Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Watch out! Santa is coming to town. He's been making a list, and now he's checking it twice. He'll find out who's been naughty and who's been nice. Sorry if you're on the naughty list. Only a lump of coal for you this year! But if you've managed to make it onto Santa's nice list, you might find the gifts you requested in your letter to the North Pole!
Gifts?! No, the above example does not describe a gift. If I have to earn something, it is not a gift. It's a payment, a remittance for goods or services I have performed.
I'm not slamming Santa. He's a jolly old elf. Santa is just one example of how our perception of gifts has been distorted. We preach long and amen loudly that salvation is a gift from God. We say it's by grace through faith, not of ourselves. But do we really believe that? Are we really living in the pure joy that flows from the abundance of God's grace?
When that is how we begin our walk with God, that tends to be the road we continue to travel. We think that the grace or the "blessings" we continue to receive are more pretty boxes that we have earned the right to take off the shelf, open, and enjoy.
God's grace is not a commodity. It is Christ. It is His character. It is life that He freely gives to undeserving sinners. The only wages we deserve are condemnation and death. By His grace and through His faith, we are lovingly endowed with forgiveness and eternal life. Life with Him for eternity, and a life of grace here on earth.
So shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid! (Romans 6:1-2). We know there are blessings that follow obedience and judgment that follows disobedience. But our obedience is not to be carried out so we can get a reward. God loves us and bestows His grace and righteousness as we humbly confess our undeserving and sinful state. Our obedience then flows from our love for Him and our desire to give Him all He has given us...our lives. Only His grace and righteousness make us worthy to be redeemed.
This Christmas, as we open our gifts and talk about the gift of Jesus, let us allow ourselves to leave the pretty little boxes and bows behind and immerse ourselves in His abundant and free grace that is not of works, lest any man should boast.