"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."
In this passage, John the Baptist is speaking to the Pharisees and Sadducees as they came to him to be baptized. John's message to the religious leaders was clear (like it was clear to the other people he preached to in Matthew 3:1-2). They needed to repent. In this case, it meant repenting from their presuming upon God. What exactly was their presumption ?
According to the passage, the Pharisees and Scribes assumed their position with God based on their religious heritage. They presumed that they were children of God because they were from the same bloodline as Abraham. They were good with God because of their tradition.
I love the gospel because it speaks to each of us in our self-inflated efforts to gain God's acceptance. It bids us to repent; to literally turn from trusting ourselves, to trusting in Christ. To those who think they are good with God because they are moral people, the message of repentance is that we could never be good enough to earn God's acceptance. In fact, the only one who did that was Jesus. Therefore, we must turn from our own moral record and trust Christ's moral record on our behalf. To those who try to be their own god, the message is repent. Turn from trusting yourself as god and turn to the one true and living God. To those who think they are good with God because they come from a rich religious tradition, God's message is repent. Your religious heritage cannot save you; only I can. So, stop trusting in yourself and turn to trust in me. Don't assume you are a true child of Abraham and thus a child of God because of your families religious tradition.
This makes me ask, in what ways do I presume upon God? In what ways do I think my self-efforts earn my acceptance with God. To me, I can imagine this passage saying something like, "Do not presume to yourself that you are a child of God just because you go to seminary, or because you are an active member at a church, or because you are in ministry."None of those are bad things. However, when we trust in these 'things' to give us acceptance before God, they are wrong. The gospel is that we are only accepted by God by grace through faith. It is Christ's finish work that gains our acceptance. There is nothing we could ever do to earn it. To attempt to do so, is to minimize Jesus Christ as our Savior. This is what this passage demands we repent of. Join me in doing so.