Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” (Matthew 19:27)
When the prospect of heavenly rewards captures your heart instead of the prospect of the glory of God, your motivation to serve the Lord will be tainted. You might find yourself willing to stop at nothing to do the work you want to do and ignore the work that God wants you to do. To the other extreme, you might be so discouraged by the daunting task of earning what you think you’ll never be able to attain that you will never work at all.
Let us set our motivation right: we do not live for God to earn more favor, we live for God because He has already poured out His favor without measure. We love Him because He first loved us. We serve Him because He first served us. We seek to bring Him glory because He has already promised to glorify us regardless of our performance.
- “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all,that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)
"And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’" (Matthew 20:11)
God does not play favorites. Each of us will enter His presence through faith in His Son. Because of that, there is no Christian with a higher level of righteousness. We have the righteousness of Christ, and Christ’s righteousness is complete.
There is no room for jealousy, no room for exalting one another, no room for assuming one is closer to God than another because he has “borne the heat of the day”. In the presence of a holy God we must all be completely holy or we must not approach Him at all. Therefore, through faith in His Son, God has made us equals.
Though faith is a matter of the heart, and I would typically be the first to defend that mere logic or intellect is not how a person is brought to knowing the Lord, Jesus seems to emphasize here that to grasp the Word of God with one’s mind is of extreme importance!
- “This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. (Matthew 13:13)
- “Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: ‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.'” (Matthew 13:14)
- “For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.” (Matthew 13:15)
- “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path.” (Matthew 13:19)
- “As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” (Matthew 13:23)
But even in our desire to know God with our mind, heart, and soul, we strive for something unattainable, yet worthy of our energy.
- “That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit.” (Matthew 12:33)
There is only one way to bear good fruit: to be a good tree. Focusing on the fruit will not help. What farmer fertilizes the branches?
In Jesus we are grafted in to the The Good Tree. If we desire good fruit, we desire a good thing, but we must recognize our place as branches and who the source of the fruit is. Without Him, we can do nothing.
“If the root is holy, so are the branches.” (Romans 11:16)
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
“It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)
“‘Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.’ And he said to him, ‘I will come and heal him.’ But the centurion replied, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.’ …And to the centurion Jesus said, ‘Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.’ And the servant was healed at that very moment. (Matthew 8:6-8, 13)
When Jesus walked the earth, He could have healed everyone He passed by without incident. He didn’t need to say any magic words or incite any special powers; He didn’t even need to pray. When Jesus willed a person be healed, they were healed.
Even today He could just heal the world in one swoop. He could speak the words, and anybody with any kind of ailment would be cured. But the Lord desires for us to reach out to Him in faith. He wants us to draw near to Him. He wants us to petition Him. He wants us to recognize that He is the source of life and healing.
“O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear.” (Psalms 10:17)
“Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (Psalms 50:15)
“The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.” (Psalms 145:17-19)
“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
The news of Jesus’ birth came with the simplest of explanations of his mission: He will save his people from their sins.
He has. As we celebrate Christ’s birth we look back in faith to a work that is complete.
- Hebrews 10:10-14; By [God’s will] we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
To save: to preserve from destruction, rescue from danger, deliver from calamity. He didn’t came to exalt Himself or condemn us to hell but to save.
- John 3:16-18; For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
Not only Israel but all who share the faith of Abraham. Anyone who calls out to the Lord for mercy qualifies.
- Romans 10:9-13; If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
From their sins
Just as the law of gravity says “what goes up must come down,” so the law of sin says “the soul that sins shall surely die.” But by becoming the sacrifice that appeased God’s wrath, Christ has rescued us from sin’s penalty.
- 1 John 4:10; In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
This Christmas let’s celebrate Jesus’ birth, life, and death—the single demonstration of His great love for all time.
“You received without paying; give without pay.”
Even though it means the same thing, I like the way this verse reads in the New King James Version better: “Freely you have received, freely give.”
Since you have been blessed and have received free gifts abundantly from God (who the Psalmist says “daily loads us with benefits”), you must also give without expecting payment in return. You have received freely, therefore freely give.
You received without paying
God has given to us with no strings attached. Every good and perfect thing comes down from Him, the Father of lights. A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. How graciously He has given to us who only deserve His wrath!
He has given us eternal life
- Romans 6:23 “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
- John 3:14-16 “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 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 10:27-28 “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life , and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
He has given us righteousness & justification
- Romans 3:21-25 “The righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it–the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith….”
He has given us His Holy Spirit
- Luke 11:13 “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
- John 3:34 “He whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.”
He has given us salvation through faith
- Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”
What marvelous gifts the Lord has given to us! How thankful we ought to be! How ready we ought to be to give back to Him and to others of our lives!
Give without pay
Not only has the Lord given us an example that we should follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:21), but He has also given us His Holy Spirit. With His Holy Spirit inside of us we gain the desire to give to others. He compels us, through the knowledge of the vastness of the love of Christ, to live our lives for Him giving to others just as freely as He has given to us.
- 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”
- 2 Corinthians 8:9 “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”
- 2 Corinthians 9:6-11 “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, ‘He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.’ He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.”
- Luke 6:30-35 “Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.”
Knowing how much God has given to us, let us be impassioned to give back to Him by giving to others expecting nothing in return. “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!”