Grace to You Resources
Grace to You - Resource

We come now to the study of the word of God in our ongoing look at the great gospel of Luke.  Chapter 13 is our text for this morning; verses 6-9.  Chapter 13, verses 6-9.  We come to the last paragraph in a long sermon that our Lord gave in the months toward the end of His ministry, and these final words are powerful and important not only for hearers when He said them, but for all of us who read them.  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.

We use it to describe somebody who has survived a major heart attack in which they might well have died.  And we say after their survival, boy he or she is living on borrowed time.  Or someone who has had a serious bout with what was assumed to be a terminal case of cancer and went through the cancer and through the treatment and is still surviving and we say they're living on borrowed time or somebody who escaped a near-death calamity or somebody who even was given a legal reprieve sitting on Death Row.  We use that phrase a lot, living on borrowed time.

And what we mean by that is somebody is alive who should be dead.  By all accounts, and if things were sort of normal and the way they should be, those people would be dead. But they're alive and that's what we call borrowed time.  And so it's a phrase that sort of has limits, you know.  We use it only to speak of those who should be dead, but aren't.  And come to think of it, that's all of us.  That's all of us.  “The wages of sin is death.”  “The soul that sinneth it shall die.”  We are all living on borrowed time.  We should all be dead.  Since the moment we were conceived, we were conceived with a sin nature.

The Psalmist put it this way, "In sin did my mother conceive me."  He wasn't talking about an illegitimate birth. He was talking about his nature at the very conception point being a sinful nature.  And that's why fetuses die because death is an element of sin.  We could have died in the womb and it would have been just for we were sinful from our conception.  And there are infants who are born and then die and that's an indication that the operative principle of death is applied even in the case of an infant who has not consciously sinned, but is nonetheless a possessor of a sinful disposition.

And then there are little children who have reached a conscious level where they can know they're doing wrong and do it and many of them die. In some parts of the world most of them die.  We could have died in our mother's womb and it would have been a just death.  We could have died in infancy and it would have been a just death.  We could have died as children. It would have been just...or as young people.  We're all living on borrowed time.

Death can take us in the womb, in the crib, in the playground, at school.  We all live on borrowed time.  We never know when the tower is going to fall on us as Jesus described in the prior five verses that opened up this 13th chapter.  We never know when some calamity's going to take us.  We never know when we might be the victims of some outrageous act of slaughter such as when the soldiers of Pilate came into the temple and slaughtered the Galileans, the very incident that was brought to Jesus' attention in that prior passage.  We don't know what calamity may befall us.  We don't know what illness may catch us.

And as we saw last time, the question is not what kind of God lets this happen.  We're all sinners, we all deserve to die.  That's a just penalty.  The real question is what kind of God lets us live.  We're all living on borrowed time.  It's time we don't deserve. We should be dead.  We all should be in hell.  It's a really very dramatic way to end a sermon that Jesus uses here.  As this sermon has gone on from its beginning, it's been increasing in its urgency.  It's a great model of evangelistic preaching.  Jesus started out by inviting people to be saved from their sin and from divine judgment and from hell and...and to have forgiveness and eternal life and the hope of heaven.  And He said in order to come to me and receive these things you're going to have to abandon false religion and false religious leaders.  You're going to have to begin to fear God and not men.

You're going to need to confess me and you're going to need to entrust your life to the Holy Spirit and turn from loving the world and material things and set your heart on the kingdom.  And you're going to have to realize that there's an urgency here because the Son of Man could come at any time and then your opportunity would be over.  And He said you're going to stand one day before God to give an account of your opportunity and what you did with that opportunity.  And if you haven't made the most of your opportunity, you're going to be punished with many lashes or with few lashes, depending upon how much you knew and how much you rejected.

And you're going to have to be willing to pay the price of being separated from people in your family.  A father set against a daughter and a son against a mother and you know.  “I came to bring a sword.”  And then Jesus escalated it a little bit and said and you better make the decision now because if you wait until you get before the judge, it's too late.  You better settle your case before you get to the court.  Settle out of court with God.  Put your life in the hands of Jesus Christ now because when you come before God in the final judgment, it's too late.

How much time do you have to do that?  How much borrowed time will God give you?  The tower didn't fall on you. You didn't get killed by Pilate’s soldiers.  You're still alive.  You still have some time, but it's borrowed time.  How is it that we live on borrowed time if God is just and holy and righteous?  If God hates sin, if God is a God of vengeance and a God of anger and a God of wrath and the Bible says He's all these things, how is it that we live on such borrowed time?  What is it that allows God to give us this time?  It's time we don't deserve.  It's time many didn't have.

The answer is because God is gracious and He's merciful and He's compassionate toward sinners and it causes Him to hold back what we deserve.  I believe that the most universal gift, the most universal blessing that comes from God's common grace to humanity is time; time to repent, time to believe, time granted by God's patience, God's patience.  He is patient because He is merciful.  Listen to God's own declaration in Exodus chapter 34, verse 6.  "The Lord passed by in front of Moses and said, ‘The Lord, the Lord God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving-kindness and truth," or faithfulness.  Compassionate, gracious, slow to anger.

But, next verse, "He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished."  Yes, He's just, but He's also compassionate.  This is repeated again in Numbers 14, essentially verbatim in verse 18.  "The Lord is slow to anger, abundant in loving-kindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but He will by no means clear the guilty."  In Psalm 86, the same statement is made almost identical again as God reiterates the reason He is patient.  It is due to His mercy.  Psalm 86:15, "Thou oh Lord art a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth,” or faithfulness.

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.  Psalm 103:8, "The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in loving-kindness."  In fact, one of the most interesting illustrations of this is Jonah.  Jonah does not want to preach repentance to Nineveh.  Why?  Because he doesn't want the Ninevites to repent.  You say, I thought he was a prophet?  He was.  Thought he was an evangelist.  He was.  He's a prophet and an evangelist who doesn't want people to repent?  That's right.  Oh he wanted Jews to repent.  He didn't like Gentiles.  He was a racist.  He hated the idea that he would have to go to the Gentiles and preach and that they would repent.  And that's what he did, eventually.  After a circuitous trip through the belly of a fish, finally got there, he preached.  The whole place repented.  The Lord relented the calamity which He had declared He would bring on them.  They repented in time.  And God held back the calamity and He didn't do it.  That's the end of Jonah chapter 3.

Listen to verse 4...or Chapter 4, verse 1.  "It greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry."  If there's one thing the evangelist Jonah couldn't stand it was people being converted, Gentile people.  He hated it.  And he prayed to the Lord this amazing prayer.  "Please, Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country?”  I knew you'd do this.  And that's why I went to Tarshish because I know you are a gracious, compassionate God, slow to anger, and abundant in loving-kindness.

What a strange approach.  God's mercy is revealed in His patience.  God holds back.  God relents as it were from the judgment that is deserved to give sinners borrowed time.  Nehemiah 9:17 says exactly the same thing.  Jeremiah 44:22 says He doesn't punish until He cannot bear it any longer.  He will by no means clear the guilty, but He has plenty of mercy.  The Bible says He has multitudes of mercies.  He is merciful.  And the reason that sinners live is because of that mercy.  But that mercy has limits.  You say, I thought the Bible talked about everlasting mercy.  It does.

Psalm 136 says, "His mercy endures forever," twenty-one times.  But it doesn't endure forever for everyone.  It does not endure forever for everyone.  Listen to what Psalm 103:17-18 says. This limits it.  "The loving-kindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, who keep His covenant."  Remember His precepts to do that.  Everlasting mercy, everlasting loving-kindness, everlasting grace belongs only to those who love and worship God.  Everyone else is living on limited mercy, limited patience.

But God's patience has a purpose.  It's not an indifferent kind of patience. It's an opportunity that's inside that patience that you need to know about.  Listen to Romans 2.  I'm going to give you a handful of verses that are really important.  Romans 2:4, "Do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?"  Why is He being patient?  To give you time to repent.  "But because of your stubbornness," verse 5, "and unrepentant heart, you’re piling up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God."  I mean it goes both ways folks.

You have time to repent, but if you don't and you maintain a stubborn and unrepentant heart, then you are accumulating wrath against the judgment which will make your judgment all the more severe.  But His patience is to lead you to repentance to give you time to repent and embrace salvation in Christ. First Timothy 1:16, Paul says, "Jesus Christ demonstrated in me His perfect patience."  I don't know if you ever think about it that way, but the Lord was very patient with Paul.  When his name was Saul he was going everywhere denouncing the name of Jesus and persecuting Christians and putting them in jail and killing them.  And the Lord, whom Paul was persecuting, was very patient with him until he came to salvation.

Look at 1 Peter chapter 3. Here is a monumental illustration of the purpose of God's patience.  It's talking about Noah, the days of Noah, and it says, "The patience of God," 1 Peter 3:20, "kept waiting in the days of Noah."  "The patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah during the construction of the ark."  The Bible says that Noah preached.  He was a preacher of righteousness.  Noah preached for 120 years.  He preached repentance.  He preached faith in God.  He preached the coming judgment and he built a boat to illustrate the judgment that was coming.  The patience of God lasted for 120 years.

Finally, God said in Genesis 6:3, "My Spirit will not always strive with man.”  It's over.  I've reached my limit.  That's it.  And it began to rain and the whole world of impenitent people was destroyed.  In the Old Testament, in that rich little prophecy of Hosea, this issue is mentioned a number of times.  Hosea chapter 4, verse 17 comes the warning.  "Ephraim is joined to idols, let him alone."  Boy that's frightening.  You may not even have until your death.  You may have just until God decides to let you alone.

I don't know how much borrowed time you have.  You have until Jesus comes.  You have until you die.  But then if He doesn't come and you don't die, there's always the possibility that God says I've had all I'm going to take, that's it.  That's what Hosea says to Israel, here called Ephraim.  And in Chapter 5, verse 6, he says about them, Israel, Judah, “they will go with their flocks and herds to seek the Lord, but they will not find Him.  He has withdrawn from them."  What a frightening thought that is.

And He says in Chapter 9, verse 12, "Woe to them when I depart from them."  "Woe to them when I depart from them."  There is a time when God stops His patience.  You may still be alive, but He's not available.  Second Peter is another text, chapter 3, verse 9.  Why doesn't the Lord come in judgment?  Why doesn't the Lord destroy the present heavens and earth in the Day of Judgment? Why doesn't He destroy ungodly men?  Is it because He doesn't keep His promise?  Verse 9 says, "He's not slow about His promise."  It's because He's patience toward you not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.  He's waiting for you to repent.  So you have some borrowed time until you die, until He comes in judgment, or until God says I'm not available.

Verse 15 of 2 Peter 3, here's the sum of it.  "Regard the patience of our Lord as salvation," as salvation.  We're all living on borrowed time.  I don't know how much time you have.  You better settle with God before you get to court.  And that's what our parable is about.  Let's go back to Luke 13.  Now it should be obvious what it means.  With that penetrating thought in your mind about living on borrowed time, all of a sudden this story becomes clear.  Let's look at it.

"And he began telling this parable."  Parable is an illustration, that's all.  It's not an allegory.  You don't have to parallel it in all parts to some other reality.  It's just a story; basically has one purpose and one meaning.  It's an illustration.  And He gave many.  This one is simple and straightforward.  "A certain man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard."  Now that's a pretty common thing.  Vineyards were very, very common.  They still are in Israel.  It was an agrarian society. Jesus therefore taught in many agricultural metaphors, analogies and illustrations, parables, because everybody understood it.  Fig trees were very common in Israel, very valuable.  In fact, way back in Deuteronomy 8:8, Zechariah 3:9 and 10, even back in Micah chapter 7 and the chapter opens in verse 1, references the fig tree being a symbol of God's blessing.  It was not only a land of milk and honey. It was a land of vineyards and fig trees.

Fig trees grew to a height of twenty-five feet and sometimes the width of twenty feet.  They were full, kind of dense trees.  The fruit was like a small plum or a large cherry in its size.  And they not only provided fruit every single year and they flourished in the land of Israel when they were taken care of well, but they also were great shade trees because of the density and the size.  In fact, it was Nathaniel remember that Jesus saw when he was sitting under the fig tree, which is where he sat on a hot day to get some shade, John 1:48, excellent place to gather and collect.

And it was pretty typical that vineyards really were the crop they worked on hardest.  And of course, they prepared the ground for the vineyard and because they had the most prepared ground and gave the most attention to the vineyard and it was protected and guarded and watered and fertilized, it was just a perfect place to plant the fruit trees.  So very commonly and you find it in a number of places in the Bible, they planted their fruit trees in the same soil where the vineyard was.  And that's what happened here.  You can read Micah 4:4 and you'll see illustrations of that.  There are others as well.

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.  Fig trees did really well and they particularly would do very well in vineyard soil, because vineyard soil was cared for, watered, and fertilized and cultivated.  That 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 using up the ground?  Now this is not some technical assessment of the negative impact of a fruitless tree on the ground’s 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'll 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... 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 OK I'm going to do this and I've never done it before.  It 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 skapt, 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, koprion, put some dung or manure on it.  I've done it all along. And there must have been a certain way they did that to loosen up the soil, keep the water flowing and fertilize it whenever it 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 this 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 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 ellipsis, dot, 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 quit, because it's clear, but I'm not going to because I want to show you five implications that come out of this 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 um... 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 and 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 a 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, 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, "Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem." He's headed there.  He knows He's going to die.  "Oh 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 ax 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 thirty-five 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 wanted 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, “What do you think the owner would do to somebody, to 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 ax 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 will 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 that over and over, that judgment was coming, judgment was coming, judgment was coming.  John the Baptist said the ax 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 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 someday do.  They will look on him whom they've pierced, mourn for Him as an only son, the prophet said.  And a fountain of cleansing will be open 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... 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 not 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 his 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 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 that leave us no escape from the reality.  We pray, oh God, that there would be many today living on borrowed time who would repent and believe and embrace the Savior.  We thank You for those who have.  We thank You that those of us who know You aren't living on borrowed time.  We're living on eternal time.  We're living with mercy that endures forever.  We're living with grace and compassion that knows no end and loving-kindness that stretches into the infinite eternity.  Our time is now Your time.  We have already entered into eternal life.  We thank You, Lord, that You have delivered us from the danger of living on borrowed time.  And we now have left the realm of temporary mercy and entered into the eternal, timeless world of eternal mercy, everlasting mercy, mercy that endures forever.

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.

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