Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Devotional: John the Baptist's Call to Repentance

I've been reading and copying the book of Luke.  Our pastor is doing a sermon series on Luke.  Yesterday I was in the passage pasted below.
It was a puzzling passage to me.  It almost appeared that John was advocating a works salvation.  So I started doing some digging and read some commentaries on the subject.
The religious climate of the day consisted of ritual and ceremonies and a lot of religious rules and regulations.  It was easy for people to go to religious meetings and follow a bunch of rules to feel quite righteous.  In fact, they often felt so righteous, they looked down their bony noses at others who had not achieved the same level of "righteousness".
Repentance was not existent. Repentance required humility. Working to achieve your own righteousness by keeping the religious rules and participating in the rituals and ceremonies didn't require humility toward God or man.
So John was telling them to repent and to show the fruits of that repentance in their humility toward God and others. John was preaching a message that required inward change that would result in outward change.  They had it backward.  They thought doing religious works equated to righteousness.  It never occurred to them that inward change (repentance toward God) was required first and the good fruit would follow.
How often do we forget this?  How often do we attend church services, go through the motions and leave feeling like we have done what needs to be done to be righteous?  How often do we look down on others who in our eyes have not achieved the level of righteousness we have?  It's all too easy to fall into this trap.  I have on many occasions.  Repentance and humility toward God is needed in order to have a right attitude toward others that is not self-righteous. 
Luke 3:7-14
So he began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say [c]to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
10 And the crowds were questioning him, saying, “Then what shall we do?” 11 And he would answer and say to them, “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.” 12 And some tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “[d]Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.” 14 Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, “And what about us, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.”

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