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A CHRISTMAS GIFT

The Christmas season is here again. It is one of my favorite times of the year. The sights, the sounds, the smell of Christmas is everywhere, you can even feel it in the air. It is the universal time of the year of the sharing in giving and receiving of gifts. the time of year to share peace and joy and love.

I would like to share with you a gift that I have received. It is the same gift of incomprehensible love which God has given to all mankind, that will receive it. That is, the gift of salvation through His son Jesus Christ. John 3:16-18 (NKJ); "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."

There is an misconception concerning the life of a Christian. A misconception that keeps many people away from the love of God. I would like to clear up some of the misunderstandings of a Christian life. Please take a few more minutes to see what the truth concerning being a Christian is, and that the gift of unfathomable love may be revealed to you which is from God our Father through Jesus His Son.

I know that many people are turned off to Christianity because of the misconception concerning the lifestyle of a Christian. All the do’s and don’ts that supposedly a Christian lives by. Always serious, never having fun. Walking around looking somber, acting pious, etc..

There are many well intentioned people who believe in their own minds that they are doing the right thing. But unfortunately they are self righteous hypocrites who have kept many people away from God because of their legalistic attitudes. In their zeal to please God, they have forgotten God’s grace and tried to replace it with individual works. They have let themselves become blinded to the redemptive works of Jesus at the cross. Regrettably they usually try to preach legalism to anyone and everyone that they can. If you have encountered a self-righteous person and turned from Christianity because of their legalism, I encourage you to read on, and discover the unfathomable love God has for you and of His gift of salvation for all who will receive it.

Salvation is not an award for doing good things. Hell, everlasting separation from God, is not a judgment for doing bad things. Redemption comes from the grace of God through faith. Eph. 2:8-9 (NKJ); "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast."

You can sell all that you own and give it to the poor, you can spend the rest of your natural life doing good deeds. But if you do not have faith in God it is of no account. Your eternal destination will be separation from God in Hell. No matter how many times you have sinned or how great your sins are, if you will come to Jesus, confess your sin and repent, if you will accept His redemptive work at the cross, if you believe in your heart the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, then your sins, ( ALL OF YOUR SINS) will be forgiven, and your eternal destination will be with God, His Son Jesus, in Heaven.

You may be asking; is this really all it takes to be right with God? Doesn’t it take more to get into Heaven than just faith in God and in the redemptive work of His Son Jesus? The answer is that our salvation comes only by God’s grace through faith which has been given to us out of His love for mankind which is beyond human comprehension. John 5:24 (NKJ), "Most assuredly I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life."

The legalist will say; No way Ray, you are just trying to preach licentiousness. No I am not, that is just the stupidity of self righteousness. In no way am I saying it is all right to willfully sin.

If you do not already have a Bible, I ask that you get one (borrow one or even better yet buy one), and read the book of Romans. The Apostle Paul goes to great length in discussing the law and Gods grace. Paul helps us to understand the struggle Christians have with sin in chapter 7 vs. 7 through the end of the chapter. Please allow me to summarize it as briefly as I possibly can.

The law (the commandments, festivals, and customs etc.), did not bring forth sin, it brought forth recognition of sin. With the recognition of sin I realize that the eager desires of my flesh are sin, and sin brings death. The law is from God, therefore we know that it is Holy and good. The law is from the Spirit of God, given to our spirits. But our spirits reside in fleshly bodies which are as bond slaves of sin. Our fleshly bodies and our spirits are continually at war with each other (see Gal. 5:17). Though I will in my spirit to do good things, that is follow the law of God, I do not do it because my fleshly body makes me a prisoner of sin. As a prisoner to sin in my flesh, I do the things that I do not want to do in my spirit. If I do things which I truly do not want to do, then I know that it is not I (my spirit), but it is sin which resides within me that does the things that I do not want to do. This does not mean it is all right for me to willfully sin. It means that though I joyfully want to follow God’s law, my flesh which continually wars with my spirit, takes my spirit prisoner of sin in my flesh. But praise God, Jesus Christ came to save this miserable despicable man, for I nor anyone else can do it.

I cannot stress enough that I am not advocating nor condoning a sinful lifestyle. What I am saying though is that all our sin is forgiven by faith in Jesus Christ. I cannot nor can anyone else (no matter how self righteous you think you are), go through this life without sinning. That is why God sent His Son Jesus to be the redemption for our sins. Rms. 3:21-24 (NKJ), "But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."

There has been only one Man who has walked this earth without sin, and that is Jesus Christ. He faced the same temptations as you and I, (And if you think we have faced some serious temptations, just think of what all the devil must have used to try to tempt the Son of God.) but Jesus did not fall to any temptation and sin. Knowing what it is like to face temptation, Jesus will help us to overcome when we are tempted. Heb. 4:14-16 (NKJ), "Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weakness, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

To the legalistic self righteous hypocrites I will just state what the Bible already proclaims. I see no need to elaborate on what the Word of God articulates quite well. Just meditate on these verses is all that I ask. To the self righteous; 1John 1:8-10 (NKJ), "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us." To the legalist; Gal. 3:10-12 (NKJ), "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.’ But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for ‘the just shall live by faith’. Yet the law is not of faith, but ‘the man who does them shall live by them’.". And also ; James 2:10-13 (NKJ), "For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, is guilty of all. For He who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.".

So what is a Christian lifestyle if it is not full of rules and regulations to follow? What about all of the; do this, don’t do that, and for heavens sake you can’t do any of these? If the people who try to strictly adhere to the laws of the Bible are nothing more than self righteous, legalistic, hypocrites; then just what exactly is this Christian lifestyle supposed to be?

Well, the lifestyle of a Christian is in reality a rather simple task to perform. The first thing which must be done is to submit your life to Jesus. This does not mean sell all you own and give it to the poor, or become a monk or anything else like that. Just turn your heart to Christ Jesus and let Him help you through this life’s journey. Mt. 11:28-30 (NKJ), "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

Well, wouldn’t turning my heart towards Jesus and following Him also mean obeying all the laws in the Bible? A hard question indeed. But in answer to the question let us also ask; is there not laws to be obeyed and rules to be followed in every kind of lifestyle there is? No matter how heathenish, no matter how low the moral code, or how much of a lack of ethics, there are still some sort of laws to be obeyed.

Jesus gave us the answer in two commandments, which if followed will fulfill all the laws of God and man. Mt. 22:37-40 (KJ), "Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

I don’t think it necessary here to go into a long dissertation about this, as it does not take a whole lot of common sense to figure this out. Everyone knows the Golden Rule, you know the one that goes like; Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, (see Luke 6:31). Most people get this turned around to say, do unto others as they do unto you.

Really, how much thought does it take before the conclusion is made that if you treat others with the same love that you have for yourself that you will do nothing to harm them in any way. I see no purpose in going into the; would you steal from yourself, or do violence to yourself, etc., as that would be rather redundant. Just give a little thought before launching out on a course of action.

Trust God, that is the key to a successful Christian lifestyle. Trust God not only for salvation, but also for every area of your life. God is not impressed with good works, He is impressed with our faith, our trust in Him. Rms. 1:16-17 (KJV), "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith."

Is it too difficult to love your neighbor as yourself? For me it is, that is in my own strength. I cannot do it on my own, because I too easily fall to the temptation of sin. But if I trust in Jesus, if my faith is in Him and not in myself, I can overcome temptation and love my neighbor. Phil 4:13 (NKJ), "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

If I depend on my own strength which is insufficient and I fail (which is inevitable), God will not write me off as a failure. Seeing the many times that I have failed, I put my trust in Jesus and I know in my heart that He is bringing me to perfection. Phil. 1:6 (KJV), "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ."

So, the Christian lifestyle is not based on all the good and wonderful works that you or I or anyone else seems to think needs to be done. A Christian lifestyle is based on faith in Jesus Christ. Because without faith you can do nothing to impress God. Heb. 11:6 (NKJ); "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."

God has given each of us a gift of faith to receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Mankind can do only one work which will please God, and that is to use the gift of faith which He has given to all of us. John 6:28-29 (NKJ); "Then they said to Him, ‘What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.’"

Now is the time to receive the true Christmas gift from God. It is a gift that you will never want to return. It is a gift that you will never out grow, or wear out. If you would like to receive this greatest of all gifts, then go ahead and receive it. The gift of salvation is free and it is yours for the asking, just use your faith. Rms. 10:8-10 (NKJ); "But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."

I hope and pray with all my heart that you have received the true Christmas gift of salvation. If you did, I encourage you to find a church that you can grow in Christ. No matter where you live there are many churches which are easily accessible that preach Jesus Christ, His death, burial, and resurrection. Pray about it and find the one that is right for you. If the pastor does not teach salvation by grace through faith, flee from that church, as it is not of Jesus Christ. May the love, joy, peace, comfort, and grace of God be with you at this Christmas season and every day of eternity.

Praise God, Hallelujah, Amen.

Please feel free to write me at:
Ray Johnson
PO Box 822 Warsaw, Mo. 65355


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