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January 16, 2022 | Doug Sauder
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“First go and prove by the way you live that you really have repented. And don’t think you are safe because you are descendants of Abraham. That isn’t enough. God can produce children of Abraham from these desert stones!”—Luke 3:8 (TLB)
On Christmas Eve 2015, a Gallup poll showed that 75 percent of American adults identified with the Christian religion. Since the U.S. population is around 324 million, that means roughly 240 million Americans considered themselves to be Christians, according to this survey. If that number seems high, it’s probably because it is. You see, many people identify with a particular faith without having a personal connection to it or to the God they proclaim.
This was true in Bible times as well. John the Baptist addressed this topic, as today’s verse illustrates. While millions of Americans grew up going to church and claiming the religion of their parents, likewise, most Jewish people in ancient Israel relied on their ancestry to establish a right relationship with God. Because they descended from Abraham, the great patriarch of the faith, most Jews assumed they were safe from God’s judgment based on their pedigree—and they were proud of it!
But, as both John the Baptist and Jesus so boldly stated, most of the religious elite of their day were a “brood of snakes” (Luke 3:7) and nothing more than “whitewashed tombs” (Matthew 23:27-28 NKJV)—clean and tidy on the outside, but dead on the inside where it mattered most. Jesus and John said no one can rely on their background, their resume, their parents, or anyone else to get them to heaven. In fact, John even says in this verse that God can turn lifeless objects like stones into Abraham’s descendants if He wants to, so it’s useless to place your faith in anything other than Jesus Christ.
However, anyone can claim affiliation with Jesus (or Abraham). But as Scripture tells us, true salvation stems from a repentant heart that is grieved over sin (2 Corinthians 7:10), and the fruit of such a conversion is a changed life. If you are a Christian in name only, perhaps you need to consider Luke 6:46, where Jesus asks His audience why they call Him Lord but don’t obey His words.
While our Savior’s words may seem harsh, His intent for us is always good. Jesus wants us to get past superficial religion that is based on lineage, merit, or rule-following, and go deeper into a real, personal relationship with Him.
DIG: Do some soul searching. Ask yourself if your faith is genuine or if you’re a Christian in name only. Be honest because God knows your heart and wants you to seek Him with it wholeheartedly!
DISCOVER: Are you seeking to know Jesus personally through His Word and by obeying Him? Or are you following a list of man-made rules, checking off boxes that make you look like a good Christian?
DISPLAY: As the Holy Spirit guides you into the truth, ask Him to help you grow in your faith and produce spiritual fruit in your life as evidence of your sincere faith in Jesus.
Rob Nieminen is a seasoned writer and editor who has written devotionals for Calvary since 2015. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, FL. He serves in the Worship Ministry at Calvary Boynton Beach and is an avid reader, an erratic golfer, and an aspiring photographer who loves to cook and spend time with his family.