Yesterday afternoon my eyes flew open when I realized that I had allowed myself to drift down into a deep dark pit of lustful thoughts. Despite immediate confession I still felt contaminated this morning, so this is what I heard the Lord say. Then notice how today’s reading fits the situation like a glove.
I see a bright light, like a lighthouse shining in the dark – ” I am that light – I don’t only shine on you from the outside, but light-up your heart and soul from the inside, as well. Reaching into those darkest spots – to cleanse you and set you on the right road again. Everyone – everyone who is human has areas like that where they are weak and need cleansing – judgementalism, legalism, muttering and complaining, joylessness, lust, greed, pride – desire to be noticed and recognized and admired, whether for physical attributes or some skill or ‘achievement’ – all those seeds are in everyone – you too, so you need My holiness – to be totally holy. It does not mean that you should not be striving in your own life for holiness – but in reality you are always seen by Me as ‘in Jesus’ who is absolutely holy. Now here is My grace – I lavish My grace on you for redemption of sin and sins through the blood of Jesus”.
My reading is Luke 13:1-9. This is a discussion and then a little parable which seem to have one main message. I wonder if you can see what that is. So lets tackle the discussion first (1-5). What is the point that Jesus is making? There is a repetition of some words and ideas which should point you to the answer.
Firstly vs 2 “do you think these Galileans were worse sinners? And vs 4b do you think they were more guilty….? What is He saying? Obviously the answer is no in both cases. Conclusion? Bad things happening to people is not necessarily a sign of sin or even more sinfulness. In other words the real message is that all people are equally sinful. This is confirmed by the instruction Jesus gives after each example. Do you see it? “Repent or you too will perish”!
So what is the little parable in vv 5-9 saying? It may seem simple at first glance but I came across 5 different things that commentators suggest come from it. But this is about what Jesus is saying to you and me today so let’s look at the simple straight-forward meaning. So how do you read it? Well it seems the Owner of the vineyard has a clear problem – there is a fig tree that has not produced fruit for three years. The Owner wants to pull it out, but there is a Gardener who intervenes and asks for another year’s grace. The real point behind the story, of course is that a fig tree only has value if it produces fruit. So how do you interpret it?
Seen in the light of the previous section and instruction on repentance it seems the real sign of true repentance is the production of fruit. We see this principle repeatedly in the NT Remember the parable of the sower? The sign of good soil is it helps the seed to grow and produce fruit. The three years here seem to indicate the time of Jesus’ ministry on earth and so who is the Gardener? Surely, Jesus Himself, acting as advocate which will only happen after His death and resurrection. Then of course we see that the action of the Gardener is to treat the tree so that it will produce fruit from now on. It is also a picture of God’s patience with us, not judging us immediately when we sin but giving us time to repent and here we have the help of Jesus, as advocate in the matter.
Now I found myself meditating again on the true nature of repentance. What do you understand by that term? The word is translated from the Greek word “metanoia”, which means to change one’s mind. Easy? Well maybe not so fast. You see, faced with our sinfulness or a specific sin situation, we can make up our minds to stop it. But that does not always really help does it? Because we are weak and likely to fall back into the same trap again. So this is how I see it. We sin because we like it. It is attractive to us and we enjoy doing it. So, to find true repentance from our hearts, not just our minds, we need to focus on something or rather Someone who we can enjoy more than our sin. So true repentance starts with our recognizing the immensely greater value of Jesus than our sin and the fact that He can give us far greater joy than the temporal enjoyment we get from our sin. So we need to regularly turn to Jesus and find Him giving you more joy than anything in this world and finding His beauty and majesty so much more desirable than what the world can give. And of course, being the Gardener He will help us in that quest because that is why He has come.
Frightening words “repent or you will perish”. That is why repentance is such an important first step to becoming a Christian. But although our initial repentance is absolutely vital, we need to continue on a daily or even more often than that, path of repentance and the way to make that second nature, is we should cultivate that relationship and joy In Jesus.