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Religion without Fruit

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice
The Truth Network Radio
April 14, 2021 8:00 am

Religion without Fruit

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice

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April 14, 2021 8:00 am

If hypocrisy is moral bankruptcy, then in God’s economy, true Christians should be rich in the currency of faith. On this broadcast of The Bible Study Hour with Dr. James Boice, we’ll learn that God is not impressed with insincere profession and we’ll discover what a fig tree has to teach us about spiritual health and the dangers of having religion without being willing to truly obey.


If hypocrisy is moral bankruptcy event in God's economy true Christian should be rich in the currency of faith on this broadcast of the Bible study hour with Dr. James Boyce will learn that God is not impressed with insincere profession and will discover what a fig tree has to teach us about spiritual health and the dangers of having religion without being willing to truly obey and welcome to the Bible study our radio and Internet broadcast with Dr. James Boyce preparing you to think and act biblically. Bishop JC Ryall once said that while sin slays its thousands. Hypocrisy slays its tens of thousands. Let's listen as Dr. Boyce explains the significance of that statement were in a section of Matthew's gospel in chapter 21 part of the section that I've entitled the king's final break with Judaism.

We got into it far enough that we should be able to understand a bit hollow. Things are falling out a pattern in John's Gospel, in which Jesus does a miracle and then that's followed by a discourse that explains it significance in terms of spiritual truth here in this section of Matthew there something not altogether dissimilar we have is that Jesus performs a series of symbolic actions and after he does that. There's. In which the people before whom these things are done react. Jesus reacts to them by his teaching that we've already seen two of those symbolic actions of first was his dramatic entrance into Jerusalem on what we call Palm Sunday he came riding on the donkey and the significance of flat is not that he had to ride that he was tired or any such thing, but that there was a prophecy in the Old Testament that said that that is the way the king of the Messiah would come when Jesus came riding on a donkey. It was an announcement in the public way of the fact that he was the king in the Messiah. We know that was rejected. Leaders of course hated him for that. Certainly for the attention that he was getting and that the end of this week. They start the people they manipulate pilot and Jesus was crucified when he got into the city of Jerusalem was the second symbolic act. One of the anticipations among the people was that when Messiah would come, he would cleanse the temple, meaning that it would purify the religion of the day certainly needed that. And so Jesus performed the second dramatic action by driving the moneychangers out of the temple he done it once before John tells us that he did it at the beginning of his ministry course moneychangers have simply gone back to work and here he repeats it again now with no real anticipation that there's going to be any change. Jesus understands very well. It's going to happen bond in order to announce that yes, indeed, not only is he the Messiah, but he is the Messiah, whose pump to establish your religion among his people. When we come to in the passage that were looking at today is the third symbolic action which is the cursing and the withering of the fig tree on a lot of things we need to understand in order to know what this is all about.

One thing we need to understand is that in the Old Testament Israel is very often pictured as a fig tree or sometimes a vine, a language is often the same. The idea is that God has planted a fig trailer planted the vine in the land and that it was the responsibility and expectation that this binder fig tree would be fruitful in the matter fact, it isn't. And so it really needs to be Cut down on Jesus himself talked about Israel that way in an incident that we have in Luke 13 a told about figs radio parable that was not bearing fruit, and so the owner said, look, this fig tree spirits not bearing any fruit that we ought to do is cut it down. Wife should take up the soil as a servant present in the servant pleads on behalf of the fig tree he says sleeping alone for one more year. I'll dig around it and fertilize it bears fruit next year, fine. If not, then cut it down is quite obvious and I parable that that fig tree represents Israel which Jesus found fruit glass at the time of his coming. He been there for a number of years would be a year yet to come. But at the end of that. If there is no judgment would follow Jesus.

At the same sort of thing in Matthew 21 and he said that the leaders had turned the temple from being a house of prayer into being a den of robbers. Jesus been rejected as King and so now the time of judgment had come which is why he curses the fig tree cursing of the fig tree does a symbolic action, going to understand that we have to understand it.

Also, not merely of Israel.

Screw that. This is a symbol of Israel in the Old Testament. But what Jesus says here refers to any kind of religion which is spiritually fruitless. Have all the appearance of life. There's no real spiritual life within this worthless and judgment will come. One of the commentators brought it says that withered fig tree stands as one of the most conspicuous objects in sacred history and object lesson forever unless the background say something about the fig tree itself. I don't know anything about fig trees.

I don't know anyone any trees for that matter, but what I read in the commentators what I'm told is something like this that it is natural for fig trees in the near East to produce things.

First, little hard things that are not really very good to eat so they can be eaten, and that after that it produces leaves on happens and glasses of the fig trees figs continue to grow and the time comes later when they're ripe and that's when they're normally picked up the point of this story is that fig tree that is in leaf is advertising the fact that it all ready has some things however green and inevitable.

They may pay less case there was a tree with leaves, but had no things we put it in our own terms, we would say it was a case of false advertising and Jesus uses it as an illustration of hypocrisy and religion.

That's a great problem was a problem in his day, but it's been a problem offering biblical history find it throughout the Old Testament is repeated again and again in the Gospels and we see in our own time.

It had been the case in Israel very interesting Revelation to Ezekiel.

Back in the book that bears his name came to him from God the day before.

He learned that Jerusalem would fall under the Babylonians is explaining why it happened and that has to do with this kind of fruitless religion is what God told Ezekiel he said your countrymen are talking together about you by their walls and that the doors of their houses saying to each other, and hear the message of this come to us from the Lord. My people come to you as they usually do, and they sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not practice their mouse they expressed emotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain in deed then you're nothing more than one of sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument.

Well, they hear your words, but they do not put them into practice what God was telling Ezekiel is that the reason Jerusalem was destroyed as of the people and not actually practiced their religion. Isaiah said the same thing. Words that Jesus has already quoted in Matthew in the 15th chapter, verses eight and nine.

This is chapter 29 of Isaiah.

Isaiah wrote this lease. People come near to me with their mouth, and they honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men. Jesus use those words as a rebuke for the Pharisees and scribes leaders of the people who made up great profession of adhering strictly to the law of God. What parts were actually far from God, which they prove the course by their hatred of God's son and eventually by his crucifixion. Jesus called them hypocrites and another place he called them blind guides you find out again and again in Matthew we've already seen some of it back in the sermon on the mount. For example, in the six chapter verse two. Jesus is talking about almsgiving and he says so when you give to the needy. Do not announce it with trumpets as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets to be honored by man versus further on verse five and when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by man in a few verses after that verse 16 and when you fast to not look slumber is the hypocrites do they disfigure their faces to show men are fasting.

Chapter 7 you hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brothers by chapter 22, little but after this run.

The Pharisees laid plans to trap him in his words. Jesus says you hypocrites. Why are you trying to trap and then in the very next chapter in chapter 23 he pronounces a series of devastating judgments upon these false leaders in this false religion of the people all of that of course is what he was pointing to. In the withering of the fig tree as we understand that when we see what happens here. It seems sort of petulant on Jesus part, at least out of character and we would say unworthy of it becomes of this fig tree, it has leaves but no things he curses it withers up Matthew seems to say that withered up right then Mark points out that was actually the next day when they came back and I found that withered, but at any rate it it seems to be out of character for Jesus, but Jesus wasn't being petulant staging an important lesson. The first lesson was this the religion of Israel focused in her leaders was not producing fruit was a case of blatant hypocrisy and then secondly any religion that or any other religion by producing fruit is going to wither up at last is going to become as dry as a trade is no longer nourished by its roots. That's exactly the religion of Israel had become in Jesus day become dry and useless failure to bear genuine spiritual fruit was the immediate problem of these leaders of the scene in the story just before this because when Jesus was receiving the poor. Why the environment one way or another, and that children were rejoicing about was going on. They were critical because the children were making noise in their temple. They didn't see that good things were actually happening where we find it in the story that follows immediately because what they do is challenge Jesus authority and the hypocritically declined answer a question which he puts to them. So religion was dry and barren was withering on the vine and with eventually gone altogether say that this is true of any merely outward church true of any gathering of people. However, affluent and prosperous. They seem to be if they fail to produce the fruit of the spirit which Paul describes in the fifth chapter of Galatians is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. I find this in Luke's gospel Jesus had been followed by a group of people were making profession of being his followers and receiving them as Lord. But this question of them was is why do you call me Lord, Lord, and don't do what I say pointing out the insincerity of their profession and how unacceptable it was to him say welcome that possibly be true today. Yes, the apostle James gives us a warning about chapter 1. James wrote, do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.

Do what it says. Anyone listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in the mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like a man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he is heard doing it will be blessed in what he does.

James is speaking to us today speaking the church in America as well as the church in any other place or any other time.

Bishop JC Ryan sent speaking of the church of his day at the end of the last century is not every fruitless branch of Christ's visible church and awful danger of becoming a withered fig tree high ecclesiastical profession without holiness among the people. Overweening confidence in consuls or bishops or liturgies or ceremonies. While repentance and faith of been neglected and ruined many a visible church in time past and bake yet ruined many more where the once famous churches, Ephesus, Sardis, Carthage and Apollo. They are all gone. They had leaves but no fruit to remember this beware of church pride in the snappy high-minded fear something so worthless as profession without practice or religion without fruit, while also said in one place open sin and about unbelief, no doubts later thousands but profession without practice slays its attendance. Thousands we belong to Jesus. We will produce spiritual fruit were not producing spiritual fruit. We do not belong to Jesus and will be carried away by life's torrents when judgment comes. I asked myself the question did Jesus disciples get what he was talking about.

I don't like they did at this time because of they had understood what he was talking about the natural follow-up would've been for them something about the religion of the Pharisees, they might've said.

Speaking about this empty kind of religion what's wrong with that. It seems to us that the Pharisees or the serious people there. The people to take the Bible literally and are trying to will buy it. What's wrong with that, but that's not the kind of question they asked what they seem to have been impressed with is not what Jesus was saying that the fact that the victory withered because that's a question I asked Max they say, how did the fig tree wither up so quickly how the disciples reaction isn't surprising to us because were always slow to get what Jesus assigned.

What is surprising here is the way Jesus answered it might've expected him to say goodness you dumb disciples. Don't you get it yet. You're concerned about is the physical fact of the withering and you see that I'm trying to teach an important lesson about Israel. Jesus doesn't actually do that.

He takes the question at face value. They are asking about the fig tree, withering, and uses it as an occasion to teach about prayer. He says I tell you the truth if you have faith and do not doubt but only can you do what was done to the figtree, but you can say to this mountain, go, throw yourself into the sea, and it will be done. If you believe you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. We've already come across that idea. In Matthew 17 so we don't have to go into it a great detail here in the 17th chapter. Jesus said if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain move from here to there and it will be moved. Nothing will be impossible for you.

We've already seen something about this means is not about moving mountains is using. There is a figure of speech to say that seemingly impossible things will become possible by the power of God.

We pray according to the will of God.

It's amazing what will happen if we learn to pray often well and rightly. But the question is why did Jesus respond this way, we might say that prayer was just something that was always important to him and so we had an opportunity to teach about it. He did, but I think there's actually a great deal more to it than that.

Remember how I said over and over again as we study through Matthew that these sections are put together, these little incidents are not just random collections of material is all carefully constructed and when two things are put together in juxtaposition is usually to teach a lesson and that's what is happening here. Remember that the chapter has begun by three symbolic acts pointing to the failure of Judaism and that it ends with two parables were going to look at them that explain the nature of this failure, and that she failure was the eclipse of prayer by what we would call business interests. When Jesus cleansed the temple.

He said it's supposed to be a house of prayer, but you're making it a den of robbers.

When you begin to understand that suddenly this bit of instruction about prayer fits in the become critically important what Jesus is teaching now is that what's important about genuine religion is not how prosperous are temples or how many people, whether we seem to be affluent and the kind of things we do. But whether were actually communing with God and are growing spiritually by prayer, as we come to him up with that over against everything we know about the Pharisees and apply it to ourselves.

These men were scrupulous about obeying the legalistic interpretations of God's law.

They were like Paul could say when you look back on his life in Judaism that is far as the keeping of the law was concerned he was faultless. Their brand of religion and prospered.

The temple was amazingly beautiful. It was one of the wonders of the day they were highly regarded all of this meant nothing. Jesus it was breaking formally with Judaism. In this chapter has no interest in the outward shows a religion of the hearts of the people are far from the Council religion fruitless financial prosperity has marginalized or eliminated prayer is the truth that he would say the same thing the churches of our day. If he were here. Actually, he has set set it to the apostle Paul who in first Timothy is looking ahead what he calls the last days. That is the times in which we live, says in those days there is going to be in the church. All of the evil that is present in the world and what makes it worse is that they practice a form of godliness, while denying its power is not what Jesus would save many of the churches of our day listings took place on the way from Bethany to Jerusalem on Tuesday and Wednesday of Passover week when Jesus got to the city that day for his last full day on hindered teaching, he was approached by a priest and the elders of the people I have a question form. The question was by what authority are you doing these things and who gave you that authority now. Matthew mentions the chief priests and the elders and marks parallel passage he adds to that list so it reads the chief priests and teachers of the law and the elders.

Those are the three groups that made up the Sanhedrin, it would seem that what is indicating there is a this was some kind of an official delegation from the highest court of Judaism. Although there asking the question who gave you this authority. What they're really saying is we didn't give you this authority and we are the authorities of other words they are calling into account Jesus answered and answered in form of another question they ask him about his authority so he said I'll ask you about authority ask you about the authority of John the Baptist were that authority come from, is it from heaven that is was that legitimate was it for men is really something that he took upon himself brilliant reply. One thing Jesus in John that much in common. One of them had been educated in the rabbinic schools either one had been endorsed by the leaders of the people and yet they had been widely received and accepted by the people. Moreover, John the Baptist had testified concerning Jesus Christ.

He called on the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He had called him the son of God in another place to acknowledge John's ministry was to acknowledge Jesus ministry and if John's authority was legitimate. So was that of our Lord. We caught them on the horns of a dilemma, and they knew it, I got together and they sent look if we say John's authority was from heaven he'll ask us will then why didn't you believe them. On the other hand, we say well for men, I will be in trouble with the people because all of the people think that John was a prophet. There wasn't an easy way out about one so they took the converts escape I said simply, we don't know Jesus responded by segmenting the will I tell you the authority by which I do the same. That wasn't an invasion say it had been a confession of moral bankruptcy on their part. They been asking by what authority Jesus was doing what he did and that meant that they were asserting their ability to judge in his case, but when asked the question they were forced to admit that they couldn't even judge in the case of John the Baptist could make a determination where John the Baptist was concerned, they certainly were qualified to make a determination where Jesus was concerned, they knew their own minds.

Of course I had refused both John and Jesus because both to criticize them, but they wouldn't admit it. Howard Voss wrote in his commentary. They preferred to plead ignorance and to look ridiculous. There is honesty had been unmasked is what happens when you come to Jesus with mere profession. Jesus has an uncanny ability to unmask a kind of religion, which actually bears no fruit so to me asking you listen to the testimony of John we studied it. You heard the claims of Jesus. You've seen the evidence for his claims. Will you acknowledge that he's the son of God and the Savior and follow him as your Lord that's what John the Baptist was urging on the people you become a Christian, hesitating me tell you a little bit about the authority of Jesus Christ. Authority is an important theme in Matthew's gospel may recall that at the very beginning after Jesus had first begun to teach in that first great collection of teaching we have in the sermon on the mount were told that the crowds were amazed at his teaching because he taught as one who had authority, and not as the teachers of the law. Chapter 8 Roman centurion acknowledged his authority, comparing it to his own authority as a military commander. He said just say the word and my servant will be healed because I myself am a man under authority with soldiers under me. Chapter 9 Jesus healed the paralyzed man saying so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to begin the sins of the people marveled that God given such authority to man.

Chapter 21. The chapter were studying. Now the word authority occurs four times, twice on the lips of those who were accusing him and twice in Jesus response most important occurrence of the word authority comes at the very end of the gospel of the work you have it at the beginning it occurs at the end what we call the great commission Jesus said all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I command you and while I'm with you always, even unto the end of the age to assess several important things about the authority of Jesus Christ. First of all, Jesus authority is God's authority is the only thing that phrase all authority in heaven can mean ultimate authority in heaven and certainly throughout the cosmos is God's authority and about authority has been given to Jesus Christ means Jesus speaks with a very authority of God.

The story about the forgiving of sins of the paralyzed man teaches the same truth because they said who can forgive sins but God only, and of course that is exactly the point Jesus forgave his Sandy showed that he had forgiven his sin by healing him and it was a statement of his deity authority of God is the highest possible authority in the can't be taken lightly unless the authority of Jesus Christ.

And secondly, those words at the end of Matthew teach that Jesus authority validates his teaching. That's what's impress those who listen to it because he didn't speak on his own authority. But within extrinsic authority knowing that everything he was saying was true and could be trusted. Absolutely you are not about Jesus else as a kind of authority. What you read in the newspapers is an authoritative what you hear on the television. As an authoritative. Less when they survey Americans and Americans lie all the time and for no apparent reason politicians obviously lie.

Only Jesus Christ can be absolutely trusted.

Why don't you really trust him and believe what he has to say about the gospel and here's the third thing the last of the most important of all, Jesus has authority to forgive sins. That's the most important point because sin is our greatest problems and keeps us from God. Vaccine keeps us from the truth to because we really don't have open minds with the truth is concerned, we only want to hear what establishes us in our own sinful opinions. What we need is to find the truth in Jesus.

He speaks the truth and what we need is forgiveness of sins which she provides on the basis of his death upon the cross, Jesus died for us in our place on the cross so we can justly be forgiven of our sin, we come to him and are asking for salvation leaders of Israel wouldn't acknowledge his authority and the result is that they perished in their sentence.

Many perished. Though they heard the claims of Jesus and learned about his work because they won't come to them or should that be true of you doesn't need to be acknowledges authority manager Sam and seek forgiveness spray together. Father so easily when we think about being religious to think of doing religious things even coming to church or pretending to be spiritual actually, our hearts are far from you. We repent of that now. Those were Christians. We asked for forgiveness for half that our lives might be authentic in our relationship with you might become increasingly real for those who may not be Christians asked at the very person of Christ as he speaks of authority. Clearly, in a way that confounds all his critics might seize upon their minds and penetrate to their hearts.

By your grace, they might bow before the authority that one. It was King of Kings and Lord of lords, confessing their sin turning from seeking your face, asking for forgiveness finding its salvation of their souls. Jesus, you are listening to the Bible study hours with the Bible teaching of Dr. James Boyce listener supported ministry of the alliance of confessing Evangelicals.

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