April 16, 2020 by Steven Lulich
“Do not begin to say to yourselves, We have Abraham as our father.” (Luke 3:8)
What was probably the most pivotal moment in my life occurred during the summer between my junior and senior years of high school. Mom packed up my brother and sister and me for a road trip across the country to visit colleges and far-flung relatives (dad stayed home to pay the bills). As we drove, we listened to John MacArthur’s sermons on the book of Hebrews, which we had on cassette tape. What I remember most vividly was the teaching on apostacy, as in Hebrews 6:4-6:
“For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.”
I grew up in a Christian home, and I had no doubts in my own mind about the truth of the Bible. Yet it was precisely because of this solid Christian background that the warnings against apostacy absolutely terrified me. They described me: I was enlightened, I had shared in the Holy Spirit and tasted that the Word was good. I began to realize that my faith was merely borrowed from my parents – that it was still necessary to make Christ my own … or risk drifting away (Hebrews 2:1) and becoming like a land that “bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned” (Hebrews 6:8).
I don’t know that a palpable fear of the wrath of God is a necessary prerequisite for salvation, but I am certain that it is a powerful motivator. Perhaps that is why John the Baptist’s preaching was so fiery. “Do not begin to say to yourselves, We have Abraham as our father,” or rather, We have Christian parents, and We are members of the local church. “Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees,” and “his winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” (Luke 3:8, 9, 17).
John the Baptist’s task was to “make ready for the Lord a people prepared” (Luke 1:17). If being a descendent of Abraham and an adherent of the Law of Moses was not preparation enough, then what was missing? In a word: repentance, and fruit that is in keeping with repentance (Luke 3:3, 8). Are you a child of Christian parents? Resist complacency! You must own Christ for yourself, through “repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Have you known Christ for many years, but your obedient service to Him has fallen into disuse and disrepair? “Repent, and do the works you did at first” (Rev. 2:5), even “bearing fruits in keeping with repentance.” Is your walk with Christ active and sweet? Keep oil for your lamp and trim the wick, and “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Matt. 25:1-13).
Perhaps you never claimed to have Christian parents, or to be part of any church. Whether you claim Abraham as your father or not, John the Baptist’s message is for you, too, to make you part of the “people prepared.” Yes, “the axe is laid to the root of the trees,” but the Messiah stands between you and the wrath of God. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Rev. 3:20).