Intro: This past week has been busy at the Mall. Gina and I walk there for our exercise in the evenings and yesterday was the busiest. It was like playing football evading the people you meet or pass over. The stores were busy with shoppers. But I wonder if everyone really knows the true meaning of Christmas.
The first Christmas was not like that. The night was quiet except perhaps at the inn because there were people coming from different parts of Israel to register for the census just as Joseph and Mary did. However, there was no room for them at the inn. The only place that was available was at the stable for animals. How is that for the Creator of the heavens and the earth to be treated this way? Jesus experienced His first humiliation by man. This is really what it means to have a humble beginning. No one can say that Jesus is better than them because I am sure none of us were born in a feeding trough where animals eat their hay if this is what a manger means. Nobody knew who this baby was and what he brings. And many missed the real meaning of that first Christmas. Here’s what they missed.
“The Real Joy of Christmas”
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rest.” Luke 2:8-14
When did Christmas as we celebrate it today come into the mind of God? Not very long after God created Adam and then Eve, God revealed this truth to Adam and Eve after they sinned what He would do with the tempter who caused them to sin. God did not excuse their sin when they both disobeyed God’s only command, “You must not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” Gen. 2:17.
Eve was deceived and sinned. Adam willfully disobeyed God and sinned. As a result God gave each one of them different punishments for their sins. But Satan who was in the serpent, God cursed. Adam and Eve were not cursed but the ground was otherwise there would have been no hope of salvation for them. And God by His grace saved them by covering their sins with an animal skin representing the righteousness of Christ and by the shedding of His blood. The devil was cursed and God will have complete victory over him. “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head and you will strike his heel.” Gen. 3:15
This was the beginning of the conflict between men and the loss of fellowship with God. Sin brought about separation from God and the loss of joy, the joy that only God can bring and give. This was the good news the angels declared to the shepherds. I want us to notice that the good news was first proclaimed to the lowly shepherds. Not to the ones living in palaces or to the wealthy. But since the angel said to all people no one is also left out. Magi’s came we refer to as the three kings from foreign lands bringing gifts to Jesus. Instead of the angels proclaiming the good news to them, God guided them to Jesus through a star, a light of unusual brightness to draw them to Jesus.
What then is the joy of Christmas? The joy that comes from the Savior who was born in the town of David we know as Bethlehem. This joy does not come automatically to everyone? One can be happy but joy is an inner feeling that is produced by the Holy Spirit. It does not come because of certain happening but as the result of having been forgiven of all sins and restored in a right relationship with God. No one can have this joy when the conscience is not cleansed. One can seek temporary happiness by having a party, enjoying wine to make the heart merry or strong drinks to get a high and if that is not enough, drugs to get a higher high. When the happening is done he goes back to reality and the guilty conscience is still there because there is no peace with God. Joy and peace come together. Without peace there can be no joy. That is why the angels were praising God because of the men and women who will come to have peace with God through the Savior. The angels know this peace because they are from God, messengers at that time. Today the message of this good news is no longer carried by angels but by those who have received God’s favor and who are now at peace with God.
So how does one have this peace with God? The angels were praising God for this. “Peace to men on whom his favor rest.” Salvation is God’s favor that he endows or grants to men according to His will. This is what is referred to in the Bible as “grace”. This is how God will save anyone. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.” Eph. 2:8-9
God’s favor continues to hover on earth and even in this room tonight looking for hearts to rest His favor. I know that the grace of God in salvation has already rested on many of us here but there may be those who are here and have not yet received God’s favor. This may be the night, just like when the angels appeared to the shepherds. “A Savior has been born to you.” “You” mean you, who are here tonight. God is addressing you personally. Did the shepherds respond when they heard what the angels said? They believed and acted on what the angels told them, so they went to Bethlehem and saw the baby lying in a manger. This is what faith means, to act on what you have believed. What happened after they saw the baby? “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” Luke 2:17-18
What was the result to what they have experienced because they believed? “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” Luke 2:20
How does this apply to everyone today though it happened some 2,000 years ago? Here’s what Jesus said to Thomas after He was raised from the dead. “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed.” John 20:29
Jesus did not remain a baby but He grew up to accomplish what He came for, to save sinners from their sins so that they will have peace with God and have eternal life through Him. And this is the good news that started with His birth and ended with His death on the cross, the ultimate of Christ’s humiliation. “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” 1 Cor. 15:3-4.
By believing this good news even though we were not there at His crucifixion and resurrection, by faith we act upon this by receiving Christ into our hearts in order to be cleansed of our sins and receive forgiveness through His blood. Salvation that will make a sinner be at peace with God resulting in great joy is found only in Jesus Christ. There are only two things He requires, that you turn away from all your sins in repentance and surrender them all to Christ to pay and then receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior into your heart. This is God’s gift to you. And this is God’s promise that will be true to you because He will stand by His Word, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
Don’t leave this place tonight without being reconciled and have peace with God so that you can have this great joy of Christmas. Come to Jesus. He is calling you and inviting you to the cross for He did not remain a baby but grew up as an adult to die and pay for your sins. If God is convicting you of your sins and your need for salvation, accept this greatest gift God is offering you in the person of His Son and you will receive the greatest blessing of your life.
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?
Intro: Last Friday on my flight to Las Vegas to attend a speaking engagement, and just before getting on the plane a lady who looked like a Filipina was right behind me. As usual I asked if she was Filipina and she said she was Vietnamese and said that is not the first time she is asked that and added that she has many Filipino friends and attends their pot-lucks and loved it. As we got inside to look for an empty seat, I saw Dr. Terry Arnold our Nevada Baptist Convention Executive Director with two empty seats beside him. I asked the lady if she would like to take the window seat and she did and I took the middle. I continued our conversation until I got a chance to ask her religious background. Her father had no religion and had many wives and she hated them but she became a Buddhist at an early age. She finished her nursing and got married to an American against her parent’s wishes and later moved to the US. After listening to her for some time, I pulled out my Bible and two copies of the tract “Steps to Peace with God.” Right away she recognized Billy Graham because she attended one of his crusades in Oakland thirty years ago. I gave her one and we read through the tract together. About five minutes before landing she prayed the sinner’s prayer to receive Christ. I asked her if it was alright if one of our pastors living in her area will give her a call to connect her with their church and she readily gave me her phone number, which I gave to brother Terry to give to a pastor. Our seating was not by accident because Terry prayed as I was sharing the gospel with her. We saw her joy to receive the greatest gift in her life, the salvation of her soul by turning from her sins and Buddha to Jesus.
Our meeting and the whole encounter was a divine appointment for God was offering to her the gift of her life – eternal life and she received it. The title of our message is the message in the cover of our bulletin.
“The Greatest gift”
Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associatewith Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. “Sir. Give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep on coming here to draw water.” He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus declared, “”Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.” John 4:4-26
There are so many truths we can learn from this account that time will not permit. One of the lessons we can learn from this is how Jesus shared the gospel to this woman. But the main truth is salvation is a gift of God.
First we see this truth that Jesus “had to go through Samaria.” Was this by accident or by God’s will to lead Him to encounter this woman? I submit to you that Jesus was always right in the center of His Father’s will. Just as he was led by the Spirit after his baptism in the desert and was there for forty days to be tempted, this time He was led to be at this place where God will draw to him this woman whom He will offer the greatest gift, the salvation of her soul. Another truth that we can observe is the reality of Jesus being human, “He was tired from the journey.” Just like any of us. He got hungry and thirsty. So the most logical place to go for a drink was a well. But he had no pail to draw water with. Notice also that it was the sixth hour. Sixth hour at that time is equivalent to our twelve o’clock for that was how they reckoned their time. At midday the sun is at its hottest and nobody goes to the well at this time to draw water. So why then did this woman would go there at this hour of the day. Since we have read the whole account it was obvious that she was not well loved and accepted in her community because of her reputation. She was living with a man not her husband. It is safe to assume that she was ashamed to be seen in public and to be with people.
Jesus opened a conversation with her by asking her for a drink. She was a Samaritan woman and Samaritans were treated as second class citizens by pure Jews. A Samaritan is a “mestizo” Jew. Half Jew and half Gentile. So she was surprised why Jesus would even speak to her. But she saw that this man is different and showed her respect and valued her being a Samaritan. I believe in her mind she must have thought, if He only knew? Yet she asked Him why He would even speak to her. Jesus now moved the conversation to the spiritual and also threw this question, “if you knew the gift of God.” Think about this for a moment, Jesus was no longer talking about drinking water but a “gift of God.” At this time the concept of a gift of God has not yet been introduced to the people of Israel. And besides perhaps in her heart, she is saying, I am not worthy of this gift because she knew she was not doing the right thing before God. What was more confusing to her was that the one asking her for a drink is the one who will give her this gift of God.
Now notice that she brought back the conversation to the drawing of water. She was now comparing him with her father Jacob who gave them the well. Her understanding was still limited to the water from the well. But Jesus did not stop there but explained to her that he was not talking about water to drink but a “living water” that will last that she will never thirst after drinking. The concept of living water was not new to the Jews. It was already revealed to them through the prophet Jeremiah,
“My people have committed two sins: they have forsaken me, the spring of living water and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” Jer. 2:13
God is the source of living water and the water here represents the Word of God. This is affirmed and explained to us by the apostle Paul,
“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy by the washing with water through the word.” Eph. 5:25b-26
Jesus then moved on to reveal to her that he is the source and he is the one who gives this living water that will be a “spring of water welling up to eternal life.” This means that this water will not be exhausted and will be fresh day after day until that day that those who have drank from this living water will drink it in heaven as revealed now to us in the book of Revelation.
“For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Rev. 7:17
Now the woman was getting a little understanding and was now asking for this living water but still referring to water so that she will not be coming to the well at noon and be seen by others. When Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband and come back,” what can she say? She cannot say yes or no and be truthful. She does not have a husband. So what did she say? “I have no husband.” She was honest to herself and to Jesus. Was that a confession? Yes it was, but now she was diverting the issue to worship. She thinks that by worshiping God it will cover her sins and have this eternal life. Did Jesus let her get away with that? No again. He explained to her that a time is coming that worshiping God the Father will not be on this mountain where the Samaritans meet to worship nor in Jerusalem. This will be fulfilled when one has come to Jesus for salvation as the way, the truth and given eternal life.
“Yet a time is coming and has now come when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” John 4:23
The woman was now confronted with the truth. She cannot worship God the Father if she is living in a lie. The lie is her sin for living in an unlawful relationship with a man. Now she knows that she cannot be a true worshiper. She now expressed her hope on the promise of God to send His Messiah to explain everything to them. Jesus earlier said to her that she and the other Samaritans do not know the real worship but the Jews know it and salvation will come from the Jews. Jesus is a true Jew and the gospel is first revealed and preached to the Jews. Finally Jesus revealed Himself to her, “I who speak to you am he.” Did she believe Him? I believe she did, for this is how she responded and acted on Jesus command to call her husband, which she did not really have. But she did obey.
“Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ? They came out of the town and made their way toward him” John 4:28-30
She became the first witness of Jesus. She could not keep her excitement of what she heard not just to tell the man she was living in but the people in town. I believe deep in her heart that she repented of her sins and believed in Jesus when He said I am he and receive forgiveness of her sins. This is the evidence that it wiped out her shame. Just as Paul did after he got saved.
“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” Rom. 1:16
He also affirmed what was written of those who trust in Jesus,
“As it is written: “See I lay a stone in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Rom. 9:33
Did the people believe in what she said? I believe her testimony and her boldness to tell them about Jesus persuaded them to believe her because of the change in her to come out boldly without shame to tell them of this man who knew her past and her sins. And what was the result of her witnessing?
“Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So, when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” John 4:39-42.
They received the gift of eternal life because they believed. They had encountered the truth and the lie was revealed. How is this truth true today? How does God work in His redemptive plan to save sinners. What we have heard and read from the very words of Jesus is salvation is a “gift of God.” Paul affirmed this as the means how God saves sinners.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom. 6:23
Wages is what everyone receives from God as payment of sin, even just for one sin. And the bad news is everyone has sinned. And here is what everyone will receive for having sinned against God.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Rom. 3:23
Thank God there is a “but.” This is where the good news comes in. God is giving away gifts not just to the Jews but to Gentiles as well. It started with the Jews, then the Samaritans and has reached us Gentiles. This is the greatest gift that one can ever receive because if it was not given to us we will surely spend eternity in hell. Thirty years ago, God by His grace sent a messenger to give me this gift. I was convicted by the Holy Spirit of having broken God’s law and have sinned against God. Just as Jesus convicted the woman of her unlawful relationship and how she lived her life, she saw her need of salvation and this living water that wells up to eternal life.
The Vietnamese woman whose name was Moui, knew in her heart all the sins she has committed. The Holy Spirit convicted her as she read through the tract, saw her need and asked Jesus to forgive her and received Him as Lord. After she prayed she admitted that she is living in with a man for 11 years, unhappy with him because he is a drunkard. But now she expressed concern for him and for her children who are also having bad marriages.
I thank the Lord for the privilege to be used by Him as His messenger and carrier of the gift of God. The greatest gift that cost God the life of His Son as the payment for a debt we cannot pay. The only payment that cancels this debt that otherwise every sinner will pay for eternity in hell. Lord willing we will unwrap the gift and find what is inside welling up to eternal life.
God is continuing to send and offer this gift all over the world. For those who have already received this gift He is calling and inviting us to be messengers and carriers to deliver to those He will draw and give to His Son.
You may be here today and have not yet received this gift. You are thirsty because everything that the world offers does not quench your thirst. Now you know the answer to what your greatest need is, the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ and eternity life to spend with God in heaven. Here’s God’s invitation for you to receive His offer as His gift to you.
“The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” Rev. 22:17
Receive Jesus as God’s gift to you…
Intro: This is a continuation of last Sunday’s message in relation to the sacrifice Jesus gave for you and me. Jesus laid down His life that we sinners might live and have eternal life, the righteous for the unrighteous by reconciling us to God. What should those who have received this most precious gift of eternal life give to God to express their debt of gratitude? I believe God does not expect us to give up our lives to die for that would be a dead sacrifice or give up all our possessions though it may be a sacrifice but it is not a living sacrifice. Possessions like money, has no life except when we give to obey in tithing and as directed by the Lord and when we do sacrifice the sacrifice ought to be given out of our love for God. Here’s the sacrifice that does not please God. “If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” 1 Cor. 13:3
There are many who died as martyrs for different reasons, like dying for their country in protest. Gandhi went on hunger strike and some Buddhist monks burned themselves to protest their cause but have no love relationship with Christ. What did they gain? Nothing. They are heroes to those who benefited from their death but what they gave was a dead sacrifice. What then is this living sacrifice that pleases God? Let me quote again the passage where we will pick up for our message today. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” Rom. 12:1
I found no appropriate title of this message except the closing song we sang.
“Living for Jesus”
“Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than what is in the heart. If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” 2 Cor. 5:11-15
Before I became a Christian, I confess to you that all I lived for was what was good for me. This is what we call a self-centered life. I was independent minded and did everything my way unless I had no choice, like studying while I was in school and doing my job so that I don’t get fired. And most of all, it was all geared to pursuing my happiness and living for my pleasure. In short my life was all about me. Of course when I had my family I added that to my purpose to care and be responsible to meet their needs. In all aspects of my life I had control. Giving up control is one of the hardest especially when it came to marital relationship. We can give in and even consider that a sacrifice but in the end it was done just to have peace. Of course this changed after I got saved.
The context of our text is what drove Paul to give up his life totally to live for Christ in His service. This was now Paul after his encounter with Christ and got saved. The paragraph before this Paul was writing the Corinthian believers of this blessed and endless hope of their heavenly dwelling and made this conclusion. “Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him whether we are at home in the body or away from it.” 2 Cor. 5:6-9
When Paul was on trial after he was falsely accused by the Pharisees of breaking the law, he was given a chance to defend himself and share his testimony. Here’s what the Governor said of him. At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.” Acts 26:24
Have you been criticized as being crazy for Jesus? This may be expressed in different ways but when you start telling people about your faith in Christ, you could either be mocked or welcomed. Some would say that you are crazy to give up the pleasures you use to enjoy. One time someone said to me, after giving up your life to Jesus, what if it is not true? My reply was, if it is not true, I still have no regrets because it made my life better, but what if it’s true? Here’s what Paul said of those who thought him to be out of his mind, “If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.”
Finally, Paul made this as his primary and ultimate purpose of living for Christ to continue His work of seeking His lost ones by sharing the gospel. “For Christ’s love compels us.” Paul was driven to do what he did for this very reason. Christ’s love for him because he was fully convinced that if Jesus Christ did not call him on the road to Damascus he would spend eternity in hell. Paul was a very religious man, and not just a Sunday worshiper but a Pharisee who was zealous for his religious belief and fully convinced that there is life after death. And this is what he based it on and referred to this in his letter to the Roman believers? He was reminding them of the first Adam in his first letter and the consequence of his sin. “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.” Rom. 5:12
But now there is the good news, “And he died for all that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” 2 Cor. 5:15
Can you imagine if Christ did not leave heaven and became flesh in order to die for our sins, what hope would we have of escaping God’s wrath and punishment in hell forever. No hope and no escape from hell. For thirty nine years I lived my life for myself. Paul must have been younger before he was saved by the grace of God. You may have been saved when you were younger but what really matters is you and I are saved to spend eternity with God in heaven. Is there anything that has happened in your life that is greater than this? But those who will and are already in hell will give everything up to be saved but it is too late. Here’s what Jesus said. “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can man give in exchange for his soul?” Mark 8:36-37
When one is already in hell it is too late. He cannot give anything from all his possessions to get him out of there nor can any of his love ones, relatives and friends do anything like prayers and masses to get him out of hell. But because you have been saved from hell, what will you give out of gratitude for this salvation that was given to you for free without having done anything good to deserve it because it was all by the grace of God. We owe a debt to God that we can never repay by anything material or even by working according to what we want to do. Here now is the offering that is acceptable and pleasing to God, the offering of our bodies as a living sacrifice to God. Keep in mind that our body that has been saved from hell is no longer ours. It has been bought, fully paid with a price beyond our comprehension, yet we are given the privilege to offer it to God by our own will and not be forced in doing it. That’s why Paul had to urged all believers to look back at how God has been merciful after we have been saved to withhold from us consequences of sin we may have committed unintentionally day after day. He is practically pleading and begging us that we do not miss out on this opportunity and privilege to show our debt of gratitude to God for his mercies.
In offering our body to God, we are actually giving up every right to anything and everything. The only right that we can keep and hold on to is the right of being God’s child. The first thing to give up is control of what to do with our daily life. To whom do we give this up to? To Christ Jesus who is the Lord. This is our response to His Lordship by deciding this daily to His invitation. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23
When Jesus used the word “if” to precede any of His commands, this means that we are given the privilege to choose. It is not forced but a willing obedience to his invitation. After deciding to come after him, these are the terms that must apply. This is a must otherwise it will not work out. “He must deny himself.” What does this mean? This means giving up all our rights to ourselves, our interests, ambitions, plans and most of all desires that leads to sin. The other must is to take up our cross. Cross to Christ meant death and should mean the same to us. His body died physically but not spiritually. His body was raised after the third day as was prophesied meaning that He was vindicated and His sacrifice was accepted by God His Father. How then are we to die? We die to self and the sinful nature in us. By faith we consider ourselves dead to sin but alive in Christ. This is what Paul meant when he said as inspired by the Holy Spirit that he has been crucified with Christ. This was his choice and decision to put to death his sinful nature and by doing so, Christ can now live His life in him and have full control as Lord. “I have been crucified and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” What made him do this? This was revealed to him as the will of God by the Holy Spirit, likewise this is the will of God for all of those who have been saved how we ought to live our lives. This is a decision that we need to do daily. This does not come automatically with our salvation but this comes as we grow to know the will of God in order to be conformed to the likeness of His Son. By dying to self, we also have died to sin for Christ and sin has no fellowship. This is when we offer our bodies to God as our spiritual act of worship. This is when God will use us for His purpose in Redemption to bring glory to His Son.
This is the only way we can be conformed to the likeness of His Son. When our bodies have been offered to God as a living sacrifice, we surrender and abandon ourselves to God for Him to do as He pleases. And He may allow circumstances to come into our lives to develop our character and endurance.
When we no longer live for ourselves but for Him who died for you and for me, then Christ continues to seek and save those whom His Father is giving to him in Redemption. This is the ultimate purpose every follower of Christ is to do, “to make Christ known by preaching the gospel.” This is what he came for and this is what He continues to do through us His offspring, as was prophesied and written “Yet it the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hands.” Isa. 53:10
Every offspring of Christ will have his days prolonged not only here on earth but for eternity. And what is the will of the Lord? That we be conformed to the likeness of his Son and the gospel is preached to seek and draw those whom God the Father will give to His Son. And who is going to continue the work of Christ? By everyone who has been saved by Christ. Is every one of His saved ones doing this? Not all. That’s why God has combined those whom He has given to His Son as His church, His body that His work of redemption continues till the end. “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the full measure of the fullness of God.” Eph. 4:11-13
This is the purpose of the church which is the body of Christ that we all mature growing into the fullness of Christ. Then God’s purpose in Redemption continues. As members of the body of Christ, we were saved by the gospel, we live by the gospel and we are to share the gospel.
Living the gospel daily means we die to self as Christ died so that after we have died He is free to live His life in us as Lord. This is the sacrifice that we offer to God, a body that is alive in Christ, totally surrendered and abandoned to Christ where He is the one living in us. This is our daily spiritual worship that is pleasing to God for the glory of Jesus Christ. Here is their promise. “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” John 14:23
We love because he first loved us. And because of this love aren’t we compelled to do whatever is His will? Do we love God as we should? Are we willing to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice as an expression of our love out of a debt of gratitude for salvation we cannot repay? This is the truth that really matters, we have but one life and what we do for Christ is what will last. Let’s not waste it.
You may be here today and have not surrendered your life to Jesus Christ as your Lord and for Him to save you. He alone has the authority to give you eternal life. This is what He came to do for you. “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” 1 Cor. 15:3-4
Believe this truth and give Him all your sins to pay as an act of repentance and then receive Jesus into your heart as your Lord.