The Greatest Gift

December 1, 2016

Walter Olsen

The Greatest Gift

Introduction

The giving of gifts at Christmas time is a tradition practiced by many people around the world. Perhaps most of us are involved in this act of giving and receiving. Gifts are given for many different reasons and with various degrees of value.

However, there is one Gift given which is above all others. It is a gift that is beyond comparison with any other. It is the Gift of Jesus Christ to bear the burden of our sins. It is a gift that satisfies our greatest need and brings eternal satisfaction.

I have been thinking of the significance of Jesus Christ and how He meets the needs of our lives. Sometimes we are inundated with our sense of failure and our inability to please Him. The result is, we fail to enter into the real joy of who Jesus Christ is meant  to be to us as  believers. We may know we are saved, but we don’t experience much of the blessings of His presence. 

This article is about who Jesus Christ is to each of us as believers. What difference does His presence really mean in our lives? I realize that this may be somewhat subjective because Christians  are at different levels of maturity. Still, if we are walking with God in surrender to Him, we will be able to identify with Paul when he said, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us” (Rom. 8:37). What, then, are some of the very special blessings of Jesus Christ in the life of the believer?

Jesus Christ is the believer’s victory. This victory has many facets to it. First, He is the believer’s victory over certain judgment for sin. The sentence for sin is clear. “For the wages of sin is death..” (Rom. 6:23). “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). The victory over sins is seen in that, “…now once in the end of the world hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb. 9:26). 

Secondly, Jesus Christ is the believer’s victory over the dominion of sin in his life. The unsaved do not know such victory. They are given to the continuous control and practice of sin. This does not mean that they are as bad as they could be necessarily, but it means that they cannot practice the righteousness that only believers can practice. The Bible is clear on this point, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Rom. 8:2-4).

This may seem very confusing to anyone not familiar with Biblical terminology and the truth it represents, but it is essential to the believer who does not want to be controlled by the continuing, demanding lusts of the flesh. The fulfillment of the lusts of the flesh leads only to corruption and ultimate despair. For the believer, there is a different outcome. He does not have to be controlled by the flesh and its destructive results. As he yields his life to God and submits to His word he can know the joy of God’s presence and sufficiency.

Jesus Christ is the believer’s hope. This present world holds no hope for the future. When I speak of the world, I am speaking of the world system, that system of life that is opposed to God in every way. It is the system headed up by Satan himself. Paul said as much when he said, “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, should shine unto them” (II Cor. 4:3-4). 

The world system has its own world view. It is a view that promotes everything that is contrary to God and His word. Thus the promotion of socialism, Marxism, and anything that gives control of our lives to the state. When the state is in control, our freedoms as we have known them will be no more, there will be no standard of Biblical righteousness, immorality will be rampant, drugs will control multitudes, and our nation will cease to exist as an independent nation. We will rather be part of a one world government eventually to be headed up by the antichrist! Have you read the books of Daniel and Revelation recently?! This world view is seen in our culture, government, education and, unfortunately, in many churches. The end result is total chaos (promoted by many in positions of leadership today because it serves their cause)  slavery to the government, and religion totally devoid of truth and the power of God. It is thus the Apostle Paul spoke of many, “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (II Tim. 3:5).  They are “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (II Tim. 3:7). 

Now, for the present time, the believer has  to live in a world dominated by the beliefs and practices of the world. Yet, the believer has a hope not known by the world. It is a hope known only to those who have personally turned to Christ in faith for the forgiveness of their sin. This hope of the believer is not a foggy, unfounded hope. It is a hope founded in Christ Himself and all the promises of the word of God. Now, how may this hope in Christ be described? It is far beyond anyone’s ability to define or describe, but lets’s consider a few things.

First, it is a hope of His presence and working in our life in the midst of hardships. God never leaves His people without His care. God said of the children of Israel, “…I have seen the affliction of My people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; and I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of   the Egyptians, and to bring them out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto  a land flowing with milk and honey” (Ex. 3:7-8). True, some hardships don’t end well, but still, the Lord is there in the midst of difficulty and we know that eventually He will lead us to our homeland, heaven itself. 

Secondly, there is the hope of His return in the air for His church which includes all believers. We are not bound to this world forever! “For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (I Thess. 4:16-17).

Thirdly, there is the glorious hope that, if we die before the return of the Lord, we shall go immediately into the presence of the Lord. “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (II Cor. 5:8).

Fourthly, there is the hope that the righteous (those who have been saved by grace through faith) will be rewarded with eternal life and that the ungodly (all unbelievers) will be judged for their rejection of the Savior and consequent life of sin. Nobody is getting away with their sinful rebellion of God, though it may seem so to those who do not know the truths of God’s word. The Apostle John said, “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works” (Rev. 20:12). We can rejoice in the fact that God is righteous and just in all that He does.

Jesus Christ is the believer’s joy. We think of Christmas as being a time of special joy. In many ways it is. I’m thankful for the joyful memories of Christmas when I was a child. I often think back on those days with great fondness. For many, however, Christmas is not a time of special joy. It is rather a time of loneliness and failed expectations.

For the believer walking with God, Christmas, as well as the rest of the year,  is a time of special joy because of who the Lord Jesus is! Christ Himself is the believer’s joy. Yes, there is joy because of family, food, and fellowship with loved ones, but that joy can be so transitory! When the holidays are over, the joy is over. The Christian life should be a life of joy. That does not mean that we have no cause to be grieved or sorrowful, but that the Lord Jesus is greater than all of our problems with this life. Jesus said, “These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (Jn. 15:11). The joy of the Lord is a constant, that is, it does not diminish. Yes, circumstances may seem to darken our joy for a bit because of the greatness of the circumstance, but the joy of the Lord is an inward reality that is not subject to outward influences. 

Of course, if we are harboring sin in our life as a believer, then the joy will be less in evidence. This is because sin hinders the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We never lose His real presence but we may lose His ministry of joy and peace to our hearts. Rather than ministering the joy of fellowship, the Holy Spirit will minister needed conviction. Thank the Lord that He does that so we may be brought back into fellowship with Him!

Jesus Christ is the believer’s peace. Of all the gifts of our Savior, this one is so very significant. We live in a very turbulent world and we wonder if we will ever see peace. More than that, our hearts are often a place of frustration and turmoil! There could be peace all around us, but if we don’t have peace in our hearts, we will be miserable and unsettled. The cause for this turmoil is our sinful heart. Unforgiven sin causes fear and anxiety. We don’t have peace about our present life and we certainly don’t have peace regarding the future. 

The believer can thank God for the peace he has with God Himself. One of the great truths of the Bible is the following, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). This is a truth we know as a fact because it is the word of God and because it is confirmed to us by the Holy Spirit. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Rom. 8:16). Thus, our peace with God is not something tentative but a solid reality! We can live every day knowing that we are safe in the hands of God.

Further, the believer who walks with God has the peace of God. Because he brings his sins to the cross on a regular basis, he knows there is nothing between him and his Savior. This is not to say any one is perfect in his walk with God, but that he keeps short accounts with God. He does not let known sin go unconfessed. He rejoices in that, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I Jn. 1:9).

To know that we have peace with God is such a wonderful gift. Every material gift fades in comparison with having the gift of His peace. We can rejoice in that Jesus Himself said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (Jn. 14:27). 

Jesus Christ is the believer’s glory. The word glory may convey many different thoughts. Among other things, the word glory to me is the sense of God’s presence in one’s life. It is what God brings to one’s life that no one else can bring. It is a sense of well being, but even more than that, it is His presence that makes life worth living. It takes life out of the arena of drudgery and brings it into the place of His special blessing. The word glory carries with it the meaning of all that Jesus Christ is to us as believers.

Before salvation, life was lived mostly for the benefit of self, of what we could make of it. That making may include education, a good living, pleasure, material prosperity, and any number of other things. The problem is, those things carry nothing of the glory of God, though they may be enjoyed for a season. The glory of God is revealed in God’s Son and His work on our behalf. The Son reveals who the Father really is and all the blessings we have in Him. King David said, “But Thou, O Lord, art a shield for me, my glory, and the lifter up of mine head” (Psa. 3:3). 

Jesus Christ is the believer’s rest. It is stressful when one seeks rest and cannot seem to find it. It may also be very exhausting and time consuming. In many cases, it ends up being very disappointing. This is true in many endeavors of life, but it can be especially so when one tries to find spiritual rest, rest for his soul. When rest is elusive, there is discontentment, sometimes even a kind of despair. 

Thankfully, we can find rest for our souls! We don’t have to continue in a no man’s land. To begin with, we must comprehend where we cannot find rest for our souls. Such places would include our own good works. Good works are a part of our Christian experience, but they are not a part of our salvation. Those often quoted and precious verses should have a permanent lodging place in our hearts, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).

Rest for our souls cannot be found in the rites and practices of any given church. Though a church may be well-meaning in the dispensing of given traditions, they have no saving power. Adherence to any such procedures does not change lives, even where there is the strictest conformity.

Rest for our souls cannot be found in any kind of ministry. Ministry is crucial when one has trusted Christ as Savior, but until that time there is no real ministry, only the efforts of well intentioned people. (Real Christian ministry must be of God Himself.)

Rest for our souls cannot be found in trying to keep the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments are a wonderful revelation of who God is and His will for all who are believers. However, no one can keep the Ten Commandments in his own power. The Bible says to fail in one point is to fail in all.

Rest for our souls can only be found in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is in what He did for us that we can finally find rest. The Apostle Paul reminds us, “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (I Cor. 15:3-4). Thus, the believers’ rest is not in a church, good works or anything else. It is only in the Person of Jesus Christ Himself. 

Conclusion

The greatest gift ever given is not some material or intangible gift of this world, as useful and helpful as many of them may be. The greatest gift is the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ who died in our place for our sins that we might have eternal life. 

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At least the first half of November has been almost unbelievably nice! The abundant sunshine and consequent warmth is very much appreciated. What a contrast from the storm of the century on November 11, 1940, and the great Halloween storm of 1991. Perhaps many can remember the storm of Halloween, but maybe not so many the great blizzard of 1940. 

We enjoyed some special meals in November including a Pastors and Wives fellowship, a Veterans Day breakfast, and also a Veterans Day supper.

We voted in the November election with thanksgiving that we have the freedom to do so! BJ helped some ladies pack about 20 plus boxes for Operation Christmas Child. I spoke at the nursing home services in Baldwin and Woodville in November and the Tapp family provided music at both.

My sister and brother-in-law, Dorothy and Harley Hover, once again graciously hosted Thanksgiving in Barron. Our church family enjoyed a Harvest Banquet at First Baptist in River Falls. Then there was a pie fellowship at First Baptist in Woodville. Lots of pumpkin pie was enjoyed this month!! 

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We were saddened by the passing of a fellow high school classmate and long time friend, Jerry Strobush. His funeral was held on November 23rd. We extend our sincere sympathy to his wife, Judy, and family.