Growing Beautiful Leaves
Growing Beautiful Leaves
"Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He said to them, It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves." Matthew 21:12, 13.
Outside, the temple was beautiful marble that glistened in the sun; but inside it was full of thieves dressed in rich clothes—professional thieves. After they were driven from the temple, "The blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them." Verse 14. This is what the church is all about. The church is not here to be enriched by the people but to be a blessing. As members of God’s family, our work is not to see what can be done for us but what we can do for others.
"But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ they were indignant." Verse 15. They thought that the temple had been desecrated by all of the activity that Jesus was carrying on. They forgot that they had been involved in all kinds of activities; but, of course, their activities had to do with the ceremonies. After all, people had to have something to sacrifice. Jesus was just here healing the body and cleansing the soul.
The temple of Jerusalem was illustrative of the church today. We are told that it is also illustrative of the Christian heart. "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the temple of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are." I Corinthians 3:16, 17.
The temple of Jerusalem was illustrative of the church today. We are told that it is also illustrative of the Christian heart. "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are." I Corinthians 3:16, 17.
The work that Jesus did for the temple in Jerusalem He wanted to do for the whole Jewish nation. In the same way, when Jesus is cleansing the heavenly temple, what He really wants to do is cleanse the worshipers.
The next day, Jesus gave three parables to illustrate the life, work, and character that He wanted to see manifested in the lives of His people. We should pay special attention to these parables, as they apply in a special sense to us. Interestingly, the Bible describes the Laodicean church, representing God’s end-time church, as being similar to the church of Jesus’ day.
You see, the Jewish leaders thought that they were spiritually rich and had need of nothing. After all, they had the truth; they were the church; and all the time, Jesus was kept outside while they went on with their services within. And in like manner, Laodicea is pictured as having need of nothing, while outside the door, Someone is standing and knocking. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me." Revelation 3:20.
Notice what the great concern of the religious leaders was with regard to Jesus’ teaching. "Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?" Matthew 21:23. By what authority do you publish your magazine? By what authority do you preach? By what authority do you broadcast? By what authority do you do these things?
Today, many people are being swept along in a Laodicean condition, thinking that everything is fine; but when those who are hungry come to a Laodicean church, they go away as empty as when they came. For the hungry, there is no fruit.
Leaves Without Fruit
In another message, which God gives to the Laodiceans of the last days, He describes the last day church as a church that is filled with leaves and pretensions and professions but have no fruit. "Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name? And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness!" Matthew 7:21–23. "I don’t know who you are serving, but it certainly wasn’t Me. Depart from Me, you would had no fruit, you who went on practicing your own lawless deeds, you who had no character change. Depart from Me."
When God looks at your life today, He is not looking for a great profession; He is looking for the fruits of holiness. The fruit spoken of in the Bible comes as the result of death to self and is revealed in service to others. "Then He will also say to those on the left hand, Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me. Then they also will answer Him, saying, Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you? Then He will answer them, saying, Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me." Matthew 25:41–44.
Unless you are spending time with Jesus, only self is reigning on the throne of your heart; and you have no fruit. "Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath." Galatians 5:19. It does not say that you are angry all of the time, just outbursts once in awhile. "Selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control [some versions say temperance.]" Verses 20–23.
While mankind looks on the outward appearance, God looks at the heart. Outwardly we may be rich, cultured, educated, well clothed, and hold church offices; but if we lack these fruits, we have nothing.
It is necessary that we be fruit inspectors once in awhile. We need to examine our own lives. We need to pull back the leaves a little bit and see what is growing on the tree. It will sometimes help us to understand why Jesus cannot use us more than He does. But I am glad that we have a heavenly Vinedresser, Someone who knows how to put the fertilizer on and knows how to bring just the right trials and troubles in order to prune the tree, aren’t you?
"Never should we lose control of ourselves. Let us ever keep before us the perfect Pattern. It is a sin to speak impatiently and fretfully or to feel angry—even though we do not speak. We are to walk worthy, giving a right representation of Christ." Child Guidance, 95. To our own children, to our spouses, and to one another, we are to be a right representation of Christ, because the Bible says that we are the body of Christ. We are His mouthpiece. We are His hands and His feet. If we do not show Jesus to our children, to our husband or wife, to those around us, who is going to show Him?
There is only one solution, and it is total victory. "An entire change must take place in you. You frequently feel that you must be more guarded. You resolutely say, ‘I will be more calm and patient;’ but in doing this you only touch the evil on the outside; you consent to retrain the lion and watch him. You must go further than this. . . .
"You have repeatedly said, ‘I can’t keep my temper.’ ‘I have to speak.’ You lack a meek, humble spirit. Self is all alive, and you stand guard continually to preserve it from mortification or insult. Says the apostle, ‘For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.’ Those who are dead to self will not feel so readily and will not be prepared to resist everything which may irritate. Dead men cannot feel. You are not dead, if you were, and your life hid in Christ, a thousand things which you now notice, and which afflict you, would be passed by as unworthy of notice; you would then be grasping the eternal and would be above the petty trials of this life." Testimonies, vol. 2, 425.
The Jewish leaders were full of works. They kept all of the commandments, but self was never crucified. Self was still alive within. They had only the external leaves. "The strongest argument in favor of the gospel is a loving and lovable Christian." Ministry of Healing, 470. God is calling us all to work in His vineyard, but what good is it going to do to work in the vineyard if we have no fruits to give to the people?
As long as we carry around self, we do not have the power of the Holy Spirit in our life. It is not until we reflect the character of Jesus that we have the power of Jesus; then hearts are touched.
March 1995 Table of Contents