Today is my birthday, my spiritual birthday, that is.

Forty-three years ago, in my hometown of Springfield, MO, I became a Christian by being baptized, upon confession of my faith in Christ.

On that day, I opened the Greatest Gift of All, as I explained in a Lord’s Supper talk this past Christmas.

Mark Joseph

 

Franklin Church of Christ

Lord’s Supper Talk

December 25, 2016

 

The Greatest Gift of All

God’s Abiding Presence – Now & Forever

 

While you are opening your Bibles to the 10th chapter of my favorite book, Hebrews, I am going to borrow the bows from gifts for my children to help me say what I want to say this morning.

Today is our country’s gift-giving holiday.  You know, there are many passages in the Bible about gifts.  For example,

 

Luke 11:13  New American Standard Bible (NASB)

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will our heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”

For those of us who, in obedience, will be eating and drinking this Lord’s Supper, it is because we opened the greatest gift of all.

 

[Place the bows on the baptistery]

So, what’s with the bows?  I will talk about the bows in just a moment, but first, let’s talk about the gift.

It is the gift that MUST be opened

It is the gift that keeps on giving

It is the gift that MUST be paid forward

 

So, what is the gift?

 

I believe the Bible teaches that the greatest gift of all is the abiding presence of God, now and forever, made possible by the forgiveness of sin, that which separates us from Him.  If sin is forgiven, we can enjoy eternal life through (because of) the Spirit.

 

As to forgiveness:

 

It is the gift that keeps on giving

1 John 1:9  New American Standard Bible (NASB)

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Are we confessing our sins?

 

It is the gift that MUST be paid forward

Matthew 6:14-15  New American Standard Bible (NASB)

For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.

This is how we enjoy peace on earth and goodwill toward men (Luke 2:14 New King James Version (NKJV)).

Are there those whom we need to forgive?

 

As to God’s abiding presence:

 

It is the gift that MUST be opened

WHY?

 

Separation from God

Isaiah 59:1-2  New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear.  But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.

 

God’s Abiding Presence

Romans 8:11  New American Standard Bible (NASB)

But if [you open the gift] the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

 

HOW?

Now, the bows will help me to explain how.

 

We all open the gift the same way.  Let me read to you about when I opened the gift.

[From my Certificate of Baptism]  I, Mark Joseph, became a Christian by being baptized, upon confession of my faith in Christ, on the 10th day of February 1974 at National & High Church of Christ.  The one who baptized me was, Paul F. Johnston.

 

We learn from the Apostle Peter how to ask, or invite, the Holy Spirit to dwell in us, and thus open the greatest gift of all.

Acts 2:38  New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

 

Baptism, which washes away our sins so that the Holy Spirit can dwell in us, is how we open the greatest gift of all.

That is why I placed the bows on the baptistery.  And, we all MUST OPEN the gift.

Have you opened the gift?

 

Speaking of opening gifts:

 

Moms & Dads, as the holiday approaches, you see your children’s growing excitement and anticipation, and perhaps, their growing impatience.  If we were talking about opening the greatest gift of all, what would that giddiness look like?

 

Ethiopian Eunuch

Acts 8:34-39  New American Standard Bible (NASB)

The eunuch answered Philip and said, “Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this?  Of himself or of someone else?”  Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.  As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look!  Water!  What prevents me from being baptized?”  And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.”  And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”  And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him.  When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing.

 

And, Moms & Dads, admit it, your excitement and anticipation builds too as the holiday approaches, because it brings you great joy to watch your children open their gifts.  If we were talking about opening the greatest gift of all, what would that giddiness look like?

 

Ananias

Acts 22:12-16  New American Standard Bible (NASB)

“A certain Ananias, a man who was devout by the standard of the Law, and well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to me, and standing near said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very time I looked up at him.  And he said, ‘The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will and to see the Righteous One and to hear an utterance from His mouth.  For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard.

Now why do you delay?  Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.’

 

For those we read about in the Bible who understood the nature of the greatest gift of all, they wanted to open the gift immediately.

 

Signed, Sealed, & Delivered

 

Jesus commissioned the Apostles to make disciples by baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19  New American Standard Bible (NASB)).

I believe this is because we are opening a gift that is signed, sealed, & delivered by God – signed by the Father, sealed by the Son, & delivered by the Holy Spirit.  Now, let’s read from the 10th chapter of Hebrews.

 

God, the Father, signed off on the gift (Hebrews 10:5-7  New American Standard Bible (NASB))

Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, “Sacrifice and offering You have not desired, but a body You have prepared for Me; in whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have taken no pleasure.  “Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come (in the scroll of the book it is written of Me) to do Your will, O God.’”

 

God, the Son, sealed the gift (Hebrews 10:10,14  New American Standard Bible (NASB))

By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.  For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.

 

God, the Holy Spirit, delivered the gift (Hebrews 10:15-18  New American Standard Bible (NASB))

And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws upon their heart, And on their mind I will write them,” He then says, “And their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”  Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.

 

The gift signed, sealed, & delivered by God, is the greatest gift of all!

 

The Lord’s Supper

We show appreciation to, obey, honor & glorify, the Son for His role in providing this greatest gift of all – He sealed it.

I cannot think of anything else to say to further prepare us for the Lord’s Supper, except to read the first verse of this old, familiar, hymn:

 

I will sing of my Redeemer, and His wondrous love to me.

On the cruel cross He suffered, from the curse to set me free.

Sing, oh sing, of my Redeemer, with His blood, He purchased me.

On the cross, He sealed my pardon, paid the debt, and made me free.

 

Thank you, Lord Jesus!  This is for you.

 

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