In a few weeks we’ll pull out the shiny paper and bows and wrap up the gifts we’ve chosen for loved ones and friends. It’s one of the things we love about this season and the reason we love it is because it’s a reflection of our Father’s heart. We love to give gifts during this time of year because we are made in the image of the God who loves to give.
Over the past several months I have tried to use this space to explain or “unwrap” in a sense, the gift of the Gospel. I’ve wanted to remind us that the Gospel is more than an explanation of how to get to heaven. The Gospel is the greatest story ever told, the story to which all great stories point. It tells of the “Seed of the woman” who would come to defeat our enemy, the old serpent himself. So the Lord prepared a people and planted this hope within them. After thousands of years of longing and looking for this promised hero, the Father sent His Son, miraculously born, to walk among us. He lived the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died. But the Gospel story doesn’t end with Jesus’ death. It comes to its climax in the Resurrection. Allow me to paraphrase Paul in 1 Cor. 15:1-3; “This is the Gospel, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” He goes on to explain through the rest of chapter 15 the absolute necessity of the Resurrection to the Gospel story. The Gospel is not good news without it. It is by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ that our enemies are defeated. The head of the serpent is crushed. So as we think about the gifts we will soon be giving, let’s consider some of the gifts that are ours because Jesus is raised.
Freedom is one of the first gifts that we receive as a result of the Resurrection. We were slaves to sin and death, held hostage and destined for destruction. But Jesus is raised, death could not hold Him. Now, by faith in the work He has done, we can be confident that death no longer has a hold on us. We can be free from the fear of death, free from the uncertainty and free from the dread that comes with knowing we are guilty before a holy God. In addition, we are set free from sin. The Resurrection is God’s affirmation that Jesus’ atoning sacrifice is enough to pay the penalty for our sin. Through faith in Christ our debt is paid in full. On top of that, we are being set free from the power of sin. We’re no longer obligated or enslaved. We have a choice because the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead is the same Holy Spirit that lives in us.
That brings us to two other important gifts of the Resurrection; presence and access. Because Jesus is raised He is present with us through the power of the Holy Spirit. When God makes the promise that He will never leave us or forsake us we can be sure of that because the Spirit is the One who makes that possible. Not only is God present with us through His Spirit, but we can also be present with Him. Ephesians tells us that the dividing wall of hostility that separated us from God has been broken down and Hebrews tells us that we can now come with the boldness of a beloved child into the very presence of God.
There are more, but the last gift I will mention is hope. This has been the most precious to Jeanie and me since Anthony died. The New Testament tells us the Jesus is the first fruit of the Resurrection, the promise and foretaste of what’s to come. Because Jesus is raised, we know that there is a day coming when He will take all that is broken in this world and make it right. Death and sin and all the destruction they have wrought, all the pain and sorrow they have inflicted and all the disease and devastation they have created will be swallowed up in the victorious resurrection of King Jesus. All creation, including all who are in Christ, will be made new, imperishable, incorruptible and indestructible. This is our glorious hope, the Resurrection of Jesus!