December 15, 2017
READ: Matthew 3:1-11
Don’t just say to each other, “We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.” That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones (v.9).
Imagine if someone unkempt and living on the streets were to announce that Christianity is so corrupt that every believer must convert to prepare for Jesus’ return. And imagine if when some prominent Christian leaders seemed to agree with this renegade preacher and came to repent, they were insulted and turned away!
This scenario illustrates how John the Baptist must have come across in his time. By performing baptisms—a conversion ritual reserved for people who were not yet part of God’s people Israel—John suggested that Israelites were just as in need of repentance as outsiders. And when religious leaders—who’d devoted their lives to studying the Scriptures—surprisingly came for this baptism, he dismissed them with a shameful insult (Matthew 3:7), convinced they were too attached to their status as Israelites to be serious about changing (vv.9-12).
This scene never fails to shock me, a sobering reminder of our complete dependence on God. None of us are so far along the path of discipleship that we aren’t in need of radical transformation. Believers in Jesus are just as prone as Israel was to mistake our cherished traditions with God Himself and just as in need of encountering anew the One who challenges our assumptions. As C. S. Lewis once put it, “My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast [image-destroyer].”
This truth is also the good news we desperately need. If Jesus were merely equivalent to our ideas about Him, He would be no greater than we are. But because He is the “great iconoclast”, He is able to save us from ourselves (1:21). In losing our lives to find Him, we find true life (10:39).
365-day plan: Titus 3:1-11
Read John 5:39 to see how Jesus challenged religious leaders for being so blinded by their own interpretations of Scripture that they couldn’t see how He fulfilled them.
Why do you think we sometimes mistake our ideas about God for God Himself? What assumptions about God has He challenged in your journey of faith?