The Greatest Gift of All
Charles F. Stanley
Scripture: John 3:15-21
I. Introduction: Even a child knows that a gift must be opened and explored before its true value can be realized. Yet many people neglect to "unwrap"—or understand the full implications of—salvation in Christ. They receive His forgiveness but fail to discover the marvelous treasures they possess as children of God.
II. What is this present?
A. John 3:16 explains that eternal life is God’s gift to mankind.
- Its source is the sovereign God of the universe.
- His motivation for the gift is love.
- The recipients are any humans who will accept it.
- The purpose is to save us from eternity separated from God.
- The duration of the gift is forever.
B. Many people can quote John 3:16 but have little understanding of how its message can transform their lives. Remaining ignorant about the deeper blessings of our salvation is like receiving a beautifully wrapped gift and leaving it unopened for the sake of its appearance. When this happens, becoming a child of God is seen as merely a guarantee of eternal life.
II. What does the gift of salvation include?
A. God Himself: When the Father sent His Son to earth, God came to dwell in human flesh. We call this mystery the incarnation. Jesus, who was fully God, lived a sinless life; yet He was also 100 percent human, so He knew temptation and experienced hunger, thirst, heat, fatigue, etc.
B. The Savior: The angels who announced Jesus’ birth said, "Today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11, emphasis added). Why do we need a Messiah? Jesus rescues us from eternity in hell, where we would be separated from God because of our sin (Rom. 3:23, 6:23).
C. Pardon for sin: Those who place their trust in Jesus receive mercy instead of punishment. We accept His death on the cross as payment for our wrongdoing.
D. Continuing forgiveness: All of us will at times disobey God after salvation. Thankfully, that doesn’t cost us our salvation (John 10:27-29). The Lord forgives our sins when we confess them (1 John 1:9).
E. Access to the Father: If you are a believer, you don’t have to go through anyone to fellowship with God (Matt. 27:51). Hebrews 4:16 tells us to "draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."
F. A personal relationship with God: Not only do we have access to the Father; we also can have intimate fellowship with Him. Jesus said, "I and the Father are One," and "If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father" (John 10:30, 14:9). Because of Christ’s sacrifice, we are accepted by God and can fellowship with Him.
G. The Holy Spirit: His indwelling presence is a guarantee of the promise that one day we will be with the Lord forever (Eph. 1:13-14). The Spirit reminds us of Christ’s teachings and enables us to accomplish God’s will (John 14:16-17, 26).
H. The Good Shepherd: Jesus is our shepherd (John 10:11, 14). Christ loves and cares for you and me individually, unconditionally, and compassionately. We can have confidence that despite our sin, God does not disown us (Eph. 4:30; John 10:27-28).
I. An intercessor: After Jesus ascended to heaven, He sat down at the right hand of God, where He intercedes for us (Heb. 7:25). In other words, because Christ paid the penalty for our sins, the Father accepts us. God hears the prayers of His children.
J. A friend: Christ is a faithful, loyal, devoted, trustworthy friend (John 15:14). He is available in times of need and heartache, as well as in seasons of rejoicing and celebration. Although Jesus understands we won’t attain perfection in this life, He wants our sincerity, commitment, and obedience.
K. A resurrected body: God will transform our earthly bodies for eternal existence (1 Cor. 15:51-52). They will be like Christ’s—limited by neither time nor space—and will last forever (1 John 3:2).
L. An eternal home: In John 14:1-3, Jesus promised His disciples that He would prepare a place for them in the Father’s house. We will live forever with the Lord, biblical saints, and Christians from every generation. Believers can look forward to reuniting with their loved ones who died in the Lord.
IV. Conclusion: Jesus is the Father’s amazing gift to the world. Don’t be a Christian who fails to explore and experience all the benefits of being God’s child. If you have never received salvation, don't wait any longer to do so. Then you can begin to enjoy the greatest gift of all time—your salvation.