Devotional: What Makes a Gift a Gift? Romans 6:23

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

Have you ever thought about what makes a gift a gift? How people relate to the idea of gifts is often revealing as to whether they understand what a gift really is or is not. On multiple occasions I have met folks who refuse to receive gifts, many who do not like giving them, and occasionally some who find far more joy in giving than receiving. Certainly plenty of folks do like receiving gifts, too. It’s important to comprehend what the Bible means when it says that God gives us gifts, first and foremost salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

 

Failure to grasp the nature of God’s gifts will quickly transform into legalism or license; in fact, more than likely the foundation of either direction would essentially be misunderstanding God, why He gives gifts, or what God intends when He gives them. Is it possible to distrust His motives in giving? Absolutely, and it happens all the time, but not without harming our potential for closeness with Him. No one who misunderstands the gifts of God will evade distancing themselves from Him; it goes with the turf.

 

Let’s start today’s devotional by looking at Romans 6:23. Romans 6 speaks primarily towards the issue of how we should live; if we are free from the power of sin, why would we live any longer as though we were still lost in our sin? That’s the gist of Romans 6, which works it’s way down into v. 23, telling the reader that if sin is so great, then why would it’s outcome be death (and wrath)? If we believe sin to be an affront to God, and the path of those who remain in their sin to be death and judgment, why would we throw ourselves back into that lifestyle? Once again, if we fail to understand the gift of eternal life, we very well may start to not only entertain conclusions that are not true, but will inevitably see these thoughts trickle down into our choices and our character. The first half of Proverbs 23:7 states, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.”

 

Romans 6:23 is a comparison-by-contrast verse intended to show us the consummation of either a life devoid of faith in Christ or a life submitted to God by faith in Christ. Paul reiterates in various ways the challenge to not let our thinking be tainted by temporal desires in a world filled with carnal ambitions and activities. The wages of sin is death; this is not referring to simply the death of the body, but rather, eternal separation from God. The just payment for sin without a Savior is eternal separation from God under the outpouring of His wrath. This speaks far more to the holiness of God than the corruption of man, for it is not that humans are as terrible as they possibly could be, but that God is holy and in His holiness, far holier than we could possibly imagine.

 

The gift of God is really the point of this devotional. The gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. By nature of comparison, this is in part how we can tell that death is referring to eternal separation rather than the act of dying or being physically dead. Notice that the action of sin merits eternal death, whereas the grace of God freely bestows eternal life by faith in Christ. Eternal life is not earned and if not earned, then also cannot be lost through “demerit.”

 

The word for gift is “charisma” (from which the modern term “charismatic” is derived) and refers to “that which is freely and graciously given” (BDAG, Bibleworks). When we speak of spiritual gifts (see 1 Corinthians 12:1, 14:1, 14:12), we are talking about God-given abilities within the confines of being spiritually alive and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, gifts which come not on the basis of merit but are given as God desires for His purposes. The gift of eternal life is also something that God gives freely by His choice and not our works. It is on this very issue where confusion gives people and denominations directional variance within Christianity. The two primary paths that are taken with false conclusions on the gifts of God would be legalism and licentiousness. 

 

If a gift is given with merit attached, is it really a gift, or is it a wage? Biblically speaking, it is a wage and not a gift when someone must do something or be something in order to receive something. That may strike us funny, because as Christians we might say something to the effect of, “But I have to believe in order to receive eternal life,” and this is true. Nevertheless, believing itself is not a meritorious activity, and still many people have subtly subscribed to just that sort of thinking. It is the work of Christ on the cross that was the saving act, and believing on that act is the necessary response for a relationship with God and an eternal life in Heaven. Still, God is granting life freely on the basis of faith, not because His hands are tied by what we do.

 

Theoretically, we could believe on Jesus and still go to Hell because God is not obligated by what we do to honor our faith. Of course, this is not what God does! What does He do, then? Well, He honors His word to us when we believe. Hebrews 6:17-18 says, “Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.” Side-note: it is impossible for God to lie because everything that God says is true, for He is the source of truth; that will never change.

 

God is fully committed to His glory and holds Himself accountable to the promises that He makes, and we should be glad for that. His offer of salvation is tied to His promises, and He is not a God who lies; it is not in His nature to do so, and therefore, what He says is true and trustworthy and as good as done. The New Testament is full of words in the doctrinal parts that speak of believers as glorified (see Romans 8:29-30, for instance) using past tense verbs for a future tense reality. Translation: good as done. What would our lives looked like if we were fully convinced of the things the Bible said were true of us?  That’s a huge element of sanctification right there!

 

We must be so careful that our faith is not in our faith, but in the Lord Jesus Christ’s atonement on the cross for sin, as well as in trusting God to keep His word. If the gift of God is contingent upon our keeping some sort of moral arrangement with Him, please understand that it is not a gift, but a contract if that’s how we relate to it. This is exactly why some strongly believe against any form of eternal security; unknowingly, they have actually bought more into a soteriology (theology of salvation) of contract than a theology of grace. A contractual paradigm of Christianity is the fastest way to inevitably turn the Christian life from humble awe over God’s grace towards us into legalistic perfectionism with our focus far more on keeping ourselves in good graces than what Jesus already accomplished. If the gift of salvation is nothing more than a veneer of contractual obligation with the potential for the contract to be completely abolished, count me out, and I hope you would feel the same if you have grasped grace for what it is: unmerited favor.

 

Given that Romans 6:23 came from a passage more on license than legalism, we might ask then how the gift of God can come with any sense of responsibility, accountability, and obligation to obey? Let me say this: salvation is a transformative happening. It is offered freely and it comes with no strings attached. Yes, in some sense, you could live however you wanted and not lose your salvation. The problem, though, is that if salvation has truly taken root in your heart, the gift begins to flourish, much like a seed planted in good ground.

 

A view of salvation that makes Christianity of no effect in the life of a “believer” is a Holy Spirit-absent view of salvation, and thus it is not salvation at all. The problem, therefore, is not that there are folks who were saved but then completely abandoned it, but rather that they were never truly saved to begin with. (This very issue has haunted many evangelical churches over the years in attempting to make sense of people who seemed on board who completely jumped ship).  1 John 2:19 states, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.”

 

There is no such thing as Christianity without conformity, one of the strongest reasons being that the Spirit within is on a mission of spiritual transformation. Living however we please with no conviction while constantly reminding ourselves we’re forgiven nonetheless is a fool’s remedy for the appropriate guilt and self-doubt that should accompany such activity. To paraphrase John MacArthur from a sermon I once heard him preach, “Confidence in our salvation is a gift for the obedient.” The simple point was that there will be doubt over our salvation if we do not walk with God, no matter how much we might try to rehearse truths we had been taught.

 

Salvation does not mean immediate moral perfection but it also does not mean moral indifference. We live for Christ, submitted to Him and pursuant of Him, because the gift of grace is growing within. This does not mean that we earned the gift of salvation, nor that we maintained our morality enough to keep our salvation. What it does mean, rather, is that truly regenerate people will never be the same again upon salvation and though they may stumble along the way, the anchor of their souls that keeps them from completely abandoning submission to God is the Holy Spirit within.

 

Salvation theology (the thirty-cent word is soteriology, pronounced sew-teer-ee-ology) is a Christmas gift to you and to me. There is nothing more precious and important to be reminded of in the season of gift-giving than the gift of eternal life. The giving of Jesus Christ by God the Father to this world was absolutely unmerited but completely necessary. The death of Jesus on the cross to pay for sin was absolutely unmerited, too and without His sacrifice there would be no hope beyond the grave. Salvation is not just something to claim, but also to continually learn that we might appreciate it more and proclaim it better. When Christmas comes (this was written on Wednesday, 12/23/20), take a moment to ponder not only the gifts you may give or receive on that day, but if you are a believer, remember the greatest gift of all: the righteousness of Christ credited to our account on the basis of faith in Him.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

 

Merry Christmas and may God bless you-

 

 

 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

Genesis 3:15–Celebrating the Promised Deliverer

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Genesis 3:15

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed;

he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”

We don’t have to go any further than three chapters into the book of Genesis before sin enters the picture. It is amazing how fast things progressed in that direction once the serpent came into the Garden. It didn’t take much to tempt them when we pause and realize that it was just a veiled question acted upon that did them in.

Have you ever thought about what should have happened when God made His presence known in the Garden of Eden following their disobedience? Pure justice would have meant the immediate destruction of both Adam and Eve, and perhaps the complete banishment of the Devil from existence. As to the latter, this poses the truth that God does not annihilate willful creatures from existence, but rather designates them for eternal ends (Matt. 25:41). Why He allows Satan to linger is not an easy answer, but the fact that He does speaks far more to the purposes of God than the power of Satan. All creations of God (at least angels, demons and humans) have a destination, which also speaks into what God thinks of what He creates. Creation reflects upon Creator and never surprises God even in the cases of such great deviance. The Devil himself exists only within the permission and plans of God. 

Regarding Adam and Eve, what we approach in Genesis 3 is not only a God who upholds His word, but also a God who shows mercy. Perhaps you have or have not thought of this, but God never told the first couple that there would be mercy before they chose to sin; He only told them that there would be consequences should they choose to disobey (Gen. 2:17). If our Gospel were only a message of consequence, it would be a woeful, hopeless message that no one would want to touch upon or bring up or find identity in. There are some in this world who only preach such a terrible lot, but that is not the Gospel and they are never a popular sort. Far more common are the groups claiming we either do not need a Savior or that we are all morally acceptable in the sight of God, which is also quite untrue.

Man, when left to himself, is hopeless and incapable of changing himself to meet the necessary requirements to be pleasing in the sight of God, righteous and acceptable to Him. When the first two humans sinned in the Garden, there was no immediate message of hope, no promise of deliverance, no mediator of mention. There was a serpent who was hellbent (literally) on ruining the relationship of man and God, a fallen angel rubbing his hands in delight (so to say) at observing a couple who had fallen from their innocence. All these two could do was hide, seek covering of their own device, and hope that somehow God might not catch on.

How could God not catch on, though? And how could anyone hide from the eyes of Him who sees all? And how could some leaves knitted together ever provide the covering for the guilt and shame boiling within? For all that the first couple did to cover themselves, their newfound consciences were screaming at them with full volume. Man, when left to himself, is hopeless, hopeless, hopeless. No one on this planet can conjure up a suitable fix for the problem of sin, for it is beyond us. The broken cannot fix their own brokenness.

So there they were, a serpent looking on at his own demented form of success, two people hiding in torment from the guilt within, God nowhere in sight but soon…the sound of His steps. Oh how each step must have shook within them, the couple waiting for the impending judgment, the end of their lives, something only spoken of in promise but not yet understood in experience. Death surely sounded bad, but it had not yet been observed. Then came the voice of God Himself, asking where they were, and then their blameful response, and then His further probing. Then came the consequences, brought not by a God who was wrong to enact them, but by those who chose to ignore them as though God would not follow through. It would have been wrong for Him not to follow through, you know, for what good is it to have a God who speaks and commands but does not uphold that which He promises? God does not waste His words. We can be both thankful for this and properly fearful of this, for what God says will and must come to pass.

Nevertheless, within the consequences we hear words of hope, and the greatest hope spoken is that of Genesis 3:15: the promise of Eve’s Seed coming forth and though bruised in heel by the bite of that contemptuous serpent, He would deliver mankind by the crushing of the serpent under His foot. The power would exchange, the serpent no longer holding mankind in some kind of deadly grip as the Son of God would come into the world and crush Him, breaking out the fangs and rendering the bite of no lasting effect. A venomous serpent lacking the teeth to inflict the pain, a head crushed under the weight of power, is a writhing mess causing unease to the onlookers. The Devil does continue to work, but he knows his time is limited, and he knows that the Gospel is greater than all he can muster. He does not want you or I to be cognizant of this truth, but it is true nonetheless. He can only look on with disdain when the hand of God is at work, for He cannot undo that which God does.

Dying upon the cross, the Son of Man would be laid in a tomb for three days, but to the dismay of the Devil and his fallen angels, as well as all those who have chosen to remain enemies of the Lord, up from the grave He would rise in victory. He is the promised Seed, the one spoken of in Genesis 3:15, and He is the reason we can celebrate times such as Christmas in hope. It isn’t a hope of vanity, but a hope of depth and substance, the power to change and not merely alter but be conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. It isn’t just a hope of change for a temporal time upon this planet, but a deep soul-grabbing truth that death is only a passage into a glorious eternity with the Lord of Lords, the pains and disappointments of this life left in the rearview mirror of such a spectacular future. 

Genesis 3 could have gone many different directions, and if it were only justice, it would have been only a message of defeat and despair. Very likely, we would not be here to even contemplate such a messagenews, for it could have all ended for humanity that very day recorded in Genesis. It didn’t, because God had determined to show mercy and grace in the face of the hopeless state of people when left to themselves.

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” (Acts 2:22-24)

Christ is the Hero of our story; He is the greatest cause for celebration every day of the year, but oh how quickly the celebration is lost when we forget our fallen origins. How quickly we forget when the sin that still permeates the fibers of our existence somehow is not recognized as the incredible problem that it is. How soon the hope flees when the destiny we rightly deserve is not on the horizon of our mind’s eyes, but rather the passing pleasures or pains of a life that is all too soon brought to an end. 

As we approach that time where we remember the Lord’s birth, we ought never divorce from our thoughts the necessity of His death and subsequent resurrection. We ought not forget the incredible price paid on God’s behalf to show us the grace and mercy we so often toss around like careless children playing with fine China. In the face of times like now, it is important to remember that the the fears of many people are in losing lives in a fallen world full of its disappointments when gaining a future far greater than this, as a person inconceivably better than we currently are, sits openly on the table for the taking. Praise the Lord for the Gospel message. Praise the Lord for the freedom to worship Him, a freedom that cannot be taken away by any form of oppression or despair.  Praise the Lord for Christmas and what it means to welcome a Savior we don’t deserve into a world He made and was always better than. Praise God for a Seed that came and, though bruised, crushed the head of Satan and delivered us from the power of sin and death. We have all reason to rejoice.

1 Chronicles 16:34 

“Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.”

Prayer from 3 John 2:

Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.

 

God be with you my friends!

 

 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Welcoming the Christmas Season

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Isaiah 53:1-10

Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
2 For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him.
3 He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
4 Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.
8 He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.
9 And they made His grave with the wicked– But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth.
10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.

 

 

Thanksgiving is now behind us and the Christmas season is upon us. I hope that, however this may find you, there are many things you could think of to thank God for. It’s a choice, you know, whether we place our focus on what we lack or what we have. It’s a choice to be negative or positive, and whether we will be a help to others or a hindrance. For all of the difficulties we may rehearse, please keep in mind all of the blessings we can give God praise for, and focus on the good. We can thank God for everything, though, because we know as believers that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Take a moment and think over the verses for today from Isaiah 53. These verses are rife with difficulty, aren’t they? When we celebrate the Christmas season, we generally think of a gentle baby lying in a manger and a soft setting surrounding Him. Jesus Christ came into this world in very humbling circumstances and was put on the cross in absolute humiliation by the crowds surrounding Him. Do you think that He knew the words of Isaiah 53 in reference to Himself before He came? Of course He did, He’s the Son of God, equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Isaiah 53 is powerful, in part, because the Lord knew what He was walking into when He came into this world. He knew how He would be treated, how would be misunderstood and sinned against and the incredible injustices He would suffer, even to the point of death. Yet He also knew Whom He was serving: the Father. He knew why He was here: to proclaim salvation and to provide it through His sacrificial death on the cross. He knew the price He would pay, and yet He came and dwelt among men and suffered at their sinful hands to provide us with life and truth.

In bridging Thanksgiving and Christmas, it’s often our perspectives that can keep us from seeing how good we really have it. We may only focus on what we don’t have, such fleeting desires at times, only to fail to see that the Lord Jesus Christ, the one spoken of in Isaiah 53, has made Himself our Lord upon faith in Him. How would you respond if you went through the things listed above? Would it drain you of your hope? Would it make you cynical and isolated? Would you complain and fight back? Regardless of what we might do, Jesus went through it all and never wavered in His commitment to the Father’s will or in His perfect character. Isaiah 53 speaks both to the character of Jesus and the character of sinners and the stark contrast between the two. God is so, so good to us despite the ways we have treated Him. Despite our failure to be thankful like we should or to give Him praise or top priority in our lives. His faithfulness to us is the most beautiful thing about our relationship to Him. As Christmas draws near, don’t forget the goodness of God in light of the sinfulness of people just like you and me. Grace is never merited, only freely bestowed upon those God chooses to bless.

Please keep my family and others in your prayers as we had been exposed to COVID a couple days ago. Our love goes out to the church and we hope you are all staying well yourselves.  Thank you.

 

 

60 Bible Verses about Prayer - DailyVerses.net

 

God be with you!

 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

 

Words on the Way to the Cross

Join us as Pastor Sam delves into examining the words Jesus spoke to the disciples to prepare them for the pain of separation from His physical presence. Jesus needed to prepare them with words they wouldn’t fully understand until after the cross, and after the Holy Spirit came to bridge that separation.

Who is this Baby in the Manger?

Image result for nativity famous paintingsPainting by Jean-Baptiste-Marie Pierre

 

Who is this baby in the Manger? It wasn’t just a baby, He was so much more and if you don’t understand WHO He was, you will never understand Christmas. Listen to Pastor Sam as he delves into John 1 to see who He is.

 

Being Thankful in A Post-Modern World

Celebrating Objective Truth on Thanksgiving in a Postmodern Culture

Psalm 100

Veteran’s Day: Brotherhood

At the beginning of Pastor Sam’s message, we watched this video from Sebastian Junger. You can listen to the audio from the sermon itself, or watch the video directly here. Then we encourage you to skip to 15:20 in Pastor Sam’s message.

Sermon Text: John 15:10 – 15

Mother’s Day – Placing Your Children Into God’s Hands

1 Corinthians 3:4-23

Easter Sunday – Supremacy of Jesus

Happy Easter! Join us as Pastor Sam delves into Acts 2:1-41 and shows us 3 points that demonstrate the Supremacy of Christ Himself.