The Problem with Being a Methodist or a Baptist or a . . .

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Listen to today’s Daily Text

daily text logoMarch 8, 2016

Matthew 3:7-10

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

CONSIDER THIS

Our best understanding tells us John was an Essene, which was something of an extremist form of Judaism whose adherents had long ago left the establishment of “respectable” religion and relocated themselves to a place called Qumran. Qumran, located near the Dead Sea, was the place where the the famous Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1946.

The Pharisees and the Sadducees represented to John all that was wrong with the world. They represented “the establishment,” which in John’s mind left the building of faithfulness long long ago.

They were “coming to where he was baptizing.” That strikes me as a very different thing than, “they were coming to be baptized.” In other words, they had likely heard there was an uprising out near the Jordan River and someone needed to go check things out and bring back a report to headquarters.

John would not have it. Having missed out on the ancient equivalent of the Dale Carnegie seminar on winning friends and influencing people, John cut straight to the chase: You brood of vipers! 

He was in effect saying, all of your religious establishment status and your so-called connections to Abraham mean less than zero to the real Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God has nothing to do with religious heritage and everything to do with spiritual inheritance.

It’s the same today. So often, people confuse their affiliation with their salvation as though one necessarily guaranteed the other. The tendency is to allow our denominational identifier (or lack thereof) to define our Christianity. People will say they are a Methodist or Wesleyan Christian or a Baptist Christian or perhaps a Charismatic or Pentecostal Christian. Wouldn’t it make more sense to claim to be a Christian Methodist or a Christian Pentecostal? (It’s akin to an earlier post where I wrote about the difference between an American Christian or a Christian American.)

The real question for John is not “Are you a child of Abraham,” but will you become a child of God. It’s not are you a Methodist or Baptist but are you really a Christian? Have you become a child of God? Have you renounced every other source of identity save the gift of the grace of God? That’s where repentance comes in. It’s about a radical realignment with the ultimate reality of the Kingdom of God. In the end, it’s OK to be a child of Abraham or a Methodist or a Baptist or a {fill in your own blank}, as long as you know who you really are beneath all that.

So do you?

Daily Text MATTHEW 03-08-16

THE QUESTIONS

1. Are you more of a “Christian” or more of a “Methodist” or “Baptist” or __________? What would it mean to be a Christian first and foremost?

2. Have you experienced yourself or others placing their identity as a Methodist or a Baptist or otherwise as more significant than their identity as a Christian? Or equating those two things?

3. How do these designations of Pharisee or Sadducee or Methodist or Baptist help us? How do they hurt us?
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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ.  jd.walt@seedbed.com.

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