Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The Perfect Gift

Well, it's all over, the gifts have been given, some of them delighted us and will be treasured, others...didn't and won't. But what makes a gift a good one, and is there such a thing as a perfect gift?

I've come up with a bit of a checklist for evaluating what makes a gift a good one, and as we run down my list I think you'll see that God has given the perfect gift.

A gift is a good one if it is essential. If you unwrap the paper or open the box and say, "This is just what I need", then the giver knows he has chosen well. The gift that God gave was a gift that we desperately need. Listen to the words of the angel as he announced the delivery of the gift:
Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people, for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour which is Christ the Lord.

The world should have breathed a sigh of relief and a prayer of thanks to God, and said, "This is just what we were needing!" But the majority of people don't react like that!  Many take offence at the offer of this gift. To them it's a bit like getting a present of breath-freshener. No one likes to think they need it!  They feel the offer of a Saviour is implying there's something wrong with them, but the point is there is something wrong with them, there's something wrong with all of us.  The only people who don't need a Saviour are those who are absolutely sinless. If you've never sinned then you can afford to reject this gift and refuse God's offer, but if you have sinned (and we all have) then you can't afford to reject this gift or refuse God's offer. Our sins have placed us under the wrath of God, in danger of perishing eternally, and we can do nothing to get ourselves out of this danger - we desperately, urgently need a Saviour - it's essential.

The second feature of a good gift is that it's expensive. By that I don't necessarily mean a bit price tag, but rather did the gift cost the giver something? Was there thought and care, effort and sacrifice? If so, then the gift will mean more to you.  What about God's gift?  Was it costly?  Well the gift that God gave was the only gift He ever gave that cost Him anything, and the amazing thing is that it cost Him everything:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

When the gift was delivered, it wasn't expensively wrapped (Luke 2 v 7), and for that reason people thought the gift wasn't worth much (Isaiah 53 v 3). Throughout His life He was rejected, and at His death the attitude of the people was that the gift should be returned to Sender - He was unwanted, but they had no idea just how valuable and precious this gift was. Maybe you are the same.

Never in the eternal existence of God had He been without His Son, but because of His love to sinners like us He gave Him, not just to Bethlehem's manger but to Calvary's cross, not just to bear the pain of crucifixion and the mockery of the crowd, but to bear God's wrath against sin so that we could go free.  None less that the eternal Son of God could do it, and God loved us enough to give Him. 

This is how expensive the gift of salvation is, and I hope it shows how insulting it is to God for any of us to think we can earn or buy it.  The work was so great that only Christ could do it; the price was so high that only Christ could pay it, and He said "It is finished" (John 19 v 30), the work is done, the price is paid, and salvation is freely available.  You must let go of all that you think gives you a claim or right to salvation, and reach out an empty hand of faith, taking salvation on the understanding you don't deserve it, and only the sacrifice of Christ could provide it.  Peter one day had to say this to a man who was wanting to buy the gift, "Your money perish with you, because you thought the gift of God could be purchased with money!" (Acts 8 v 20).  You take it as a gift or you don't take it at all.

The third feature of good gift is that it's enjoyable.  When I was a boy (and it's still sort of true now) I liked the hard presents, and never got too excited when I lifted the parcel and it was soft, because I knew the parcel contained clothes.  Now clothes were more needful and useful than the toys I got, but although I needed clothes I never really enjoyed getting them.  Some people think God's gift is like that!  They understand that they need it, but they think that if they took it then immediately the world would be robbed of colour and happiness. 

I just have to point something out here - the only people who think like that are those who aren't saved!  Anyone who is saved will tell you that it is wonderful - the only regret they have about trusting Christ to save them is that they didn't do it sooner!  The peace of knowing that my sins are all forgiven, that the Lord is with me, and that my eternal future is gloriously secure, is something "better felt than telt!" It cannot be adequately described, but the Lord one day said to a woman, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water" (John 4 v 10).  The Lord is saying if you knew how wonderful the gift and the Giver were then you wouldn't wait a moment longer to ask for it.

Fourthly, a good gift is enduring.  Many gifts given this Christmas will be in landfill before next Christmas.  Repairs, replacements, updates and add-ons are all things we are familiar with and all of these things tell us that gifts we give and get seldom last.  Most of us struggle to remember what we got for Christmas years ago, but the gift that God is offering is a gift that lasts "not for the years of time alone, but for eternity"!  The Bible says, "The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6 v 23).

The gift of salvation is a gift that can never be lost (John 10 v 28), it's a gift that never needs replaced or updated.  It is a gift you can have now and enjoy forever.

Finally, a good gift is a gift that's embraced.  The gift could be so good, but it will do you no good unless and until you actually take it.  So it is with the Lord Jesus - He offers Himself to you as the Saviour you need, but you have to admit your need of Him and actually, actively, receive Him as your Saviour (John 1 v 10-12).

When my oldest boy was three years old he learnt John 3 v 16, but there was a word he kept getting wrong.  He would say it like this, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only forgotten Son..."  And while it was quite funny to hear him making that mistake, it's tragic to consider that what he said was actually true - the Lord Jesus is, by so many, forgotten.  With all the fuss at this time of year, please don't forget about God's gift - His only begotten Son.  He's the only one who can forgive, cleanse and save you; He is a wonderful, willing, mighty Saviour, who today would be your Saviour.  Repent and receive Him, you'll never regret it.