Receiving the Gift





Like life itself, God's plan for us is a gift. It works perfectly if we submit to His kingship over us and make Him Lord of our life.

Any imperfection in implementation of His blueprint for our lives can be attributed to our reluctance and failures.

Christ represents liberation for His chosen ones, those blessed by God, by his free grace. Jesus says in scripture, "I am the way, the truth and the life. Know the truth and it will set you free."

In exchange for a simple sincere request, He offers Himself and the Holy Spirit. He tells us that if we know Him and accept His "Way," we shall know freedom that cannot be found in the machinations of the world.
But we have to say, "Yes Lord, I am yours. Take me and transform me!" for the makeover man/woman to emerge. It's strictly our decision.

At various stages of our Christian life, periods of doubt are common. We feel so weak and we are. More fully aware of sinful human nature, we have reservations about achieving our spiritual goals.

Satan goes to work, trying to convince us we shouldn't be so silly as to turn our backs to the world. He makes alluring all those temptations and habits: drug and excessive alcohol consumption; sexual promiscuity and adultery, double-entendre or worse television shows and novels; skin flicks and magazine centerfolds and excessive pleasure-seeking. Plus inventories of expensive luxury goods that are wants more than needs while ignoring the plight of the poor and needy. The list goes on and on.

We rationalize our sinful, narcissistic natures to seize all we can. Despite our selfish proclivities, we eventually come to the end of ourselves, often facing emptiness and futility, asking the eternal question: "is this all there is?" An all too-familiar scenario are the countless incidents in which the rich and famous end their lives violently, often in a blur of drug and alcohol overdoses.

Jesus warns us against laying away earthly treasures that rust corrupts and moths consume and reminds of spiritual treasures that last forever.

Those who reject His message and say, "I can't do it," are correct if they try to go it alone. It's not possible to become a true child of God under your own power. God has a whole range of spiritual rewards for believers to strengthen them against the hurdles of the obstacle course of life.

Paul tells us in Philippians, "all things are possible with the help of Him who gives me strength." The strong right hand of God upholds us in every situation if we summon up our faith in whatever minute quantity it might be from time to time and turn to Him. He helps us resolve problems much more effectively than when on our own, or gives us the grace to sustain them.

God loves us and wants to help us as part of His grand design for our lives. Romans 8:28 pledges that "in all things God works for the good of those who love Him."

So we have the promise that God will give us His full cooperation in all that is good and according to His will for us. Jesus issues this special invitation in Revelation 3:20: "Here I am. I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in an eat with him and he with Me."
We can be renewed through repentance and baptism and receive the Holy Spirit to move us toward our goal of salvation. What are some of the results of this new life? How will we be changed? What will we experience?

Some may even feel apprehension. If so, relax. What will happen in the new life will be beautiful.
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul relates some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit for the common good: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, prophecy, discernment, tongues and interpretation of tongues
As these gifts season our lives spiritually, there are some phenomena that are experienced by Christians as they enter into renewal as the power of God's transformation become apparent in small and large ways. Frequently we feel a sense of peace and elation; of finally being on the right track.

It is important not to be anxious about the various rewards of the Holy Spirit. The best approach is to try to tune into the Lord with simplicity and humility and be open in asking for His forgiveness. Ask Him to take over the controls.

A childlike attitude is helpful. Jesus said in scripture, "'I tell you solemnly, anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.' Then He put His arms around them, laid His hands on them and gave them His blessing." Jesus will bless and press us close if we but ask with an open, trusting heart.

We need not be chagrined if we don't burst out immediately with a flowing tongue or find the love for our spouse isn't all jacked up to the honeymoon stage. Everyone doesn't receive all the gifts at the same time. They are God's to bestow in His own good time, at His discretion.

Over time, Paul said, some will prophesy, some will have tongues and interpret, others will be in a healing ministry or preach with wisdom.

Despite the spiritual armor that the Lord provides, no one should have a false impression about conversion to His cause. We can face derision, criticism and be labeled Jesus freaks. There is no guarantee that stepping out in faith puts us on a garden path of sweet-smelling roses and blue skies above. Rose vines, like life, bear prickly thorns.

Some of the worst suffering possible fell on the Spirit-filled apostles. Though joyful in their faith, they willingly sacrificed their lives in martyrdom for the sake of the gospel. Relatively few of modern-day Christians will encounter that but some do in countries controlled by totalitarian leaders.

At the least, proclaiming Christ as King of our lives can lead to ridicule in feel-good societies where anything goes and there are no moral absolutes.

The power of Jesus is available, however, during periods of duress, to comfort, counsel and guide through the Holy Spirit. Before His resurrection, he promised to intercede with the Father for us. In fact, he made the dramatic declaration that "No one can come to the Father except through Me."

And in another revelation, Paul tells us that it's not necessary to settle for a life of unrighteousness; that in Christ we are a new creation, we have cast away the old person of our past. This entails new discoveries about ourselves. They include:

--hunger for the Word of God, an appetite that will encompass reading religious literature, attending Christian events and tuning into Christian broadcasting. (Bible study is a regular activity of hundreds of millions of Christians, eager for greater knowledge).
--greater desire to worship the Creator, share experiences and witness in community prayer meetings, small groups and secular encounters.
--a nagging feeling of not giving enough time and talents to God's work.
--a deeper concern about family, prayer and service to brothers and sisters within and outside the local church and in communities. (Sometimes this extends to establishment of personal or group ministries to reach out and evangelize as well as provide for the poor, sick and needy).
--fostering of ecumenism and love for Christians of other denominations despite theological disagreements.

Chasing Jesus can be a fulltime pursuit rather than a mere avocation, leading to behavioral changes and a big difference in contacts and relational attitudes. Collaterally we can revel in the "peace that surpasses understanding" described in scripture.

There is a greater tendency to ask ourselves "what would Jesus do" in troublesome situations. Our conscience is more sensitive and the knee-jerk flare-ups of anger, resentment and frustration which previously dominated are tempered.

Some find freedom from addictions to drugs, alcohol, and smoking and other destructive habits. Others find coarse language cleaned up, more patience while driving, and reconciliation and healing in personal relationships.

Immersion in the Word of God and obedience to God's way of life converts the faithful from hearts of stone to a hearts of flesh, in the words of Ezekiel 6. Righteousness rules. We become the "people of God" who Peter spoke of as our actions are influenced by the power of God rather than solekt human will and desire.

The Word of God penetrates into the deepest recesses of the heart, the holy temple and secret places where God dwells, for bilateral communication on a spiritual level.

Through His grace, we are compelled to react according to the loving motives of the Spirit. Because we are clothed with the fabric of Jesus, His holy blood and spiritual power are symbiotically merged with our hearts, minds, souls and spirits.

The love of Jesus, flowing through the lives of Christians, radiates to our fellow sojourners in this temporary world. Our discriminatory attitudes fade and we can accept others as they are, without distinction as to culture, color, religion or physical condition.

After all, Jesus showed the way, healing lepers and touching blind beggars, all sorts of uncomely humans. He allowed a prostitute to cry over Him, bathe Him with her tears and expensive oil. He was so moved by her action that He made her immortal in His Word, and urged followers to emulate her faith and love.