The Bringer of Grace and Peace

Most people are familiar with the birth story of Jesus. They might be confused about how many wise men came to Jesus, where Jesus was when they came, and even when Jesus was born. But most at least know that He was born of a virgin named Mary. They know that He was born in the city of David (Bethlehem). They know that the angels of God celebrated after His birth was announced to shepherds in the field (Luke 2:8-18).

Personally, I am glad that many are aware of the amazing events surrounding the birth of our Lord. But there is one big thing that still bothers me. It is not the birth story of our Lord, but the way it is sometimes presented. Unfortunately, through various media outlets, the birth story of Jesus is often presented as though it was the end of something, rather than the beginning. Have you ever seen on television (maybe on the Hallmark channel) as the manger scene reaches a conclusion Silent Night softly plays in the background, then we cut to a commercial and you see “Next up: A Charlie Brown Christmas”? While it is true that Jesus was born and placed in a manger that is not the end of the story! This child was born with a specific purpose and mission from God. Luke 2:14 is one verse of many that declares the mission of our Lord.

While appearing to shepherds in the field the angels of God announced, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

This particular verse is often abused by religious teachers. So often it is interpreted that we ought to be at peace with one another and have goodwill towards others during the holiday season and year round. While it is indeed good that we do that, unfortunately that interpretation really misses the whole point of the verse. Kept in its context this verse is really talking about peace and goodwill from God to men on earth. It is a verse about the gospel and what it brings to mankind. It is a verse about Jesus and what He offers. The prophets foretold that Jesus would bring peace (Isaiah 9:6).

The gospel we preach today is a message of peace and glad tidings (Romans 10:15). It is a message that not only reveals the miraculous birth of the Savior, but it also speaks of His love, miracles, suffering, death on the cross, resurrection, and ascension to heaven to sit at the right hand of God (Acts 2:22-36). The gospel reveals the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8-9; John 3:16; Titus 2:11-14). The word grace means “unmerited favor.” It is an undeserved gift. Despite our rebellion against Him, God gave us His sinless Son to die on the cross for our sins. Through Jesus, God’s grace is now available to all men. Does the fact that God’s grace is made available to everyone mean that everyone is going to be saved? No (see Matthew 7:13-14)! Only those who obey and submit to God will receive the grace God offers. Salvation is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). Grace covers all that God has done for us. Faith covers all we must do in response to God’s love. This even includes repentance and baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). The faith that saves is the faith that obeys (Hebrews 5:8-9)! The fact that we have to meet conditions does not mean we earn God’s grace and peace.

Have you done what God requires to receive the gifts of grace and peace?  You may receive many material things on Christmas morning, but no gift can ever compare to the gifts God offers you through His Son.

– Shawn Jeffries

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