Gifts from God (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 6:23; John 14:27)

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Introduction

While it probably shouldn’t be this way, one of the things we anticipate most at this time each year is unwrapping Christmas gifts with our friends and family. The truth is, for many of us, gifts have become the central emphasis of the Christmas season.

Now, I suppose that for most of us, the anticipation of opening gifts at Christmas time is something we have enjoyed since we were children, and it ends up being something we continue to enjoy even into adulthood. And, as much as we know that this is not what Christmas is all about, if we are honest, we do spend way too much time and energy each year thinking about gifts and shopping for gifts. In fact, even as I was writing this sermon, I was feeling the pressure to get finished so that I could rush out to pick up a few more gifts for certain members of my family.

And for the children in this room today, I know that you are very excited right now thinking about the gifts you are going to receive over the next few days. I know that you have made long lists of things you really want. And I understand the excitement. I can remember what it was like to be a kid at Christmas. And truthfully, even as an adult, I can’t help but wonder what I might get this year.

But, we have to be careful—as children and adults—that we don’t allow the gifts we are going to give and receive to become our primary focus at Christmas. Because if we do, we will undoubtedly miss the main point of this annual celebration we enjoy with our families. Remember, what we are celebrating at this time each year is the birth of Jesus Christ. And the reason his birth is worth celebrating is because of what God has accomplished for us by sending his Son to Earth. In fact, in our time together this morning—which I am going to keep short—I want to talk about three gifts from God that would not have been possible apart from the birth of his Son, Jesus Christ. And I hope that by focusing on these three gifts from God in my sermon this morning, that we will each remember why the birth of Jesus is worth celebrating in the first place.

God’s Gift of Salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9)

So the first gift from God that I would like to direct your attention to this morning is God’s gift of salvation. Now, the Bible talks about God’s gift of salvation in many places, but one of the best places we can learn about this gift is found in Ephesian 2:8-9. So if you have your Bibles with you this morning, I invite you to turn in them with me to Ephesians 2:8-9. If you do not have a Bible with you today, I encourage you to make use of one of the pew Bibles where you can find this passage located on page 976. Once you get there, follow along with me as I read, and notice what the Apostle Paul has to say about salvation being a gift from God. He says,

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8–9 ESV)

Friends, what Paul wants us to understand this morning, is that salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ is a gift from God. It is not something that we can earn by good works or good behavior. Yes, thankfully God’s gift of salvation is very different from the way things are with Santa Claus who only brings gifts to those who have been good. Because if God’s gift of salvation was only given to those who had been good enough to deserve it, no one would be saved. Paul tells us in Romans 3 that “no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:12 ESV). So if we had to be good to receive this gift from God, we’d all be in trouble. Because, “no one does good, not even one.”

So, fortunately, salvation is a gift that God gives, not because people deserve it, but because he has decided to show us grace even when we didn’t deserve it. God’s gift of salvation is not something we receive because of anything we do. But, God’s gift of salvation is something we receive because of what Jesus has done. It is a gracious gift because God works in our hearts in such a way that we come to believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God who came to Earth and died on the cross for our sins. We come to believe that through his death, he has rescued us from the penalty of sin, the power of sin, and ultimately from the presence of sin. That is what it means to be saved. It means we have been saved from the sinful condition we entered into when Adam and Eve disobeyed God. And it means that we have been saved from God’s judgment for our own sin—not because we deserve, but because God shows us grace.

God’s Gift of Eternal Life (Romans 6:23)

But, as wonderful as God’s gift of salvation is, it is not the only gift that God has made possible through the birth of his Son, Jesus Christ. Yes, in addition to celebrating God’s gift of salvation this year at Christmas, we should also remember to celebrate God’s gift of eternal life.

Now, it is common to hear people talk about death in a way that makes it sound normal and natural. But the death of a human being created in the image of God is not normal and natural. It was never intended to be normal and natural. In fact, according to the Bible, death is a part of the great perversion of God’s good creation that came about as a result of our sin.

The truth is, people who to talk about death as a normal and natural part of life, and people who say things like, “death is our friend,” are only those who have no good answer to the problem of death. But the Bible does not ever say that death is normal and natural. And it certainly doesn’t describe death as a friend. In fact, The Apostle Paul describes death as the last great enemy—the last great enemy that Jesus came to defeat (1 Corinthians 15:26). Yes, for Paul, death is not something that is just part of being a human being. For Paul, death is what we receive for rebelling against God.

For example, in Romans 6:23, Paul says, “For the wages of sin is death.” Turn there with me because this is important—Romans 6:23, on page 943 of the pew Bibles. Again, Paul says, “For the wages of sin is death.” So, yes, while we cannot earn our salvation, we can earn death. And the way we earn death is through sin. And this makes sense, doesn’t it? What did God tell Adam and Eve about the forbidden tree? Well, he said, “if you eat from that tree you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17, paraphrase). So again, Paul was right, “the wages of sin is death.”

But, thankfully, that is not the end of the story for Paul. In Romans 6:23, he doesn’t just say, “For the wages of sin is death,” he also says, “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” So there it is, the second gift that God has made possible through the birth of his Son is the free gift of eternal life found only “in Jesus Christ our Lord.” In other words, through our sin we earned death, but through Christ’s death, we receive eternal life.

Friends, eternal life and immortality are not something inherent to us as human beings any longer. Sin brought that to an end. But, thankfully, God’s gift of eternal life is available once again for everyone who will trust that in his resurrection, Jesus defeated death not only for himself, but also for every one of us who will place our faith in him to do so. Like salvation, eternal life is not something we can earn or attain. But eternal life is a free gift from God.

God’s Gift of Peace (John 14:27)

Now, the third gift we ought to be celebrating at Christmas time each year is God’s gift of peace. I am sure that you have heard Jesus referred to as the Prince of Peace—it is a very common way to describe Jesus during the Christmas season. Well, the reason the Bible refers to Jesus as the Prince of Peace is because Jesus came to Earth to give us both peace with God (Colossians 1:20) and peace with man (Ephesians 2:14). And so, peace is the third gift from God that I want to talk about this morning.

But, there is something you need to know about this third gift from God. And what you need to know is that God’s gift of peace can only be opened once you have received and opened God’s first two gifts. Yes, you can’t open and enjoy God’s gift of peace, until you have first opened and enjoyed his gifts of salvation and eternal life. Because without the assurance of salvation, and without the certainty of eternal life, there will be no peace for you in this life. If you are still walking around burdened by the weight of your sin and the reality of judgment for it, if you are still walking around feeling the clock of death ticking, the peace we all desire as human beings will be impossible to attain. But, if you open these two gifts of salvation and eternal life by placing your faith in Jesus Christ, God’s gift of peace will soon follow. But, you must open the first two gifts first.

And you know how this works. Sometimes you will buy gifts for your kids that need to be opened in a particular order or else it won’t make sense. If you are giving your kids a new video game console for Christmas, you don’t give them the video games first; that would spoil the surprise of the bigger gift of the console itself. If you are giving your teenager a phone for Christmas, you make sure to distribute the presents in such a way that they open the phone before they open the case and screen protector you got for them to put on the new phone. Well, that is sort of how it is with God’s gift of peace. You can only open it after you have received God’s gifts of salvation and eternal life.

Yes, when we understand that we have been saved from God’s judgment, by grace through faith, and when we understand that death is not something we have to fear any longer because Jesus has defeated it for us in his resurrection, it makes a lot of sense that we would be filled with “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7 ESV). And that is why, in John 14:27, which is found on page 901 of the pew Bibles, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” And then, “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

Friends, the truth is, apart from placing your faith in the Prince of Peace, you will have no peace—no peace with God, no peace with man, and no peace within your hearts. But, when you place your faith in Jesus Christ, and trust in his death and resurrection as the path to salvation from God’s judgment, and as your entrance into eternal life, you will have a peace within you that seems strange to the world. Yes, when we know that our future is secure in Jesus Christ, the trials and tribulations of life cannot, and will not, shake us as much as they used to. Instead of worrying, we will cast our anxieties upon him (1 Peter 5:7). Instead of being concerned about the troubles of tomorrow we will trust that our heavenly Father knows about all our needs and will take care of them because he takes care of us (Matthew 6:25-34). Instead of worrying about things out of our control, we will let our requests be made known to God and allow “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, [to] guard [our] hearts and [our] minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7). And, that is the third gift from God we ought to be celebrating this morning—God’s gift of peace.

Conclusion

So, I wonder if you have personally opened these three gifts from God? Have you received his gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ? Are you already enjoying God’s free gift of eternal life? And do you know what it is like to unwrap and enjoy God’s gift of peace?

Friend, I hope that there are many wonderful gifts under your Christmas tree when you wake up on Tuesday morning. But even more than that, I pray that you will not leave this room today without receiving the gifts of salvation, eternal life, and inexplicable peace. Because as exciting as it will be to open the gifts under your tree on Christmas morning, none of them will compare with these three gifts from God we have talked about today. There is nothing under your tree that is going to save you from the penalty of sin. There is nothing under your tree that is going to solve the problem of death. And, there is nothing under your tree that will ever give you any lasting peace in this world. Those are things that only God can give. And they are things you can only receive by placing your faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

So, have you done that today? And, if not, what is keeping you from doing so right now? Friends, unwrap these gifts from God and enjoy the peace that comes from knowing you have been saved from your sin and will live with God for all eternity. There are no better gifts than these.