Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of Godó children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. --John 1:12-13 (NIV)
Every so often I like to engage in discussions and debates about religion. Rarely have I asked a group of people about their personal beliefs without receiving some variation of the following response:
"I consider myself [insert faith or religion here] although I don't really practice or agree with most of the religion."
That's the equivalent of saying "I believe in eating right, but I prefer to eat Krispy Kremes on a daily basis."
Salvation does not happen through osmosis. A relationship with God cannot happen passively. Being born of God is not the result of some arbitrary action of God's part or on our. There is a definite and deliberate way to have, as this verse says, the right to become children of God. I find it interesting that John takes this description a bit further and defines a child of God as a person not born of natural descent or of human decision. The "natural descent" part in particular piques my interest.
In Orthodox Judaism, the family line is key to whether you are truly a Jew. Specifically, because of what is referred to as "matrilineal descent", in order to be considered a Jew, your mother must be Jewish. In this way, the heritage of the faith of Judaism is preserved throughout the family.
This is not what Christians believe, but it is sometimes how they act. I know a number of people who think that being a Christian is something they are simply because their parents attend church. They consider themselves Christian because they live basically good, moral lives. By their definition, Christianity (particularly Protestantism) is more of a lifestyle choice than a personal relationship with Christ.
The Bible makes it clear that to be a child of God we need to receive him and believe his name. Moreover, we need to do this as individuals and not expect that God will extend salvation to us because of our Christian parents. Certainly we are blessed when we carry on the faith of our fathers and incorporate that as part of family tradition, however, we must be careful not to cling to our parents faith as a substitute for our own relationship with Christ. John the Baptist admonished the Pharisees for that type of attitude when he said "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. (Matthew 3:9 NIV)
God does not have grandkids. Salvation isn't extended by proxy. The only person between us and God the Father is his son, Jesus Christ. Through him we have the right to be called children of God.
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