The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A “free gift” That Exceeds All Others

Google search for “free gift” and you come up first with a complimentary cheesecake from Cheesecake Factory. Coming in second and third are links to Godiva chocolates and Chuck E Cheese. Now that I have the attention of those of you with a sweet tooth, let me speak of a free gift that far exceeds all others.

Eternal life, salvation, God’s forgiveness of our sins, is offered as a “free gift.”  For those trying to work their way to heaven these are truly sweet words. How is that possible? Salvation as a free gift is offered to us by God on the basis of Jesus atoning death on the cross. Jesus paid our debt of sin on the cross so that when we trust in Him God justly forgives us. Something is free when you don’t have to work for it. Jesus has done the work of salvation for us. Therefore all we need do is turn from our sin to God by trusting Jesus as our Savior. Salvation is a free gift to be received (John 1:12).

Some of you have been consuming the junk food of a religious pursuit of God. You’ve been trying to earn God’s favor by doing things you think He’d like you to do. You are trying to work your way to heaven. The problem with that is you never know if your work is good enough or just simply enough. There’s no certainty; no assurance of your standing with God. All there is for the worker is an uncertain, unsatisfying, even fear of the future.

If you believe in and respect the Bible, (and there is a ton of evidence proving the Bible is no ordinary book but is in truth God’s revelation to humanity), then you should know that God’s recipe for salvation is the health food of salvation. This salvation comes by His grace as a free gift through faith in Jesus Christ. That alone is the dish that truly satisfies.  Your salvation can be as complete, certain and sure as Jesus cross work. And He said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30).

Let’s turn to a less palatable metaphor. The crust of food can be delicious. But when you use the word crust in regards to your skin or the earth’s surface you are speaking of some aspect of disease or the hard jagged surface of our planet. Sin is like cancer, even the smallest cell incident of sin will spread and become unmanageable if left unattended and untreated. Sin hardens the heart; it hardens the sinner. Sin makes the sinner crusty.  That’s not good.

But there is a cure for this crusty condition. And that cure is offered as a free gift. That cure is provided in Christ. There is a chapter in the Bible which three times states that salvation is a “free gift” from God. Romans 5:17 states, “For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” This verse introduces us to Romans 5 where we see The Crust of Sin and The Cure of Christ.  I encourage you to get your Bible out and turn to Romans 5 where we will see our crusty condition of sin and God’s amazing free gift cure.

The Crust of Sin. When we look at this passage we see the marks of a patient with a potentially fatal illness. If left unattended the patient will die. There is a cure, but as an early church father stated, “Before you can prescribe an antidote, you have to know the poison.” What does this chapter tell us about the crusty cancer of sin?

It isn’t a pretty picture. The first symptom is guilt. We wouldn’t need to be justified unless we were guilty in some way (5:1a). There is unrest. We wouldn’t have to be put at peace with God unless we were first in a position of unrest toward Him (5:1b). There is a lack of Godlike love (5:5). There is weakness (5:6a). There is ungodliness; disobedience to the first 4 of the Ten Commandments (5:6b). The Bible calls this being sinners; breaking God’s Commandments in heart and deed (5:8). This leads to a sentence of God’s wrath. If this were not true, we wouldn’t need to be saved from God’s wrath (5:9a).

This crusty nature makes us enemies of God (5:10). We become so hard by sin that we are separated from God. Proof of this is our need to be reconciled to God (5:11). There is actually a genetic predisposition, (a sinful nature passed down from Adam) to sin (5:12a). This condition leads to death (5:12b). And it involves personal responsibility; “all sinned” (5:12c-13). We all break God’s holy and just Law. Therefore we are justly condemned (5:16) and destined to an unfavorable final judgment by God (5:18). If we die in our sin, God will put us in a place where the fires of His wrath will burn and incapacitate our contagious sinful crustiness forever.

Whew! That’s a pretty gruesome and ugly diagnosis. And what is even scarier is that every human being is born with this crusty sinful condition. Every person has this cancer of sin. Cancer by nature grows; it spreads. If left unattended or we deny sins reality in us, it will take us over. This is the most serious of conditions because it’s end does not lead to mere physical death, but can lead to eternal death; separation forever from God in a tormenting place called hell (Mat. 25:46). Is there a cure? Can we be saved and healed of this condition? YES!

The Cure of Christ. The cure for our sinful condition is not something we can work our way out of. There’s no physical therapy to fix this problem. But there is a cure. The cure is something we receive and must take in. The cure is a most precious commodity. It is the most expensive antidote in existence. In fact you cannot put a price tag on it. You can’t buy it. It can only be received and taken from God who offers it for free!

The effects of this cure start with justification (5:1a). Justification is a state of standing before God just as if I’d never sinned. This cure is so thorough, so deep, and so complete that it permanently removes the crust of sin.  This cure provides peace with God (5:1b). And all it asks of the patient is to trust in Jesus (5:1c). This cure in Christ gives us access to the greatest health plan of all time. This plan gives us access to God’s grace medicine (5:2a) and that is reason to rejoice (5:2b, 11). Hallelujah!

So effective is Christ’s cure that we are enabled to persevere through future trials (Oh yes, we may still encounter difficulties) (5:3-4). The able Administrator of this cure is the Holy Spirit who gives us an ongoing intravenous supply of God’s own brand of love (5:5). But it is Jesus Christ who pays the price for this cure. This saving cure is offered freely as a gift, but it wasn’t cheaply obtained. It cost Christ His life (5:6). It certainly wasn’t deserved by any of us (5:7). But God prescribed the curing treatment even if it did cost Jesus His precious blood offered on the cross (5:8-9).

And so we are saved from a wrathful end of the crustiness of sin (5:9). With the cure received and in place, we are reconciled to God and saved from death to life (5:10). The cure is centered on and provided by One Man, Jesus (5:15-18). The cure is “much more” than anyone could have ever imagined (5:15, 17, 20). With this cure we can now “reign in life” now (5:17, 21). With this cure we have “eternal life” forever! (5:21). And all of this provided by and offered to all as a “free gift” (5:15, 16, 18). That is a free gift that not only exceeds all other free gifts. But it is a free gift exceeds all other gifts of any kind; period.

Have you received this free gift of salvation? I encourage you to turn from your sins right now. Come humbly before God and turn over your life to Him. Receive forgiveness for your crusty sinful life through faith in Christ. Open your heart to the Holy Spirit and His love. You’ll never be the same. From death to life. Your crustiness cured! It’s a free gift! Receive it!


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