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The Gift That Keeps on Giving

January 2nd 2011 by Joel Schultz

Christmas has come and gone but the gifts God give keep on giving. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, describe the many spiritual blessing that shine down on us and fill our lives with joy and peace.

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Epiphany — Ephesians 3:1-12 — “The Gift That Keeps On Giving” — January 2, 2011

Now that Christmas is over, what’s happened to those presents you so carefully picked out? Are they being used? Are they still working? A good present is probably one that the person is going to use over and over again – one which gives lasting enjoyment – one that doesn’t break in a day or two – one that keeps on working.

Our Gospel lesson talks about gifts given. Often, on Epiphany, we focus on those gifts of the Magi – gold, frankincense, and myrrh. We also, at times, focus on the gifts we bring to the Christ Child. However, the real focus of Epiphany is how the Magi, led by the star, had come to see and receive God’s gift to mankind – A gift revealed not only to Jewish shepherds but also to the Gentiles. In this Christ Child is a gift which is the mystery of God’s grace revealed in the “unsearchable riches of Christ” as Ephesians 3 says. That is what Epiphany is all about – the revelation of God’s Son and the gifts He brings to mankind.

As I considered the unsearchable riches of Christ, I looked at the chapters around our Epistle lesson today and noticed that in Ephesians 1 Paul lists all sorts of spiritual blessings/ gifts we have received from God in the gift of the Christ child. Paul begins his letter by telling us that God has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph 1:3). He has not held back anything. Every spiritual blessing is ours. Every good gift in the heavenly realm is given freely. They are gifts from heaven and will last forever.

What are these spiritual blessings? Well, let’s take a few minutes this morning to review these gifts that are revealed in Ephesians. The first and chief spiritual blessing is, of course, forgiveness. God makes us holy and blameless in His sight (Eph. 1:4). Paul writes in Ephesians 5 how God gives us this cleansing present. “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (5:25-27). In Christ, there is forgiveness to cover all our unholiness and guilt so that God looks at us as holy and blameless.

Another present is that He adopts us as His children (Eph. 1:5). We are no longer excluded from His family because of our disobedience to His Fatherly commands. In Christ, we are welcomed into His household. We are made brothers and sisters to one another in the church and are children of the heavenly Father through Jesus Christ.

Still another gift, is that He gives us the faith to accept these blessings from heaven (Eph. 1:15). Our faith in the Lord Jesus is created by Him. Again, later in Ephesians Paul is explicit about the gift of faith. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (2:8-9). The very faith necessary to accept the forgiveness and adoption offered in Christ is created in us as a gift of God’s grace in Christ Jesus.

The book of Ephesians also talks of our love, a love which is a gift from God (Eph. 1:15). Paul says that we live a life of love because we are dearly loved children. We love because “Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (5:1-2). Even our love, something we often think as coming from inside of ourselves, has been given from God so that we can love others as God Himself loves us – unselfishly and sacrificially.

That’s not all. We’ve also been given the Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds (Eph. 1:17). We get to know Jesus better because the Holy Spirit is present to instruct us. The Spirit is that gift who reveals to our otherwise uncomprehending minds all the tremendous gifts we receive in Jesus.

And then there’s our inheritance (Eph. 1:18). Eternal life is ours. We receive entrance into heaven itself. Not because we deserve it, but because Jesus has given it to us when He made our adoption as God’s children possible. What was once not ours due to our exclusion from God’s family is now ours because we have been brought into the household of God.

These are just some of the gifts we have been given. There are many, many more from heaven that are bestowed on us in Jesus. But hearing again about forgiveness, adoption, faith, love and heaven is enough to show us the kind of presents we have received.

Now the question, What have we done with these gifts? Do we use them, or do we all too often forget about them as soon as we leave church and go back to our everyday lives? Do we keep them as precious gifts, close to our hearts, or do we break them in disobedience and rebellion? Do we make diligent use of these spiritual gifts or do we take them for granted and place them in the periphery of our lives?

Certainly, we’ve failed to use them. Our lives do not always demonstrate to others that we have received such wonderful gifts. Many times we hide who we are and what we have received from God so that we don’t appear too different from the people we live by or work with. Many times we do and say and think what is wrong and begin to wreck these precious gifts we have been given.

However, Christmas and Epiphany are the seasons to remember that Jesus is the one gift who keeps on giving. All those other gifts – forgiveness, adoption, faith, love, eternal life – the one thing they all have in common is Jesus, whose revelation we celebrate this Epiphany season. Every heavenly gift comes from Him and through Him and in Him – in this infant who grew up to die for us.

Yes, that baby in Bethlehem is also the Savior on the cross. Indeed, only because He shed His blood on that cursed tree does God lavish on us again and again and again the forgiveness of sins. On the cross Jesus’ body is broken for all the gifts of God we have broken in our lives. In His death, Jesus is forgotten by His friends and the Father in heaven so that we could be remembered always by our heavenly Father.

Yes, Jesus is the gift who keeps on giving. He gave Himself to be born of human flesh. He gave of Himself as He lived among us sinful human beings. And He gave Himself on the cross. He gave His all for us, to give us every spiritual blessing from the heavenly realms. That is the mystery God has made known to us in His Word. That is what has happened in us because of Jesus. That is what we can continue to enjoy as Jesus remains forever the gift who keeps on giving.


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