Monday, August 27, 2007

Luke #33 - Fear and Kinfolk

Luke #33 – Fear and Kinfolk

“Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, ‘O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, “We have Abraham to our father:” for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire’” (Luke 3:7-9 – King James Version).

I talk to people all the time. That’s my job. That’s what I do. When it comes to excuses I have heard them all. To be fair, I have made a bunch in my time too. I was not raised in church. I wish I had been, but SOMETIMES I am glad I was not. I say that only to make this illustration; you’ll see what I mean.

I have asked many people when they became Christians and get a lot of weird responses. Some common responses are: “I have went to church all my life”; “I was baptized when I was nine (or whatever age)”; I joined the church twenty-five years ago (again, those years vary)”; “My family helped found this church.” Still, all of those responses are noble but leave the question unanswered.

I also ask people what Christ has done in their lives. I get a lot of weird responses to that too. Some are: “I quit drinking”; “I joined the church”; “I went on a mission trip”; “I got baptized.” Again, all good things but usually all they indicate is things they have done, not transformation that Christ has effected.

We would do well to have some of John the Baptist’s preaching in the South today. We are a very religious bunch down here, but I am prayerfully broken at our lack of belief, our transformation, and our weak faith. Now, I don’t think many folks could step into the pulpit and start preaching by saying “O you brood of vipers!” That might not go to well, ya think? John was addressing a crowd who came solely in fear. Hearing John’s prophetic preaching caused fear to come upon them and they were getting hell insurance. John didn’t want them to get baptized thinking that was the cure. John wanted to call attention to the fact that truly meeting God caused an internal change.

Then John wanted to debunk another misconception. Many Jews thought that being related to Abraham was good enough to receive the resurrection. John said “God can raise up more descendants of Abraham by turning rocks into people.” After all man was formed from the ground; if all God wanted was more people, He could turn every rock into a person. It was not relation to Abraham that led people to know God, but faith like the faith Abraham had.

God values reformation more than religion. The study notes in my Life Application Study Bible ask this probing question: “Is your faith motivated by a desire for a new, changed life, or is it only like a vaccination or insurance policy against possible disaster?” We cannot come to God by reciting a few sentences after someone. Wait…I am not saying we cannot be led or lead another in a prayer to accept Christ. What I am saying is that prayer should produce inner change that reforms our outer actions. Do you dig? We cannot simply hear a scary sermon about hell, pray a little prayer, and walk away the same person living the same life and think we are saved. If all that prayer or that baptism or joining the church means to us is that we have a get out of hell free card, then we haven’t met God at all. That’s a hard saying, but it is the heart of John’s message to us today.

Religion very well may be inherited, but faith is not. God has no grandchildren. Everyone has to make a personal decision to accept Christ. Just because your mama’s uncle was a missionary to New Guinea and your grandma taught Sunday School does not make you a Christian. What makes a Christian is the person who comes to Christ Jesus broken over their sins and begging Him for forgiveness and release from sin’s grasp.

Jesus’ hardest words were to religious leaders who had not experienced deep inner change. Following Jesus means acting on what He said, not just saying the right words. I don’t say this to be a jerk; I don’t want anyone to miss out on experiencing God. I can tell you this much, if your experience of God has been limited to 11:00 AM on Sunday mornings, then you have missed the blessings of a kind and gracious Father who is stern yet tender (and so much more!).

God desires that we have “fruits worthy of repentance,” meaning that our lives prove that we have really turned from our sins. For those that have not experienced that, John warns that every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.

Listen my dear friends, repentance is not about joining the church or quitting smoking or drinking. It is about turning from God and experiencing a deep inner change. If we do that, we will WANT to go to church; we will WANT to live moral lives; we will WANT to be baptized. All of those things will come from the natural flow of knowing God.

So, did you “join the church” or meet Christ? Did you get baptized or receive salvation? Did you repent or simply clean up? Did you pray a little prayer out of fear or fall before the Lord broken? Do you depend on the righteousness of someone you know or do you have a PERSONAL relationship with Christ Jesus? God can raise up church members from rocks. He desires people to know and worship Him in truth and spirit. Don’t miss the boat on this one gang. Check yourself, does your experience with God just mean a “get out of hell free card”? HE IS SO MUCH MORE!

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