I heard about a postal worker sorting through mail. He found an unstamped, handwritten envelope addressed to God! With curiosity piqued, he had to open it. There he found the hastily written words of an elderly woman to God. She was telling him that her savings, $200, had been stolen. As a result, she wouldn’t have anything to eat for Christmas.
The man was touched, so he went to his fellow postal workers and took up a collection. They all dug deep and came up with $180 for the old woman. They put the money in a plain envelope with no note, and it was hand-delivered to the woman’s house that day.
A week later, a postal worker noticed another unstamped letter like the one they saw before. He opened it and it was from this same elderly woman, again addressed to God:
“Dear God, thank you for the $180 you sent for Christmas, which would have been so bleak otherwise. P.S. It was $20 short, but it was probably one of those thieving workers at the post office.”
Many times we do not appreciate the gift we have received.
And that’s no more true than with the gift that God has given to us—the real gift of Christmas. This gift is not wrapped under your tree. In fact, this gift cannot be bought with money. If you are a Christian, you carry this gift in your heart. It is salvation . . . the gift of eternal life.
Don’t rush over that. Let it sink in.
Some gifts bring an initial excitement when you first get them, like a new gadget or outfit, but gadgets are quickly outdated, as are clothes. Today’s drone or new apparel will soon be as dated as a Betamax or mood ring.
But other gifts grow more precious with the passing of time: that family heirloom, your grandfather’s favorite watch that he gave to you, a drawing from your child when they were very young, something that has personal and sentimental value like a photograph.
One woman on my Facebook page wrote, “She was with her family at a mall. Her husband asked their daughter to have her photo taken with her little brother and with Santa. She agreed only if Mom and Dad were in the photo too. They reluctantly agreed. Tragically, her daughter died after that, so that was their last picture together.
Something like this becomes priceless to you. It’s the kind of thing you would grab first if your house were on fire. It is far more valuable than long-forgotten playthings (unless you kept your Barbie dolls and Star Wars figures in their original packages. An original Star Wars Darth Vader in its unopened package is worth $6,000. Original Barbie dolls are valued at $8,000 to $12,000.)
By the way, you can start enjoying and appreciating God’s gift of eternal life in your life right now. It starts with something called justification. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand” (Romans 5:1–2 NKJV).
The word justify carries a two-fold meaning. First, it speaks of the forgiveness of our sins. The day you put your faith in Jesus Christ is the day your sins were all instantaneously forgiven! Think about that. Have you done things you are ashamed of? Have you done things you wish you hadn’t? Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, you are forgiven! God takes our sins and forgives and forgets them. According to God’s Word, they are gone!
As God said in Jeremiah 31:34, “I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” If God forgives and forgets it, we should too. I should not choose to remember what God has chosen to forget.
When you’re saved, God releases you from the guilt and penalty of the sins you committed. God has taken our sins, thrown them into the “sea of forgetfulness” and posted a sign that says “No Fishing Allowed!” Justification means “just as if it never had happened!”
On my computer is a key I can push to make things go away. I simply highlight what I do not want and then I push the Delete key. Instantaneously, all that information is gone! Where it goes I do not know (same place those single socks go, probably). God has taken all your sins and has pushed His Delete key.
If that were all there is to salvation it would be more than we could ever hope for. But wait, there’s more! For that is only one part of justification. Justification also speaks of what He has put in its place!
Justification is more than just forgiveness (though that’s more than enough!) and the removal of the guilt and condemnation that accompanied it—the negative things that He has taken away. Justification has a positive side as well, which includes what He has done for and given to us. The word justified means “to put to one’s account.” When God justifies a person, He places the righteousness of Christ in their account. This balances the moral and spiritual budget for us.
Acts 13:38–39 says, “Brothers! Listen! In this man Jesus, there is forgiveness for your sins! Everyone who believes in him is freed from all guilt and declared right with God [justified]” (NLT).
Chuck Swindoll writes: “Justification is the sovereign act of God whereby He declares righteous the believing sinner—while he is still in a sinning state.”
This is not a gradual process. It is immediate.
It would be as though you were in debt for 10 million dollars. The creditors were at the door. There was no hope on your part to ever repay this enormous debt yourself. Then Mark Zuckerberg came along and paid your debt for you. You were happy to simply no longer be in debt. But he told you to check your balance. When you did, you saw a balance of 20 million dollars!
The same is true of the Christian’s “spiritual bank account” because of what Christ has done. That is the gift of eternal life.
But wait, there’s even more! You are also adopted into God’s family. Adoption means “the placing of a son.” It would be more than enough to know that God had forgiven me of all my sin and that He had made me right before Him. But add to that the fact that He has taken me into His family as one of His own children!
“When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4–5 NKJV).
The word redeem means “to buy out of a slave market.” There we were, slaves of sin, under the control of Satan. Then Jesus comes along and buys our freedom. That’s more than we could ever hope for. But then He marches us down to the courthouse and adopts us!
By adoption, God is saying, “Don’t merely stand in awe of me!” By adopting us, God is saying, “Come close to me!” This is what Christmas is all about: the gift . . . from God to you! In fact, that is what life is all about.
Having this right relationship with God, this access to God, is amazing. Having my sins forgiven and knowing personal peace is more than I could hope for. Then there is the joy of the Lord, His leading in my life. If that were all there is in the Christian life, it would be enough. Even if there were no afterlife, the “beforelife” of the Christian is worth it. But there is much, much more waiting for us. Jesus is waiting to reveal it to you. He prayed in John 17:24, “Father, I want these whom You have given Me to be with Me where I am. Then they can see all the glory You gave Me because You loved Me even before the world began!” (NLT).
When you go to an amazing place, you want to take your friends there. That is why I love to lead tours to Israel! I love to see people see it for the first time. God is saying, “I want my children to see this!” 1 Corinthians 2:9 reminds us, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard . . . the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (NKJV). Jesus said in John 14:42, “In my father’s house are many rooms . . . I am going there to prepare a place for you” (NIV). It’s amazing to think that though there was no room for Him in the inn, He has many rooms for us.
When we first come to Christ, we are excited about the “fringe benefits” of faith: peace, purpose, meaning in life, joy. Those are all fantastic, but the most significant gift will only grow more valuable with time. The gift of eternal life: that is the hope of heaven.
This is why Paul called it “the unspeakable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15) or as the NLT puts it, “a gift too wonderful for words.”