S-1060 6/25/08 7SAP/3A (O) # 7; (S) # 279; L.S. # 399; # 457; # 400; (C) # 338
Texts: Jeremiah 20:7-13; Romans 6:12-23; Matthew 10:5a, 21-33
Theme: “Living The Gift of Life” Romans 6:22-23
Armour, SD SOLIE DEO GLORIA.
Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation is from the book of Romans. “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 6:22-23).
Question: “What do you do with the Gifts you get?”
Saints in Christ, this text is so special that it grabs you by the throat and heart. There is one special word that really grabbed me—the word GIFT. That one little word got me thinking. I used to think that gifts were primarily a Christmas sort of thing. But the older I get, the more I am struck by the fact that gift giving is a year round task. We know about birthdays, and Christmas. But it is so much more than that. The time of the year changes, but the need for gifts doesn’t. We just got through the time of year where there were confirmation and graduation parties that we get invited to. There were also Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Now, deep in the month of June/July we are besieged with wedding invitations that demands gifts. It seems like we are always looking for the right gift to give to those we care and love
To complicate this, there are those gifts that we pour our hearts and souls into. We save the money and we search high and low. We find that perfect gift. We get it engraved. We package it with the greatest of care. We make arrangements to have the gift given in just the right setting, with just the right words. And then the moment comes and everything goes the way we want it to go only to have the receiver not place the value on our gift that we had. As if gift giving wasn’t hard enough….
This is what St. Paul was driving at as he was writing to the Roman Christians. You can’t read Romans or all of the Scriptures for that matter, without the Holy Spirit clearly showing us that our salvation to be anything but a gift. In the heaven-sent messenger, God’s gift to mankind—Jesus Christ we have received the greatest gift of all time. The life, death and bodily resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus has GIVEN us the greatest gift. This gift was not purchased from Menards, Wall mart, Target and not even Concordia Publishing House. It was not purchased with gold or silver. Not earned by time and talents; but given by Christ our Savior and Lord. And as we unpack this GIFT, we realize this gift is a lot more than meets the eye—it gives us the forgiveness of sins, faith and the Holy Spirit. It has defeated death. It grants us exactly what verse 23 says. The gift of God is eternal life.
This gift was exactly what fallen humanity needed. No toaster oven would do. No Channel Five to cover the stench of sin. No bouquet of flowers would suffice to cover the paleness of death. This gift is given to us in the perfect manner and in the perfect way. It came to us wrapped in the humanity of the Man from Nazareth, Jesus Christ.
This God was adorned with thorn and splinter, spike and spear, beating and blood. The cross of Christ is the greatest gift that you will ever receive this side of heaven. It may not sparkle like a diamond or glitter like gold, but it is worth more than all that our Lord created. This gift has freed you and me and all believers in Christ from slavery to sin and the fear of eternal death. Our sins earned wrath, but our Heavenly Father’s gift to us is eternal life in the life, death and bodily resurrection of Jesus!
Now that is a gift. It is priceless and timeless. It is unlike any gift that you have either given or received. We didn’t earn this gift. It is freely given by grace through faith on account of Jesus Christ. In addition to being of inestimable value, it is totally practical! You ladies wouldn’t dare wear the Hope Diamond on your hand or neck because it has such value. You would keep it in a safety deposit box with a security system that would make homeland security proud. A baseball fan wouldn’t keep a mint condition Honus Wagner baseball card in his wallet because it is worth $2.8 million.
Unlike the things of great worth that we would hide away for fear that they would be taken from us, the gift of eternal life that we have in Jesus Christ is one that is so practical because it is given to us so that we might live it! God’s gift of eternal life that is ours in Jesus Christ is meant to be lived! Used! And applied! This is why our Father has given it to us. God intends for us to use this gift, apply this gift and live this gift of life.
The best part of this eternal life that we have received is that we are already called to live it now! We so often want to assign our eternal life to something that is yet to come. And it is. But it is also a life that we are called to live right now! When we hear the Word of our Lord, receive that Gospel in its sacramental forms and then live that word in the world, we are living the gift of eternal life.
When we don’t live the gift of eternal life that we have in Christ in the here and now, we are putting that gift on the shelf and ignoring the love that provided that gift. Can you imagine taking Jesus and sticking Him on the shelf like an out of style necktie? When we return to our slavery to sin after we have been called to the freedom that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has won for us, this is exactly what we do. We tell Jesus, as He is hanging there, bruised and bloodied, that we don’t want His gift. Can we do anything more heartless? Can we do anything more deserving of hell itself?
This is the key as well. When we abandon the gift of eternal life in our return to sin, we are telling God that we don’t want His gift. When we return to our old ways of slavery to sin, we are choosing to be a slave to sin again. And Paul tells us where that old life of sin leads. It leads to death. Every sin we commit is a momentary return to death. We are refusing to be free. We choose to be a slave to sin. We choose death over life.
Does that even make sense? NO! No rational human being in their right mind and of sound body would choose death. Even those of us who are Christians and know that our death leads to an eternal reality that makes this world look pitiful would not necessarily seek out death. But when we make anything or anyone more important in our life than God Himself, when we willfully take the name of the Lord in vain, when we refuse to hear God’s word, when we do anything that goes against the will of our Father and against the welfare of our neighbor, we seek out death even if we don’t we are doing so. We refuse God’s gift of eternal life.
But here St. Paul reminds us who we are. We are the baptized children of God in Christ. That is what he tells us at the beginning of chapter 6. We are baptized into Christ’s death so that we are baptized into His resurrection. This baptism is when we receive the gift of eternal life that our Lord wants us to have.
It is also where our Lord leads us when, in our sin, we seek out death. The Lord reminds us that we are called to live a life of willing obedience. This willing obedience is the eternal life we have been given. It is not what we earn; it is what we are given. Each night when we close our eyes in confession, we sleep knowing that we ALREDY have an eternal life that can’t be stolen from us. We can give it away, but it can’t be taken. Then, after our confessional sleep, we arise in the morning to live in the absolution that we have in Jesus.
What a privilege our loving Father gives us as His blood bought children. By grace alone, we live a life of obedience to the Law of God. We do this not because we have to, but because we GET to. Not because we ought to, but because we are blessed to. This we do, because we know what it was that our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ was willing to do to give us this precious gift!
What an honor for us to be here today, to hear the Apostle Paul speaks of the love of God the Father, who doesn’t ask us what it is that we want, but gives us what we need—the Greatest GIFT of all time—His Son, Jesus Christ. On account of this GIFT, we already have the freedom from sin and death. We have the sure and certain eternal life now and we long to the joy of being in the presence of the Eternal Gift Jesus Christ forever. Oh, what a Gift God has for us for now and always. Amen.
Now the peace…