that is why the prophet Isaiah wrote, Isaiah 55, 6 and 7, seek the Lord while He may be found.

Call on Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake His way, the unrighteous man is thought. Let Him return to the Lord and He will have compassion on Him and to our God for He will abundantly pardon.

You need to come while you have the time, while you have the opportunity. Psalm 32, 6, let everyone who is godly pray to you in a time when you may be found. There will be a time when He won't be found. And I close with the words of Jesus in John 7 and 8, John 7, 33, a little while longer I'm with you, a little while longer. Then I go to Him who sent Me, you shall seek Me and shall not find Me and where I am, you cannot come.

What a statement. He repeats it in John 8, verse 21, I go away, you shall seek Me and die in your sins. Where I am going, you cannot come. He says it again in verse 24, I said therefore to you, you shall die in your sins unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins. We all live on borrowed time. I don't know how much until Jesus comes, until you die, or until God withdraws. He relents the calamities because of His mercy, but His mercy is only everlasting to those who worship Him and love Him. Join me in prayer. Father, these are the words that have come right out of the mouth of the Son of God. They are awesome words.

They are penetrating, unforgettable, powerful, soul-stirring words. We thank You for the gift of salvation and we pray that it might be received eagerly by many even this day. Father, now we do ask that You would cause us to love You in a greater way, understanding Your grace to us in Christ.

Thank You for Your compassion. Thank You for Your patience that waited for us to come and that waits for sinners even today. May they respond and may we be grateful.

We pray in the name of Christ. This is Grace to You with John MacArthur, Chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary. Today's lesson is part of John's study called Stories with Purpose. And friend, just a reminder to send a note to let the staff of this radio station know that you appreciate hearing programs like Grace to You. And certainly we'd love to hear from you as well.

If you've been encouraged by a recent radio broadcast, would you let us know? Jot a note and send it our way. You can write to us here at Grace to You, Post Office Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412. Or you can email us at letters at

That's letters at And friend, keep in mind that through Friday, May 31st, most of the items we sell are available at 25% off the regular price. So now is the time to purchase one of John's books, maybe Truth Triumphs or The War on Children or individual volumes from John's 33-volume New Testament commentary series.

Or you can pick up the MacArthur Study Bible, our flagship resource. You can place your order at our website, Or if you want to order by phone, call us at 855-GRACE during normal business hours. That's Monday through Friday, 730 to 4 o'clock Pacific time. The number again, 855-GRACE. Now for John MacArthur and our entire staff, I'm Phil Johnson. Be back tomorrow as John looks at a provocative parable Jesus told during a meal with the religious leaders of Israel and what you should take away from it. John is continuing his compelling study of the parables titled Stories with Purpose with another half hour of unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time, on Grace To You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-23 06:02:00 / 2024-05-23 06:12:10 / 10

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