Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Danger in Depending on Status

John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The axe 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."   Luke 3:7-9  NIV

Grace and the finished work of Christ are the shoes upon which the Gospel walks, but John the Baptist's statement above should put a wrinkle into the casual way many Christians look at those shoes. Granted, John was the last of the OT prophets, and prophesied under that economy, but I think he still speaks to NT faith. What he says is wake up and don't be presumptuous.

The people he leveled these statements at were depending upon their birth status to make and keep them acceptable to God. What occured in a moment in time (through no fault of their own, no less), at the begining of their journey on earth was sufficient, in their minds, to carry them to the end of their time. They knew whose child they were, or so they thought!

John said the fact of their birth in the household of faith was not enough. It was not their history (especially an isolated moment in it) that mattered so much as their present. It seems the religious have ever been satisfied trying to establish labels written in indelible ink rather than in faithful practice, but there is no better way to give faith shoes than practice. Hence, John's comments about stones and fruit.

Fruit, like manna, has a limited shelf life. It needs to be fresh to be useful, to provide sustenance. The faith that recognizes God and therefore turns to him from sin and self is not something that can be stored on a shelf either. Faith, it seems to me, is not a status but a state, and an active one at that! Grace may not be established on works, but the one in grace will most definitely work.

For those made right by God, there's no getting past the need to bear the fruit of repentance today. You may say, "but I was born again on such and such a date, I'm signed, sealed, and delivered." I would say in response that your dependence on a birth experience seems as hollow as that of those that came to John. There is a danger, you see, in depending on status rather than fellowship with God.