As we open our Christmas presents, we would do well to pause and consider that the Bible teaches the greatest gifts we'll ever receive are the gifts given to us from God. A general meditation on these unique gifts will bring some real Christmas cheer.
1. "Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!" (II Corinthians 9:15).
This inexpressible gift from God is His Son Jesus Christ. Understanding when God gave us His Son ("while we were still sinners" - Romans 5:8), how God gave us His Son ("freely and graciously" - Romans 8:32), and why God gave us His Son ("for God so loved the world that He gave us His only begotten Son" - John 3:16) becomes our incentive to love freely and give generously to someone unworthy. Until I find my soul's satisfaction in God's inexpressible gift, I'll never never be able to give my soul to someone else in unconditional love. Talking about this inexpressible gift on Facebook is not the evidence I have it, for it is inexpressible. Jesus gives us the evidence we truly have received Him as a gift when He said, "By this will all men know that you are My disciples, when you love one another as I have loved you" (John 13:34).
2. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23).
When is the last time we've heard a sermon on "life eternal," or immortality? Some of the best Hollywood movies are about man's search for immortality, but for whatever reason, Christians wrongly assume that all men are inherently immortal. Not so, according to the Bible. Immortality is a gift. As Martin Luther put it, "We shall sleep, until He comes and knocks on the little grave and says, "Doctor Martin, get up! Then I shall rise in a moment and be with Him forever." (The Christian Hope, 1594, p. 37). Immortality is a gift to those with faith in Christ. The wicked will be raised, judged for their sins, and then handed over to "the second death" (Revelation 2:11; Revelation 20:14). "Only one life, twill soon be past, only what's done for Christ will last." (C.T. Studd). Thinking about my life for eternity puts into perspective some of my low points in history.
3. "For by grace have you been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8).
R.C. Sproul tells the story of walking the streets of Philadelphia and being stopped by a young man who asked, "Sir, tell me, are you saved?" Sproul, realizing the young man was a Christian street evangelist, asked him "Saved from what?" The young evangelist stammered and stuttered, not quite sure how to answer. Let's be clear about it. God told His people in Leviticus 26:27-28 - "But if you walk contrary to Me, then I will walk contrary to you in fury." Let's be very clear. We all need deliverance from God's righteous fury against our selfish sins. We have it. It's a gift. Deliverance from God's righteous fury for walking contrary to God's will in this world is a gift of grace through faith in Christ's work, not my own works. The greatest evidence that I have received this gift is that I continually give this same grace of forgiveness to others who walk contrary to me (Matthew 6:15).
4. "...you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).
The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit of God is indeed a great gift. At salvation, God grants His Spirit to abide in me, for I become "the Temple of the Holy Spirit" (I Corinthians 6:19). The Spirit's indwelling presence in me brings forth "the fruit of the Spirit," which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Notice, this gift of the Spirit brings the "fruit" (singular) of the Spirit. I can't be good without love; I can't be gentle without self-control, I can't be patient without kindness. In other words, I can't pick and choose among "nine fruits," for it is but one "fruit of the Spirit." The fruit becomes my character. The evidence I've received this great gift is in the fruit-pudding (pardon the pun).
5. "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows" (James 1:17).
All the good things in my life come from God. The difference between good and perfect is important. Good means "that which is benevolent in its character." Perfect means "something which is complete, or whole." Here is the remarkable thing "good and perfect gifts" in my life. Some things that come my way that are not good. They are evil and painful, not good and comforting. Yet, my Father is able "to work all things for my good" (Romans 8:28), In times of seemingly awful problems and unbearable pain, I need to remember that the complete story of my life has not yet been written by my Father. Everything that comes my way (even the evil that does not originate from Him), God perfectly orchestrates (that's the Greek word for "works" in Romans 8:28) for my ultimate good.
These five gifts from God are the greatest gifts I'll ever receive.
And they make for a Merry Christmas indeed.