Updated: Jan 14, 2021
I learned a lot of things from my grandfather's.
My grandfather on my dad's side taught me the value of hard work and having a sense of humor about life. He taught me how to keep your family close and your food closer because your family will likely steal it off your plate when you're not looking.
My grandfather on my mom's side taught me how to hold a bat or what to look for as a pitcher throws a ball. He taught me how to pack a tobacco pipe and the timelessness of a good riddle.
I love my grandfathers and the things they taught me will stay with me for the rest of my life, but there is a difference between who they are and what they handed down to me. Just because my grandfather was a great baseball player doesn't mean I am. I'm a way better baseball watcher.
Who he was is not transferable.
Unfortunately, many people have forgotten that the same principle applies to faith as well. Just because your family loves Jesus doesn't mean you love Jesus. Going to church a lot as a kid, knowing all the Bible stories, and acing Awana doesn't mean that you have a relationship with God. It means you grew up in a family that probably has a relationship with God.
Many of us live in a place where Christianity is part of the culture. When I lived in North Carolina I used to say that even the Atheists are Baptist because even the people who had no real faith had a culture surrounded by faith. Church is just something you do. You say you believe in God because it all sounds good on stage on Sunday, but your life does not actually reflect true belief. Sadly, that's nothing new.
During the days before Jesus' ministry there was a man named John the Baptist whose life was dedicated to preaching and teaching about the need for repentance in a person's life. He likely spent years in the wilderness trying to show people that they needed to turn to God and ask for forgiveness for their sins.
One day when he was teaching,
he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “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.
The pharisees and sadducees were the religious elite. They were the super-Christian mega pastor's kids of the day. They ate, slept, and breathed religion, but their biggest claim to fame is that they had the right heritage. They were from the right families and lived on the right side of the tracks.
But when they come to John the Baptist, they get turned down because, like some of us today, they had knowledge without belief. Life without faith.
As John starts talking to them, he says that instead of trying to keep the law full of man made rules, they should have "bore fruit in keeping with repentance." Basically, they should have truly repented and turned their life towards God, then their entire life would be the proof of their faith.
But that's not what they did. Instead they claimed that their families loved God. They had "Abraham as their father." They were from the right families and they lived on the right side of town. In fact, they had been the right family on the right side of town for generations. So many generations that it was basically in their names.
Their faith had been grandfathered in.
But John tells them that their families faith doesn't matter to God come judgement time. God isn't going to look at your mom's belief at your judgement anymore than a baseball scout would look at my grandfather's batting average to recruit me. This is why so many Christians don't call their belief a religion. They call it a relationship because it is specifically between you and God.
Now I don't mean to scare you, dear reader. I won't tell Christian ghost stories about hell and the devil to try and scare you into thinking about your faith choices. But I will say this:
God is real and we don't live forever.
One day you will come face to face with God and how that interaction goes is actually entirely up to you. You may receive a "well done good and faithful servant" because you chose to live a life honoring God or you could be separated from him for eternity. So I would encourage you to stop for a second and consider whether your faith is your own or just something your parents taught you. Can people tell you're a Christian on Wednesday or do you just go to church on Sunday? Do you know God or do you just know who he is?
Do you stand on your own or do you think you've been grandfathered in?