200 Proof TuneIn Radio

Thursday, April 23, 2015

"Gift Given, Gift Received"

“Receive it as gift.”  I hear Dr. Norman Nagel speak it into my mind’s ear (if there is such a thing). 

This is the essence of the Theology of the Cross, “Receive it as gift.”  Forgiveness, mercy, salvation, sanctification… “receive it as gift.” 

St. Paul speaks this way in Ephesians, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV)   The gifts - grace and faith, pure gift. 

Gifts are not earned, we call that “pay” but gifts run the way of grace, which is God’s unmerited favor for sinners.  The gift given is Christ Jesus Himself, who is the gift and the gift giver.  He is the one who gave us His righteousness and who takes away our sins, as gift. 

If one insists that he or she must “give one’s heart to Jesus,” then they are not receiving salvation as gift, but as barter.  “If I give my heart to Jesus and turn away from my sin, then I will have salvation.” 
Where is the gift in that?  There is no gift in that as we are somehow either bartering for salvation or trying to earn salvation.  Instead, we who are dead in our sins and trespasses have the Great Physician visit our rotten, corrupted souls and give life to them.  He regenerates the dead and brings life where there was only death, and this He does as a free and amazing gift.  There are no works required to have this gift, it is all free, it is gift. 

Sadly enough, like all gifts, this one too can be rejected, it can remain unopened and it can be thrown away.  Yet Christ in His long suffering way continues to give His gift of life freely, without reservation, without any quid pro quo, no exchanges, no bartering, it is all gift.  When we see that salvation comes to us as a gift, we see that it does not originate with us, but with God. 

Now when we look to Scripture, we start to see Christ’s gifts all over the place -  
In Holy Baptism, here we find the Word of God attached to the baptismal waters, as God works salvation in sinners, washing away our sin, laying us into Christ’s grave and raising us to eternal life.   We find that Christ is present in the Lord’s Supper where He joins Himself to the bread and wine through His Word and is there with His meal of mercy for sinners.  We find Him in the voice of the pastor who proclaims God’s Word to us, speaking Biblical absolution into our ear holes.  All gift, all Christ, none of our works. 

When we start to see God’s gifts more and more, we find them in even more unlikely places.  Sometimes we find God’s gifts through adversity, which creates maturity.  There are times when God will allow us to suffer in order that we might receive the gift of being purged of any notions of our own worth and or virtue before the perfection of God.  There are times when God will also rescue us from our bad decisions.

Like children who think that hot fudge sundaes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, would be awesome, we want those things that are appealing to us.  We tell God what we want, but God being a Good Father, will not leave us to our own devices.  We rage and bellow because that job, car, house, spouse, boy or girlfriend, and so forth that we wanted doesn’t become ours.  We blame God for keeping us from happiness, only to find out sometime later how God protected us from our stupid desires. 
We find that those things that we don’t have were a “good miss.” 

For all of the things in life, things received as blessing and things perceived as a curse, we can certainly “receive it as gift.” for us!

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