Many people are happy that the year 2017 is ending. According to the calendar commonly used, December is the last month of the year. Recently, one month ago, I visited some people for Bible studies. I found them discussing how much they still need to do to prepare for their year-end ceremony. They were very happy and were preparing to kill bulls and chickens, as a church organization. They were planning to have a wonderful feast! It is the same for you.
Since you have been spared another year, what is recorded in the heavenly books under your name? Have you honoured the Lord? You have been given many opportunities. Did you make wise use of them, for yourself, your family, or your church? Have you overcome your pride? Have you walked in integrity and fear as did Job? Job “was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.” Job 1:1
Traditionally, the New Year is a time of new beginnings. It is a time when we make resolutions to do better this year than we did in the previous year. In the article, “The Year 2017 And You,” (See: January 2017 issue of The Reformation Messenger) there was a warning with these words: “Now, a year of grace is ending , while another year begins, not knowing what it (the year 2017) will bring; it is the appropriate time to reflect about the change that should take place in our life.” The Lord spared your life another year which is now ending. Dear fellow pilgrim, what kind of life have you lived in the year 2017? We do not know what the coming year, 2018, will bring. Jesus told us to watch for we do not know when He will come. Let us focus our mind on the grace of the Lord, who spared us this one more year.
“The old year, with its burden of record, is fast passing away. The new year,  with all its possibilities, will soon be ushered in. What advancement have we made in the knowledge of Christ during the past year? Are we prepared to show, more decidedly than ever before, that we are on the Lord’s side? At this time, when the nations of the world are wavering between infidelity and idolatry, are we prepared to stand as faithful ambassadors for Christ? Shall we not, at the beginning of this new year, give ourselves and all we have to God? Shall we not listen to His voice, which calls us to a renewed contest, to a more thorough consecration of ourselves and our intrusted capabilities to His service?” –The Signs of the Times, January 2, 1901 (the year 2018 has been added by myself)
PARABLE OF THE FIG TREE
“Christ in His teaching linked with the warning of judgment the invitation of mercy. . . . His mission of mercy in its relation to God’s justice and judgment is illustrated in the parable of the barren fig tree.” –Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 212
In His parable of the fig tree, The Saviour explained how God loved His people: “‘A certain man,’ He continued, ‘had a fig-tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?’
“Christ’s hearers could not misunderstand the application of His words. David had sung of Israel as the vine brought out of Egypt. Isaiah had written, ‘The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah His pleasant plant.’ Isaiah 5:7. The generation to whom the Saviour had come were represented by the fig tree in the Lord’s vineyard—within the circle of His special care and blessing. . . .
“So God had planted Israel as a goodly vine by the wells of life. He had made His vineyard ‘in a very fruitful hill.’ He had ‘fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine.’ Isaiah 5:1, 2.” –Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 214
WHY A FIG TREE?
The owner expected this fig tree to have done better than in the previous years. This man planted a fig tree. In Biblical times, fig trees were valuable and so this man did not just plant any type of tree—he planted a valuable fig tree. Therefore, Jesus used the fig tree in His parable. God expects to find some fruit hanging on your tree! We have value in the sight of the Lord. He created us in His image for His glory. Christ taught saying, “Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be My disciples.” John 15:8. Without fruit, you are not a disciple of Christ!
“The precious fruits of character that made the life of Joseph so fragrant and beautiful, were not manifest in the Jewish nation.” –Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 215. “‘And He looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.’ Isaiah 5:2. The people of Christ’s day made a greater show of piety than did the Jews of earlier ages, but they were even more destitute of the sweet graces of the Spirit of God.” –Ibid., p. 215
What about you and me today? As we have been receiving God’s love and protection, do we bear the fruits He expects to see from us? What happened when the owner came to look for fruit on his fig tree?
“God in His Son had been seeking fruit, and had found none. Israel was a cumberer of the ground. Its very existence was a curse; for it filled the place in the vineyard that a fruitful tree might fill. It robbed the world of the blessings that God designed to give. The Israelites had misrepresented God among the nations. They were not merely useless, but a decided hindrance. To a great degree their religion was misleading, and wrought ruin instead of salvation.
“In the parable the dresser of the vineyard does not question the sentence that the tree, if it remained fruitless, should be cut down; but he knows and shares the owner’s interest in that barren tree. Nothing could give him greater joy than to see its growth and fruitfulness. He responds to the desire of the owner, saying, ‘Let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it and dung it; and if it bear fruit, well.’” –Ibid., p. 215
This is a great hope for you and me today. What fruit did you bear in this year 2017? What fruit are you bearing now today? Wild grapes? Another year of mercy is about to end. It is our duty to ask ourselves the following questions: During the present year, did I come closer to my Lord Jesus or have I gone farther away from Him? Am I a keen student of prophecy to discern its fulfillment? Do I realize that what is happening in the churches is a token of the soon coming of Jesus?
“The warning sounds down along the line to us in this generation. Are you, O careless heart, a fruitless tree in the Lord’s vineyard? Shall the words of doom erelong be spoken of you? How long have you received His gifts? How long has He watched and waited for a return of love? Planted in His vineyard, under the watchful care of the gardener, what privileges are yours! How often has the tender gospel message thrilled your heart! You have taken the name of Christ, you are outwardly a member of the church which is His body, and yet you are conscious of no living connection with the great heart of love. The tide of His life does not flow
through you. The sweet graces of His character, ‘the fruits of the Spirit,’ are not seen in your life.” –Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 216
Why? Why were you spared this year? Is it for nothing? You may judge Ancient Israel for their murmuring. Many swear that they would not deny Christ as Peter did, nor betray the Saviour as Judas did, but the Apostle Paul wrote: “And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of His goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” Romans 2:3–5
The question comes to you now at the end of the year: What do you need to give up to obtain Christ? Do you need to part with “the garment spotted by the flesh?” Jude 1:23. Or is it the “eating flesh, and drinking wine” at your table that is keeping you from entering the pearly gates? Isaiah 22:13. Or do you need to part from “the strange woman” who is enticing you? Proverbs 2:16. Or is it “to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” that you delay in selling all? Hebrews 11:25. For God has not called us unto “filthiness of the flesh and spirit,” but unto, “perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” 2 Corinthians 7:1
“You realize, though it may be but dimly, that you are a cumberer of the ground. Yet in His great mercy God has not cut you down. He does not look coldly upon you. He does not turn away with indifference, or leave you to destruction. Looking upon you He cries, as He cried so many centuries ago concerning Israel, ‘How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee, Israel? . . . I will not execute the fierceness of Mine anger. I will not return to destroy Ephraim; for I am God, and not man.’ Hosea 11:8, 9. The pitying Saviour is saying concerning you, Spare it this year also, till I shall dig about it and dress it.” –Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 217–218
“What could have been done more to My vineyard?” Isaiah 5:4. Christ said, “Cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?” Luke 13:7. God wants us to be “trees of righteousness” in His garden. Isaiah 61:3. He will be happy to see the fruit of the Spirit in our characters. Jesus, the Dresser of the vineyard, does everything possible so that we may bear fruit. Let us not repeat the history of Ancient Israel. It has been 129 years since God sent this important message to the Adventist people on the righteousness of Christ. The message of imputed and imparted righteousness must be lived and proclaimed by God’s people if they wish to be recipients of the final blessing of the latter rain. Do we understand this message?
Dear brother, Dear sister, do you each realize your spiritual condition? Will you admit where you have erred? Can you, with the eyes of faith, see the High Priest, Jesus Christ, in the heavenly sanctuary, and hear His prayer for you? He pleads for more time for each one of us: “Let it alone this year also.” Luke 13:8. He is patient and merciful. Can you see good fruit in your life? Jesus, the Gardener, wants to continue His work in us. But He must cut off the useless branches so that we may produce fruits of righteousness. Let us give Him that opportunity by cooperating with Him.
DRAW CLOSER TO GOD
Do not neglect to make it yours! One week, from Friday, December 1, to Sabbath, December 9, 2017 the worldwide believers of the International Missionary Society of the Seventh-day Adventist Church Reform Movement will re-consecrate themselves to the Lord during the Week of Prayer. This year marks the 500th anniversary of the important event in the Protestant Reformation. The time when Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany, protesting the unbiblical doctrines and practices of the established religion. While the world is in turmoil on many fronts and the religious world celebrates the 500th anniversary of that important moment in the Protestant Reformation, let us think about our spiritual condition as Reformers in these last days!
During the Week of Prayer, take time to reflect on a personal, family, and community level about the year that is soon to end. Let us establish new spiritual goals and lift up our hearts to the Lord in prayer. Let us humble ourselves before Jesus and repent for vows unfulfilled, goals not reached, defects still undefeated, and our overall neglects. Finally, let us find consolation for our spirits in the loving arms of our tender Saviour. He bestows on us one more opportunity to grow into His image, to enjoy His love, to know His truth, to overcome evil with His power, and to impart to others His good news of salvation.
In the time of Noah, the flood did not immediately follow the message God gave to Noah regarding the coming flood. The Lord first announced the end of civilization, then mercifully granted one hundred and twenty years of grace. Noah’s preaching and faithful example urged the people to change their lives and prepare to meet the Lord, but they wasted the time. We also have been given ample time to prepare for the Lord’s coming, but grace will not last forever. How are we using our time? How are we helping others to prepare to meet Jesus?
A member in the church who does not practice all that he knows will lose interest in the meetings and also in Bible study. Why should he learn more while he is not practicing what he currently knows? Courage, Brothers and Sisters, let us go forward to the victory. May this New Year that is on the horizon, bring a change in our lives and produce a deeper consecration to the cause of God. This may well be the last opportunity to save ourselves. Consider the remaining time of probation as more precious than gold.
Dear reader, let us not permit sin to destroy our lives. As long as we cultivate and idolize sin, God will be in second, third, or even the last place in our affections. We cannot then truly worship Him. God is love, grace, justice, goodness, and the source of true happiness. In the person of Jesus Christ, God sacrificed everything for us. Year after year, we receive countless signs of His mercy. Let us give Him what is due Him—our faith and love, our obedience and service, our worship and gratitude. Let Him lead our lives as we preach to others the glorious everlasting gospel.
As another year in your life comes to its close, perhaps your love has waxed cold from all the iniquity and evil witnessed on this old planet. Or maybe you are not just so in love with the Lord, with the Bible, and with your spiritual family as you used to be. Will you right now ask Jesus to forgive you, and increase your faith? Will you ask Him to give you the Holy Spirit so that you can return to your first love for the glory of God and well-being of your neighbours? Remember, you have been spared, while many others died in 2017, therefore God has a purpose for your life. The Lord has given you another year of life, another opportunity to receive more knowledge and to witness to others concerning the signs of the end; another year of grace. Are you thankful for all His blessings? Another year is before us; how do you plan to use the opportunities the Lord will grant you in the coming year? Choose today, decide today. Your day is today.
Victor Shumbusho, DR Congo