Most of us have a person in our lives that is impossible to buy for. The question that plagues many of us during the season is, “What do you get the person that has everything?” The answer is, “a gift card.” A recent New York Times article looked at the gift card industry. More than $80 billion is spent on gift cards each year. However, this was not the most surprising part of the article. The most surprising part of the article is that around $8 billion worth of gift cards will never be redeemed. Consumer Reports estimates that 19 percent of gift card recipients will never use them. For the merchant, at least, the gift card is a wonderful invention. Just think of it: In the weeks leading up to Christmas, millions of people visit your store or Web site and hand you billions of dollars in exchange for nothing more than a plastic I.O.U. that may never even be redeemed. My question is this, “What good is a gift that is never used?” Our text is one of the most familiar passages of Scripture. In fact this has been seen as the most quoted passage of Scripture since about the sixth century. However surprisingly it is often overlooked during the Christmas season. No passage of Scripture more clearly explains the significance of Christmas as does John 3:16-17. To a world full of people that seem to have everything God has given the perfect gift. Unfortunately, like many gift cards people fail to redeem this great gift that God has given them. Today, I would like to look at this familiar passage of Scripture through a set of fresh lenses. Hopefully, we will see why Jesus is the perfect gift for each and every person.
I. God gave mankind a gift that met its deepest need.
A. We are often in the habit of overlooking our greatest need.
1. If asked this question, “What is your greatest need?” How many of you would have sin as your first thought?
2. The vast majority of us would answer this question according to what our own set of perceived needs were. These needs usually fall into two main categories.
3. Paul in Romans 3 clearly shows that “sin” is a problem that each and every person struggles with.
4. Our text shows that God was bent on doing something to redeem His creation from the great plague of sin.
B. God realized that mankind’s greatest need was a way to deal with the problem of sin.
1. If you read the entire New Testament you will quickly discover that because of sin man is in a hopeless state without God’s intervention.
2. Our text reminds us that salvation does not originate with us. The text clearly spells out that God is the initiator and provider of salvation.
3. God’s purpose in sending His Son was not to destroy the world or all of humanity.
4. God realized that for the sin problem to be solved it would require a drastic and costly method.
5. When God sent His son He built a bridge to bring as back to Him across the great canyon that sin had formed.
6. Contrary to what was taught by Marcion and other Gnostics, God is not self centered, angry and unforgiving.
II. God gave mankind a gift that met its deepest desire.
A. People in our world constantly search for love and a sense that they matter to someone.
1. Last year the United States generated $957 million in revenue from online dating services.
2. Many people have chosen to use AshleyMadison.com which is a site that helps those who are unhappily married hook up with someone for an extramarital affair.
3. This is all simply a symptom of the deep human need to be love and accepted. Unfortunately, people are still searching and never finding what they are looking for.
4. The great theologian Waylon Jennings summed up mankind’s plight when he wrote, “I was looking for love in all the wrong places. Looking for love in too many faces. Searching your eyes, looking for traces of what... I'm dreaming of.”
5. How many of you would love to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you were unconditionally loved and accepted just the way you are?
B. Christmas tells every person in the world that they matter to God and that He loves them.
1. God’s love caused the salvation of the human race to become His goal.
2. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8—NIV 2011)
3. God’s love was a sacrificial love. Sacrificial love always seeks to find the most practical way to meet the needs of those who are loved.
4. Perhaps our text could be best summed up this way, “God loved and God gave.”
5. God showed His love for us by paying the ultimate price to pay the penalty for our sins.
III. God gave mankind this gift with the greatest love.
A. Our text reveals the depth of God’s love for mankind.
1. The Bible presents God as a loving Father who cannot be happy until His wandering children are brought back home.
2. Three Greek terms highlight the depth of God’s love.
a. agapao: God’s unconditional love.
b. houtos: “so” highlights that the love is truly deep.
c. cosmos: for each and every one in the world.
3. God’s love is not for a single person, a single nation but for the whole world. It is a love that reaches into the heart of every person.
4. God’s love is so perfect and deep that it requires a willingness to sacrifice for the one who is loved.
5. The early church father Augustine was right on target when he wrote these words. “God loves each one of us as if there was only one of us to love.”
B. A love as deep as God’s is extremely difficult for us to comprehend.
1. Can you imagine loving someone that has constantly turned their back on you and to love them to the point that you are willing to give up everything for them?
2. This concept of love is so different from the conditional love that is practiced in our world.
3. God’s love is not conditional and it is not temporary. God is incapable of ever ceasing to love us.
4. When we think about God’s love we cannot understand it. We would never have entertained the thought of loving to this degree.
5. If we are really honest, we would admit that we believe that this type of love is impossible for us.
IV. God gave mankind a gift that truly keeps on giving.
A. This is a gift that endures for eternity.
1. The gift of God’s love as implications for all of eternity.
2. God’s love makes it possible for us not to have to pay the great penalty for our sins.
3. Christmas reminds us that God went to great lengths to make it possible for us to not perish but to live with Him for all eternity.
4. When we believe we put Christ in charge of our lives here on earth and our life in eternity.
B. This is a gift that only impacts our lives if we choose to redeem it.
1. December 26, is a busy day in the retail world as they deal with the returns of the gifts that people have chosen not to keep.
2. A gift will do us absolutely no good if we leave it in the box and never use it.
3. Christmas presents us with the choice of whether or not to accept the gift that God has given to us.
4. Countless numbers of people have chosen not to do anything with the gift God has given and have simply left it in the box and set on a shelf to collect dust.
5. Our text tells us that if the gift is to do any good for us we need to redeem it.
a. To believe is to accept the gift and to receive another gift, the gift of eternal life.
b. To not believe is to refuse the gift and to perish because of our sin.
C. This is a gift that we can share with others.
1. Many of us have those in our lives that we know who need to accept this great gift that God has given.
2. If we would simply share this gift it could make a difference in someone’s life.
3. In fact, the Bible has instructed us to share this gift with all those who cross our paths.
4. He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:7-8—NIV 2011)
5. What’s keeping you from sharing the greatest Christmas gift ever given with someone else?
On January 6, 1850, a snowstorm almost crippled the city of Colchester, England; and a teenage boy was unable to get to the church he usually attended. So he made his way to a nearby Primitive Methodist chapel, where an ill-prepared layman was substituting for the absent preacher. His text was Isaiah 45:22—“Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.” For many months this young teenager had been miserable and under deep conviction; but though he had been reared in church (both his father and grandfather were preachers), he did not have the assurance of salvation.
The unprepared substitute minister did not have much to say, so he kept repeating the text. “A man need not go to college to learn to look,” he shouted. “Anyone can look—a child can look!” About that time, he saw the visitor sitting to one side, and he pointed at him and said, “Young man, you look very miserable. Young man, look to Jesus Christ!”
The young man did look by faith, and that was how the great preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon was converted.