It should be the thing that greets your mind and fills your heart as you wake each morning. It should be your final thought as you settle in for a night of sleep. It should define how you face your day, and it should shape your self-reflections. It should be the thing that directs how you respond to others. It should be at the forefront of your thoughts in times of trouble or disappointment. It should alter how you think about finances, possessions, decisions, relationships, and everything else. It should be a central theme of your existence. It's so huge, so gorgeous, and so glorious that once it gets hold of you, you’ll never be the same again.
You don’t need to be an expert at riddles for this one. I‘m talking about grace.
If you’re God’s child, grace is the stunning core reality of your existence. It’s the most amazing thing that has ever happened to you, or ever will. It has changed everything you have, do, and are. It’s redefined your past, refocused your present, and reshaped your future. It’s the thing that you’ve needed since your first breath. It’s an absolutely essential ingredient of productive living on this side of eternity. It’s what you and I will focus on and celebrate for the rest of eternity. And it’s vital that in preparation for eternity we start our celebration now.
Playing with the Box
Luella and I gave birth to a son who didn’t understand what to do with gifts. We would shop for what we thought was just the right gift for him. Then on Christmas, or his birthday, we would watch as he gleefully tore open the wrapping. But not long afterward we would find him playing with the box, his carefully chosen gift lying neglected on the floor! This went on for years, and eventually became quite frustrating.
One Christmas, Luella and I decided to find our son a gift he simply couldn’t resist. After extensive shopping, we found it. We both realized at the same moment that this was the perfect choice. We were certain that this was a gift he’d actually play with.
Christmas morning arrived, and we were all sitting around the tree opening our gifts. I’m sure Luella and I were gripped by more anticipation than our son was. We couldn’t wait for the moment when he opened that particular gift, couldn’t wait to see the look on his face. We just knew that this gift would truly capture his attention. Finally the gift was in front of him, and his little hands instantly shredded the wrapping. He saw the box, opened the box, removed the toy, and actually began playing with it! With the toy! I was filled with a warm feeling of parental accomplishment.
I went into the kitchen to get something to drink. When I returned to the living room a few minutes later, the toy was there on the floor, and our son was sitting in the box! I couldn’t believe it! We’d given him the best toy ever and he was still quite content to play with the box.
Why am I telling you this cute family story? Because I’m convinced that many Christians are a lot like my son. You and I have been given the best gift that could ever be given. However closely you study it, from whatever perspective you choose to examine it, it’s astonishing and gorgeous and awesome in the true sense of the word. No other gift could possibly be more significant or life-changing. As an act of sheer, breathtaking, over-the-top generosity and kindness, no other gift comes close.
The gift of grace is the single most important thing every human being needs. And we all need it equally; no one needs it more, and no one needs it less. Without this gift you’ll never be what you were designed to be, or do what you were created to do. It’s a gift you could never earn, achieve, or deserve. It has the power to completely transform you and everything you desire, choose, think, say, and do. It’s the gift of gifts. It’s the gift of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. But I’m deeply persuaded that many Christians, having been given this awesome gift, are content to play with the box.
We’re content with episodic Christianity, a faith that lives most vibrantly on Sunday morning. We’re content with stepping out of our busy schedules for occasional participation in ministry. We’re content with a little bit of casual fellowship (which, being casual, usually isn’t fellowship at all). We’re content with putting a little bit of money in the offering plate. We may support and encourage the ministry of others, but if someone were to watch a video of our lives they would quickly conclude we’re driven by hopes, dreams, and values that have little or nothing to do with God’s purposes. Sadly, having been given the most wonderful and trans-formative gift that could ever be, I think there are many Christians who are quite content to play with the box.