This week we will encounter a question that has troubled some people. I have been asked this question on more than one occasion and this text supports the answer well. What about the person who lives a life filled with sin, but says that they are a Christian? Since we are saved from judgement by grace alone, is this person going to heaven when they die?
John the Baptist helps us out a bit here, and we should take note of his use of words. He is quite the linguist. There is a common thought that the Old Testament is only judgment and the New Testament is only grace. This is not the case, and we will see how John addresses unrepentant people. In setting the stage, John the Baptist’s ministry is in full swing and he is baptizing people in the Jordan River. We read his words in Matthew 3:7-12: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
In my last post we spoke about how John was not what we would call “politically correct.” We see this well here, but who were these people who were being verbally chastised? They were the religious leaders of the day. The text says in the beginning of verse seven that the Sadducees and the Pharisees were coming out to this place, and he was speaking directly to them. These were the people who spoke something with their mouths, but didn’t live like they were speaking. It was politics for them, not morality in the face of God. Jesus had some choice words for them as well later on. They were pretending to be something they were not.
There are many important things to study here, but for brevity’s sake we will focus on John putting words into their mouths in verse nine. John says they believed they were good because they had Abraham as their father. I view this as they believed they were born into God’s favor. Their thoughts and motivations didn’t seem to matter to them, and this perfectly aligns to our question earlier. What about that person who says they are a Christian, but lives a life that seems to show their not? It’s simple. Repentance. There is a vast difference between a person who says they are a Christian, but calls their sinful actions right and one who works to clean up their act, but occasionally sins with a heavy heart. Vast difference. Huge difference. The difference is that the first is unrepentant, and the second is repentant. One ascribes to themselves as lord of their lives and the other ascribes that The LORD is over their lives and what He says goes.
The Bible teaches that the repentant will see the Kingdom of God. When we think about it, it just makes sense that people who view God as their King here will be welcome into His Kingdom, right? Heaven isn’t a place where we get to be our own gods, it is a place where we finally get to see our Creator in His full glory. This is the most important thing.
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Matthew 3:8 – “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.”