Greg Laurie — The Gift of Christmas
Here is a question. How many of you have ever regifted? You know what I am talking about? Right? Really. All of you. Let me define what regifting is. Receiving a gift I don't necessarily want all that much. Maybe it is that tie or a gift certificate at the new restaurant that just opened called the vomitorium. I don't really want to go there. I say, "Hey I got you something for Christmas". How many of you have received a gift and given it to someone else? Raise your hand. Interesting. More hands went up that time. A little definition helped. Regifting is fine as long as you don't regift to the original person who gave you the gift. That is a very embarrassing moment if that happens for sure.
I think Christmas is a time where we do give gifts. There are going to be some gifts that we are going to open up. Some will be exactly what you wanted. Some will less than what you wanted. Some will be gifts you did not want at all. I hope that you will think about the greatest gift God has waiting for you. This gift is not wrapped under your tree tonight. In fact this gift cannot be bought with money. But if you are a Christian you carry this gift in your heart. If you do not yet have this gift I want to tell you how you can receive it tonight. What is the gift of Christmas? It is the gift of eternal life. That is why God came.
We love the Christmas story. How the Lord comes, sends an Angel to Mary living in Nazareth. Tells her she is going to be the mother of the Messiah. Then the Angel tells Joseph that he is to take Mary as his wife. The decree is given by Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. Mary and Joseph make the difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. There the Son of God, the Savior of the world, God incarnate enters our life our world in that manger. Then shepherds are alerted who come and praise him. Sometime later wise men show up bearing their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. It is really one of the most beautiful stories you have ever heard. If it were a child's story it would be magnificent. It is a child's story. It is for children. It is for adults. It is for everyone. It is not a fairy tale. It is history. It is his story. It is real. Why did God send his Son to this earth? Why did Jesus walk among us as a man? Why was all of this done? So God could give to you this greatest gift of all. The gift of eternal life. Romans 6:23 says, "It is the gift of God which is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord".
When you open some gifts you will get an initial excitement over. A new gadget. Maybe a new outfit. Gadgets are quickly outdated as are clothes. Today's PlayStation or Xbox will soon be as dated as a Betamax or a mood ring. Remember mood rings. Or even a pet rock. Then there are other gifts that when you first receive them you don't really realize how valuable they are. In fact they grow more valuable to you with the passing of time. Maybe it is a family heirloom like your grandfather's watch that you remembered him wearing as a little child. Or a drawing from your little one from when they were very young. Something that is personal. Something that has sentimental value. The kind of thing you would grab first if your house were on fire. Or maybe it was money that was placed into your account. Maybe you had practical grandparents and instead of buying you toys they put money into a savings account for you every year. As time has passed though you resented it initially that money has grown. There is some pretty healthy interest on it. It is a lot more valuable than discarded toys.
However if you have an original Darth Vader figure from the 70s that is worth around $6,000. Hope you held on to those. I bought a lot of those crazy things and I don't know where any of them are. Certainly they are not in their original packaging. Check this out. An original Barbie Doll in its packaging is worth $8,000 to $12,000. For most of us we didn't save those or collect those. They are gone. This gift, the gift of eternal life, only grows in value as you begin to understand what it really is all about. Let me tell you about the immediate benefits of this gift. This is not a gift that only kicks in when death comes. This is a gift that can be enjoyed right now. One of the aspects of this gift of eternal life, the gift of salvation is something called justification. We throw that word around as Christians. Do we really understand what it means?
In the Romans 5:1 it says, "We have been justified by faith, therefore, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we also have access by faith into this grace where we stand". What we are being told here is the reason we can approach God, the reason I have access to God, the reason that God will even hear my prayer tonight is because of the gift. The gift that God has given. That includes justification. What does that mean? The word justification is a unique biblical word. It has a twofold meaning. First of all it speaks of what God has taken away. Secondly it speaks of what God has put in its place. What has God taken away? My sin. The moment I put my faith in Jesus Christ my sin is instantaneously forgiven. That is pretty great. Think of all of the things you have done that you have regretted. Those thoughts. Those acts. Those words you spoke. God can forgive you of those because of the death of Jesus on the cross. If I will turn from that sin and call it what it is, God will forgive me. Not only does he forgive me but he forgets my sin. Micah 7:19 says, "God throws our sins into the depths of the ocean". So that must be pretty deep. He forgives and he forgets. Therefore we should not choose to remember what God has chosen to forget. That is justification. I am forgiven of my sin.
Justification also speaks of what God has put in the place of my sin. My sin is gone and in its place is his righteousness. The word justified means to put to one's account. When God justifies a person, when a person believes in Jesus he places the righteousness of Christ into their account and that balances the moral and spiritual budget for them and for us. Acts 13 says, "Brothers listen. In this man there is forgiveness for your sins. Anyone who trusts in him is freed from sin and is declared righteous or justified before God". Chuck Swindoll put it this way. "Justification is the sovereign act of God whereby he declares righteous the believing sinner while he is still in a sinning state".
Here is how it works. It would be like you were in debt big time for $10 million. You got too carried away at target the other day. Bought everything in sight. Now you are going to go to prison. You are in the courtroom and someone shows up and says, "I am going to pay their debt". It turns out that person is Bill Gates. He has enough money to do that. He pays your debt. He says, "You are free to go". "Thank you Bill Gates. I don't really know you. "Actually I have a mac". "That's OK. You are free to go. Just use Microsoft software on it and I am good". "OK bill gates. Thank you so much". He goes, "On your way home go by the bank and check out your balance. See how much you have in there". Then you go home and you punch in your little code and you used to have $2.00. Now you have $100 million.
OK. I am pretty good here. Here is the point. God forgave you of all of your sin. If that was not enough, then he put the righteousness of Christ into your account. Now you are declared righteous before God. Do you want to know what a righteous man looks like? Look right here. "Greg you are crazy man. I know you". I know me too. I am not righteous because of what I do. I am righteous because of what he did and the gift that God gave to me. That is why. I am declared righteous even while I am still in a sinning state. Do I always live righteously? No. Do I always do righteous things? No. Do I appear righteous before God because of my faith in Christ? Yes. I am a living saint. "Now you have lost your mind Greg". No. I haven't. The Bible calls Christians saints. You don't have to call me Saint Gregory. I am a saint. So are you. This is what God has done through the gift that he has given to all of us.
It is just so amazing. If that were all, it would be enough. But wait. There is more. God has adopted me into his family. What does that mean? Here is what the scripture says in Galatians 4. "When the time was just right, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who are under the law, that they might receive the adoption of sons whereby we cry, 'Abba, Father'". That verse sums it all up. That verse gives us the big picture of Christmas. At the appointed moment in time the Angel Gabriel comes to Mary, tells her she is going to have Jesus as a child supernaturally conceived in her womb. She gives birth in that manger in Bethlehem. That is glorious. Why? To redeem those that are under the law. The law-the commandments of God basically tell all of us we have sinned and we fall short. This sort of deflates the self-righteous person who thinks they have done enough good things to get to heaven because we have all broken God's commandments. But he came to redeem those that were under the law.
Interestingly the word redeem means to buy out of a slave market. Picture yourself. You are a slave. You are in a market for sale. You are in shackles. They take you up to the block. What is the bid for this slave? Someone near the back pays the price. Then you have the shackles taken off and you are introduced to your new owner who is named Jesus. He says, "You are free from that sin. You are free from that lifestyle. You are free from that addiction. You come with me now. I have some place I want to take you". "Where are we going"? He says, "We are going down to the courtroom". "Why would we go to the courtroom"? He says, "Because I am going to adopt you and now you are going to be my child. Not just a slave. My child". God has sent forth his son made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem those that are under the law that we might receive the spirit of adoption whereby we cry Abba Father. That phrase Abba Father is the Hebrew equivalent of us saying daddy or papa. It speaks of intimacy with God.
That is what God has done for you. By adoption God is saying, "Don't just stand in awe of me. Come close to me". That is what it comes to. A relationship with the Lord. This is all worth it if there was no afterlife. If there was no promise of heaven. Just to know my sin is forgiven. My sin is forgotten. I have the righteousness of Christ in my account. I have a relationship with the Lord where I can approach him at any time. That would be enough. But listen. Wait. There is more. A whole lot more. You are going to see how much more one day and so will I. Right now we are in the before life. But the afterlife is coming. God has so much in store for us. Jesus said in John 17:24, "Father I want these whom you have given me to be with me so they can see my glory. You gave me the glory because you loved me even before the world began".
Jesus is saying, "I can hardly wait to show you Heaven. I can hardly wait for you to see me in my splendor. In my magnificence. In my glory". Jesus says, "I want you to share my glory". He said, "In my father's house are many rooms. "I go to prepare a place for you". It is amazing there was no room for him in the inn yet he has many rooms for us. Here is the big thing about the gift. This gift is going to kick in when this life comes to an end. This is where you are going to see everything in living color. All of these promises that you have held to throughout your Christian life are now going to play out for you in real time as you leave this world and go to the next one. This is the gift God has given to you. That is why Paul says it is an unspeakable gift. Or as the new living translation puts it, "It is a gift too wonderful for words".
As you think about these things you are going to gain a greater appreciation for the gift. A gift that maybe you value somewhat now. But on that day it is going to be the most valuable thing you have. Not your car. Not your house. Not your investment. Not your anything. It is going to be the gift. On her deathbed queen Elizabeth I said, "All of my possessions for a moment of time". No one could answer the request of the sovereign. Yes it is the gift of eternal life. A gift you receive now and effectively open later. It may not be as far off as we may think. You may open this gift a little sooner than you expected. That is why you want to have it now. You want to be sure that gift is with you. That is why I said when you believe in Jesus you effectively carry the gift in your heart. It is a part of your life. It is yours already to open when you need it.
How do you receive this unspeakable gift? Let me ask you a question. Would you receive a gift from a complete stranger? Let's say you are walking out of here today and you get in your car. Maybe you go down to the mall. Someone comes who has a big bag and says, "Merry Christmas. This is for you". Would you take it? "Whoa. I don't know. Maybe". Wait a second. Would you be a little suspicious? Why is this person giving me this gift? You listen. Is it ticking? Is this safe? That is a proper response. Who is this person? I don't feel comfortable accepting a gift from a complete stranger. Who is offering me this gift? This unspeakable gift? Jesus Christ is. Therefore you can trust him. You know it is safe.
How do you receive this gift? Jesus said in John 17:3, "This is the way to have eternal life that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent". My question for you is do you know God in a personal way tonight? This is why he came. To bring you this gift. This gift was his very Son. As we are told over in Isaiah 9:6. "Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given". It was a gift from heaven. Jesus himself said, "For God so loved the world, he gave his only begotten Son, and whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life". The best gift ever given in human history was simply wrapped.
I have a simple little box here. This isn't the fanciest wrapping job ever. It is a nice one. It has a little brown ribbon on a white piece of paper. It doesn't glitter. It doesn't have any extra things on it. It is basic. God sent his gift to us. Jesus came in the most humble of circumstances. He was born in a cave. Not in a palace. He was wrapped in rags. Not even clean sheets. Certainly not satin. He shivered in the cold night air as he entered our world and breathed our air and lived our lives and walked in our shoes. Then he died in our place. Why did he come? So we could all go shopping. No. He came so we could say like the wise men, "Let us come and worship him". This gift is waiting for you.
You say, "Let me ask you a question. 'What if I don't receive the gift that God offers'"? Well then you will receive your wages. You say, "You lost me there". Let's go back to romans 6:23. Here is what the whole verse says. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God "Is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord". Wages and a gift. What are wages? Those are what you receive for work given. I don't know what kind of arrangement you have with your employer. Maybe you are paid by the hour. Maybe you are paid a commission. Maybe you are paid every two weeks. However it works out you have an arrangement. You give the work that is expected of you. They give you your paycheck. Those are your wages. You earn those wages. You deserve those wages. Thus you receive those wages. That is the arrangement.
Notice God says the wages of sin. They are death. This is what you earn. This is what you deserve. This is what you get. Notice it doesn't say, "The wages of God are eternal life". You can't buy eternal life. You can't earn eternal life. It is a gift. The only way to receive it is to accept it in that way. You say, "What if I don't want the gift"? Then you will get your wages. And the wages of sin they are death. Eternal separation from God. Facing judgment and yes even hell. That is not what God wants you to do. That is why he gave up everything to send you the gift. You can receive it right now.
Let's just say I want to give this gift to you. I say, "Merry Christmas. Here you go". What are you supposed to do? Just stare at me? Or walk away from me? Do you want the gift? I want it. What do you do? Take the gift. Say, "Thanks very much Greg. Merry Christmas to you too". Here. I want to regift something. What is it? The idea is you accept the gift. It is as simple as that. God says, "Here is my gift for you. The gift of eternal life. Do you want it"? You say yes. Receive it. How do you do that? The Bible says, "For as many as received him, he gave them the power to become sons of God". You receive the gift as your own and God will forgive you.