Because of God’s presence and goodness in this world, people can be good. Every good thing that exists in this world is a result of God. For those who insist on taking credit for their good works, God gives a stern warning about this spiritual sense of entitlement.
“God is punishing me because of my sins. My life is too messed up for God to care about me.”
“If God really loved this world, he would never allow a three-year-old child to die.”
“God has blessed me because I have chosen to live right and follow his commands.”
A blessed life rarely credits God.
A scarred life regularly blames God.
When bad things happen — when sorrow or crushing disappointment darkens our life – we are prone to question God’s presence or wisdom. Was not our fruit pleasing enough to spare us? Do we demand concrete evidence when God seems so far away?
Those who seek God’s presence will find it. That is God’s promise. Even in the most unfair or difficult circumstances.
God also teaches us that he is seeking his presence in people. This is his demand.
“Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them – do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent you too will all perish.
Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing up in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.” (Luke 13:1-9)
God’s presence is revealed in the life of believers. That is the fruit of faith.
God’s presence in this world can be found in the lives of all people. That is the fruit of his presence.
The goodness that believers provide – their salt and light – is a direct result of Christ living in them. Their fruit or good works is the mark of their faith. Any person who claims to know Christ or confesses his name and does not bear any fruit of his presence is in risk of judgment. The parable of the fig tree teaches that sobering truth.
But what about non-believers who exhibit fruits of kindness, goodness, patience, and self-control? What about those good citizens who mind their own business, love their neighbor, feed the poor, and consciously attempt to be good for others?
When going out into the world to proclaim the gospel, people will reject Christ by pointing to the goodness in other people. They can’t believe that God will not accept them. They can’t fathom that a loving God will not permit them to enter heaven. They will inquire, “Didn’t they possess the fruit that God requires?
People may exhibit good works that Christ is talking about, but it depends on what type of fruit it is. There is good fruit that is sweet and tasty that God desires and there is bitter fruit that causes him to spit it out. A better question to ask can be, “What type of fruit does God truly desire?”
Even after a lifelong pursuit of good works and trying to be a good neighbor – even after trying to promote peace, harmony, and tolerance in this world – people are walking through a wide gate [Matthew 7:13] that will lead them to judgment. They have fallen into the trap of false teaching by believing that their works are good enough to please God.
They are attempting to take credit for something that they did not earn.
Because of God’s presence and goodness in this world, people can be good. Every good thing that exists in this world is a result of God.
For those who insist on taking credit for their good works, God gives the world a stern warning about this spiritual sense of entitlement. There will be a time when his presence is completely removed and there will be nothing left but evil. There will be no such thing as good people. There will no longer be good citizens. There will no longer be good neighbors carrying out acts of kindness. That is because God’s presence will be removed. Only then, will people realize God’s grace, mercy, and goodness. Only then, will they realize that he was the source of it all. Only then, will that stark realization bring great weeping, sorrow, regret, and gnashing of teeth.
Bad things happen in this world to all people because of sin – this includes believers and non-believers, deserving or non-deserving.
Life is not about this world. And God goes to great length to remind us of that.
In fact, God loved this world that he created so much, that he went to the greatest length possible by providing a plan to rescue us. That plan was carried out by sending his Son to live a perfect life, to substitute himself for us on the cross as a payment for our sins, and to conquer death so that we may live.
Faith alone receives the full credit of what Christ has already done for us. Faith alone provides the fruit that God seeks and desires.