Summary: Preached at Academy Christmas Program
“THE GIFT OF FAITH”
PBCA Christmas Program December 12, 2006
Thank you students, what a wonderful job! It’s true the real gift of Christmas is the gift of faith. Yet, it’s so sad that with all the lights, glitter and extravaganza that wraps up the countless other ’gifts’ of the season our eyes are tempted to gaze upon the lesser things and entirely miss the greatest gift of all! But, then, I suppose we’re just repeating history.
Consider: Almighty God, King of Kings, Savior of the World, made his grand entrance in an obscure little cave used for animals, likely on the outskirts of town. Bethlehem was packed to bursting with people, and yet, not one of them seems to have had a clue that God had just entered town. You know, it’s not so different today either. We are so busy with our own hustling and bustling that we miss God right in our midst! It’s like the woman who got so overwhelmed with opening all the big, fancy gifts (such as the new coat, monographed bowling ball, Dyson super-vac, sweaters and long johns), while discarding the paper all about that she never sees the small, plainly wrapped box that accidentally gets thrown away with the wrapping paper. Too bad, there was a once-in-a-lifetime diamond tennis bracelet inside!
This Christmas, I implore us all to be sure to find and open the gift of faith! As was read earlier, the Bible says:
For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift-- not from works, so that no one can boast. - Ephesians 2:8-9
The real meaning of Christmas is that Jesus is God’s gift to us! Not because the events of His birth make for a ’cute story.’ But, because through His life we have an example of the strength, courage, hope, moral perfection, and eternal victory that we too can possess in Him. Through His death on the cross for our sins, and resurrection in power He has bought and wrapped the gift of reconciliation and eternal life with God. A gift whose price none of us could ever begin to even make a down payment upon.
Consider with me the state of one prominent man many Christmases ago . . .
It is commonly believed that in December of 1737, and throughout that winter, a prominent clergyman named John Wesley suffered from severe depression which brought him to the brink of death.
Even though, since he was a young lad, his mother dutifully raised him in the church,
Even though he had been a priest in the Anglican church for a decade,
Even though he thought himself to be a learned and scholarly person,
Even though he should have been the person with all the answers,
Even though he was commonly looked upon as an upstanding man of God . . .
Yet, He found himself struggling with even the basic beliefs of his faith … including his salvation…
That is, until May 24, 1738 -
5 a.m. – he read the words of 2 Peter 1:4 – “. . . He has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desires.”
Then, that evening, something happened… hear these words from Wesley’s personal journal….
“In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for my salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death…I was now thoroughly convinced; and, by the grace of God, I resolved to seek it unto the end…”1
John Wesley, for the first time, came to a true understanding of the gift his faith offered.
- Friends, this saving faith is not the same as other ’faith’ we may claim. It is not merely intellectual knowledge. Nor an uncertain hope of what could or might be.
- It is so much more. Saving faith is putting your full trust in Christ.
As Wesley wrote, “Saving faith is not merely a speculative, rational thing, a cold, lifeless assent, or a train of ideas in the head. It is primarily a disposition of the heart. Scripture declares, “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Faith is our resting completely upon what God has done for us and no longer trying to achieve our own salvation.