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Matthew 3:9 John Preaches Repentance

Matthew 3:9 John Preaches Repentance

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.

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“Oh, I don’t worry about dying, pastor. I’m sure I’m going to heaven,” the nursing-home resident told her pastor.

The pastor beamed. “That’s great, Martha! Tell me, what makes you sure?”

“Oh, I’ve been a good Lutheran all my life.”

The pastor groaned inwardly. He heard in Martha’s words an echo of the same attitude John had heard from the Pharisees and Sadducees. John had told them, “Do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.'”

John had come to preach repentance to Israel. He rebuked the people sharply for their sins. He warned them of the fiery judgment that awaited them if they didn’t change. His message struck a chord in the hearts of many. They wondered, “Can it be true? Has my sin really put me in danger of the fires of hell?”

“Not to worry!” some of them said to themselves. “We have Abraham as our father! We are Jews-members of God’s chosen people. God would never send one of his chosen people to hell.” The Israelites’ family background had given them a false sense of security. They were descendants of Abraham, so why should they take John’s message seriously?

We do the same thing when we put our confidence in being “good Lutherans” all our lives. Such false confidence can keep us from taking the message of repentance seriously. If God could raise up children for Abraham from a pile of stones, he can do the same for “good Lutherans.”

We have a far greater reason for confidence. The Savior that John announced to Israel as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) has taken away our sin too.

Let’s heed John’s message. Let’s repent of our sin and put our trust in the Lamb. There, and only there, do we find a real source of confidence.

Prayer: Dear Lord, may I never boast in anything but your cross. All my good deeds, my past church life, and my personal heritage mean nothing unless I have your grace and mercy. Amen.