Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Would you like that gift wrapped?

The best illustrations provide pictorial clarity to a complex idea or concept. One of the most familiar Christian illustrations paints a picture of the greatest truth, the good news that the Son of God died for sinners and rose from the dead to offer salvation to those who believe. In this illustration, the evangelical pastor often focuses on the Bible’s description of salvation as a gift of grace alone through faith in Jesus alone. In fact Ephesians 2:8-9 even says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (ESV). This illustration of God the Father offering you the sinner a free gift of salvation is surely a cultural picture that we can envision. But there is a danger in this common illustration.

It seems that the danger lies in the package that you envision for the gift offered by God. Here in Kingsburg, most of us are familiar with gifts wrapped in decorative paper and fancy bows, or perhaps a clever gift bag. If you have heard the good news that Jesus will forgive sinners who will believe from their eternal sin-debt, and you have heard that this salvation is a free gift apart from good works to earn it, then you have heard the exclusively Christian gospel. Having heard of this salvation gift, you must not think of the gift from God as a fluffy and frilly package with a pretty bow on top. Those who turn from sin and self-righteous effort and believe in the finished substitution of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21), indeed receive a gift…it is wooden and rugged, not wrapped in pretty paper and a bow. It is a Roman cross, an instrument of violent execution, just like the one Jesus died upon to provide complete salvation. This is your gift, if you repent and believe. Luke 9:23-24 records Jesus’ words regarding the salvation gift, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (ESV).

Those who receive the gift of salvation are receiving the joy of daily death to their own way, their own goodness, and their own agenda and wisdom. True Christians have received their own cross from their crucified King. He will forever be their way, their truth, and their life (John 14:6). They will no longer lean on the wisdom of ancient men or modern gurus, for they will know the triune God and His living Word, the source of all wisdom (Psalm 119:99-100). Salvation is the gift of God; it is a life of faith in Jesus, expressed in daily crucifixion of self and obedience to the all-sufficient Savior. The missionary-martyr Jim Elliot was correct when he concluded, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."

*This article was originally published as a column in the Kingsburg Press newspaper.

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home