Jesus, Gift of God

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Part Two - Jesus Christ, God's Gift To The World

With Christmas approaching, we begin to focus on gift giving which has its origins in the Gift God gave to the whole world 2000 years ago, God’s gift was himself, coming in the form of a man, living a sinless life, and dying on the cross that we might pass from death into eternal life. Since He is the gift offered to all, then the only role we play in receiving this gift of salvation is to receive it through faith with a repentant heart. In other words if we put our trust in His promise of salvation, we “will not perish but have everlasting light.” Thus our Lord’s own words to Nicodemus:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten (one of a kind) Son, that whoever believes (trusts) in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16)

Though this concept is so simple that even some four year olds can grasp it, yet it too commonly is rejected by many who call themselves Christians. Over the almost 30 years I have been a pastor, I have had many opportunities to question people about their relationship with Christ. To cut through the terminology in order to get to what the individual truly believes, I will ask him what God requires of him if he is to enter into heaven. It is really quite an experience to see so many faces go blank and voices are stilled because they have never really addressed that matter.

I asked one gentleman, who was very active in his church, this question and he could not give me an answer. He told me that they did not talk about those things in his church. I was stunned to think that a church could exist, claim to be Christian and yet not emphasize the need of preparing for the life hereafter!

Now after a few moments of awkward silence, most will give me one or more of the following answers:

1) I attend “such and such” a church

2) I am doing the best to live a life that will please God or measure up to His standard

3) I have been baptized and have joined their church

4) I try to keep the ten commandments

5) I am active in my church teaching Sunday School, singing in the choir, serving on a committee

Now all these things are good and proper in and of themselves, yet they do not constitute God’s requirements to get into heaven. I usually then share what God’s Word says on the matter and often they will reverse their earlier answer and agree with what I have to say. 

My concern is that how can one be a Christian and not be able to communicate the simple, basic path of salvation to another? The church is failing to properly instruct these people in the matter of salvation and in the process some are missing the path and ending in hell. Still others do not witness to unbelievers because they themselves do not know how to articulate in simple terms what they believe and have accepted. This is a crisis of epidemic proportions even in Evangelical and Bible believing churches today!

Two years ago I had the opportunity to teach the Bible class in our Christian school to a group of 23 teens ages 12-18. To start the year off I put together a questionnaire of basic questions regarding salvation and other key teachings of the Scripture. They would not be graded on this quiz however I expected that they would give it some thought and answer to the best of their ability. One of the students shared it with his mother who took it to her church’s Prayer Meeting that night and she personally told me that they could not answer most of the questions. When I heard this I thought to myself, what are they teaching in that church? These were essential and basic truths of the faith! It can be truthfully said that we live in a very biblically illiterate time not only in our country but also in our churches.

The reason these answers do not meet his requirements to enter into heaven is because they miss the point of what a gift really is. A true gift is not something you earn nor is it something you give to someone because you “have too,” or they earned it. The “Gift of God” is given by grace (unmerited or unearned favor) and is thus based on God love rather then on who we are, what we have done or have not done, who we know, or what we can do.

If a gift requires the recipient to do something in order to obtain the gift, then it is no longer a gift but now has become wages or earnings. This is the point Paul points out in Romans 4:1-8.

What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."* Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. David Celebrates the Same Truth But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin." 

Abraham was saved not because of who he was or what he had done, but rather because he received the gift of salvation by faith, One must realize if baptism or membership or keeping the law could gain a person a place in heaven, then it is no longer a gift but wages. With this in mind, the individual could boast that he made it to heaven because he earned it through his own efforts. But the salvation of God can not be earned. It can only be obtained by receiving it as a gift.

Let me give an example. If I were to offer you a $1000.00 as a gift, the first thing you would probably ask is, “what do I have to do in order to get it.” In other words what’s the catch? In response, if I said it was a gift and there were no strings attached, no requirements to be fulfilled, no hidden clauses or fine print, then all you have to do to make it yours is to trust my word and reach out and take it. However, if I told you that you would have do some work for me in order to get the $1000.00 or to keep it, then it no longer is a gift but now becomes wages.

This is the point of God’s requirement of salvation. It can not be earned because we are incapable as sinners of earning it. God instead offers it as gift without any catches or requirements and thus to make that gift ours all we have to do is trust His Word and receive the gift as our own. This is the message of Eph. 2:1-10. In Verse one, Paul describes our condition as unbelievers. We were dead in trespasses and sins and being dead, like a lifeless corpse we had no the power to bring ourselves spiritually back to life. He then goes on to tell us that God made us alive when we were dead. It is by faith we are we saved through grace (unearned favor), and salvation is not of ourselves, something we have done, but rather it is the gift of God. Paul fortifies his statement by adding that our salvation has nothing to do with religious efforts and good deeds on our part lest someone might boast they got to heaven by their own efforts. Paul ends this section by concluding that our salvation is totally a work of God for “we are His workmanship.”

By the way, the tense of the verb in verse 8 indicates that our salvation not only begins with God but it continues through the work of God and it will be completed by Him when we see Christ. Like a gift that comes with a free subscription to some service. A gift that keeps on giving and is constantly renewed by the One who has given it.

Have you accepted the gift of God by putting your faith in God’s promise that he will save all repentant sinners who call upon Him. There is no greater gift and no greater decision that anyone can make in this life. To be prepared for the eternity to come and to avoid the torments of eternal punishment. Why not stop trying and start trusting today? It will revolutionize your life!