It came in a simple, cardboard box. Yet, the gift had me choked up and speechless, almost to the brink of tears.
Opening that box left me overwhelmed. As it was a gift with a dollar amount that had me astounded because I knew the gift was sacrificial.
And the look on the givers face: joy.
Joy to give.
I couldn’t see how I could accept the gift. I struggled to figure out how to reimburse the giver, how to demand the gift be returned, or how to give it back.
But the giver wouldn’t have it, not even allow me to speak those words much less follow-through with action.
So, for days in fact, I wrestled with my inadequacies as the gift was given to meet a need I could not, this gift that expressed generosity, this love-gift… well, it left me a bit wrecked inside.
I didn’t deserve it.
The gift that is, I didn’t deserve it, wasn’t in a position to earn it and I couldn’t give it back.
What are you supposed do with a gift like that?
I do that with God, you know. Not surprising that when gifts from fellow humans leave me rocked to my core, how much more so with God?
God who gave it all. God who lay down His life for me.
Not because I earned it. Not because I deserved it. Not because I could ever pay him back for the ransom He payed for me that cost His all…
God gave his mercy-grace-gift because He loves me.
What do I do with a gift so great? I didn’t earn it. I don’t deserve it. I’m not worth it.
“I’m not worth it.”
I don’t know about you, but for me… that… well… that right there is the heart of my struggle. I don’t feel worth that gift.
‘Cause I know. I know me. I know the depths of my depravity. I know the sins no one else has seen. From my standpoint I’m not worthy of rescue.
When it comes to God, He isn’t fooled by the me I portray on the outside. Jesus didn’t lay down his all, didn’t give up his life as ransom for the Jillene that has it all together, never does anything wrong, tries her hardest to be good.
No. Christ gave himself for me, a sinner.
That is the point.
When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
God wasn’t looking for me to earn the gift, as if I needed to work my way off the naughty list and onto the nice. God didn’t say that once I worked hard enough to do what is right that then he would give me the glorious gift of His love.
No, the gift of salvation through Christ is a gift not a reward.
That is the point.
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
God didn’t ask me to love Him enough first so I’d deserve it. In fact, His love isn’t given because we love Him but so that we can love Him.
That is the point.
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
1 John 4:10
A gift not given because we were good enough. A gift not given because we tried hard enough. A gift not given because we loved enough.
A gift given because God is enough, because God gave enough, because God loves enough and God loves us.
So… what do you do with a gift like that?
You live the gift.
A gift that was given not because of who we were but because of the giver. A gift that was given not because of what we were but because of what it makes us.
My friend gave me that generous gift so that it would be used. Not put on a desk to collect dust. Not kept in the package lest it be broken. But the gift was given so that it could be enjoyed and used. Christ gave himself, the greatest gift so we could live the gift. Our Immanuel, our God with us, came to give His life so we could have it all: God with us, communion.
How do you live the gift?
1- Love God
Jesus said that first and most important thing was to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Since the garden, sin has broken our ability to love, our ability to be in communion with God. But Christ’s sacrificial gift on the cross breaks the power of sin and death; His gift allows us to love in return.
2- Love Others
God’s love enables, equips, encourages us to love one another. 1 John 4: 11-12 says, “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” The New Testament is full of what this means in practice and in day-to-day living; it sure takes a whole lot of prayer and study of the Word to allow God to work discipleship (making us like Christ) in us so we can live love… live the gift.
3- Live for God
To live the gift is to live for God. Living for ourselves brought (brings) sin and brokenness. But to live the gift is to live in communion with God, to live our lives for Him. Romans 12:1 says it this way, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.” We live for God not to earn the love-gift but because of His love.
Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” And there we come to it, the hard truth, to live the gift we live for God not for us. Daily take up your cross… daily, moment by moment making the choices of loving God and loving others. We live the gift, not in an effort to retroactively earn the gift but because the gift was given so we could truly live.
What are we to do in response for a gift so great as this? Live the gift.
It all happened in an instant and takes a lifetime of living to work out the “what’s” and “how’s.” But what a privilege… What an honor… What a gift of love we’ve received and what a gift of love we get to live! Live the gift.