We covered these verses in last week’s blog, but there was something that kept coming to my mind about them. So I decided to talk about it this week.
When JTB confronted the religious leaders who showed up to be baptized, he told them they should be able to ‘prove’ they had repented. I love the wording in The Amplified Bible. It says, “let your lives prove your change of heart.”
It’s not that we have to do certain things or that there’s a list of do’s and don’ts we have to follow.
In fact, it’s just the opposite.
Jesus came (and JTB came as Jesus’ warm-up act) to de-throne religion. To de-bunk the myth that the way to a relationship with God, and the eternal life He offers, is to follow a list of rules and regulations.
That’s what the religious leaders of the day were doing. They memorized books of the Old Testament (it was the only one at that time). They stopped whatever they were doing wherever they were to pray at appointed times. They didn’t miss a Sabbath in the Temple. Or a Holy Day. They wore particular clothing that distinguished them as religious leaders. They only ate certain foods. And they followed all the laws, even down to tithing their herbs!
And they thought that if anybody should be candidates for baptism, it was them.
Yet JTB wouldn’t baptize them.
And then he adds insult to injury.
In verse 9 he tells them not to presume that they’re safe just because they’re descendants of Abraham. He says that God could create more descendants of Abraham from the rocks in this wilderness.
Which in common folk venacular means, ”You guys are nothing special.” Ouch.
These religious leaders were depending on their ancestry and on following a particular list of do’s and don’ts handed down by those ancestors to cement their relationship with God.
But apparently God doesn’t think that’s enough.
Or maybe He thinks it’s too much. Too much focus on human effort.
I think it goes back to the wording in The Amplified Bible: “let your lives prove your change of heart.”
A change of heart.
Isn’t that what Jesus focused on? The heart? And the changed lives that will always result when hearts are changed?
So what are we focused on?
– How someone dresses?
– How many times they attend church?
– How well they pray in public?
– How much we see them drop in the offering plate?
– What they eat or don’t eat?
– Whether or not they fumble around when trying to find a book of the Bible?
– What role their parents/grandparents/children play in the local church/denomination?
And what makes us feel more secure in our relationship with God?
– How many days a week we have a quiet time?
– How many scriptures we can recite?
– How many times we go to church in a week/month?
– What we wear to church?
– How many ministries we’re involved in?
– How much money we give away?
– How involved our parents/grandparents/children are in church?
It’s so easy for our focus to slip and for us to start concentrating on works more than our heart. Because keeping a tangible list of do’s and don’ts is much easier than digging deep into our own heart and taking the issues we find there to an invisible God for intangible surgery.
But until we do that on a consistent basis, we won’t have the changed lives that prove we’ve had a change of heart.