This Christmas, Jesus wants to give us…
> Eternal life.
> Complete forgiveness of all our past, present, future, accidental and deliberate sins.
> Freedom from guilt, shame, and condemnation.
> Adoption into His family as His very own sons and daughters.
> The Holy Spirit who will come into our lives and make us more like Jesus.
> Joy, peace and purpose.
Now the question is, how do we get hold of this gift? There are three possible ways to think about this…
Everyone knows that when Santa gives out presents, he’s checking to see if we’ve been ‘naughty or nice’. In other words, he distributes presents based on our behaviour. Be good and we’ll get lots of presents. Be bad and we’ll miss out. It’s that simple.
Many of us assume that Jesus gives out presents the same way. If we can be good enough, holy enough, and religious enough, then He will give us eternal life.
However the good news is that Jesus is way better than Santa. Over and over again the Bible teaches that we don’t need to earn Jesus’ gift. That it’s not based upon our behaviour: “It is by grace you have been saved,through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
So there must be some other way…
When it comes to giving presents to friends, nobody wants to go through that awkward situation where we receive a present, but have nothing to give in return. As a result, it’s not uncommon for us to ask: “Are we giving each other presents this year?” In other words, we exchange gifts based upon a mutual agreement. We’ll give to them if they give to us. Again, it’s that simple.
For those of us who’ve grown up in church, we may find some similarities between this and Christianity. It’s often explained like this: “If we make a commitment to live the Christian life, Jesus will make a commitment to give us eternal life”.
The problem is, this is not actually what the Bible teaches. In what is probably the most well-known verse in all the Bible, Jesus says: “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).
We don’t receive Jesus’ gift to us by committing to live for him. Eternal life is not granted to those who promise to obey. This whole idea of ‘We give to God, so that God can give to us’ has no place in Christianity.
So what’s the answer then?
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Church of Rome and said: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship (Romans 12:1)”.
Here we read that God does actually long for us to offer our whole lives to Him, but it’s certainly not like the gift exchange system that we have with our friends. Rather the Apostle Paul only even mentions the idea of giving to God once it’s firmly established in the readers own minds that God has already given a completely unconditional, no-strings-attached gift to them.
Let me explain…
Firstly, if God required that we promise to obey Him in order for us to receive eternal life, none of us would make it.
We’re way too messed up, too selfish and too sinful. Certainly we may be able to obey God here and there, but not perfectly, not consistently, and certainly not when you take into account all the good we ought to be doing (and not just the evil we ought not be doing).
Secondly, the Apostle Paul makes it clear that God gives His gift to us before we give anything back to God.
Leading up to this passage in Romans, Paul has already mentioned that God has forgiven them, freed them from condemnation, given them the Holy Spirit, adopted them as His Children. They didn’t have to ‘offer their bodies as living sacrifices’ in order to receive eternal life. Rather they ‘offered their bodies as living sacrifices’ because they had already received eternal life.
Thirdly, It would be impossible for us to offer ourselves to God unless He has already given us His gift.
The New Dictionary of Biblical Theology states that “only clean animals are offered in sacrifice…According to later restrictions, sacrifices are to be unblemished”. In other words, offering ourselves as a living sacrifice doesn’t make us clean. We are already declared ‘clean’ because of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. And only then do we have the opportunity and privilege of offering ourselves back to God.
So yes, it’s true, in response to Jesus’ incredible gift to us, we are free to offer our lives as a gift to Him. But not because we have to. Not because our eternity hangs in the balance. But because we’re grateful for all that He has done for us.
SO HOW DO WE RECEIVE JESUS’ GIFT TO US THIS CHRISTMAS?
The Bible teaches that we receive this gift just like we receive any other gift. We simply take hold of it…
> Do we want to spend eternity forever with Jesus?
> Do we want to complete forgiveness of all our past, present, future, accidental and deliberate sins?
> De we want to be set free from guilt, shame and condemnation?
> Do we want God to adopt us into His family as His very own son or daughter?
> Do we want the Holy Spirit to come into our lives and make us more like Jesus?
> Do we want God to give us joy, peace and purpose?
If the answer is yes, all we need to do is let God know…
“Jesus, I need You. I believe that you are the Son of God who died on the cross to pay for my sins. I believe that you rose again. Right now, I ask that you forgive all my sins, adopt me as your child, and give me your Holy Spirit. Take control of my life and make me the kind of person you want me to be. Amen”