(Luke 3: 7-9)
John the Baptist did not mince his words when dealing with the people, especially the scribes and Pharisees. Calling them a brood of vipers, snakes full of poison, was quite extreme. But it got the message across that they were in need of change and the help that could only come from God.
He makes a number of good points here that were specifically relevant to the people of his day, but also are a good warning to us as well. He encourages the crowd to, “Bear fruits that befit repentance.” (Verse 8) In this statement he shows them and us that it is not enough to say that you have repented. You must also show the outcome of your repentance through the changes you make in how you live and behave.
The fruits of repentance are our words, deeds and actions. Repentance, as discussed in my previous post, is about changing your thinking. It is about thinking a different way, specifically to be in alignment with God’s will. And if you change your thinking you will change your behaviour and your life as well. You will no longer desire to do the evil you may have once done because when your thinking is aligned with God, you will desire to do what is good, right and true. This is bearing the fruit of repentance and is as much a factor in our Christian walk today as it was in John’s and Jesus’ day.
John continues on in verse 8 saying, “…do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.” Now while he was addressing the people of his day and the Jews in particular, there is also a warning here for us too.
The Jews believed that they were God’s chosen people, and they were correct in this for the Bible says that is so. However some were arrogant in this belief and thought they could do as they pleased, with little regard for others believing they were the chosen people of God. But God is seeking a people who are humble and aligned to his will, not proud and arrogant. He shows through Paul that it is the children of faith who are the true children of God. Those who share the faith of Abraham, who believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness, are the true children of God and the chosen family of God. It is not a matter of bodily descent but through faith that people will be saved.
This is the point that John the Baptist was making with the people then. It is not about your lineage for God could easily create people and make them of the lineage of Abraham. Rather it is about walking in accordance with the will of God through repentance and changing your thinking to align with God.
Today there are some who likewise feel they are saved and above reproach. There is a movement among some churches that states, “Once saved, always saved.” I do not subscribe to that philosophy for it leads to licentiousness. If a person comes to the Lord and is saved, then goes out and does all manner of evil, how can that be in line with God’s will? And yet that is what “Once saved, always saved” suggests.
If this philosophy were true, why would the bible writers speak of those who had fallen away and would fall away? If they were once saved, why would they fall away and be lost? For that matter how could they be lost in this scenario if they had been “once saved, always saved?”
There other false teachings too that lead people to believe they are right with the Lord and thus are OK. However I would warn every person that we must continue to walk with Christ. We must continue to move forward with the Lord for he warns us saying, “Walk while you have the light, lest the darkness overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes.” (John 12:35) We cannot afford to stop walking for the darkness creeps along behind us. If we stop it will overtake and overcome us. That is why we must continue forward to learn and grow with Christ.
(Picture sourced from stock.xchng http://www.sxc.hu/ taken by Haakon Birkeland