February 24 – Devotion Sharing (Luke 13)

Submitted by Manny K. from Gracepoint Austin Church

Unless you repent

There is a correlation made between human suffering and sin.   The Jews believed that sin and suffering were connected such that they believed that these Galileans must have sinned greatly in order for them to have suffered in that way.    But this is a false correlation.   Jesus taught no such correlation.   Similarly, the 18 who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them did not happen because they were “more guilty” than all others living in Jerusalem.   Suffering is not necessarily the result of sin.    A person can have lived a righteous life and suffered a great deal.   In fact, I know historically of missionaries who suffered greatly, died, like David Livingston or Jim Elliot and his companions, and yet, it is safe to say it wasn’t because they were guilty of great sin.   I’m not sure the reasons the people brought these stories to Jesus’ attention.   Perhaps it was because this was their way of comforting themselves, thinking, the fact that I haven’t suffered in that way, surely that must mean I am not as bad of a sinner as they had been! They could possibly have been engaged in that kind of rationalization through comparison to justify their own standing before God.   But Jesus makes it clear, “unless you repent, you too will all perish.”   Why these events happened, only God knows, but one thing is clear, I need to understand that I am guilty simply because I am a sinner in my own right.     All of us, regardless of what our past were, what struggles we have gone through, must repent in order to be saved.   I need to have this kind of clarity so that I don’t focus on peripheral issues.  I don’t find myself seeking some solace in the fact that, for example, nothing terrible bad has happened to me, that in fact success in ministry or in other arenas is somehow indicative of my righteous standing before God.    That would be a grave mistake.   I can never lose perspective of my need to repent before Him.   I can never look at how I’m doing on the outside to somehow comfort me, and make me lose that proper fear of God and proper understanding of my sinfulness.  Truth is I must be horrified by the sinner I am daily.   And that horror should necessarily work itself out in genuine repentance.   As the pastor and with the work that needs to be done in building up a church, I can fool myself into ignoring what is going on inside by looking at what is externally happening.  The truth is great things can be happening all around me, people being saved, growing in spite of who I am.  I must not take solace in outward events.   I must stand before God and understand on a daily basis my guilt before Him.  This means I need to guard my heart, my relationship with God and be very attentive to it, regardless of whatever success or failure.

Look for fruit

It takes 3 years for a fig tree to bear fruit, but he “did not find any.” One expects things that you nurture, and resource to produce some expected result.   By now, there should have been fruit according to the owner of the vineyard.   It means given the care received, given the nutrients, the water, the tending of the fig tree, there should have been fruit.   I apply this to my life.   I am given an opportunity to bear the fruit of repentance.  I have received so much nurturing, through my leaders, given the church as a hedge of protection, given the Word of God on a daily basis and so the expectation is that I am coming before God, and repenting, and producing the fruits of the spirit found in Galatians 5:22ff.   But what does it mean when there is no fruit? It means I have hardened my heart toward God’s attempt to mold me.   Even 3 years is a period of grace.   I must remember that I live before a God who bears with me and experiences patience and longsuffering.   It is justifiable for the owner to respond the way he does.   I can never presume that I just receive and receive while I don’t grow in the depth of my sin, grow in my honesty, grow in my self-awareness and my need for God.   If I don’t bear fruit then, it means there is deadness, a prolonged period where I have not allowed His truth to personally touch me.   If I detect this lack of responsiveness to God, His truth, the resources I have been given, for a prolonged time, and I have failed to repent, failed to confess, failed to confront some sin that has been festering in me, this reveals something that is rotting at the core of who I am because only dead things don’t bear fruit.   I need to look at my life with alarm if years go by and there is no fruit.   Do I detect deadness in me? Is there a lack of responsiveness to His Word? Is there a lack of genuine engagement with the truth I am being confronted with daily? Those are questions I need to ask myself regularly.   I know what it feels like to not bear fruit.   It is when I allow some sin in my life to grow to a point where it deadens my heart.   And then I know what it feels like to bear fruit.   I can hear the word of God and the words leap out from the page, and impact me, bring me to a place of soberness and then through a process of repentance that joy of salvation gets restored.   What is the difference? The difference is when I have other idols that replace the role of the Word of God in my life.   I can take solace in the growth of ministry, for example, or the flip side, start to get overly worry about results, and grow anxious.   I can start to protect my ego and image so that I don’t want to know the truth of what is going on.   I start to get busy with doing things “for God,” and that itself prevents me at times from being addressed by the Word of God.   Bearing fruit from the word of God is not simply gaining some splendid insight from it, or even coming up with some truth about myself that I didn’t know previously.   Bearing fruit needs to lead to genuine examination followed by confronting the truth, followed by a period of genuine grieving, confessing of sins, and rooting out the practices that have led to that sin.   I don’t ever want to go too long, much less 3 years, as in this parable, where I am not bearing fruit in this way.  It is such a dangerous, perilous place to be.  I must confront the word of God daily, and allow it to perform surgery in my heart, rooting out glaring issues, and even hidden sins that I was not previously aware of.   This means my attitude needs to be one of humility, one of expectation.   Otherwise, there is deadness, and subsequently judgment.  For me, I cannot think I am above any sin in my life.   As I get older, in fact, I see my need for God more.  Man, I am broken! I am so tortured inside.   I am proud, yet insecure, bold at times yet fearful.   I find myself weakened when things don’t go right, feeding into my insecurity.   I need to tackle such potent issues.   In need to get at the root of it less it fester in me, and turn it into full-blown ego-driven ministry.   There are even greater consequences as a leader for all those under my care if I don’t bear the fruit of repentance.

One more year

In the end, however, there is grace.   I am allowed another year.   I cannot take this grace for granted.  I need to use this period of grace to do that which I have neglected to do.  For example, year after year, I can be embroiled in the same struggle of self-consciousness or insecurity without any progress in tackling those issues.    I can still think much of external qualities, what I possess and what I don’t possess even though I know that the Gospel trumps all of those qualities.  I cannot set a pattern of unresponsiveness in my heart.   I need to see that I am given time because God is longsuffering.   I cannot take advantage but use that space to fess up, repent and get right with Him.

PERSONAL PRAYER                                                          

Dear Lord, I know that the deadness to parts of my heart, where I am calloused to my sins are a warning that this parable suggest will ultimately lead to being cut down.   I cannot allow sins in my life, same ones, live in me, year after year, without allowing the truth of your Word to reorient my thinking, and transform my heart.  Help me Lord, to have that humble posture before you, receiving your truth with the expectation of wanting to be addressed and then not being afraid to confront those sins in my life.  Lord, I don’t want time to pass without engaging in this kind of repentance on a regular basis.  After all, repentance is the key life line to you.   May I be honest, open, and help me Lord, to carry through to the point of full restoration.  In Jesus Name, Amen.

Submitted by Tim F. from Gracepoint Austin Church

Luke 13:1-5

  • “Unless you repent …”  With these words repeated twice, Jesus emphasizes that the issue of ultimate importance is that they repent.  In what ways do I need to head this warning?

Jesus tells them to repent because they think themselves better then those who were killed. How did they get to that conclusion? Why is it that they felt like they were ok? How is it that I feel like I am ok? It is a very subtle thing, something that builds over the course of time. It isn’t like one day I feel like a wretched sinner then the next day I feel like a saint. Rather it comes when it has been a long time since I was exposed about something, a while since the last time I confessed something about my life. And in the intervening time I have been busy. That is the number one way that I forget that I am a sinner, I get busy. I get busy doing church work, busy building relationships, busy with work, busy with family, busy with just about anything. And when I get busy, the first thing that goes out the window is time of reflection and times of prayer. Without those two components in my life, it is very difficult to see the sin inside of me. I can picture how it is that these people felt this way, they were so busy with living life that they forgot their own sins. They hadn’t thought about their own sins in so long that it just isn’t a reality for them. To that, and to me, Jesus says, “repent or you too will perish!” What do I need to repent of? Not realizing that I am as much a sinner as anybody else. I need to repent of not letting God’s word convict me, not giving ear to what he has been saying to me. I need to repent of not seeing what is going on inside my heart as opposed to just on the outside. I need to repent of allowing busyness to be the vehicle through which I can conveniently forget about my sinfulness. Repent of not being honest with God about who I am, and instead covering that up with doing a lot of work and being busy. I need to repent of allowing business to be my excuse to not being in the Word, not praying, and not reflecting over myself.

 Luke 13:6-9

  • Why was the owner’s reaction to the fruitlessness of the fig tree appropriate?

It was appropriate because the owner had planted the fig tree for this very reason, that it would bear fruit and that he would be able to enjoy that fruit. But he has been coming for three years and still hasn’t found any fruit. At this point, there is little hope that another year will make any difference. It is time to get a new fig tree, one that will do as the owner expects and yield fruit.

  • What then does genuine repentance look like?

Genuine repentance would have the fig tree yield some fruit in its third year. There would be change in its life. Genuine repentance is a lot more then just acknowledging my sin and asking for forgiveness, it means that there will be a real change in my life. Am I selfish? Then when I repent and the owner comes back the following year, he will see that I have started to care about others needs more then my own. Am I greedy? Then the next time the owners comes to this fig tree he will see me having a much looser grasp on money and able to willingly part with it. Am I addicted to something?  It means that the next time the owner comes around, something will be different, there will be a new shoot that is forming. It might not be a tree full of figs just yet, but the owner will see that the fruit is now coming. But if the tree is exactly the same way the next time the owner comes, what then is he to make of that? There is no repentance, at best there might be guilt and shame, but there is no repentance. Repentance has some fruit to show for it.

  • The gardener represents Jesus who pleads on our behalf to give us grace.  The gardner says that he’ll “dig around” and “fertilize” the tree.  What would it look like for me to respond to these efforts by the gardener?

            Jesus has been actively at work in my life trying to dig up my sins and then fertilize a new thing in me. There is such a strong self-centeredness that is inside of me, it is so core to who I am. This is something that has stubbornly been giving the gardener a hard time for many years now. What would it look like for me to respond to these efforts? It would look like me getting behind on the things that I want to do, perhaps even dropping those things, because there are other people whom I am trying to help. There would be days where I had planned to take care of something for myself but then saw someone else in need and then gave up my own plans and just spent the day helping them. That would be what it looks like. It would mean that I spend my money on other people and not myself. There would be moments where the people around me would be surprised when they heard of something I did, saying “wow, I wouldn’t have imagined Tim doing that a year ago.”

PERSONAL PRAYER                                                           

Heavenly father I thank you for this text that you have given to me today. Lord, as I look back over my life I know that there have been many years where you came back out to see me and I was the same unchanged tree that I was many years ago. There has been much digging around me and fertilizing me with your word, with people’s love, with examples to follow, yet I have been very slow to show any fruit. There has been 18 years now that I have been getting the special treatment from you and the person I am now, there isn’t very much to show for it. The gardener has done all that he could, the problem is with an unrepentant tree. Lord, when I look at my heart and see my pride, my self-centeredness, my stubbornness, there are some big and hard rocks there. You have been working at them year after year and yet I have remained the same. Lord, forgive me. Particularly when I think of my self-centeredness, the inability to put other people before myself, their needs before mine, indeed I am deserving of the axe-head. It has been slow going when it comes to change in this area, but Lord I want to recommit again to pushing forward with this. Lord I know that you will give me what I need to change, you are willing to do whatever gardening it takes for me to bare fruit, so I ask that you help me to change in this area.

Submitted by Kelly L. from Gracepoint Austin Church

Luke 13:1-5

  • What false notion was Jesus addressing by asking the two rhetorical questions about the victims of these tragic events?

The false notion that Jesus was addressing was this notion that tragic things happen as a result of God’s punishment on peoples’ sins. People thought that if something tragic or “bad” happened in someone’s life, it was because God’s favor didn’t rest on them.

  • “Unless you repent …”  With these words repeated twice, Jesus emphasizes that the issue of ultimate importance is that they repent.  In what ways do I need to head this warning?

The people gathered around Jesus were bringing up issues and questions regarding a situation with the Galileans of the past.  They were inquisitive and asked about what Jesus thought of this situation while neglecting a more important issue of where they stood before Jesus.  The warning that Jesus is giving here is that the more important issue is where they personally stand before God rather than their questions surrounding the Galileans.  Likewise for me, the warning that I need to heed is that what always takes priority is where I stand before Jesus.  It doesn’t matter what is going on around me, what others have done or not done in the past, what matters is whether I repent regarding issues in my life when God speaks to me.

Luke 13:6-9

  • Why was the owner’s reaction to the fruitlessness of the fig tree appropriate?

The owner’s reaction to the fruitlessness of the fig tree was appropriate because the owner had been patient and given the tree three years to produce fruit and yet it hadn’t.  The owner spent time, money, and energy to give this tree everything it needed in order to grow but year after year, the tree still bore no fruit.  So the owner’s reaction to cut it down is appropriate because if this tree after given all the resources it needs to grow doesn’t grow, then it seems reasonable for the owner to conclude that this tree will no bear fruit no matter the kind of resources and attention given to the tree.

  • What then does genuine repentance look like?

Genuine repentance will look like a life which ultimately bears fruit.  Repentance is a process and it may take time, but genuine repentance should results in bearing of fruit in one’s life with the passage of time.  When I think of my life, I see how true this is.  I remember my struggles with envy and competitiveness.  There was a whole year in which I felt like there was no progress being made and this battle against these sins were popping up left and right several times a day, every day.  However, as I just continued to confess to God and others, asked for prayers, turned to God’s word, etc. there was fruit that happened in my life.  It felt like I wasn’t going anywhere with this battle for almost a whole year, but slowly as I continued to struggle and repent, God changed my heart.  I once couldn’t handle anyone outshining me but now after these years of battling with these sins, I can genuinely say that I can rejoice when others are noticed and something “good” happens to them.  I look at my peers and I am very thankful for their presence as they continue to serve God and people are no longer competitors to me but rather people that I can really rejoice over and find strength from.  It took time, but I think there has been genuinely fruit in my life as I look at the relationships that I have now.

  • The gardener represents Jesus who pleads on our behalf to give us grace.  The gardner says that he’ll “dig around” and “fertilize” the tree.  What would it look like for me to respond to these efforts by the gardener?

I think the gardener to “dig around” and “fertilize” the tree would look like removing rocks, weeds, pests, anything that may be competing for nutrients with the tree or hindering nutrients from getting to the tree. “Fertilizing” the tree would look like putting high nutrient things in the soil that the tree is drawing its nutrients from.  As I think about this imagery, I think for me to respond to these same efforts that God is making in my life would look like me removing things from my life which may be hindering me from growing.  But as I think about the process in which God wants to remove these things that hinder from my life, I see that it’s not always the easiest thing because it entails embracing the truth of who I am which is often not a pretty picture.  God shows me the things that I need to remove from my life through my DT’s, messages, perhaps conversations with my leaders.   When God shows me these things there’s that split second decision that I need to make each and every time I am convicted of sins of either to listen and heed or to try and ignore.  For me to respond to the efforts of God would mean to make those intentional choices to utter the truth of who I am.  No matter how difficult it may seem to utter the truth of who I am, it is always from this point that God can genuinely begin to work in my life.

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