6 He also spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ 8 But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 9 And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down’” (Luke 13:6–9, NKJV).
Jesus had just commanded repentance instead of rationalizing degrees of sin to escape personal accountability (Luke 13:1-5). The parable of the barren fig tree adds divine longsuffering and compassion to the necessity of repentance. (1) God expects us to bear fruit (v. 6). Disciples of Christ will bear fruit (John 15:1-8). (2) God is longsuffering, wanting sinners to repent (v. 7). The owner did not immediately cut down the fruitless tree. He searched three years for fruit. God seeks sinners’ repentance, not their demise (2 Pet. 3:9). So must we. (3) The compassionate mercy of God teaches us not to give up on sinners (vv. 8-9). The vinedresser asked for another year to tend the tree to stimulate fruit. Like Jesus, let us not quickly dismiss and forget those overtaken by sin (Gal. 6:1-2; James 5:19-20). They need our help, even as Christ helps us when we sin (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 4:14-16). (4) God will punish unrepented sin (v. 9). The owner would cut down the fruitless tree if it did not become productive (John 15:6). We will not escape accountability and punishment for our sins if we refuse to repent (Luke 13:3, 5). Redeem your time. Repent and be faithful to the Lord. God is compassionate, patient, and merciful; A jealous God who punishes sin yet shows mercy to those who love Him and keep His commandments (cf. Exod. 20:5-6).
7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. (Galatians 6:7–8, NKJV)
When people foolishly “mock at sin,” they mock God (Prov. 14:9). If we can learn anything from the Scriptures, it is that God created us with free will and with the accountability that comes with our free will choices. From Adam and Eve (“in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die,” Gen. 2:17) to this moment, human beings make choices. Sin’s temptation offers immediate, albeit empty, satisfaction (Heb. 11:25). One aspect of sin’s deception is that it comes without effects and accountability. When we choose to yield to sin’s temptation, we deceive ourselves into ignoring our responsibility to God Almighty. Each day we are sowing seeds by our choices of attitudes and actions. Ultimately, our choices will be judged, with eternal outcomes (2 Cor. 5:10). We must choose to abhor evil and love good (Rom. 12:9). God will not be mocked.
And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. (Revelation 20:12, NKJV)
The final judgment will be inclusive – every human being will stand before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10). The “small and great” will stand before God to give a personal account to Him on that day. Whether nobility or commoner, rich or poor, famous or anonymous – all will be there. Our judgment will be impartial, complete, righteous, and according to truth (Rom. 2:2, 5-6, 11). That “books were opened” draws attention to the standard by which we will be judged. God’s word – revealed to humanity and recorded in inspired Scriptures – is the rule by which we will be judged (John 12:48). Another book, the “Book of Life,” will be opened to reveal the names of those who received and obeyed the commands of God, and thus have everlasting life (John 12:50). We cannot afford to live as if we are only answerable to ourselves. No one is an island devoid of moral responsibility toward God and toward others (Rom. 14:7). We are accountable to God for our heart, our words and our actions. We must attune our lives to God’s word now. We are accountable, and one day we will answer to God for our choices to obey His word or reject it.
“The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.” (Ezekiel 18:20, NKJV)
Personal accountability for one’s sin is a consistent, Biblical theme. We cannot blame others for the sins we commit, including our ancestors. We do not bear the guilt of Adam’s sin; we bear the guilt of our own sin. It is a deceptive, demonic doctrine that says we inherent depravity from Adam, or that we inherit a sin nature due to Adam’s sin; It is not biblical truth (1 Timothy 4:1). Without question, sin and death entered the world through Adam. But, “death passed to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Ezekiel affirms the same truth. Each person bears the guilt of his own sin – “the soul who sins shall die.” We do not inherit sin, or righteousness. Let us cast off the false doctrine of inherited, total depravity. Our sin separates us from God. Yet, God’s marvelous mercy and grace offers us freedom from sin and death through faith in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:23; 1:16-17). By accepting personal accountability for your sin, you can be convicted, converted and saved (Acts 2:36-41).
Good understanding gains favor, but the way of the unfaithful is hard. (Proverbs 13:15, NKJV)
Sin is a choice that brings hardship to everyone who is enslaved by it. The consequences of sin are hard, and can be permanent (as is indicated by the Hebrews word which is translated “hard” in today’s verse). When we choose to be unfaithful to God’s standard of truth, under which we live and to which we are accountable, the course of our life will be difficult. When we choose to be unfaithful to God, we only hurt ourselves (cf. Acts 9:5). Unfortunately, evil influences in this world are at work to play-down the age-old truth, that “whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Gal. 6:7). Many think they can sin without consequences or punishment. They have been deceived by a permissive society that glamorizes and rewards sin. It is a hard, yet necessary lesson, to accept the consequences of our sins. Only by acknowledging the reality of our own sins against God – as well as the consequences they bring – will we ever be willing and able to repent and obey the Lord to be saved by His grace (cf. Acts 2:37-41). Good understanding of sin’s difficulties helps us avoid sin, and obtain favor from God and men. Sinners will obtain favor from God by coming to Jesus. His yoke is far easier, and His burden is far lighter, than sin (Matt. 11:28-30).
10 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written: “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. (Romans 14:10–12, NKJV)
Nobody will escape standing before “the judgment seat of Christ.” Therefore, it is essential we do not condemn (judge) or despise (show contempt for) one another over things that are indifferent to God (see the context of Romans 14:1-6). In this context, the apostle urges us to stop the critical condemnation of each other’s personal liberties precisely because we will each give account of ourselves to God (Rom. 14:12-13). Paul is not advancing unity in moral and doctrinal diversity (the false notion that we can agree to disagree over revealed truth with Christ’s approval, Jno. 17:17, 20-21; 1 Cor. 1:10; Eph. 4:3-6). The Lord does not grant us liberty to sin with His approval! When it comes to God-given liberties, we are not to bind our personal conscience upon others. Knowing we are accountable to God ought to persuade us to respect each other’s liberties, rather than demanding others live by our conscience concerning matters that are indifferent to God (Rom. 14:3-5). One who binds his conscience on others has made himself superior to his brethren. He has forgotten his own accountability to God. He will not escape the judgment of God.