Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Viper's Den

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? -- Matthew 3:7

Why do you suppose John was not just thrilled to have more converts – and members of the elite, to boot?  It is something that we do not usually bring up, but it is reflected in the words of Jesus as well:  No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.

The truth is that we can’t get up one day and decide on our own to “be saved”.  It can’t be merely a good idea.  As much as I respect the intellect of Pascal, his probability wager does not provide the basis for a transformed life.  It can, however, be an argument in favor of seeking God.  The religious leaders to whom John spoke had followed the crowds.  Being baptized by this wild prophet John was the popular thing to do.   Then as now, being dipped or sprinkled or submerged does not change one’s heart, rather it is a testimony that one’s heart has changed. 

God first moves toward man, convincing him that he is not right.  The Pharisees and Sadducees did not have this conviction upon them.  They did not see themselves as under judgment or as “sinners in the hands of an angry God”.  Jonathan Edwards was not trying to scare people into salvation.  He was providing the ring in which the Holy Spirit might wrestle with the sinner’s soul. 

Like John the Baptist and Jonathan Edwards, we live in a day when there is far too much intellectual acquiescence and far too little heart conversion when it comes to God.  When you have eighty percent of a nation saying they “believe in God” yet fifty or sixty percent or more of that same nation living as if there is no God, somebody is sorely deceived.  I think it’s probably related to the Lord’s Parable of the Sower.   Hearts have to be made receptive by the plowshares of sorrow for a lot of us, and Jeremiah says, “Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns.”

As long as we will say to ourselves that God will accept us as we are or if we do better or do “good deeds”, we will fail to see ourselves in the hardened, barren state to which we are bound.  We will be cultural and social Christians, sharing a moral point of view, striving to be acceptable and decent people without ever seeing the need to throw ourselves completely upon the grace and mercy of God. 

There is Someone warning us.  His voice is still and small. 

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