Jesus uses the withered fig tree as an opportunity to teach His disciples.
- It is an example of failure
- Israel failed to be fruitful for God
1. Jer 8:13
2. Hosea 9:10
3. Nahum 3:12
- They had outward acts (leaves) but not inward reality (fruit).
1. I hate all your festivals / instead of a show
1. Jesus expects fruit from us, so this example should be instructive to us.
- It is an example of faith.
- Have faith in God -22
1. To be faithful in prayer
2. To have prayers that are full of faith.
- True prayer involves forgiveness as well as faith
(verse 26 is missing from some ancient manuscripts. Niv ESV etc decided to not include it NASB NKJ living Bible etc did include it. We know that He did say it, Matthew 6:14 he says the exact same thing. So he either said it twice, or he said it at least once. The important thing is that he said it. )
Sin separates us from God. The opening chapters of Genesis down to the closing chapters of Revelation show in many different images and terms this reality. Genesis 3 portrays Adam and Even covering themselves and hiding from the presence of God once they sin…Revelation 21 describes heaven as a city with boundaries and walls, and those whose lives are characterised by sin are separated from the presence of God and His people.
We who are Christians have become Christians (months ago, or decades ago) by coming to the point where we acknowledge that our righteousness is not enough to please God, but in fact our sin is offensive to Him. We have come to see Jesus’ death on the cross as not just a tragedy in history, but the payment for my sin. We see in His resurrection our new life that has been given to us! When we believe that, there is a legal, forensic declaration of “justified” stamped on us. It is written in the books of heaven and that is our standing. Transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of the son of His love. In Christ Jesus you were were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ (Eph 2:13)
There is forgiveness with God for those who fall and fail: a forgiveness that is so rich, majestic and staggering in its concept that it takes the whole of the Bible to expound it. The forgiveness of God is full, free, total, absolute and immediate towards men and women, even when their sins have been deliberate and repeated. God takes men and women who have neither excuse nor justification for their sins, shows them what they really are, calls them to repentance and says there is forgiveness.
- The Apostles Creed (Dec. 31, 1969) by Philip George
O the blessedness of the man whose sins are forgiven! Ps 32:1
However, practically, we still do sin. We are seated with Christ in heavenly places, but at the same time we are surrounded by temptation to slip back into old habits and sins. As the hymn says we are “prone to wander,” and “prone to leave the God I love”. Romans 7 is a very honest description of the struggle that justified Christians sometimes face, they don’t want to sin, but they end up doing it anyway.
Jesus says that as we pray, we need to also pray that our trespasses will be forgiven. He is not here calling unbelievers to believe. He is speaking to the 12 disciples, these are people who already follow Him. Jesus is not giving an altar call (opportunity to become a Christian) but instead is giving instructions about daily prayer. “Whenever you stand praying”. It is important that each time we pray, we seek forgiveness from our Father in heaven. (that’s the goal in 25 & 26. These aren’t verses about forgiving others, but what we are to do in order to receive forgiveness form the Father.) Jesus speaks about what we need to do to receive this forgiveness, but before we examine that I want to point out why you need it! Why are we spending a Sunday morning thinking about why Christians (who are already forgiven) need to seek the forgiveness of God afresh.
What’s the difference between this daily forgiveness and the salvific forgiveness? This makes me think of the last supper when Jesus is washing the disciples feet, if you don’t let me do this, then you have no part in Me, and Peter requests a full bath, Jesus says that they are already His, so they only need their feet washed. A full bath is that introductory forgiveness (justification) and the feet washing is the daily forgiveness (sanctification).
1 John 1 trajectory. We are Christians, but we still sin. If we deny this we are a liar. Jesus forgives our sins as we confess them. What is confession? Homologeo to say the same things about our sin as God does.
Unconfessed sin will keep us from fellowship with God. Confessing our sins will bring forgiveness and keep us in fellowship with God (or restore fellowship).
(What are the advantages of fellowship with God?)
- we walk in the light, as He is in the light (1:7)
- there is a holy confidence that we are accepted by the Father. That we do not hide things from Him. That He is our father and we are his child.
We see that other things will keep us from fellowship with God.
The way that we treat people (who are made in God’s image) has some bearing on our relationship with the God in whose image they are made. 1 Peter 3:7 Husbands likewise dwell with your wives with understanding, giving honour to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together to the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
Specifically addressing the husband/wife relationship but as we’ll see this has implications to all people. So husbands listen up, this is addressed to you, but everyone in the room, listen in, because this affects you as well. The way that a man treats his wife has an effect on the way he relates to God, and how God relates to him.
- With Understanding:
o Frequently pointed out that men and women don’t think the same. This week Rachel and I celebrated 7 years of marriage, and I can attest to the fact that we don’t think the same way. We are prone to misunderstand each other.
o Although I must be honest and say that most of our misunderstandings aren’t based on her misunderstanding me, its from me misunderstanding her.
§ I am a lot simpler than she is, and she is a lot more observant than I am.
§ Because of that, she generally tends to understand me and I generally tend to misunderstand her.
o Rather than throw up my hands and say, this is just how it’s going to be (men are from mars women are from venus…) I need to take this on board that God calls me to understand my wife. To dwell with her with understanding.
- Giving honour to the wife, as to the weaker vessel
o A husband is called to constantly honour his wife.
§ To make much of her
§ To treat her as special
§ To make sure she knows that she is valued
o As to the weaker vessel
§ men and women are totally equal in regards to personhood, value and worth.
§ Men and women are totally equal in regards to the priviledge of bearing the image of God in the world
· In Genesis 1:26 the Triune God speaks: “Let us make man in our own image” then the next verse tells us what He did. “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them.”
· This imprint of the imago Dei is stamped upon men and women, both of us bear His image.
§ However, we are different. Even as the Triune God refers to Himself in the plural, because the Father Son and Spirit are different, so men and women are different.
§ Weaker doesn’t mean less, (Jesus became weak for us) but it means different.
· Some translate this phrase “weaker vessel” as “more delicate glass”.
· Men are like coffee mugs, women are like Waterford crystal. Equally cups, but different in their make-up, purpose, and treatment.
- Heirs together of the grace of life
o Another reminder of the equality of men and women, we are said to be heirs together of this grace.
- That your prayers may not be hindered
o This is the key point. God says that if you don’t understand and give honour to your wife, your prayers are hindered.
o Hinder means to create difficulty, or delay in getting something done.
o The way we treat other people (specifically but not exclusively our wives) affects our prayers.
Ephesians 4:25-32 speaks of various sins, lying, sinful wrath, theft, bitterness etc and it says “do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God”. I would propose that this is not one more sin to be added to the list, but a a summarizing phrase to describe all these sins. These sins are to be avoided (and repented of) because they grieve God the Holy Spirit. Remember that He is a person and can be grieved.
What can we do to restore this grieved relationship?
V32 says that these sins are to be “put away” from us, and v32 says that we are to be kind to one another, “forgiving one another even as God in Christ forgave you”. Part of restoring fellowship with God is restoring fellowship with people. Forgiving one another.
Remember Jesus taught us to prayer in the Lord’s prayer “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”
– and so we return to Mark 11:25-26
And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.
So we see that
- Sin separates us from God (Gen 3 – Rev 20)
- Christians are forgiven of their sin (Romans 4 etc)
- Christians still sin (1 John 1, Romans 7)
- We need to continually be forgiven, not unto salvation, but to restore fellowship. (1 John __, John 13)
- The way we treat each other (wives are given as an example) impacts our relationship with God. (1 Peter 3:7,)
- The way we are restored to fellowship is through seeking the forgiveness of God and extending forgiveness to others. (Ephesians 4, Mark 11:25-26)
Lets talk about forgiving others. You’ve got to.
Who do I forgive? Anyone. Jesus leaves it pretty vague.
What am I supposed to forgive? Anything. Jesus leaves it very broad. This can include anything that causes you to hold a grudge or grow bitter against someone.
The person who you confided in, but blabbed it to your friends.
The person who didn’t come through on their side of the bargain.
The person who broke your heart.
The person who broke your wrist.
The person who took the last trolley at Tesco.
The person who lied to your face.
The person who let you down.
The person that never showed up.
The person that never came back.
The person who hurt you without knowing it.
The person who hurt you on purpose.
The driver that crashed into your car.
The kids who broke your house’s front window.
The man who abused you.
The people who don’t appreciate you.
The pastor who let you down.
The spouse that refuses to honour you.
The family that makes no effort to understand you.
There are no specifications. It isn’t restricted to Christians who attend the same church as you. It’s not even restricted to Christians at all! Jesus said Anyone!
How do we forgive them?
Speedily. Jesus talks on the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5:23ff if you are in the middle of religious service, about to bring an offering to the altar in the temple, and remember that there is a relationship that is not in order, leave your offering there, and go reconcile with your adversary.
We should not delay in extending forgiveness to others.
So; how do we do that exactly? Jesus has in mind that it would involve a physical meeting and a conversation. You know what? That’s probably ideal, but it’s not possible for all of us to do that. Maybe geographical reasons make it impossible, maybe the severity of the wound that you have received from them make it inadvisable that you spend time with them. Or maybe you don’t have contact details for them, or maybe you don’t even know their name! (the driver of that car, that group of kids, that man, that woman)
However it ends, it must begin with a committed decision on our part to forgive that person. As we consider the incredible forgiveness that God has extended to us through Christ, the result is to be that we are motivated to extend forgiveness to others. (last wednesday we spoke about how the Bible often paints us a pictures of the character of God then encourages us to follow His example. Eph 4 speaks about God’s forgiveness towards us, then ch 5 tells us to be imitators of God!)
Perhaps we will say, “I can’t bring myself to forgive that person.” Can you do it out of obedience to God? God told you to, so He will therefore enable you to do what He commands. You cannot bring yourself to do it, but God does not ever call us to do what He does not simultaneously equip us to perform. God can bring you to a place of extending forgiveness.
Perhaps we will say, “that person isn’t even aware of what they did to me”. Jesus prayed for His crucifiers, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Certainly they knew what they were doing, it was their profession to crucify people, but Jesus prayed because what they were unaware of what they truly were doing. Perhaps we can use that prayer, and forgive people who don’t even know what they are doing, or what they did.
Perhaps we will say “that person is fully aware of what they did to me, and they aren’t sorry. In fact, that’s why I avoid that person because I know they would do it again if they get the chance.” - well, you should forgive them, even if they do not care. Because this isn’t really about them. At the end of the day your forgiveness is not salvific. The only forgiveness that matters is the forgiveness of God, and if they don’t want your forgiveness then they likely don’t want His forgiveness either. But as a Christian you are called to forgive them. For your sake.
The doctrine of the final judgment enables us to forgive others freely. We realize that it is not up to us to take revenge on others who have wronged us because God has reserved the right to do that. (Romans 12:9) when we are wronged, we can give into God’s hands any desire to harm or pay back the person who has wronged us, knowing that every wrong in the universe will ultimately be paid for – either it will turn out to have been paid for by Christ when He died on the cross (if the wrongdoer becomes a Christian), or it will be paid for in the final judgment (for those who do not trust in Christ for salvation). In either case we can give the situation into God’s hands.
This thought should keep us from keep us harboring bitterness or resentment in our hearts for injustices we have suffered that have not been made right: God is just and we can leave the situation in His hands, knowing that He will someday right all wrongs, and give absolutely fair rewards and punishments. In this way we are following the example of Christ, who “When He was reviled, he did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten; but He trusted in Him who judges justly” 1 Peter 2:22-23
-Wayne Grudem Systematic Theology IVP 1994 pg 1147
So I encourage you to forgive today. Perhaps people in this room need your forgiveness. Perhaps this afternoon you can meet up with someone and forgive them. Perhaps you will make a phone call tonight. Perhaps you will write a letter. And as you do this; God will meet you and empower you. He will work in you through His Holy Spirit to enable you to do what is not in your nature, to forgive those who wronged you.
The Holy Spirit of God can help you do this, because He is shining His nature through you. It is God’s nature to forgive those who wrong Him. He can do it through you. He will bless you as you are obedient to His word.
We are now going to respond to this message through worship, communion and prayer.
Praise Him in song. He has forgiven you!
Digest this in prayer. How are you going to react to this message? Dismiss it? Or act on it. Who do you need to forgive. How are you going to do it?
Remember the forgiveness that we have received by taking communion. Perhaps some of us should take Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 5 and be reconciled before we come to the altar.