I heard about a postal worker who was sorting through mail and came across a handwritten envelope addressed to God. Clearly that envelope wasn’t going to make its way to heaven, so the curious postal worker opened it. Inside was a letter from an elderly woman, telling God that her last $200 had been stolen, and she would have nothing to eat that Christmas.
The postal worker was really touched by the letter, so all the employees took up a collection, raising $180. They put it in an envelope and then delivered it to the woman when she wouldn’t see them, hoping she would be really surprised. They felt very good about what they had done.
Christmas came and went, and another envelope arrived with the same lettering, again addressed to God. The postal workers thought it was a thank you note to God, so they opened it to see what the woman said. She wrote, “Dear God, thank you for the $180 you sent for Christmas. Otherwise it would have been so bleak. … PS: It was $20 short, and it was probably one of those thieving workers at the post office.”
Sometimes we just don’t appreciate the gifts we receive. And that can be true of the greatest gift of Christmas. The gift that God has given to us is not under a tree. It is the gift of salvation, the gift of eternal life. The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23 NKJV). This is the gift of all gifts.
Long after the latest gift is out of date, the gift that God has given to us will only grow in value. Yes, it is the hope of heaven. Yes, it is the hope of eternal life. But as they say in the commercials, “But wait! There’s more!” There are aspects of this gift that we can enjoy now.
One of them is justification. The Bible says, “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1 NKJV). The word justify has a twofold meaning. First, it carries the idea of the forgiveness of all our sin.
But then there is the positive side of justification, which means “to put to one’s account.” When God justifies us, he places the righteousness of Christ into our account. That balances the moral and spiritual budget for us. In Acts 13:38, we read: “Brothers, listen! We are here to proclaim that through this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins” (NLT).
Pastor and author Chuck Swindoll gives this great definition of justification: “Justification is the sovereign act of God whereby He declares righteous the believing sinner while that person is still in a sinning state.”
Because I have put my faith in Christ, I have been declared righteous. Let me take it a step further: I’m a living, breathing saint. And if you are a true believer, then you, too, are a saint. In the Bible the word saint means “true believer.” True believers are justified. We are made right before God.
Not only are believers justified, not only is our sin forgiven, not only is the righteousness of Christ placed into our account, but we have been adopted into the family of God. The Bible says, “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5 NKJV).
If you are a believer, then you have been adopted into God’s family. This is such a great joy to know, because by adopting us, God is saying: “Don’t merely stand in awe of me; come close to me. I want you to be my child. You have access to me anytime.” That is why Paul calls it God’s “indescribable gift” (see 2 Corinthians 9:15 NKJV). It’s a gift too wonderful for words.
If someone gives you an amazing gift, you usually want to reciprocate. But can we reciprocate for the gift that God has given us? Well, not really. There is nothing we could ever give that would be even close to being equal to the gift that God has given to us. But there are things we can do for him to show our thanks, starting with saying thank you.
When someone gives you a nice gift, you say thank you. When someone gives you a small gift, you say thank you. If someone does something for you, you say thank you. God has given us this amazing gift, so we should say, “Thank you, Lord.”
David asked, “What shall I return to the Lord for all his goodness to me?” (Psalm 116:12 NIV). In other words, “How can I pay God back? How can I show God how thankful I am?” David went on to say, “I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the Lord” (verse 17 NIV).
Let me also say that to not accept God’s gift is to reject it. You might say: “I’m not rejecting it. I’m just saying that I have other things to do.”
It is a rejection. If I go out and buy you a wonderful gift and present it to you, but then you ignore me and go about your business, it is a rejection of my gift.
In the same way, God is saying: “Here it is. Jesus is standing at the door of your life, and he is knocking. If you will hear his voice and open the door, he will come in.” If you don’t answer that door, it is a rejection. Do you want this gift in your life? God is offering it to you. Will you accept it?
If all there was for Christians was this life we now have with Jesus, if when we died, we simply ceased to exist, I would still be a Christian. But things will be far better one day. The afterlife will be better than this life. The best is yet to come. That is God’s gift to you. Open it. Enjoy it. Love it.