For every good product that comes out in the market, there are people who make the duplicate. Unknowingly many of us take home the counterfeit thinking it is the genuine one. One other thing that comes to my mind when I hear counterfeit is money. There are so many fake bills in circulation today. Do you know how bank tellers are able to identify counterfeit money? A counterfeit bill will look like a genuine note to most people, but those who are familiar with real currency can see and feel the difference. In Christian faith to we have genuine Christians and people who fake Christian faith. Now the question is:
Are we genuine Christians or just counterfeit Christians?
We have come to the Easter season and the time that stands out this month is the Passion Week of Jesus Christ. The Passion Week is the time from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday which shows the passion with which Jesus willingly went to the cross in order to pay for the sins of His people. Passion Week was the most important week of Jesus’ life. Everything he had done for his entire 33-1/2 years led up to this week.
I want to take your attention to one passage in Passion Week where Jesus was visibly upset because he found people faking religion and worship.
Mark 11 mentions that on Hosanna Sunday, Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey. People on either side of the road greeted Him as King. There was joy, celebration, and jubilation. Today, we are going to look at the events that occurred on Monday of our Lord’s Passion Week. While this text speaks primarily to Israel, there is a word of warning for all who fake Christianity here. Two events take place on this day to which Jesus reacted very differently than he ever did.
12The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.
In our text today Jesus was walking from Bethany to Jerusalem. Jesus was hungry, searched for fruit in a fig tree, not finding any he cursed the tree. In order to understand this passage, we need to understand a bit about the fig tree. Fig trees are very common in Israel and mentioned over 60 times in the Bible. The fig tree grows big but the branches stay low to the ground. Fig trees are unusual trees in that they can produce as many as three crops in a single year. The first crop is produced on the old wood or trunk. Then the tree produces fruit in the branches. Then when the news leaves come there is the third crop that comes along with the leaves. All three crops produce a full harvest.
Now to be noted here is the fact that Jesus was hungry, it was not the season for figs, but when Jesus saw a fig tree with leaves but the nature of the fig, he anticipated that there would be fruit. Yet, when He searched the tree, He found it was all leaves and no fruit.
This fig tree was deceptive because its leaves promised something the tree could not deliver. The leaves promised fruit, but there was none. There was nothing wrong with the soil, or anything wrong with the sap, there was simply no fruit therefore, Jesus went ahead and cursed the tree.
Genuine or counterfeit Tree?
The fig tree symbolizes the nation Israel. Israel was just like this fruitless fig tree. They had all the signs of spiritual life, but they had no fruit. They were keeping the Law, they were religious in every detail, but they had no spiritual fruit. You see Israel had been given every advantage by God. They had received the personal attention and redemption of Almighty God through Abraham and were planted in a good land. And they had the Word of God, the prophets of God, and the Temple of God.
They had everything they needed for a spiritual bumper crop, however, they remained fruitless. They did not recognize their Messiah and King Jesus Christ and remained fruitless spiritually and fit for nothing but the fire of judgment.
Therefore, do you know what God hates?
A counterfeit Christian is a fruitless Christian whereas a genuine Christian is a fruitful Christian. God has promised again and again in the Bible that he will cut out every fruitless branch.
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. God expects his people to bear much fruit. There are 3 basic areas where God expects us to produce fruit.
a. Bear fruit, be genuine in personal life.
Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. God expects me personally to bear fruit. Is my personal character reflective of God who lives in me? Am I producing the fruit of the Spirit? To bear fruit is to grow and mature like Christ, Christ-likeness. Growing more and more like Jesus must be the core purpose of our life. The Bible says to bear much fruit which means grow to the ever-increasing likeness of Christ. That means by every passing day I should advance in my spiritual maturity. How can I grow spiritually? Remain in Christ.
If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.
b. Bear fruit, be genuine by winning souls.
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives.
Another way I can bear fruit is by reproducing, going out and bringing others into the Kingdom. Every person is symbolized as some kind of tree.
17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
A righteous or godly person is likened to a good tree that bears good fruit. A wicked person is a bad tree that bears bad fruit. Everyone sitting here is a good tree. We are all saved by the blood of Jesus. So God is expecting us to produce good fruit, in other words, bring souls into the Kingdom. When I say soul-winning, God is expecting you to reproduce one of your kind – If you are a software engineer, bring another engineer to church. If you are a teacher, bring another teacher to church. If you are a student bring another student to church and you have a family here? bring one from your family to church. We bear fruit by winning souls by reproducing one like us.
c. Bear fruit, be genuine in doing good.
When a believer understands the need of the kingdom, need for missions, need of others and do good by whatever help they can, they are indeed bearing fruit.
Titus 3:14 NKJV
And let our people also learn to maintain (to do) good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful.
The NT Church practiced giving for missions and produced fruit.
26 For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the Lord’s people in Jerusalem. 27 They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.
We have been given every spiritual advantage God has to offer. Specifically, we have His Word, His church and His Spirit. He has blessed us in abundance, we have good homes, good jobs and good children, therefore, there is no excuse for us being a fruitless branch, and God’s word comes with a warning for a fruitless believer.
The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. It is my prayer that everyone at City Harvest produces fruit for the Kingdom.
The second thing to be noted about the fig tree is that when leaves come also come to the fruit. This fig tree showed all the outward appearance of bearing fruit but in reality, it was all outward show, no fruit.
2. GOD HATES HYPOCRISY.
A counterfeit Christian is a hypocrite Christian. Jesus dislikes when he sees life without quality. When the Lord examines our lives what does He see? Does He see a tree that has gone to leaf? Is everything is good at the outside, but actually unclean inside? Jesus gets angry when people fake religion. Jesus is angry with people who don’t walk their talk. He is angry with people who say all the right words and go through all the motions of religion and faith, but in the inside they are unclean. Jesus got angry at the hypocrisy of the fig tree and cursed it.
A hypocrite has the idea that outward appearance is all that matters. He thinks that if only he can appear righteous, then he will be righteous. He feels that only if he can show leaves on the outside he will be accepted by God. The hypocrite thinks all God sees is how he dresses, how he sings, greets people and behaves. See what God says:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like white-washed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, you appear to people as righteous but on the inside, you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”
You have to pity hypocrites because the problem with the hypocrite is on the inside, not on the outside, and so he’s a pretender. You see, he doesn’t have the courage to overcome the devil and he doesn’t have the true grace to really serve the Lord personally. So he is a great big actor.
Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be a good theatre, but the God who made you won’t be applauding.
Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on the truth.
After speaking to the fig tree Jesus walks with his disciples to the temple in Jerusalem. There again Jesus attacks counterfeit Christianity.
15On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”
Now, the Jewish Temple was a magnificent structure. It was huge, nearly 1500 feet long and 1200 feet wide. The outer court of the Temple compound was nearly the size of fifteen football fields. This place had become a shopping mall now, there were Pens of sheep, goats, doves, and other sacrificial animals everywhere and also Moneychangers operated other tables. well, in one sense, all of these merchants provided a needed service. Faithful Jews were expected to offer animal sacrifices and financial gifts at the Temple. Pilgrims from afar found it more convenient to buy their animals in Jerusalem rather than transport them across the country.
The ugly side, not being genuine
But there was an ugly side to the enterprise. Jesus said they had turned a house of prayer into a den of thieves. Here’s how it worked, the priests and other local politicians maintained strict control over the temple businesses and they had a kickback from the sales, also the moneychangers would charge exorbitant fees and the animal sellers would charge high prices. Just in case, someone got the animals from the outside, the priests who were getting a kickback would simply reject any animal that didn’t come from their merchants. The whole system was filled with corruption.
God had intended the temple to be a house of prayer, it had become anything but. One on the side there was worship and sacrifice but the other side was full of corruption and prayerlessness. Jesus doesn’t like it when he sees worship without prayer.
3. GOD HATES PRAYERLESSNESS
A nonpraying Christian is a counterfeit Christian. As genuine Christians would make prayer a lifestyle. will pray without ceasing.
The Lord offers us a hint as to what God intended the temple to be when he mentioned the temple as a house of prayer “for all nations.” In the OT temple, the Jews could gather for worship in the inner courts and the gentiles were free to come and worship in the outer court. All these illicit activities took place in the outer court of the Gentiles. Now, God intended all nations, all people to come to the temple and worship at this place however, the Jews ignored the privilege given to the gentiles and did business there. God hated it.
God’s Presence with the genuine ones
Moreover, God’s presence was there in the Most Holy Place, just a few feet inside. The Jews defiled the temple by doing business and so they were a stumbling block for the gentiles to worship God.
In the NT, our body is the temple. We are the walking temple of God. God expects us to be a light where the nations can see Christ. God promises to be present with the genuine ones so now the question is, Will God find our temple praying and reaching out to the lost? Our God still wants all people to hear the message of Jesus, people across the street, across the tracks, and across the globe. Jesus doesn’t like it when we forget that. And when we gather on Sundays, all of us become the big temple of the Living God.
Our prayer should not be limited to us but prayer for all nations. When God searches into this temple, will he find prayer? After all the purpose of our salvation is that we can reach out to the people of the world.
Now, I want to proceed and show you what happened on Tuesday morning: Here Jesus gives us another hint of a genuine Christian and how we can overcome our problems.
19When evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city. 20In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. 21 Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!” 22“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23“Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. 24Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
4. GOD LOVES PRAYER WITH FAITH
A genuine Christian will pray with faith because here we need to understand that Jesus does not mean that we can pray for anything we want and God will do it. For certain conditions must be met in order for our prayer in faith to be fulfilled.
a. Pray according to God’s will.
1 John 5:14-15
14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. God will not do anything that contradicts his purpose and will.
b. Pray in Jesus’ name.
We pray to take the name of Jesus. We rely on Jesus’ power.
13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.
c. Remain in Christ.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
So praying by faith is not some kind of formula or magic, you say and it happens, no but rather Praying by faith is having Christ as the Lord of our life and having the Holy Spirit to give us the faith to pray.
Jesus said, “If one has faith, he can say to the mountain, “Go, throw yourself into the sea” and it will happen.
Maybe you are facing a mountain now, It may be in your health, finances, or in your career because a lot of times we are good genuine Christians and are praying about our mountains.
Listen, it is not enough only to pray but rather you have to speak to the mountain. Some of you are praying about things that you should be speaking to. So, Start speaking based on the word of God and your mountain will move. If you do not speak to your mountain, your mountain will talk to you and all through the day your circumstances will talk to you and defeat you.
Pray in faith, with a genuine heart
Listen, Mountains are big, permanent. It may seem that it will never ever change or move. You may be facing a situation where you are thinking it will never change or move. It looks like you will never have a breakthrough. God is saying if you will start speaking to the mountains by faith, you will discover that they are not permanent.
Jesus spoke to the fig tree. When Jesus spoke on the outside it was all fine, but in the inside, it already started doing the work of God. Underneath the ground in the root, the moment Jesus spoke all the life was cut out of that tree in the root system. The next day they disciples found it. The moment you speak by faith God begins to work in your favor. Start speaking by faith upon your circumstances.
Will God find us to be genuine Christians? Will God find the fruit in us? Are we clean on the inside? Will God find prayer in us? If you have been fruitful and genuine, praise God and that’s amazing you should know God wants you to continue, but if you know you are lacking and have been the counterfeit Christian here is another chance for you, Let’s come to the Lord by faith today and ask for His help.