Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Greatest Gift

The Greatest Gift
Biblical Priority #6 Love One Another
by Suzie M.

Ephesians 2:8 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast”. 

Do you go to church?  Are you a good person?  Do you give to charities?  Do you serve in your church? If you answered yes to any of these questions that is great!   However, many people think doing good things or being a good person will get them to Heaven.  Nowhere in the bible does it say you get to heaven by doing good things, quite the opposite, we are to believe and repent.  John 3:16 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.”  (NIV, italics mine).

“..not by works, so no one can boast.”  My pastor best defines works by this, “anything that takes human effort”.   Works is not just making a meal for another, praying for each other, or even serving at church or a homeless shelter.  God does want you to do these “good works”, he is interested in everything you do but the works need to be a response to your faith.  You are separated from God if you are doing your own thing.  If we could be saved by works we would all be bragging about it.  There is only one that brings us together; we are united in Christ through Grace.

“By grace you have been saved, through faith”.  Grace.  A word that is often used.  A word that is in numerous songs.  We say it before meals, we talk about showing grace to others but do most of us even know what the word means.  Even some “Christians” don’t really know what it means.  How can we really grasp what grace truly means.  I believe our Heavenly Father loves us so much it is his heart’s desire for us to understand grace.  As I have been pondering Ephesians 2:8 and praying over what to write I also have been asking God to show me and help me understand what grace really looks like.

Luke 15:11-32 is the parable of the prodigal son.  It is a story about a son who asks his father for his inheritance early and goes off and squanders it away.  He finally realizes he should return home.  Does his father yell at him when he returns home or call him names or tell him his opinions of throwing away his life and money.  No, the bible says the father was looking for his son, and when he saw him coming he ran toward him and then threw him a huge party for returning home.  Now that is a great picture of grace.  That is us.  We are the prodigal son.  We have all squandered away opportunity our heavenly father has given or entrusted us with.  Imagine this beautiful scene of your father in heaven running towards you with open arms and asking no questions and as soon as you begin to return to him and he’s throwing you a huge party!!  Now this is something to celebrate.

C.S. Lewis and many others say grace is what distinguishes the Christian faith from any other religion in the world.

Most Christians say the meaning of Grace is “receiving something we don’t deserve” or “God’s unmerited favor”.   Not one of us “deserves” eternity in heaven because we are ALL sinners.  Even if you think you are a good person and don’t “do” anything bad, you are still a sinner.  The bible says in Romans 3:23 (NIV) “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  It is only Christ dying on the cross for your sins that allows you to enter God’s presence.  Christ suffered and died for YOU, for YOUR sins.

What is a sin?  A sin is disobeying God’s word.  Sin can be anything from disrespecting your husband to adultery.  Sin is not taking your thoughts captive by letting your mind covet the possessions of your friend, coveting another man or wishing ill will to someone else.  We may categorize sin as one is worse than another but God sees ALL sin as sin.   Not a one of us is perfect and God knows this, which is why He had a redemptive plan all along for His precious children.  Eph 2:18-22 paraphrased says we are all even in God’s eyes, we all come to God the same way.  It doesn’t matter where you come from whether it’s Thailand, Canada, Mexico, Iraq or the United States.  It doesn’t matter if you came from a strip club, infidelity, alcohol, drugs, full of anger or divorce.  God still loves YOU!  He extends His grace to you.  We are only saved by grace.  God’s grace.

What must we do to get this grace?  Romans 10:9 (NIV) says “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”  We must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.  We must confess and repent of our sins.  Jesus died on the cross and by His power rose again three days later.  Jesus nullified any other way of getting to God by our own human effort. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13 (NIV)

Challenge:  What would you like for Christmas this year?  Would you like the greatest Christmas gift ever?  No, it’s not diamonds, or a new car.  Jesus is the gift, the gift of grace, the greatest gift ever given.  As with any gift it must be received. Would you please accept this gift this Christmas.   If you already have received the gift of grace I challenge you to share this gift with someone who has not accepted the gift.

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