God's wonderful free gift
July 18, 2011
by Pastor Bill Baldwin, Prairie Community Church, UCC, Lester Prairie

Imagine that you have been promised a most wonderful gift, a very thoughtful gift that would be exactly what you want and need. This gift is not just a regular birthday or holiday type gift. This is a big one, one that will change your life bigtime. The only stipulation is that you have to go to the one who is offering the gift and sincerely ask for it.

This gift is not something you’ve earned or deserved. Quite to the contrary, it is a gift that comes to you in the midst of your human imperfection. You could never pay for this gift on your own, even if you worked a full lifetime, yet the giver of the gift is perfectly willing to offer it out of a deep sense of love.

God offers us a gift that we can’t earn or pay for, but it must be asked for on our part. It is the gift of salvation. God loves us so much that He sent his son, Jesus into the world to take away the sins of the world and to grant us life eternal.

The gift is an eternal relationship with God, living forever in the perfect love that God has for creation. But God does not force this gift on anyone. God offers the gift of salvation to all who desire it, but will not impose his will on anyone.

Wouldn’t you think that everyone would want this wonderful gift of salvation? Wouldn’t you think that all creation would be lined up to ask God for this free gift of forgiveness of sins and welcome into God’s eternal family? You would think so, but it doesn’t seem to be the case.

Wise people have always asked God for the gift of salvation, but our fallen human nature is prideful and rebellious and many would rather go it on their own, even if it means eternal peril. We are a world that is very caught up in and enamored by all the wonders of technology that feed our selfish selves. We are plugged into television and computers and cell phones and they have, in some ways, become our Gods. We have a world of pleasures to enjoy, or at least pursue, and they seem so much more important than having a right relationship with God.

Remember the old Sinatra song “My Way?” It kind of epitomizes the world’s desire to have things their own way, even if they’re not healthy. And how do you have it at Burger King? You have it “your way.” It is a basic human drive to say “me” and “mine” and to think of things in terms of acquiring feel-good things and experiences that at least, hopefully, satisfy in the short term.

Whatever it is that we think we are trying to get in this life, it will never satisfy that place in us that is made for God.

I think we are made by our creator to be in relationship with God. We can try to satisfy ourselves with alcohol and gambling and television and shopping and relationships and all kinds of things, but it will never fill the hole in us that can only be filled by God.

Want to be healed of that longing that nothing else can fill? Ask God to give you the gift that has been waiting for you. God wants very much to give it to you.

This isn’t, on one level, about your decision to be part of a church or not. Going to church is secondary to receiving the gift of salvation. Church, in its best form, is designed to be a gathering of those who have accepted God’s free gift to come together and celebrate that gift, to invite more people to consider asking for the gift, and to live out the change that the gift has made in life.

Those who have truly received God’s gift of salvation are a new creation. We are called to put aside our earthly striving to fill the hole in our life, because God has now made us whole. We are now called to a higher purpose of serving humanity with God’s love and Christ’s sacrifice, and we are much more satisfied to join with other receivers of the gift to celebrate God’s goodness.

If you are reading this and haven’t yet asked God for the free gift of salvation, I invite you to consider doing so sometime soon. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain. God loves you, Jesus died for you, and all of heaven is waiting anxiously for your decision.

Blessings and peace to you as we move through the heart of summer and its relatively carefree days. May you come to live life in abundance by saying yes to God’s wonderful free gift. Amen.