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Summary: What do you think is the greatest gift anyone can receive? It is the gift of eternal life.

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Who likes getting gifts? I certainly do.

Let me ask you this. Is something a gift if you have to pay for it? If you have to pay for it or do something for it, it isn’t a gift. When someone gives you a gift, it doesn’t cost you anything. All you have to do is accept it. What is the one thing you should not do when someone gives you a gift? The one thing you should never do is ask “How much did it cost?”

What do you think is the greatest gift anyone can receive? It is the gift of eternal life. Jesus talks about this gift in John 3:1-17, and I’m going to take a few minutes and read that passage to you.

Now let me tell you a story that will explain why Jesus gives us the gift of salvation. It’s a story about Mia, Rafael and a dog. As Mia and Rafael walked down Main Street with their father, Rafael noticed an unusual display in a shop window. "Hey, Dad!" he exclaimed. "There's a real dog in that cage!" Rafael stooped and looked at the small, brown dog. A large hand-lettered sign was attached to the cage.

Mia read it aloud. "Death row! Without your help, this animal will have one more day to live. Call the local animal shelter and make arrangements to adopt this puppy." She looked at her father. "What does that sign mean, Dad?" she asked.

"It's a new program the animal shelter is trying," said Dad. "They can't take care of all the stray animals they find, so by letting people know about the problem, they give the animals a better chance to be adopted out. If no one takes this dog, they'll have to put it to sleep." The kids stared in dismay at the little animal. "I've heard that the program is very successful," Dad assured them. "I'm sure someone will claim this cute little puppy."

"But, Dad! What if nobody does?" wailed Mia. "Can't we take him home with us? Look-he likes us already. He's wagging his tail!"

"Yeah, and he needs us, Dad!" Rafael pleaded.

"Well . . ." Dad hesitated. "Let's wait till this evening, and I'll call and check on him. If nobody rescues this little guy by then-and if Mom agrees and you kids promise to take care of him-we'll come back and get him tomorrow. Okay?" Mia and Rafael nodded eagerly.

When Dad called the animal shelter, he learned that the dog was still waiting to be rescued. Since Mom had agreed, they went the next day to get the puppy. As they drove home, Mia looked up at Dad. "It's kind of like what Jesus did, isn't it, Dad?" she murmured.

"What do you mean?" Dad asked.

"When we had devotions yesterday, the verses you read from the Bible said that before Jesus saved us, we were condemned," explained Mia. "In a way, that's like being on death row, isn't it? But Jesus died on the cross to take our punishment. When we trusted in Hi m, He rescued us-kind of like we rescued this puppy."

Dad smiled. "Good thinking," he approved.

"The puppy will be a reminder that we've been rescued by Jesus," Rafael added.

Boys and girls, God loved us so much that he sent Jesus to earth to die on the cross so that we could have the gift of eternal life. Can you imagine how much Jesus loved us to be willing to die on the cross so that we can have eternal life in heaven? Jesus paid the price so we could receive the greatest gift of all.


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