“John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.” Luke 3:7-8
We do it too. We pray a prayer at a young age, and assume things are settled. We’re “in”. After all, didn’t Luther and the reformers go through all of those troubles to remind us we are saved by grace, not by works? So it doesn’t depend on what we do, it’s completely about being able to say “God save me” at the end of the day, and be thankful that He’s more than capable to do what we never could.
We have that mindset, and focus on some of these things, because we mis-hear what Jesus has invited us to. God didn’t become a man simply to provide a way for us all to get into heaven someday. God humbled himself to the form of being completely human, suffering all aspects of being a man even unto death – to reveal to us what it looks like when someone is caught up in the Kingdom-movement of God. What we see happening in Jesus is the outpouring of a Spirit-sourced life that is nothing less than what we should mean when we say “Christian”. He promised to go to the Father as our representative, so that now through life in the Spirit – who is the active presence of Jesus Christ in our midst, we can stand before God.
Our pastor said it well recently when he said, “You shouldn’t call yourself a Christian…it’s something other people say about you when they try to describe you and your life.” You’re literally a “little Christ”.
As a parent, that’s so incredibly important. Because it’s not about getting our children to pray a prayer. It’s not about getting them to memorize scripture or know all the right answers. These things can all be helpful. But the number one thing we can do with our kids? Teach them about Jesus Christ, His Life and Word. Invite them to join us as we’re practicing following Him together as a family. Help them to receive His Spirit, and KNOW that it’s happening as we see increases in the multifaceted FRUIT of the Spirit. As I’ve posted before, it’s not that we’ll develop some of these fruits, and not others. It’s one fruit, manifested in many ways.
To put it another way, someday my children will be adults. At some point in marriage counseling, or simply in figuring out how to be an adult – someone may ask them, “Were you raised in a Christian home?” I don’t want my children saying, “Well, yes, we went to church regularly, and knew the Bible well because my dad was a pastor.” I don’t even want them responding with, “Yes, my parents had me pray a prayer when I was 6 and I’ve been taking communion ever since.”
I want them to be able to say, “Oh yes…..” and then be able to talk about the ways God’s Kingdom and transforming power were breaking through in and beyond our family and home. How our family was filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. That they would understand it’s not about us “labeling” ourselves or our home, “Christian” anymore than the Jews could declare they were descendants of Abraham. (although I still think it would have been cool if God drove his point home by creating a race of rock-people.) That because of Jesus being the center relationship and pursuit of our family, we lived differently.
The NIV translation can be a bit confusing also. “Bear fruits worthy of repentance.” It sounds like he might be saying our fruit can make us worthy of repentance, or the other way around. This can sound like “work-based” faith. But the word for “worthy” here, is a word used to compare weights on a balance. When we yield our lives completely in repentance toward God, the fruit we bear will “weigh” the same.
John had been preaching repentance of sin, and people were coming to be baptized. He was reminding them – they’re being repentant now, because they’re wanting to save themselves. But there’s more to repentance than recognizing our sin, and going to heaven someday. Repentance puts us in a posture to be transformed and used to bear Kingdom-fruit now!
May we remember that especially in a season where we can easily imagine we “celebrate Christmas” simply by giving gifts, smiling at nativities, putting up lights, and scowling when someone wishes us “Happy Holidays”. Let’s repent of the ways we’ve served self in 2012, and allow the Spirit of God to bear fruit in us that is congruous to such repentance…