MATTHEW 3:7-8: “John saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing. He said to them, “You are like a nest of poisonous snakes! Who warned you to escape the coming of God’s anger? Live in a way that shows you have turned away from your sins.”
OBSERVATION: Will I be “Real” or “Religious”? The wonderful thing about a New Year is the opportunity to look at a clean slate and start over. In reality we all know that we are not really starting over, but in perspective we are. We have the chance to review the prior year and years, and look forward to how we want to live the rest of our lives.
In this light, I am challenged by the words of John the Baptist. The religious leaders of his day approached him as he was baptizing people at the Jordan river. They had not come to hear his message, nor to be baptized. Rather, they had come out to see what the fuss was all about. And they had come out to protect their turf against any threats to the status quo.
When John saw them, he did not worry about political correctness. John cut right to the heart of the matter. “Live in a way that shows you have turned away from your sins!” This was not a call to repentance that was delivered to the vilest of sinners. Rather, it was a call to repentance directed at the religious. It was a reminder that God is never satisfied with a mere outward adornment of piety. God desires a broken and contrite heart.
God is looking for people who will be “REAL”!
This is what I have always desired and endeavored to be. However, it is amazing how subtle the spirit of religion can creep in and deceive us. Instead of a humble and absolute surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ, we can begin to take assurance in our service and outward expression of worship. It is easy to compare ourselves to others and draw comfort that we are “…not like others…”. This is the trap of religion – taking comfort in the outward appearance, while ignoring the true condition of the heart.
Lord, as I approach this New Year, strip me of any confidence I may be boasting in the exercise of religion. Help me to be totally real with both You, and with myself. Let me boast in only one thing – the Cross of Christ! May my words, life, and actions, echo the words of Paul when he wrote,
- “I never want to brag about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through that cross the ways of the world have been crucified as far as I am concerned. And I have been crucified as far as the ways of the world are concerned. Circumcision and uncircumcision don’t mean anything. What really counts is the creation of a new nature.” Galatians 6:14-15 NIRV
In Jesus Name!