True Christmas Gifts: Grace upon Grace
December 24, 2006 | Andrew Davis
The Heritage of Christmas
Let me ask you a question. Are you looking forward to tomorrow morning? Come on, tell me the truth. What are you looking forward to? Already we have some gifts under the tree. There’s one in particular that has piqued my interest. I’m looking forward to opening it. I’ll admit it, it’s true.
I think we enjoy Christmas gifts, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. Of course, to a point. I think any good gifts of God can become an idol, and we have to watch that all the time. Our hearts are so idolatrous. We’re always moving toward that, and we have to fight it every day. But it says in James 1:17, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavily lights.” He’s the one who’s shown us how to give, and lavishly too. He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also along with him graciously give us all things? Lesser blessings.
It says in 1 Timothy 6 that God has given us all things richly to enjoy. So that’s fine. The question is, are we idolatrous? That’s something we have to watch all the time.
This morning I want to try to beguile you away from considering what might be in some of those mysterious packages that are under the tree right now, to consider the infinitely greater gifts that Christ came to give. And I’m going to begin by considering just a time that I spent overseas a few years ago. In the summer of 2003, I had the privilege of going to the Czech Republic. I was there with Mike Waters who’s listening to me. We had a wonderful time, and what he said, and it was true, although I gave a little trouble at the time, “The most beautiful city we had ever seen.” Now it’s true, I think, that Prague, at this point, is the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen. I know in the end, it won’t be. I think the new Jerusalem will top it. I’m looking forward to that.
But Prague was a beautiful city. We went into the old town, and we were near the magnificent castle. It’s just a huge castle. And there, in the square outside the castle, was a bronze statue of a warrior on a horse, and it was King Wenceslas, whom they considered the patron saint of Bohemia. Now, every Christmas we sing a song that was written in 1853 by John Mason Neale, Good King Wenceslas. As I looked into the lyrics of the song and the truth behind it and the story behind it, I became more intrigued and drawn in. You see, Christmas is a time for giving gifts, but for the most part, throughout history, Christmas at its best has been a time for those who are rich and powerful and able, to bless those who are poor and needy and without and not able. That’s its heritage. That’s the heritage of Christmas.
Now, all along, it’s had to battle that pagan Bacchanalia mid-winter thing that’s always been there too. It’s so for us as well. But at its best Christmas was a time for those who were able and those who were wealthy in positions of power to give and to bless those who weren’t. The ultimate pattern, of course, is Jesus Christ.
Good King Wenceslas
Who is this King Wenceslas? He was born (we think) in 907 AD. He lived just 22 years. Isn’t it amazing how God in his providence cut short the lives of so many of his choice servants, men and women, and takes them home? This man was assassinated by his own brother Boleslav, who wanted to be king of Bohemia in his place. But in his brief life, he used his influence and his power to spread Christianity through that part of Europe, where it hadn’t really taken root up to that point.
Now, John Mason Neale found a story about Wenceslas. We don’t know whether it’s true or not, but it was consistent with his character, and he wrote about it in the hymn that we sing, Good King Wenceslas. He looked out on the feast of Stephen. It’s a story in which he’s standing—you envision him—on a cold bitter winter night looking out from his castle and down on the snow below, he sees a peasant scrambling around for firewood. He asks one of his pages, a servant, to come and says, “Who is this?” And he knows who he is, and he knows precisely where he lives. This King leaves the warmth and comfort and security and luxury, probably, of his castle and goes down with his servant into the snow and follows this man a good distance, a long way away from the castle, to bring him food and wine and firewood, and just to bless his home.
I thought this was a tremendous picture of Christmas. I mean, there is Jesus in the ultimate place of security and pleasure and comfort, his heavenly castle. He looks down and what does he see? He sees us, the poor and needy, scrambling around and scrubbing around for firewood, in effect. In the song it’s a stormy bitter cold night and he enters into the howling storm of our sinful world, and he comes to bless us. He comes to bless us with infinite gifts.
I want to talk about those gifts. You look at verse 14, it says, “The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory of the only begotten, from the Father full of grace and truth.” And then in verse 16, which is going to be basically our meditation this morning, “From the fullness of His grace, we have all received one blessing after another,” or literally “grace in the place of grace.” Christ came to give us Christmas presents.
What I want to do is I want to just kind of, like I said, beguile your minds away from whatever it is that you might be wondering about under your tree to think about the far greater gifts that Christ came to give us in Himself. I think it’s easy for us to lose sight given the deluge of material prosperity and of comfort that God has given us. It’s easy for us to become idolatrous.
Lavish Christmas Gifts
Statistics show that, based on a study recently, somewhere between 38 and 40 billion dollars were spent over the last month on children between the ages of 4 and 12. Well, I don’t know how much it is for everybody, I guess multiply that by three. We might be heading toward $100 billion spent on Christmas.
That’s pretty lavish, isn’t it? But some of us, at least, are old enough to know that a vanishingly small percentage of those things that are waiting for you under the tree will even be part of your lives in five years. You know what I’m talking about? It could be a Christmas sweater that might still be there in five years, but there may be some other things. The fruit cake is definitely… Well, that might be here too as well. [Laughter] But anyway, the toys and many other things will be gone. For all men are like grass and all their glory is like the flower of the field. And the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the God stands forever. So also do the gifts that Christ has come to give us. So, we’re going to focus on what those gifts are.
The Supernatural Fullness of Christ
Christ’s Supernatural Fullness
I want to begin with the supernatural fullness of Christ. I want to talk about the fullness that’s in this verse. “From the fullness of his grace,” it says, “we have all received one blessing after another.” Christ was and is fully God. Colossians 1:19 says, “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.”
God is a full being. In him there is no lack at all. He is full of joy, full of wisdom, full of power, full of love, full of mercy, full of everything that He is. He’s full of, all of those things. We, on the other hand, are so used to lack and emptiness that we can’t know really what ultimate fullness is. Christ before the foundation of the world was fully God, with as in our language, a capital G. Fully God.
In the beginning, verse 1, was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And thus, Christ fully participated in all the deity of God the father. He was fully joyful, fully powerful, fully holy, fully wise, fully loving and fully as righteous as the father. He is a full being. Nothing was lacking in the person of Christ. God the Father, and God the Son equally shared deity from the beginning, and they shared glory together equally as well. Then, God became man. Jesus took on a human body, the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
Fullness Became Flesh
Look what it says, “We have seen his glory, the glory of the only begotten, who came from the Father,” and here’s this word, “Full of grace and truth.” Jesus, in taking on a human body, didn’t lose any of his fullness. I know it says in Philippians 2, “He emptied himself and made himself nothing.” I think we have a sense of that. He didn’t lose any of his deity in doing that, fully God still.
It says in Colossians 2:9, “For in Christ, all the fullness of the deity dwells in bodily form.” So when taking on a body, he didn’t lose any of his fullness. Thus, Christ was the perfect display of God’s fullness in bodily form. “Full of grace and truth,” says John. Full of grace.
Now, I don’t mean gracefulness. That’s not what I’m talking about. That’s not something most males aspire to, okay. We’re not looking necessarily to be graceful and it’s hopeless anyway, isn’t it guys? For the most part even if we wanted it, but we don’t. We don’t, okay. We’re not looking for it, you know, like Anna Pavlova up on point, like some ethereal angel floating across the stage. That is better for the women and that’s wonderful. Or like a figure skater, that’s fine.
Delightful. That’s not what we mean, full of grace. Really, what we mean there is theologically, that God is lavishly generous to people who deserve his wrath. That’s what grace is about, and Jesus was full of grace. You see it in his bodily life, you see it in the things that happen to him, and the things He did in his reactions. He’s just full of grace in dealing. You just see the way he dealt with children, the way that children felt comfortable to come and sit on his lap and just wanted to be with him. You can’t fool a child and they knew he was full of grace. They wanted to be with him. You can see it in his kind and gentle manner to a leper from whom most people would run screaming, who is ceremonially unclean because of his disease.
He said, “Lord, if you’re willing, you can make me clean.”
“I am willing,” he said.
There’s just such a fullness of grace there. Or in his kind and gentle demeanor toward the parents of a dead girl, Jairus and his wife, and they were mourning over their dead 12-year-old daughter.
Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid, only believe. And she is not dead, she’s just sleeping.” And he has the power to wake her up, and then gentle with her when he says talitha cumi, “Little girl, I say to you, get up.”
You see the fullness of grace there in Jesus, in his tenderness. Filled with compassion over hungry people, 5,000 and more of them, and said, “They don’t need to go away, you give them something to eat.” You just see Jesus as an open conduit of God’s grace to a needy world.
Then full of grace as he’s nailed to the cross and says, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.” You see, Jesus filled with grace, full of grace. And it also says, full of truth as well. Jesus was truth embodied. But he always spoke the truth, even if I got him into great trouble.
“I charge you under oath by the living God,” said the high priest, “Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”
“I am,” he said, “And in the future, you’ll see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
The high priest tears his robes and condemns him to death, as if Jesus didn’t know what would happen. Of course, he knew, he was just telling the truth. And he would also give the good confession in front of Pilate as well: “For this reason, I was born and for this, I came into the world to testify to the truth. All on the side of truth. Listen to me.”
Jesus is full of grace and full of truth. He told his disciples the truth. Like Peter, “Get behind me, Satan. You’re a stumbling block to me.” Oh, that’s a sharp word of rebuke to a good friend. Satan is using you right now—stop it. He always told the truth, whatever it is we needed to hear. In all of these ways, we see Christ full of grace, full of truth.
Christ Did Not Come to Receive but to Give
He’s a full being in the flesh, and thus Christ had not come to receive but to give. He didn’t need anything. He wasn’t coming to receive. Now, I know the magi offered him gifts, gold, incense, and myrrh. I know that Mary anointed his feet with perfume worth over a year’s wages. I know they wanted to come and take him by force and make him king and give them all the lavish honor that they could.
I know that. I know people gave him gifts and tried to give him gifts but let me tell you something. The gold in the new Jerusalem is infinitely superior to anything that magi brought. The worship that the hundred million angels give him, surrounding is thrown all the time, it’s better than even what Mary poured out on his feet. Purer, more perfect. The kingdom that he will reign over forever and ever, it’s infinitely superior to what those people who are just eating their fill of bread wanted to give him that day. Jesus didn’t come to receive these things. We weren’t in a position to give. Those gifts really, in an absolute sense, are pathetic. He only receives them because of the faith that’s behind them, or he doesn’t receive them if there’s no faith behind them.
Jesus didn’t come to receive gifts rather he came to give them. He came to give gifts of grace. He was rich, infinitely richer than good King Wenceslas. Infinitely richer than any man that has ever lived, than any king that’s ever lived. We can’t imagine how wealthy he was. And so, it says in 2 Corinthians 8:9, “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that though he was rich, yet for your sakes, he became poor. So that you, through his poverty, might become rich.”
Jesus didn’t come into the world to get richer. He didn’t come in the world to receive any gifts from us; rather he came to give. Again, Mark 10:45. It says, “Even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” The giving, the giving. He came to give. To give his life.
Jesus, as well, served in Heaven. He doesn’t need us, as we learned from Psalm 50, “If I were hungry, I would not tell you.” I have all my needs met. Even if I wanted to meet them, I wouldn’t meet them your way. Just like he said to Simon Peter, “Put your sword away. If I wanted to fight, I’d ask the angels.” They’d do it just fine. He doesn’t need us to serve him. He didn’t come to receive. He was full and he came to give.
The Natural Emptiness of Humanity
“We Are All Beggars”
Now we, on the other hand, we are naturally empty. That’s what we are. We’re naturally empty. Martin Luther on his deathbed said in German, “We are all beggars.” Wir sind alle Bettler. That’s what we’re all, beggars.
Then he said in Latin, “This is true.” Now, that’s the end of his theology. He knows he’s about to face his judge and maker, but he’s doing it unafraid, and why? Because he’s justified by faith alone apart from works. But we’re beggars. I think for this reason, Jesus began the greatest sermon that has ever been preached, the Sermon on the Mount, with this statement: “Blessed are the spiritual beggars, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
We’re beggars. We’re naturally empty. We don’t have anything to give.
We’re universally empty. From the fullness of his grace, we have all received. Find yourself in that word all. We’re in the receiver place. We’re in the place to receive, not to give to Jesus. Even the wealthiest, most powerful, most envied people in the world, the lifestyles of the rich and famous people, even those who have nothing to give, naturally empty.
John Wesley in a journal entry, December 23rd, two days before Christmas, 1755, he wrote this: “I was in the robe chamber, adjoining to the House of Lords, when the king put on his robes. His brow was much furrowed with age and quite clouded with care. Is this all the world can give even to a king? All the grandeur it can afford, a blanket of ermine around his shoulders so heavy and cumbersome he can scarcely move under it, a huge heap of borrowed hair and a few plates of gold and glittering stones upon his head. Alas! What a babble, is human greatness, and even this will not endure.”
Is that the best the 18th century could have given to Jesus if we wanted to give our best to him. That’s the best the nation of England could give to King George II, who was a man at the height of his power and who probably wanted to be done with all of it, and two years later, he was. His aorta ruptured while he was using the toilet. What a disgusting way for even a king to die. We’re all beggars. We don’t have anything to offer naturally. That’s what I’m saying. Is this all the world can give even to a king?
Jesus isn’t looking for that from us. We’re naturally empty. This is a universal emptiness, and I mean that from the poorest to the richest. The poorest beggar living in Kolkata (Calcutta) who’s barely scraping by and doesn’t even know if he’s going to be alive a year from then, six months from then, who doesn’t know Jesus, is empty before God. It’s not like God naturally loves the poor. If they don’t have Christ, they’re empty. And so, also the wealthiest captain of industry who’s making billions of dollars in the stock market or in the petroleum industry or in high tech, empty if they don’t have Christ.
Emptiness Proven by the Law of Moses
This emptiness is proven by the law of Moses. If you look at verse 17, “The law came through Moses, and grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” But what does the law tell us? It tells us of our emptiness. That’s what it says. In Romans 3:20, it says, “Therefore, no one will be justified or declared righteous in his sight by observing the law, rather through the law we become conscious of sins.” The law uncovers our emptiness. It uncovers our empty hearts and our empty lives. The emptiness is especially proven in comparison with Christ. Here is this perfectly full being, full of grace and truth, and here we are just side by side. How do you do? How have you done the last year? Take your best day, how’s it doing? You line it up next to Jesus, you see your emptiness there.
Martin Lloyd Jones was dealing with this question of “blessed are the spiritual beggars” and he was dealing with the question, “What if I don’t feel like a spiritual beggar?” You know what he said to do? Look at Jesus and keep looking. And keep looking. After a while, you will see. Here is this being filled with grace and truth, filled with love, filled with holiness, filled with power, filled with God through the Holy Spirit and here we are by contrast. Soon, you’ll realize that we are spiritual beggars.
Emptiness Especially Proven by Comparison with Christ
One of the bitterest aspects of our emptiness is we don’t know how empty we are. As a matter of fact, the impurer you are the less empty you think you are. Jesus said to the church at Laodicea, “You say, ‘I am rich. I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”
“You do not realize,” is the essence of our problem, although the word of God tells us the truth. We are all beggars, apart from Christ. But it doesn’t end there. Thanks be to God we don’t end up as spiritual beggars.
Look at the verse again, verse 16, “From the fullness of His grace,” we have all what? “Received grace upon grace.” That’s what we were. What are we now? We are wealthy in Christ, with gifts of grace.
The Lavish Generosity of Christ’s Gifts
Generous in Quality: From His Fullness
Now we see the lavish generosity of Christ’s gifts, generous in quality. It’s like when you pick up that gift and you’re holding it, and it’s just weighty and you’re excited, you think, “What could it be?” It’s not likely to be a granite boulder that someone got out of their backyard and wrapped up as a gift. It’s like, “What could it be?” There’s a weightiness to it. It’s even better if the weightiness is in a really small box. That’s really exciting when it’s really weighty in a small box, especially for ladies. There’s something really dense in here, something exciting.
There’s a weightiness to the quality. Feel then the weight of the quality of Jesus’s gifts. From the fullness of his grace, he gives them.
There are wonderful gifts, better than anything we could buy at Macy’s or JCPenney’s or Hecks, or at South Point, or North Square or what… I don’t know all of them. I always mess up. North Gate, I guess it is. Nothing you buy there can compare with the gifts that Jesus has come to give to you. They are lavish and generous in scope from the fullness of his grace, we have all received. Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
It doesn’t matter to me if this is your first time in church in the last year. Well, in one sense it matters, but for this, it doesn’t matter. Because Christ is willing to be very generous to you right now. Just call on his name. Trust in him for the salvation of your soul. Receive the first gift from him, and that’s full forgiveness of sins. Bring your sinfulness and your sin to the cross and receive from him the gift of grace.
Generous in Scope: We Have All Received
Ask him to be your savior, and he will. Call on the name of the Lord. It’s a universal thing. From the fullness of his grace, we have all received. And by this, I don’t mean every single human being on the face of the Earth, he already covered that in John 1:12. But to those who received him, to those who believe in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. Children born, not of natural descent or a human decision or the will of a husband but born of God. That’s it.
Generous in Cost: At the Price of His Body and Blood
By simply trusting in Christ, you have full forgiveness, generous in scope and generous in cost too. I don’t think we should… I know the word grace means a free gift. Well, it is free to us. He doesn’t want your price. He doesn’t want you paying for it. But don’t imagine for a moment that it didn’t have a price. It did. It was infinitely costly to bring to you the gifts I’m about to describe to you. Infinitely expensive, these gifts. They came at the blood, the precious blood. 1 Peter 1:18 and 19, the precious blood of a lamb without blemish or defect, Jesus Christ. He shed his blood to purchase your Christmas gifts. There’s no one here who has sacrificed that much for Christmas. It was Jesus who did it.
Generous in Quantity: Grace Instead of Grace
Generous also in quantity. I know Jesus Himself is the central gift, and that’s enough. But I think it’s good to kind of unfold his gifts and just look at them. Suppose, for example, you woke up and some person or a group of people had put 54 gifts with your name on it under the tree. 54. I’d be embarrassed for myself, especially if everyone else got five or six. I’d feel like, “Oh boy.” If everybody in my family had 54 gifts, that would be the 360… I don’t know. Some huge number. We have a lot of people in our family. Christy would not be able to get into the den, I think. 54 gifts. I think we’d have ought to open each one and look at it. Generous in quality. Look what the verse says. I know it doesn’t come across necessarily, but literally in the Greek, it says, “From the fullness of His grace, we have all received, grace instead of grace.” In other words, it’s grace, then another grace than another grace than another grace. I imagine a train.
I remember reading on a Christmas morning, “The Little Engine that Could.” I never thought I’d use that in a sermon. It teaches human works and effort, and I can get to Heaven, that’s not what I’m saying. I just want you to imagine a train laden with gifts. Think like a child. I’m thinking, the gifts looked really good back then, now they look like… Not so good. But at that time, they looked really good. And I thought, “Wow, wouldn’t that be great?” And of course, because it’s just a little engine that they could there are only so many cars.
The longest train in history is 682 cars. It was a coal car. I don’t want that much coal. But it was four and a half miles long and it moved very slowly, so imagine coming to the intersection and you see the first of the 682 cars going by. But imagine if you would, let’s get out and let’s just stand by the railway track and watch one gift of grace after another, come. Because that’s what it is. It’s just generous, generous. Grace instead of Grace, instead of Grace, instead of grace, day after day after day, on into eternity, friends. We are incredibly rich, and whatever you have under that tree tomorrow, it doesn’t even compare with the good things that God has already given you, is giving you now, and will give you up into the future. Or like what?
Grace upon Grace
The Past Blessings of Grace
0:25:40.9 S1: Well, let’s start way back. Let’s not start at the birth of Christ. Let’s start before the foundation of the world. When God worked out his salvation plan. He worked it out with you in mind. And the next gift of grace, he chose you. If you’re a Christian, he chose you by name before the foundation of the world. And the next gift of grace, he created a beautiful world for you and others like you to live in. He created the heavens and the earth and made them beautiful and lush and lavish. And he put Adam and Eve, created in the image of God, in that garden.
The next gift of grace, after Adam’s fall, he didn’t kill the human race as we deserved, but he allowed history to continue, and he even promised a redeemer who would crush the serpent’s head. The next gift of grace, at the time of the flood, he didn’t kill the human race as we deserved then, but he preserved a remnant in Noah’s Ark, so that we would be able to survive.
Then the next gift of grace, he called Abraham, so that salvation would come from the Jews. And the next gift of grace, the Exodus under Moses, in which He took the two million perhaps Jews out of Egypt and brought them into the Promised Land, a beautiful picture of our salvation. And the next gift of grace, the Law of Moses, to expose our emptiness, as I’ve already said. But also, to point ahead to the future through animal sacrifice, when we would understand the shedding of the blood of Jesus on the cross, so we would know how we would be saved. The next gift of grace, the kingship of David, a perfect picture of Jesus, our ruler, our savior. And Jesus is the son of David.
And the next gift of grace, the words of the prophets. The servants and messengers of the covenant, who came with a lawsuit against the people of God and showed them how they had violated the Law of Moses, but they also spoke of redemption, of renewal, of restoration, and ultimately, of the Christ.
The next gift of grace, the birth of Christ Himself. Born of a virgin, born under the law, born in the fullness of time. At just the right time, Jesus was born. And Mary wrapped him and swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them at the inn.
The next gift of grace, Christ’s perfect sinless life that he made it through 30 plus years of life and temptation and never once yielded. And his righteousness will be and is your righteousness. The next gift of grace, powerful miracles. Healing a man born blind, healing any disease and sickness brought to him, healing Lazarus, dead in the tomb for four days, pictures of his resurrecting power. The next gift of grace, his perfect teaching ministry, parables, and teachings. No one ever talked like this man, no one ever taught like this man, perfect teachings, and we have a record of some of them, not all of them, but some of them.
The next gift of grace, His redemptive death on the cross, His blood shed on the cross before you were even born. His blood shed for all of your sins, if you’re a Christian. And the next gift of grace, God didn’t leave him in the tomb, but raised him from the dead on the third day and gave him a resurrection body that will be like your body or yours like his forever and ever. He will be the first fruit from the dead, and there will be a huge harvest.
The next gift of grace, the pouring out of the Holy Spirit of God on Pentecost. And the Holy Spirit has come to inspire the writing of the New Testament, the next gift of grace. And to convict the world of sin and judgment and righteousness. And the next gift of Grace, the steady, irresistible advance of the gospel for 2,000 years. Satan has been trying to stop it, but he can’t, and the gospel has spread from the Upper Room, 120 believers to a multitude greater than we are able to number from every tribe and language, almost every tribe, and language, and people and nation. The spread of the gospel. The next gift of grace, the way that God has sovereignly ruled over the nations to accomplish his historical purposes.
To watch over the rise of this empire and the fall of that one, and to watch over the inventions and medical discoveries and the discovery of the New World with Columbus, and to watch over all of history to accomplish his ends. Part of which is saving your soul. Isn’t that beautiful? And the next gift of grace, a bunch of brothers and sisters, most of them who we have not met, who were martyrs and witnesses, and missionaries and pastors, and godly women and men who are your brothers and sisters. A royal heritage for 2,000 years.
And the next gift of grace, your personal family lineage, your great-great-grandparents and your great-grandparents and grandparents and parents. And how each of them met and what kind of people they were, and what their strengths and weaknesses were, what their sins were, and what their godliness was, if there was any. All of that. Before you were born. What about since you’ve been born? Well, God watched over you and cared for you. He gave you parents to care for you, to look after you. He gave you a series of people to tell you about Christ, to teach you the Bible.
The Present Blessings of Grace
Long before you ever trusted in Christ, you’d heard of him many, many times, and God sent different people, whether parents, brothers and sisters, college roommates, pastors, Sunday school teachers, missionaries, who knows? But he sent them to you. And he’s given you beauty. You’ve seen beautiful things in the world, mountains and oceans, and different things. And each one of us has a different set of postcards in our minds of the beauty of the Earth, and it’s nothing compared to the future beauty of the new Earth. But it’s there, and you’ve seen it. From the fullness of his grace, we have all received. One gift of a blessing, one grace after another. And then at the right time, the Holy Spirit opened your eyes to your own emptiness. And he showed you what you’ve been unable, unwilling to face, up to that moment. You needed a savior, you needed Jesus, you needed him to shed his blood on the cross in your place or you would deserve to go to hell. At some point, you came to realize that, and you were regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit. You were given the gift of faith. At that moment, God justified you of all of your sins, forgave you of all of your sins, past, present and future, and he gave you the indwelling Spirit, and He adopted you into his own family from which you will never depart.
He gave you spiritual gifts in a ministry and opportunities one after the other, day after day to live a life worthy of his calling and of his name, and he’s kept a careful record of everything you’ve done by faith, and he’ll reward you for it someday. And he’s going to give you continued opportunities to serve him, and he’s going to watch over you the rest of your life, in the future. He’s going to protect you, and he’s going to keep you safe and there will be no combination of temptations that will separate you from Christ, because he will sovereignly not allow it to happen. He will protect you until the day you die. And then that day, he’ll give you grace to die well and to his glory. You may die at 93 years old in a hospital, you may die in a car wreck, you may die of a heart attack, you may die of a disease. If the Lord doesn’t return in our generation, you will die. And he will give you grace to get through it. And then on the other side, is he done being gracious to you? No. He will take that soul that has been separated from your body, which cannot inherit the Kingdom of Heaven anyway.
The Future Blessings of Grace
So good riddance, I think at that point. I want to see what he does with my body. But I’ll be separated at that point, and he will also separate me from all wickedness and all sin in my soul, and I will love only righteousness. And I will hate all wickedness, and I will be made perfect and holy. From the fullness of his grace, we have all received grace upon grace, upon grace, upon grace. And then judgment day, he will give me grace. He will give me grace to survive the day of wrath, and I will get through it, and so will any who call on his name. We will survive that day. And we will even thrive on that day, because on the other side of it, we will be in resurrection bodies, and we will live in a perfect kingdom, a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness and we qualify. How did that happen? But Jesus’s righteousness was given to us. And then will it end? No.
There are your 54 gifts. He intends far more than 54, friends. And a good thing too, you kind of like to get to Christmas tomorrow, wouldn’t you? I’ll stop here, but I think you could meditate far more than I have over the past and present and future gifts of his grace. And so, you will do forever, and of the increase of his government, there’ll be no end, because you will continually see more and more of his grace. He has more to show you.
If you came to that intersection of the 682-car train, and you’re looking at your watch and wondering, “When is this ever going to be done?” This train, you are not going to want to end. You want to just see a gift of grace after gift to grace to keep on going past you for eternity. And you will be filled with a sense of gratitude, you can’t even imagine.
What application do we take from this? Well, I think it’s good to open the gifts that somebody else took the time to wrap. I think you ought to do it. I think you ought to. But let your heart be already filled with light and glory of the things we’ve talked about today. Meditate on the generosity of God through Christ. If you haven’t come to Christ yet, don’t miss it, because none of these gifts of grace are yours, if you’re not a Christian. None of them. Just a fiery expectation of judgment, of raging fire that’ll consume the enemies of God. I would rather have this than that, wouldn’t you? Why will you die? Turn and repent and believe and trust in him. Don’t leave this room without receiving that first as far as you’re concerned gift, forgiveness of sins.
But for those of you that have already made that commitment, then meditate on God’s goodness. Let me say one more thing. As I’ve studied Christmas, I had a whole bunch of stuff about Christmas and decided to get rid of it. If you want to know more about the history of Christmas and how it has had a rich heritage of the rich blessing the poor, find out more. The History Channel had a history thing on Christmas, look it up. There’s a lot of stuff on Christmas. Consistently, the wealthy and the positioned folks used it to bless the poor.
I have talked to so many people this Christmas, saying, “They are weary of the treadmill. The Christmas treadmill.” As a matter of fact, I haven’t talked to anybody who’s not. The thing is, why don’t we change it? How do we change it? How do we get off? If you feel it’s become to idolatrous, how do you stop it? And so, I would urge that you enjoy whatever you have planned to enjoy tomorrow. Enjoy it with a free heart, but make plans to make 2007, a year from now different than any Christmas you’ve ever enjoyed.
Our small group, what we did was we gave to the Persecution Project in Samaritan’s Purse. They have different ways. You can buy little chicks. You can buy a well dug in a village. You can buy all kinds of stuff for people who are barely making it, barely surviving. Maybe instead of giving gifts to people who don’t need what you’re going to give them anyway, that’s why you’re having such a hard time finding what to give them, because they don’t need anything. And if they need something, they bought it already. So, what do you give? I would urge think differently, a year from now. No, no, think differently seven or eight months from now. Make plans. Make plans. Close with me in prayer.