Merry Christmas, Covenant Church. I cannot say that enough. Merry Christmas. Your singing has been great. We've been singing about the greatest gift ever, and now we're going to look at it.
The whole purpose of Christmas is best summed up with a verse from the Gospel of John:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life, - John 3:16
That's the whole purpose of Christmas. God so loved the world, that He gave. You can give without loving but you cannot love without giving. The first Christmas gift was God's gift of His Son to you.
Here's how the Apostle Paul builds on John 3:16:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? - Romans 8:31-32
Follow Paul's train of thought here. If God loves you enough to send Jesus Christ to come and die on the cross for you, He loves you enough to encourage you. He loves you enough to heal your hurts. God loves you enough to comfort you. God loves you enough to give you positive direction for your life. God loves you enough to help you forgive others and to love others and to be kind to others. If God loves you enough to give you the greatest gift of all, then certainly He can be trusted to give you other gifts, too.
Have you ever received a gift inside a gift? I love it when gifts are wrapped that way. You get a box; you open it and there's another box. Sometimes there's an even smaller box. Inside one gift is a bunch of other gifts.
At Christmas, God's gift to you is Jesus Christ. That's the big gift. God so loved you that He gave His only Son to die for you. But contained within the big gift are other smaller gifts. While not of equal value, they are still important gifts.
Tonight, we're going to look at two Christmas gifts God wants to give you when you receive the big gift of Jesus Christ.
Here's what's going to happen as we do that. We're going to flip the script on the true spirit of Christmas. The spirit of Christmas is actually receiving God's gift to you.
1. God gives me a new identity.
Identity theft is a growing problem. Identity Theft Protection is a multi-billion dollar market. That's the kind of identity theft we hear about in the media. But there's a more insidious kind of identity theft. At some point or another, we've all had a deeper sense of our identity stolen. Who you were made to be. Who God has wired you up to be. Who God has called you to be - Beloved Child of God.
Sometimes your identity gets stolen by your parents, when they want you to be what they want you to be, not who God wants you to be. Or when you don't live up to who they think you should be.
Sometimes you let your identity get stolen by peer pressure.
Sometimes you let your identity get stolen by problems.
Sometimes you let your identity get stolen by cultural or media pressure. You have to look this way or own these things or embrace that activity. And you end up conforming to culture rather than who God is calling you to be.
And then you get to the point where you wonder who you really are.
Are you getting your identity from God? "For God so loved the world…" You are a beloved child of God.
The only thing that cannot be stolen from you is God's love for you. Your new and permanent identity is build on the cross of Jesus Christ. And no one can take that away.
Here's what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he or she is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Does that mean you're perfect? Look around, you know that ain't true. Does it mean you never sin? Does it mean you're never going to struggle? It doesn't mean any of that. It simply means you are not identified by your sin. You're not identified by your struggle. You're not identified by your past. You have a new identity. You are a child of God…and it's new, true, and permanent.
Here's what it boils down to. You've got to stop seeing yourself the way everybody else sees you. See yourself the way God sees you. Stop listening to the lies of the world and start listening to the truth of God. "For God so loved the world…"
First, God gives us a new identity.
2. God gives me a new destiny.
God gives you a new destiny when you accept that Jesus Christ is Lord of your life.
Make no mistake. Some gifts don't last. How many times is that special gift broken within days and even hours after opening it? How many gifts will you return the day after tomorrow?
God's Christmas gift to you lasts forever. Listen to the promise in 1 Peter 1:3-4:
According to his great mercy, God has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.
In Jesus Christ, that is God's gift for you. It's nothing you deserve. You cannot earn it. You cannot bargain for it. And you certainly can't smooth talk your way into heaven. It's part of the package. When you receive the gift of faith in Jesus Christ, your eternal destiny is sealed.
How many of you parents or grandparents spent the past month searching for the perfect gift for a child or grandchild? In Matthew 7:11, Jesus says, "If you, though imperfect and sinful, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"
What is it we all want in our lives? We want meaning and purpose and to be loved and to be secure in our eternal destiny. That's what Jesus is talking about. The best thing of all is, even before we knew we wanted those things in our lives, God sent His Son into this world to die on the cross so those gifts could be ours. Even before we knew to ask. That's what I call the greatest gift you will ever receive.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son." You need to receive the gift. You need to open the gift. These gifts of a new identity and eternal destiny are for you. My prayer for you is from Ephesians 3:
I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God's marvelous love. I pray that you will be able to feel and understand how long, how wide, how deep, how high God's love for you really is and to experience the love for yourself.
And together, God's people said, "AMEN."