Intro: When you receive a gift, are you always happy with it. If it does not meet your taste or something that you don’t have much need of, what do you do with it. Here in America there is a way to remedy this situation. Many of the practical givers include the receipt so that if you are not happy with it you can return or exchange the gift. And if there is no receipt, you can keep it and wait for an opportunity to give it also as a gift. We call that recycling.
I am not against giving each other gifts, but if we are celebrating the birthday of Jesus shouldn’t we be giving gifts to Him? We do that with friends. Thank you for those who may have planned of giving Gina or me presents. The thought is enough and please give it instead to Jesus through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Last Christmas our giving was $ 410. I’m sure we can give more this time. The money received will send out many missionaries around the world for the gospel.
I encourage those who have young children please give them their gifts in your homes. This will give you an opportunity to share and explain the greatest gift God has already given to us. Tell them the gift came from you and not from Santa because you love them.
In the book of Revelation during the tribulation, God will send the two men who did not die physically, Enoch and Elijah back to earth. Then they will be killed because they were hated for their testimonies and witness of the gospel. “Now when they had finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them. Their bodies will lie in the street of the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also the Lord was crucified. For three and a half days men from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth.” Rev. 11:7-10
Please don’t get me wrong, it is not wrong to give each other gifts to show our love for one another. Perhaps we give gifts out of tradition and this is carried over for the wrong reason. Christmas is remembering the greatest gift God has given us in the person of His Son. Let’s focus our celebration in the One we love and adore. Three kings gave Him gifts. Now let’s un-wrap the gift we received from God.
“Unwrapping the Gift of God”
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned – for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come. But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Again, the gift of God is not like the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in the life through the one man Jesus Christ.” Rom. 5:12-19
We do understand that a gift is given free and something that is not earned or as a reward. However, motives in giving could vary. I used to give gifts to my superiors in order for them to show kindness to me and gain their favor. Sometimes I get gifts passed on to me from my brother-in-law that is given to him by his employees. Or to return or kind of repaying a gift. Or as an obligation to give gifts to our godchild because it is expected of us. What about giving gifts to undeserving people especially those you don’t even know just like the children who gave up their gifts to other poor children. Giving motivated out of gratitude is the purest motive in giving gifts without expecting anything in return.
But what is this greatest gift that we are talking about that comes from God? Does God owe us anything that He gives us gifts in return for something that we have done or given to Him? Then that would become a reward or even a payment or wage. There is a word that precedes the gift according to our text and that word is Grace. Grace is the reason God is giving us this greatest gift. Gift is the means to channel the grace given to an undeserving sinner. In our text it says, “God’s abundant grace and the gift of righteousness.” This is the truth as revealed by Paul. “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith – and this not from yourself, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast.” Eph. 2:8-9
So then, grace is God’s sovereign act in accordance with His pleasure and will to favor and save an undeserving sinner. The Word of God says that because of the sin of one man, Adam, death came to all men. Adam’s sin affected all of humankind whether we liked it or not. The purity of his heart when he was created was contaminated by just one sin when he disobeyed God’s only command. And because of his sin and the consequence thereof it was passed on to all of us. Sin affected his firstborn son Cain to commit the sin of murder even before the Ten Commandments which came much later through Moses. This was given after the Israelites accepted the covenant God invited them to enter into. God show them His character and what God expects them to keep so there will be order amongst them and breaking them would be sin against God. However, by their power and strength they could not keep and remain faithful, thus God sent the second Person of the Trinity, the “Word of God”, one of His name among others to become flesh and be the Son of God and given a human name Jesus. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14
Because all of humankind is already guilty of sin and judged with death, no one can save himself by his own effort, no matter what he does through good works. The only way God will save anyone is by His provision of grace. We have to fully believe and accept that nobody deserves to go to heaven and have eternal life because we all have sinned against God. We cannot earn it by serving God or by keeping His commandments not even by sacrifice in any form. God is a just God and He must carry out His justice and satisfy His law. Grace is when God intervenes and choose to save anyone by His provision of grace, through His Son. The atonement and sacrificial death of Jesus is the only way and means God will be justified to forgive and save anyone from their sins. That’s why salvation is purely by the grace of God by giving us His Son to die in our behalf to pay for all our sins. And to whomever He pours out His abundant grace it is given to him as a gift. So what is in the package? Let’s un-wrap the gift.
The first in the package as mentioned from out text is “the gift of righteousness.” What does this mean and why is it of first importance. Righteousness is the lofty characteristic of God that no human can achieve. It is doing the right thing according to the will of God at all times. And the moment we sin we have become unrighteous. There is only one man who lived on this earth who fulfilled all the righteousness of God and never sinned, Jesus Christ. One has to be without sin to be able to enter heaven on his own merit and we all miserably failed and deserve to be punished in hell. So when one receives Christ, we receive His righteousness while He takes all our sins and was punished at the cross. This is an exchange deal, we give Him all our sins He in turn gives us His righteousness. So we are now righteous in the eyes of God. He can now accept us as His sons because He sees the righteousness of Jesus Christ in us.
The next in the package is the “gift of eternal life.” “But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom. 6:23b
Upon receiving Jesus Christ, we are now in possession of eternal life. Can anyone lose it or even give it up? This gift is not like the gifts we receive from family and friends. Like the saying, “No exchange and no return.” It is yours forever without any reason to give it up or return. Eternal means exactly what it means, eternal life to be spent with God in heaven. Can one lose it? Never, because God is true to His Word and for the sake of His name will never take back what He has given. These are His very words that He gives to those who have received Him as Lord. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” John 10:27-30.
Notice that now Jesus is joined by His Father to keep you in His hand. Both of them are keeping you secure by the hands that created the heavens and the earth. Again, eternal life is a gift and once one has the gift it is secured and kept by God the Son and God the Father.
The next gift in the package is this promise that Jesus gave to His disciples which is also given immediately to those who have received Christ, the Holy Spirit. Here’s what He said to His disciples on the night before He went to the cross. “Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me. ‘Where are you going?’ Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” John 16:5-7
Again Jesus promised His disciples that He will send the Counselor after He has gone back to heaven. Who is this Counselor He is talking about? Here is what He said earlier to them in Ch. 14. “If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth.” John 14:15-17a.
Is Jesus here saying that they will get saved if they love Him and obey His command? Remember that these disciples were given to Him by His Father for Christ to save. Judas was no longer with them, so only the elven were left. Jesus was saying that when they receive the Holy Spirit they will love Him and obey all His commands. John testified to this when he said, “We love because He first loved us.” Just before Jesus returned to His throne in heaven said this to them. “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 1:4b-5
The Holy Spirit was given to each of the 120 believers at Pentecost to be in them as promised by God the Father and sent through Christ. The Holy Spirit is the gift. This was the transition after Jesus ascended and sent down the Holy Spirit as He promised in accordance to the will of God as planned. After Pentecost the moment one receives Christ the Holy Spirit is immediately given together with the others in the package. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul revealed this to us this way. “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be to the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.” Eph. 1:11-14
Where the Israelites failed to make their stand and remain faithful to God just like Peter who denied Christ three times, this is what the Holy Spirit does to those who have received God’s greatest gift. “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is yet to come.” 2 Cor. 1:21-22
Have you ever received a package that says COD? This is when you order something through the mail before and they didn’t have credits cards. Imagine this, someone from UPS is knocking at your door and has a package for you. You say, I didn’t order anything and he is in the wrong address. He insists that he has the address right and has a package a gift from God. Then you ask what is inside? He explains a little bit but warns that there is a consequence if the gift is not received. It is both good news and bad news. Here’s the message he was sent to deliver, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom. 6:23
The choice is yours but the consequence is grave if the gift is not received. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” John 3:36
So you ask, what must I do to receive this gift? There is a condition, COD. “C”, stands for you to confess you are a sinner and ask Christ for forgiveness. You are to confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is now your Lord. You are to commit and surrender your sins and life to Christ to save you. “O” stands for “obedience”. You will obey Christ from now on as your Lord. “D” Is your decision to receive or reject the gift of life offered to you free.
Have you received the gift COD? If you have not will you do it now?