Three Gifts You Never Exchange

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Confession time: I know I don’t always give “the perfect gift” to my loved ones. My family is so gracious, I’ve probably missed even more often than I realize.

Even with the best of intentions, I’ve fallen short in creativity or attention to detail. My second-guessing and insecurity about this is heightened during the holidays, so I save receipts. They can always exchange a gift when it is the wrong color, wrong size, or otherwise unwanted. And there are no hard feelings about it. I’ve chosen to exchange gifts myself. Haven’t we all?

But God is not this sort of gift-giver. Rather, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17). Our good Father gives us exactly what we need when we need it (Matthew 7:11). There are no genuine exchanges for something better. Better gifts do not exist! In fact, only deception, foolishness, or selfishness would move people to exchange God’s good gifts for the devil’s inferior and damnable knock-offs. Let’s notice three of God’s gifts that the Bible warns us never to exchange.

  1. Never Exchange the Truth of God for Lies. The Wise man advised his son, “Buy the truth, and do not sell it; Also wisdom and instruction and understanding” (Proverbs 23:23). The apostle Paul explained that wicked, idolatrous societies have exchanged the gift of Truth for lies and reap the disastrous results. “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen” (Romans 1:24-25). God’s Word is Truth (John 17:17) and Scripture is the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Perhaps we fail to recognize that every word from God is a gift from Him, the gift of Truth. The Bible is a good and perfect gift from God.
  1. Never Exchange The Faith for Worldly Philosophies. There is only one faith, one gospel, and the doctrine of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:5; Galatians 1:6-9; 2 John 9-10). Paul exhorted the young minister Timothy to guard the faith and don’t exchange it for fashionable worldly philosophies. “O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge – by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith” (1 Timothy 6:20-21). Likewise, Christians at Colosse were warned. “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8). Let us respect Christianity as it is revealed in Scripture and not attempt to wed it to worldly philosophies or discard it in favor of man-made religions. The Faith is a good and perfect gift from God.
  1. Never Exchange Salvation for Sin. The greatest gift that God gives us is salvation in Jesus Christ. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). This gift is priceless because it is only obtainable by the precious death of Jesus Christ (Matthew 16:26; 1 Peter 1:18-21). Yet Temptation often offers us something in exchange for our salvation. The Hebrew writer warns Christians to view temptation to sin like Moses, these things are only “passing pleasures” and not worth exchanging our eternal reward (Hebrews 11:24-26). Furthermore, learn from Esau not to be shortsighted by the selfishness of the flesh to exchange our birthright of salvation (Hebrews 12:15-17). Salvation is a good and perfect gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-10).

God only gives perfect gifts. He doesn’t include gift receipts. The devil tries to fool us into thinking he can make an exchange for something better. But remember that no matter how Sin wraps the package, it only contains error, apostasy, and death (James 1:14-15). Never exchange God’s good gifts for that.

By Andrew Roberts

Truth, Sincerity, and a Bloody Tunic

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Have you read, “Buy the truth, and do not sell it” (Proverbs 23:23)?

Sadly, Truth is not a hot commodity these days. The item flying off shelves is Sincerity – especially in religious matters.  While the wise man counseled God’s people to value Truth (i.e. “buy it”), the current society prefers to question the existence of Truth. No one would dare question Sincerity, though. Today, if a person sincerely believes something to be so, who has the audacity to challenge its accuracy?

Personal perspective, individual preference, emotional response – Sincerity is the standard to go by. The mistaken notion is that Sincerity constitutes Truth. As if believing something strongly enough could make it so.

But this is as wrong as it could be. You don’t believe something to make it true; you believe something because it is true. Christians don’t believe the gospel to make it true; they believe the gospel because it is true!

Truth accords with reality. Truth is the way it is. Truth is the fact of the matter. What is True is true whether you and I know it or not. True is true whether you and I like it or not. True is true whether you and I believe it or not. Our sincerity about something will never change the truth of the matter.

A Bible event testifies to the distinction of Sincerity and Truth. In the book of Genesis, Jacob believed with all his heart that his son Joseph was dead (Genesis 37:31-35). Joseph’s eleven brothers conspired to trap him and sell him into slavery. To hide their misdeeds, they took Joseph’s colorful tunic, tore it, and dipped it in blood. Then they presented the garment to Jacob and said, “We have found this. Do you know whether it is your son’s tunic or not?”  Jacob said, “It is my son’s tunic. A wild beast has devoured him. Without doubt Joseph is torn to pieces.” Jacob tore his clothes, he wore sackcloth, and he refused to be comforted. Jacob said that he would go to his grave mourning. He sincerely believed Joseph was dead. In truth, Joseph lived. No matter how sincerely Jacob believed Joseph was dead, it did not change the truth that Joseph was alive.

We may pity Jacob because he was misled by his sons and the bloody tunic. What a shame to needlessly mourn like that. In fact, when the eleven admitted that Joseph lived, Jacob had a hard time believing them (Genesis 45:26-28).  Jacob was deceived and committed to a delusion for many years. But that did not change the truth: Joseph lived.

This account shows us three things about the Truth. First, one can be ignorant of the Truth. But that does not change it. Second, one can be deceived about the Truth. People can lie and lead you astray. It happened to Jacob. But that does not change the Truth. Finally, a person can be utterly sincere in some falsehood or delusion. But that will never alter the Truth.

Religion is not exempt from the force of Truth. Thoughtful people can look at different world religions and wonder if any of them are true. Every religion presents its own cast of characters, holy books, system of salvation, stories of origin, antidotes for suffering, and visions of future life. Are they all true? It is impossible.

Yet some people would say that various religions are all true in their own way; there are many paths and many truths – even portions of Truth are sprinkled throughout them. Another popular idea is that most all religions are basically the same anyway, so people should find the one they like best or content themselves with the religion of their parents. It matters little practically.

The gospel destroys these notions because the gospel is true (Ephesians 1:13). The gospel is the true word of the Lord (1 Pet. 1:22-25). God’s word is Truth (John 17:17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13). The Bible is true. So Christians are both lovers of truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10) and preachers of truth (Colossians 1:5-6; 1 Timothy 3:15).

People can be ignorant of the gospel, but that does not change it. They can be misled or deceived about the gospel, but that does not change it. They can be completely sincere in their faith and dedication to error, but that will not alter the gospel either. There is no salvation to be found in counterfeit gospels or false religions (Galatians 1:6-9; Acts 4:12).

The world would like Christians to stop pestering people with Truth. “Leave other cultures alone,” they say, “Let them celebrate their religious heritage. After all, they are sincere.”

Surely they are sincere but so was Jacob. Sincerity does not make a religion true nor does it secure a soul. The gospel says that people are lost because of their sins and there is only one savior – Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16; 3:23; 6:23; John 14:6). People must be told the Truth (John 8:31-32) and encouraged to seek the Truth. Let’s search God’s Word to discover Truth (Acts 17:11). Let’s get back to buying Truth.

By Andrew Roberts