Skip Heitzig - The Gift of Jesus Christ
For the last few weeks on our Sunday morning series, our services, we've been talking about three gifts that were brought by the magi. And we described who they were, where they came from, what their background was, what they were important and known for in the ancient world. And then we focused on a gift each week. On one gift we focused on the gold that was given, and we saw that that was emblematic of Jesus coming to be the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The magi actually said, "We've come to find the one who has been born the King of the Jews." They were looking for a King and they brought a metal that is fit for a king; and that is, gold.
Then the text says they brought frankincense, and we know that that was emblematic of the priesthood in the tabernacle and the temple. And we considered how Jesus was our Great High Priest, and what a gift that was to give frankincense. And then last time we were together on a Sunday we looked at the myrrh that Jesus was given. We discussed where that came from and how it was used. We saw that it was used for perfuming, etcetera, but that principally it was used as an embalming fluid. Now, I don't know what parents would think if they got a gift from their friends of their little baby, embalming fluid. "Hey, I'm glad you had a little baby boy. Here's some embalming fluid." "Ahhh!"
But, of course, that was symbolic of what Jesus would do in his sacrificial death for us. So we considered the gifts. But tonight I want to talk about the gift, singular, not the gifts that were given to Jesus, but The Gift. And that's been the theme of this whole month. You've seen a sign coming in on the outside of the building that has a big banner with the words "The Gift." When you walk into the foyer, you saw a humongous gift. And, by the way, let me just say thank you for your generosity. This church is, like, the most generous group of people. You have almost filled that box, and we've now emptied it, and we're going to distribute it to kids.
But let me just tell you what God's people have done. In this Christmas season we were able to collect, this church and other churches in the area, 22,000 shoebox gifts that went out to people around the world, and you helped do that. And then not only that, but the very week after we started collecting more toys in that box. And we just sort of figured that it's important to show love to kids around the world who would never have a Christmas otherwise. But we discovered there's lots of kids in our own city that wouldn't get a good Christmas, and we could share the love of Christ with them by giving them gifts. And so those presents will be distributed, and the gospel will be shared, and it's all about the gift.
So you have a poster out front, a humongous gift in the foyer, you get inside the auditorium and you see these packages hanging from the ceiling, gift, gift, gift, gift, gift, gift, gift. And then there's more gifts on stage, and there's gifts up here. So it's all about the gift. And I understand that Christmas has become overcommercialized. I understand that people have made it sort of just this gift-giving extravaganza, and that it can become materialistic, but I just want to turn that thinking on its end for just a moment. How about start to think of gifts that you give as symbolic of the gift that God gave, and it's sort of a reflection of his love and generosity, "For God so loved... that he gave..."
And so part of love is giving, as I want to talk about in just a moment. So you could start to see the gifts, not as "Oh, it's a pain. I have to give a gift to somebody," it's like, "I have an opportunity to reflect the love of God in a simple gesture of giving a gift." Well, I want to talk about the gift, not these gifts, but the gift; and that is, the gift of salvation that comes through the person of Jesus Christ given to mankind by God. I'm going to read a text of Scripture and we're going to put it up on the screen so you can follow along.
This is Romans, chapter 5. It says in verse 12: When Adam sinned, sin entered the entire human race. Adam's sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. And though there was not law to break, since it had not yet been given, they all died anyway, even though they did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did. What a contrast between Adam and Christ, who was yet to come! And what a difference between our sin and God's generous gift of forgiveness. For this one man, Adam, brought death to many through his sin. But this other man, Jesus Christ, brought forgiveness to many through God's bountiful gift. And the result of God's gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man's sin. For Adam's sin led to condemnation, but we have the free gift of being accepted by God, even though we are guilty of many sins.
We can immediately see the difference between these gifts, gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and the gift, the gift that Paul is talking about here. The gold, the frankincense, and the myrrh, these were gifts given by men to Christ. The one gift that Paul is writing about is a gift given by Christ to men. These three gifts were given when Jesus was just a child, but they symbolized his future. But the gift, singular, was given when Jesus Christ was a man and it's central to our future. These three gifts, gold, frankincense, and myrrh, they were monetary gifts, they are physical gifts, and their value is only on this earth.
But the gift, this one gift that comes through Christ, is a monumental, revolutionary, spiritual gift that is valuable in the court of heaven in time as well as in eternity. Now, these three gifts were costly. They were expensive, as we made note of in the last few weeks. But it didn't cost the wise men everything, but only a part of what they had; whereas this one gift that Paul is writing about cost Jesus everything. He left heaven and came to this earth, and he humbled himself, he poured himself out, the Bible says. So I wanted to show you those contrasts, because they are stark and they are important, but also because that's exactly what Paul does in this passage.
What he does is he draws the contrast between Adam and Jesus. Adam sinned, Jesus saves. When Adam did what he did, many died; when Jesus did what he did, many can live. What Adam did brought bondage; what Jesus has done can bring freedom. Adam disobeyed God his Creator; Jesus obeyed God his Father. Adam sinned, and when he did, people thereafter were declared unrighteous; Jesus paid the price, gave the gift, gave his life, and thus people thereafter can be declared righteous. Huge difference. So we talk about, not a gift, not these gifts, but the gift, the gift. There's a few things about the gift you should know. It means something.
First of all, it means that we are loved. Typically when you give a gift, you give it to somebody to express your love. And here's why: true love can never be passive; it must always be active. People like to demonstrate their love, because love likes to do that. It's an active thing and it's an active emotion. Over the years I have watched marriages deteriorate, and one of the principle reasons is that the couple somewhere along the line has stopped giving. They stop giving time. They stop giving energy. They stop giving care and concern like they once had. And they stop just simply giving, just little tokens that say "I love you." This gift means that we are loved. We are loved.
Somebody once said that you can tell the depth of a well by how much rope is lowered. You can tell the depth of God's love by how much rope was lowered. He sent his son out of heaven wrapped in the simple package of a human being, lowering the rope down into the bucket, that we might be saved. If you're ever tempted to doubt God's love, then you consider this gift. "For God so loved the world", put your name there. For God so loved Skip. For God so loved Chris. For God so loved Joann, "that he gave his only begotten Son." It doesn't say, "For God was so angry at the world that he sent his Son to punch them all out." No. "For God so loved the world," because that is his essence.
That is the very core of his nature. The Bible says, "God is love." And though that's very easy on the ears, it is hard on the mind to actually grasp that God loves you. It so blew John the apostle's mind that he said, "Behold, what manner of love", in other words, "What kind of love is this?" It's so different. God's love is different than ours. Human love is object oriented; God's love is subject oriented. Let me explain. When we see an object that we like, we place value on that object. We go, "I really like that. I want that. I want to drive that." Or a young man sees a young girl and says, "Ooh, I like what I see." That's object oriented.
I'm loving the object because I deemed that person as valuable because of personality or looks or whatever. That's human love. God's love is different. It is not object oriented, it is subject oriented. It is based on his character. "Why does God love me?" Just 'cause. That's his nature. And he loves you very deeply. So the gift means we are loved. A second thing the gift means is that we can be forgiven. The gift means we can be forgiven. Notice I didn't say the gift means we will be automatically forgiven, but there is the possibility that you can be forgiven. That's what Paul writes here. He says in verse 15, "What a difference between our sin and God's generous gift of forgiveness."
And in the same verse we read, "But this other man, Jesus Christ, brought forgiveness to many through God's bountiful gift." It means you can be forgiven. When Adam sinned... well, let me go back. Before Adam sinned in that perfect environment, God basically said, "Have at it. Have a good time. Do anything you want, go anywhere you want, but don't touch that tree right there in the middle of the garden. Just don't touch that, because in the day that you eat of that you will", anybody? "you will die, you will surely die." And that's the rub, by the way. That's the rub of so many activities that overpromise and underdeliver. Sin always overpromises: "Do this and it'll satisfy you."
That's how many addictions start. "I'll do that and then I'll be satisfied." The rub is it doesn't completely satisfy. You need more. But the more you do it, the more unsatisfied you become. It doesn't really fill you up. The Bible says, "The wages of sin is death." Death means separation. When Adam and Eve took of that fruit in that garden, they immediately began to die. They died, they started to die physically and they were spiritually separated from God. That's what death is; it is separation. You need to know this because we live in a world it's pretty easy to look around and say, "Bad out there." And why is that? I mean, after thousands of years, why is the world still the way it is? Who do we blame?
I mean, we still have wars, we still have anger, we still have people doing mean, horrible things. After all of this time and all of this education, haven't we got it right yet? No. And why is that? Who do we blame? Some me say, "It's the fault of the liberal media," or, "It's the fault of the Republican Party," or "It's the fault of the democrats," or, "It's a white issue or a black issue." No, no. It's a sin issue. It's not a skin issue, it's a sin issue. That's what's wrong with mankind. It's deep within all of us. But the news of the gift is that we can be forgiven. You can have a do-over. See, what Adam did is mess up God's creation. He committed an act whereby God judicially looked at all of humanity because that sin factor got passed on down.
When I was a boy, my dad took us to the Grand Tetons up in Wyoming. And there's a lake at the base of the Tetons called Jackson Lake. It's beautiful. And we were up early in the morning, and we stood on the shore of Jackson Lake, and it was absolutely calm. So much so, that you could see a reflection of the mountains in the lake like a mirror. Looked like two sets of mountains, it was that clear. It was so perfect. It was so pristine. What could mess that up? Well, there were four little boys standing at the shore. I was the youngest. And those four boys all had the same thought, but I think it was my oldest brother or the second oldest brother, Rick, who actually picked up the rock, a nice flat one, so it would skip across that mirrored lake.
And when he did, boy did it skip a few times. But it did more than that. It marred the reflection, the image of the mountains on the lake. Messed it up. All ripples now. What Adam did thousands of years ago is he threw the rock that destroyed the reflection of God, the image of God in the creation God had made. Then Jesus comes along sometime later, after the rock has been thrown, and essentially he says, "I'll take the hit. The rock can be thrown at me. In fact, it can kill me, because what I will do in my act of taking the penalty for what Adam, and thus the entire human race has done, is I'll correct that which has been messed up. I'll put the image of God back. I'll make a person right-side up after they have been put upside down."
So one man messed up the image, that's Adam. One man restored the image back, that's Jesus. Ruined by one man's misdeed, rescued by one Man's merit. This whole section here is about death. Adam did this, and death happened, and death, and death, and death. Jesus said, "I have come that they may have life and have it more abundantly." So the gift means we're loved. The gift means we can be forgiven. The gift means something else: number three, we can live forever. We can live forever. Finally, fourth, the gift means because it's a gift, it has to be received. It has to be received. Okay, God gave his gift.
We who know the gospel or have been to church, we've heard this all our lives. "Yeah, yeah, I know, God came out of heaven to this earth, was born in a manger, grew up, died on a cross, rose from the dead. So it means God loves you. Yeah, I got that. It means you can be forgiven. Good. Yeah, I've heard that before. It means you can live forever. Good to know." But it means you have to receive it or none of that is true in your experience. Any gift has to be received, right? You could have a gift with a name tag on it, and tomorrow morning somebody gives it to you and you just look at it. "Cool. That's my name, and that's my gift. H'm. Wow. Cool. Good."
So what good is that? Don't you have to open the gift? Don't you have to use the gift? Don't you have to try the gift on and maybe exchange it for a larger size or a smaller size, depending? But you have to use it, you have to open it, you have to receive it, or it's really of no value. And so it is with this gift. The gift has to be received. In the gospel of John we're told concerning Jesus Christ that "He came unto his own people, and his own did not receive him. But as many as did receive him, to them God gave the power to become children of God." He gave them the right, the power to do so. Tomorrow morning when you wake up, you might open a present and it's not what you wanted.
And you'll look at it and go, "It's not what I wanted." Well, then again, it's not your birthday, is it? But whether it's what you wanted or not, you can get, you can receive what you need. And what you need is love. And what you need is forgiveness. And what you need is life. That's what you need. It's what you need. But in order to get all of those things, you have to take the gift, you have to receive the gift. You have to open the package. You have to try it on. You won't exchange it.
Years ago when my son got to driving age... and I'm sorry, but I think it should be eighteen, not sixteen. But anyway, anyway, when he got his license and he got his first car, we got him a Volvo. And he saved up for it with his allowance, and it took him years, and we bought this old Volvo. It had a couple hundred thousand miles on it, but it was sturdy. It was a tank. And we did it to protect him. So he drove it around and he totaled the car. I mean, he totaled it. It was value, it was a cursed car after that. It would never again be on the road. So I took the insurance money. It was around Christmastime. Christmas was coming up. I took the insurance money and a little bit extra and bought him a used Jeep Wrangler. But what I did is I gave him a little box for Christmas about this big, maybe a little bigger, and that was his Christmas present. You know, he opened it up, and he looked inside, and it was a hat.
It was just a ball cap. And the ball cap said "Jeep" on it. And he looked at it. You should have seen the look on his face, it's like, "Oh, a hat." And he tried to act excited like, "Oh, a hat! Thank you. It's what I always (didn't want) wanted." And I said, "Take the hat out, Nate." He goes, "Okay," So he took it out. I said, "Look inside the hat." And inside the hat were the keys that were attached inside. But you have to take the hat to get the keys. You have to open the gift to get the car. You have to take the gift that God gives to get love and forgiveness and life. 'Cause if you don't open the gift and receive Christ, you won't get his love, you won't get his forgiveness, and you won't get eternal life. But if you do that, it's a package deal, and it has great benefits now and forever. Take the gift. If you haven't yet, take the gift. It'll be the best Christmas gift you've ever had. Let's bow our hearts and our heads for a moment:
Father, what a wonderful season this is this time of the year. Rightfully so, we have celebrated. We have offered songs, melody, energy, musical talent, dance, choreography, and rightfully so, because our gifts cannot compare to the gift. The gift undid everything Adam did. That is monumental. That is revolutionary. And it ought to change us. It should make us stop playing church, or being religious, or any of that kind of stuff. It ought to be revolutionary. And so, Father, thank you. Thank you that you "so loved the world that you gave your only begotten Son, that whoever would believe in him," that's the receiving part of the gift, "would not perish, but have everlasting life." That's all that we talked about tonight, the love, the forgiveness, the life, if we receive. There's always that "if," Lord, there's always that choice that we're confronted with. It's never automatic. Just because we were raised by parents in a spiritual home, and given values, and we've heard it, and every now and then we go to church, and kick a Bible verse around here and there, it doesn't mean anything. Either we have a relationship with you and it's real and dynamic and alive, or it's nothing, it's just stuff, and it just makes us feel good temporarily. So, Father, I just pray that we, all of us, some more particularly than others, would receive into our lives the gift of salvation, the gift of life, the gift of love, all that comes in the package of the gift of your Son the Lord Jesus Christ, that we would receive him and crown him our Lord and make him our Savior.
If you have never done that before, you could do it right now. If in your heart you were willing to turn to him, and it has to be from your heart. You have to mean it. And if you really want that, you can receive the gift right where you're at. Just talk to the Lord. Just say to him:
Lord, I know that I've missed the mark. I've mess up. I know that I'm a sinner. I know that and I'm sorry. I believe that Jesus was born and that he died and that he rose. And in so doing, he paid the penalty for my sin and my transgression. And I turn from that life and I turn to you as Savior and Lord. I want to live for you. Forgive me, receive me, and help me to live for you, in Jesus' name, amen.