The Greatest Gift Of All (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.   John 3:16 (KJV)

By the time most of you are reading this, Christmas Day has already passed.  Depending on how big of a get together you had at your house you might still be cleaning up the dinner dishes or picking up the wrapping paper from the floor, but the guests have probably all left and the gifts have likely all been given and received.  What did you like?  What did you not like?  Or perhaps better said (or more politically correct at any rate), what did you like best and what did you like not quite as much?  Maybe you don’t have thoughts like that much anymore since becoming an adult, but I encourage you for a moment to think back throughout the years, all the way back to childhood, and think of the BEST gift you’ve ever received, whether it was for Christmas or for your birthday or perhaps for no particular occasion at all.  Got something in your mind?  Good!  For this month’s newsletter, we’re going to take a close look at what, better said Who, is truly the greatest gift of all from what may be the greatest verse of all, John 3:16.

            First—Jesus (and His Salvation) Is A Free Gift, Not An Earned Wage Or An Inherent Entitlement… Back when I was in school, a long time ago in a land far away when we walked to and from school uphill in the snow both ways, my family wasn’t wealthy by any means but my parents always made sure that I had a backpack, a three-ring binder (which we called a Trapper Keeper), notebook paper, and pencils.  It would have been unthinkable for me to go to class and assume that the teacher was going to provide those supplies for me.  Fast forward 30 years (or is that 35?) and, as most of you know, I teach 7th grade math.  Things have sure changed…A LOT!  The school provides the students with a computer, and the teachers often supply folders, notebook paper, pencils, and other academic materials to students.  Now, mostly I don’t mind having these items at the ready for my pupils, but there are occasions when my dander gets up.  My last period class (why does it seem it’s always the last class?) got into a habit (meaning it happened on more than one occasion!) of borrowing my pencils, and not only not returning them at the end of the day, but breaking them and leaving them on the floor for me to pick up when I come back in from the bus ramp after dismissal.  I finally had enough and announced to this class that they would no longer be allowed to borrow the pencils that I so graciously allowed them to use.  You may find it hard to believe, but not one of them thanked me for the many times that I had allowed them to borrow a pencil, and certainly not one of them confessed to nor apologized for breaking said writing utensils.  However, many complaints began to come in along the lines of, “but Mr. Strunk, we won’t be able to do our work” , “but Mr. Strunk, all of us didn’t break those pencils”, “but Mr. Strunk, that’s just not fair!”, “but Mr. Strunk, isn’t that part of your job?!”  My response to them was that although I was mostly happy to have pencils for my students, they must not forget that I didn’t owe the privilege to them.  When we take things for granted, it is proof that we are looking to something as a wage or as an entitlement.  Jesus and the salvation that He purchased and extends is not a wage for those who have somehow earned it or an entitlement for those who are due it, but is a gift that God has given (Rom. 6:23; Eph. 2:8-10; 2 Cor. 9:15).  Indeed, “For God so loved the world that He GAVE”…

          Second—Jesus (and His Salvation) Is A Loving Gift…People give gifts for all sorts of reasons.  Sometimes folks give gifts to others out of a sense of obligation.  They got you a gift last year and you want to reciprocate (or maybe you feel obligated because you’re related!).   Nobody wants to be a jerk.  Some people get gifts for others in hopes that they’ll get something in return in the future.  It’s good to plant a seed.  Some gifts are bought to make up for some wrong they committed against somebody else in the past.  The right item can smooth things over.  And then there are gifts that you give to others out of love.  Whether or not they got you something last year is not the issue.  The thought of getting something from them in the future is not in play.  You’re not trying to make up for anything you did to them in the past.  You simply want to show them your love in the present.  So you get them a gift, a loving gift; a gift for someone that puts a smile on your face, and a gift to someone that you would freely offer something of infinite fold more in value if you had infinite resources from which to draw.  Our verse teaches us that God gave the gift of His Son because He LOVED the world!  God didn’t give His Son trying to return a favor that we extended to Him.  Indeed, the whole point of grace is that God takes the initiative.  We could never love Him unless He first loved us (1 John 4:19).  Certainly the gift of the Son is to be responded to, and God’s will is that all would receive (2 Pet. 3:9).  However, whether we receive the gift or not did not keep the Lord from extending the most gracious offer that we could ever know.  God never did us any wrong in the past.  He is fully righteous and in Him is no unrighteousness at all (1 John 1:5).  The gift of the Son is not God making up for some injustice that the Almighty committed towards us.  Indeed, the gift of Christ and the salvation that comes in His Name is God’s way of paying the debt for our sin, for our wrongs!  The Father’s gift of Christ is truly the most loving ever, given free and without reservation out of the great resources of God, and to which nothing and no one can compare!

            Third—Jesus (and His Salvation) Is A Precious Gift…If you haven’t heard, the Sear’s store at the Edison Mall is closing.  As sad as that may be, there are some good deals in there.  We had some customer incentive points to use and they were dated in such a way as to get us in there once every two weeks for a period of a couple months to redeem $25 of free product each time.  Long story short, this has caused us to be in the mall more in the past two months than we’ve been in the last ten years!  While there, I happened to notice some of the jewelry stores in the mall with their “sales” signs outside advertising a “great deal” where a diamond ring is on holiday discount for thousands of dollars!  Why are diamonds so expensive?  For much the same reason anything is; there’s a limited supply of them.  They are precious because they are few.  John 3:16 records that God gave His ONLY begotten Son.  The Greek Word used there literally means one of a kind, the one and only.  There is only one genuine Jesus and only one genuine salvation for there is salvation in NO other Name (Acts 4:12).  The blood that He shed and by which believers are bought is of much more value than gold, silver, or precious stones (1 Pet. 1:17-19).  Indeed, Jesus is the most precious gift!

            Fourth—Jesus (and His Salvation) Is A Necessary Gift…My grandpa (Papa as I called him) was always a hard one to buy a present for.  He wasn’t a rich man (although the love he had for God and for me made me richer beyond measure in the ways that count the most), but most anything that he needed or wanted (his wants were relatively inexpensive) he would buy for himself.  So whatever we would get him for Christmas was always somewhat a shot in the dark that we hoped he would like.  (And he always seemed to like any gift that his grandson, and later in life his granddaughters, bought for him!)  Truth be told, most of the gifts that we give (and receive, at least in America) at Christmastime are not things that we really need in order to exist, but things that we want that are over and above; things that we hope others will like, but that they don’t really have to have to survive.  Not so with Jesus and the salvation that comes in His Name.  Our verse clearly instructs that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him SHOULD NOT PERISH, but have everlasting life.”  The gift that the Father gave in Jesus is not one that simply makes our lives better, is not merely a whatnot to add to the others on our shelf; but is a gift without which we perish, not just physically and temporarily, but spiritually and eternally!  Jesus is not only “A” necessary gift, but indeed is “THE” necessary gift for none can come to the Father but through Him (John 14:6)!

            Fifth—Jesus (and His Salvation) Is A Gift That Must Be Received…I worked for many years in the inventory department of Christ Centered Life Store.  Most days we would receive shipments from two freight companies (UPS and FedEx—though back in the day FedEx ground used to be RPS; for those involved in the shipping business I may have just dated myself!).  They would bring in boxes and boxes and put them on the floor of our receiving room, but before they left they would want someone to sign for them as proof (for them no doubt) that the shipments had been received.  Now, there’s not a direct analogy here to the gift of Christ because the boxes coming into the store had to be bought by the store; they were purchases, not gifts.  However, though Jesus (and the salvation that’s available in His Name) is a gift that we could not buy or earn and to which we aren’t entitled, He is a gift that must be received!  John 3:16 tells us that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever BELIEVETH in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  The Son was given to all, but only those who BELIEVE in Him will be saved.  The gift was given for all, but it must be received!