There is nothing that will put a twinkle in the eye of the giver and the receiver like a gift. There is no better way to demonstrate love and to know we are loved.
John 3:16: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
When I was a small child I received gifts from my parents and older siblings. The first couple of Christmases I didn*t give them anything. I was probably 4 or 5 when I figured out Santa Claus was Axel Formo. He was a heavy set farmer who was drafted to put on the beard and pass out fruit and candy almost every Christmas. About the time I figured out Axel was the Santa Claus I began giving gifts to my family. I remember the first Christmas I did that. Someone had probably given me a dollar. I wanted to give a gift to everyone in my family. There were 8 of us offspring and Mom and Dad. I found I could buy combs for a dime at the Gamble Store. So I bought 9 combs of all different colors and sizes and had 10 cents left over. I wrapped them up and presented each family member with a comb for Christmas. I don*t think I could write at the time so I wasn*t able to put their names on them. I distributed them personally. Our family tradition was to celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve. No Christmas has been more special in my memory than that one.
Acts 20:35: I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.
Some of the gifts I have received have been very forgettable. There are some gifts that we quickly get tired of and lay aside. Some have been so wonderful I can*t ever forget them. Sometimes the person giving me the gift has been more important than the gift. The best gifts are well thought out and appropriate. In a sense the best gifts are from someone who is actually giving some of Himself. The best gifts endure.
As Christians we tend to forget how wonderful is the gift from God of His only begotten son, the Lord Jesus Christ and the Salvation we get when we receive Him. We also tend to forget how undeserving we are of it. Before we become Christians we have nothing of any spiritual value to give to the Lord. When we first become Christians, we still don*t have much to give. But as we grow and the Lord gives more to us in the way of spiritual gifts we are better able to give Him something He can use. Being a Christian is a little like my childhood. I received about everything that I had from my family. As I grew I had more to give back to my family.
God loves to give gifts too! Everything we have is a gift from God. Everything!! Every breath of air, every morsel of food, every moment of life. Every possession. He doesn*t owe us any of it. He gives it all to us because He loves us.
James 1:17: Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
An old Bible Encyclopedia says
Great significance has always been attached by Orientals to the custom of giving and receiving gifts. When a gift was accepted, another in return was expected. To refuse a gift was a great insult. Not to give a gift under certain circumstances was an equally grave offence. A significant emphasis in the teaching of the New Testament is that gifts should be made without thought of reward; that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
It is also a terrible insult to refuse a gift from God. I would like us to consider that salvation is an exchange of gifts between us and God. When God gives us the wonderful gift of salvation, He gives us Himself. We also give Him a gift. We give Him ourselves. If we refuse to give Him ourselves, He does not give us salvation. He is God. He is sovereign. If we attempt to have salvation without giving ourselves to Him, we are doing what Paul E. Little describes this way: Sometimes we*re tempted to ask Him to be less than the Lord. If we want a God who is less than God, we want an idol. If we want a God who is less than God, we want a non-existent God who is only a figment of our imagination. An unreal God like that would be unable to save us, would not have the power to save us. We cannot change God. We must trust Him as He is. If we do not want the Lord to be Lord over our lives it means that we do not want the true God.
Paul E. Little:
Many people are not prepared to let anyone else, including God, run their lives. It*s not that they can*t believe; but they won*t believe.In this matter of the gift-giving involved in salvation, what God gives us has immeasurable value. What we give Him has no value. What we give Him is less than worthless. I believe what we give Him actually has negative spiritual value. We tend to overestimate our value.
We give Him filthy rags. He gives us righteousness.
Salvation is the most lop-sided transaction imaginable!! Salvation turns our negatives into positives. We give Him what we can*t keep. (Our lives) He gives us what we can*t lose. (Eternal life)
Jim Elliott, martyred missionary: He is no fool who gives what he can*t keep for what he can*t lose.
Matthew 16:25: For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my (Jesus) sake shall find it.
From our human perspective salvation is one large wonderful simple gift. From God*s perspective salvation is complex. After we have it we learn that it is multi-faceted. It includes many things -- faith, repentance, conversion, redemption, predestination, atonement, glorification etc. The list of the parts of salvation is endless. Salvation is God*s gift, therefore all the parts of it are gifts from Him as well. We have occasionally seen someone unwrap a gift and find something they delight in. Then they find another gift inside the first one, and another and another and another. Salvation is an endless unwrapping of countless gifts. The longer we have it, the more we know of the gifts that come with it.
One of the things we tend to overestimate is our faith. I believe it is helpful to us to be aware that saving faith is a part of the gift from God. We need to know that our faith has no merit. The merit all resides in the one in whom we have faith. If our faith had merit salvation would be earned by our faith and salvation would not be a gift.
Ephesians 2:8: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.
The passage teaches that we are saved by something and through something. When someone gives us a gift of a toaster or some other electric appliance, the power cord comes with it. The appliance is run by the electricity through the power cord. The cord is part of the gift. In salvation, both the power (God*s) and the connection (the faith) are parts of the gift. Some gifts we might receive need batteries to run. Some include the batteries and some don*t. God*s salvation always includes the batteries. God*s salvation includes everything.
When we understand faith is necessary, we sometimes struggle and agonize to believe. The hard reality is that we don*t even have the ability to believe God in our own power. We can believe God with our mind but believing God with our mind does not save us. We must have faith in God in our hearts.
Before I became saved a friend of mine tried to convince me that I needed to make a commitment to God to be saved. I told him that I believed that Jesus died for my sins, therefore I was going to make it to heaven. But my belief was only in my brain. It wasn*t in my heart. It was knowledge. It wasn*t faith. It was dead faith. It was vain (useless) faith. It was self-generated sinful faith. It was uncommitted faith. It didn*t change me or my life.
We can sometimes control what our minds believe but we cannot control what our hearts believe. Our hearts are in a desperate condition until they have faith in God. Listen to what the Bible says about our hearts.
Jeremiah 17:9: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
A deceitful and wicked heart does not, will not and cannot believe God. There were some people in the Bible who believed God in their minds, but they recognized their belief was inadequate.
Mark 9:24: And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.
We cannot in our own power generate the faith we need. Only Jesus can create and install in our hearts the saving faith we need. The Bible even calls it His faith.
Galatians 2:20: I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
The key to having saving faith in our heart is having Jesus Christ living in our hearts. . . . I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, . . .
The passage does not say . . . I live by the faith of me . . . It says . . . I live by the faith of the Son of God, . . .
Hebrews 12:1b-2: . . . let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith.
Saving faith changes the heart of a man. Saving faith changes the way a man feels. Saving faith changes the way a man speaks. Saving faith changes the way a man acts. Saving faith changes the life. There is one thing saving faith always causes first. That first action is receiving Jesus Christ into one*s heart as Saviour!!
When a man (or woman) receives Jesus into his heart he has the author and finisher of faith in his heart. It is like having a faith factory right here inside us.
Paul E. Little:
Only Jesus remains the same. He alone in His power makes a thief honest, a profligate pure, a liar truthful. It is He who can fill a hate-ridden heart with love.
I might add He alone can take a faithless heart and fill it with faith.
Paul E. Little:
A tremendous thing happens when we become personally related to Jesus Christ as a living person. He enters our inner being and fills the spiritual vacuum as only He can. God constructed us this way -- creatures dependent on our Creator for completion and fulfillment.
James 2:17-19: Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
Devils believe about God but they tremble because their knowledge does not change them. It is interesting that angels had the ability to choose good or evil and when they chose evil, that choice was eternal. They became devils. They became unredeemable. Adam and Eve had the ability to choose between good and evil but God made them redeemable. The rest of us have no ability to choose God but He also made us redeemable.
How can we know if we have saving faith? How can we know if others have saving faith? There are many variables in the lives of different Christians. Many people appear to be Christians who are not. Receiving Jesus is the starting point. If we don*t have that starting point, we are on the wrong path. If people give a clear statement that they have received Jesus, I am firmly convinced they have genuine saving faith. If people speak about their church or their goodness or something else with no mention or only a vague mention of Jesus, I doubt if their faith is genuine.