Offer Them Christ
The Weblog Of J.F. Howard

Exchanging Gifts

Titus 2:11-14 says: 

11 For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. 12 And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, 13 while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. 14 He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.

            The movie Pay It Forward was released in 2000. It describes the incredible effects of a seventh grade boy’s plan to change the world by doing something for other people they can’t do for themselves.

            Early on in the film, one of the characters, reporter Chris Chandler (played by Jay Mohr) arrives in a neighborhood where a hostage situation is in progress. As he begins to question the police, the hostage-taker crashes a large SUV through the garage door and rams into Chandler’s vintage Mustang, which is parked on the street. As the suspect flees, the police take off in hot pursuit, leaving Chandler alone with his mangled car.

            As he laments, a well-groomed lawyer appears. The lawyer asks if Chandler would like his brand new Jaguar. Chandler thanks the lawyer for the opportunity to borrow his car.

            “No, it’s yours,” the lawyer says.

            He tells Chandler he’s had a run of good luck lately, and he doesn’t need it; Chandler can have it.

            Chandler is unable to comprehend what is happening. Even as the lawyer walks away in the rain, Chandler shouts after him. He can’t believe anyone would just give him a brand new car. Then he starts protesting that he doesn’t really need a car, and he even suspects the Jaguar is rigged with explosives.

            But it isn’t. It is a perfectly beautiful new car, and it is a free gift.

            Christmas is about gifts. We understand that. But we don’t always fully understand the significance of God’s Christmas gift to us in Jesus Christ. And like the character Chandler in the movie Pay It Forward we may have a hard time accepting the free gift that God gives to us at Christmas.

            What is the best Christmas gift you ever got?

            Do you ever think about that?

            One year at Christmas I got a wife. That was a good Christmas!

            Another year at Christmas we had our first child. That was a good Christmas too!

            And one year at Christmas I had a profound encounter with Jesus Christ! That was also a good Christmas!

            It happened during a Christmas Eve communion service. During that Christmas Eve I met Jesus Christ in a very personal way. I think that may explain why I am such a believer in Christmas Eve church services.

            I guess I want everyone to experience and encounter Jesus Christ the way I did on that Christmas Eve.

            So tonight, on this Christmas Eve I want to tell you about a Christmas gift that God is offering to you; and a Christmas gift that you can give to God.

            It could be that tonight you may receive the greatest Christmas gift ever!

            This Christmas Eve message is called “Exchanging Gifts” because Christmas is about a gift that Jesus Christ gives to us, and about a gift that we can in turn, give to Jesus.

            Let’s look at those two gifts for just a moment.

1) The gift Jesus gives to us: a new life.

(Titus 2:11, 14)

11 For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people.

14 He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.

Salvation (2:11)

His life (2:14)

Freedom from every kind of sin (2:14)

Cleansing (2:14)

Acceptance into His family (2:14)

            The grace of God has been revealed in Jesus Christ. “Grace” means a gift we have not earned nor do we deserve. That’s part of the joy of receiving a gift, isn’t it? Someone has given you a gift because they love you and care about you. You are given a gift because you are special to someone.

            Christmas is about a gift from God to us in Jesus Christ that we can neither pay for, nor deserve. This Christmas, no one needs to be without a gift. The Bible says that God’s gift, God’s grace in Jesus Christ, is available to all people.

            Titus says, “For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people.” (2:11, NLT).

            When we work a forty-hour week and receive a paycheck, we know that’s a wage, not a gift.

            When we enter a contest and receive a trophy, we know that’s a prize, not a gift.

            When we are recognized for our achievement, we know that is an award, not a gift.

            But when we know we are not able to earn a wage, or win a prize, or deserve an award, but we are given a gift anyway—that is the definition of grace.

            I hope you didn’t have to earn, win, or achieve any of your Christmas gifts this year—if you did, they aren’t really gifts at all.

            But God offers you a gift this Christmas. Titus calls it “salvation (2:11).” God’s gift to us in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ covers and cleanses every sin in our lives.

            John 3:16 says,

16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life”.

            1 Timothy 2:5-6a says,

5 For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. 6 He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.

            1 John 2:1b-2 tells us,

1 …If anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. 2 He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.

            The gift God offers us is very valuable—priceless even! We don’t have enough money to purchase this gift of salvation ourselves; and even if we did, it is not for sale!

            God’s gift to us is very costly. In fact, it cost Jesus His life to purchase it for us.

            Titus says that Jesus “…gave his life to free us from every kind of sin…” (Titus 2:14a).

            Jesus gave His life to give us a gift of freedom and forgiveness from sin, that we never could have attained on our own.

            That’s a great Christmas gift God gives to us in Jesus Christ.

            There is an old Billy Graham story that describes God’s gift of grace.

            One time Billy Graham was driving too fast through a small southern town, when he was stopped by a police officer and charged with speeding. Graham readily admitted he was guilty of speeding, but the officer told him he would have to appear in court.

            When the court date came the judge asked, “How do you plead, guilty or not guilty?”

            Graham pleaded guilty.

            The judge replied, “I fine you ten dollars—one dollar for every mile you went over the speed limit.”

            It was only then that the judge recognized it was the famous Billy Graham in his courtroom.

            So he said, “You have violated the law. The fine must be paid. But I am going to pay it for you.”

            The judge then took a ten dollar bill from his own wallet, and attached it to the ticket. Then he recessed the court and took Billy Graham out and bought him a steak dinner!

            Graham said, “That is how God treats us when we turn from our sins, and turn our lives to Jesus Christ!”

            This Christmas, Jesus Christ offers us a gift purchased with His life…salvation;

freedom from sin,

a life that has been made clean;

a new beginning;

a fresh start; and

adoption into the family of God.

            On this Christmas Eve, will you say “yes” to Jesus, and receive His gift into your life?

            This could be the greatest Christmas Eve you have ever known!

            There is one more part to this year’s Christmas gift exchange. It is our turn to give a gift.  

2) The gift we give to Jesus: a changed life.

(Titus 2:12-13)

12 And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, 13 while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed.

Turning from godless living

Turning from the pleasures of sin

Wise living

Right living

Devoted living

Expectant living

            There are some gifts that have the power to change our lives forever. The gift of Jesus Christ in our lives is one of those gifts.

            And the gift that we can give Jesus back, is a changed and transformed life.

            Titus said that the gift of God’s grace in Jesus Christ has the power to:

turn us from godless living; to

turn us from the pleasures of sin; to

enable us to live lives that are wise,

rightly focused,

devoted, and

expectant.

            Whenever Christian research groups survey people who claim to be Christians, and people who do not claim to be Christians, they always seem to discover that there is very little difference in the way Christians and non-Christians live their lives.

            Wilbur Chapman once said:

            “It’s not the ship in the water but the water in the ship that sinks it. So it’s not the Christian in the world but the world in the Christian that constitutes the danger.”

            The gift of God in Jesus Christ has the power to change our lives—to transform us into new people (see 2 Corinthians 5:17).

            Why should we settle for anything less than everything we can be in Jesus Christ?

            The gift of Jesus Christ has the power to change and transform us—to enable us to live differently—to turn us from godless living…to keep us from living only for the pleasures of sin—to enable us to live with wisdom in this world.

            The Bible says with the gift of Jesus Christ in our lives, we can live lives that are headed in the right direction.

            We can live with devotion to God, and expectancy that God is coming to do a great thing in our world.

            On this Christmas Eve, would you be willing to take an additional step, to not only receive the gift of God in Jesus Christ—the gift of new life through salvation; but to also give a gift to Jesus Christ this Christmas…a changed life.

            Would you be willing to say to Jesus Christ this Christmas Eve, “I’m not going to settle for business as usual in my life anymore”?

            Would you be willing to say to Jesus Christ this Christmas Eve, “I’m going live a life that honors God for gift of salvation I have in Jesus Christ”?

            Would you be willing to say to Jesus Christ this Christmas Eve: “Here is my life, Lord Jesus…I give it to You…change me into the person You want me to be”?

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