You know, it is a shame to see so many changes that have taken place in the brotherhood in the last few years, some of which have been copied from our religious neighbors. I will talk a little more about that in a few moments. But I do want to mention to you, and surely you know, that God does give us gifts, and if we said he didn't, we would have to deny the Bible because several times it is brought to our attention that we are recipients of the gifts of God. James, for example, said in James 1:17 that "every good and every perfect gift is from above and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning." The apostle Paul in the 5th chapter of the book of Romans mentions the word "gift" at least six times and three of those he talks about it as being a free gift. As you look at I Cor. 12:13-14, you will see that Paul was dealing with the subject of the gifts that were given to various ones in the early days of the church. In fact, it had become quite controversial to them.
Now having said that, I will go back to what I mentioned earlier. It seems that if we have a fault in the Lord's church at all, it is the fact that we always like to talk about issues that are either current and issues that have been a part of our history. When we reflect back upon it (I know it is true in my generation from the time I started preaching many years ago), it seems that if it wasn't one thing it was something else that would crop up seemingly almost within a matter of just a few years. Among those things was the instrumental music issue. I thought that was dead a long time ago, but it isn't. It is very much alive as some of our most recent church publications tell us. Such things as tongue speaking, the direct operation of the Holy Spirit, the liberal and conservative issues, and of course, even now, the idea of spiritual gifts is cropping up in various areas of our brotherhood. It seems that the main issue is "are these gifts spiritual or rather miraculous or are they natural?" I want you to know early on in my lesson this morning that I certainly believe very strongly in spiritual gifts. But I just believe in those gifts that we can know without any reservation at all that they have come from God and that they are designed to lift us up spiritually. There are several of those gifts, but I am going to sort of limit this part of my sermon this morning to just four different gifts that I can be assured of and you can be assured of are given to us by God for the purpose of building us up spiritually. So, follow along with us now as we run those things down in our lesson. I think the way I am going to present them to you might be the order of precedence. I am not going to hold to that, but this is sort of the way I see it.
I think the first great spiritual gift that God has given to us (I am talking about the world now) would be the gift of his son Jesus Christ. We have to accept the fact that it was a gift from God because the great golden text of the Bible informs us that "God so loved us that he gave his only begotten son." It didn't cost us anything. It certainly was a gift. When you begin to think about that as being a gift, as you look at the Bible, you need to also realize the great value of God giving us his son. I like the words of Peter in I Peter 1, verse 19, when he talks about being "redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ." You can see there the value that is in it. Then from the Old Testament, the book of Isaiah, Isaiah calls Jesus, in prophecy now, a precious stone. Listen as I read from Isaiah 28, verse 16: "Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation; he that believeth shall not make haste." Then, of course, as you look at other passages (I mentioned earlier Romans, chapter 5), in Romans, chapter 6, as far as the gift of the Son, Paul talks about it as being eternal life. Romans, chapter 6 at verse 23 says, "For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is life eternal through Jesus Christ, our Lord." That sort of serves as a cue to go into the second major gift that God has given us. Again, we are talking about spiritual gifts.
The second gift would be the gift of salvation through his Son. I think as you go back to chapter 5 that I mentioned earlier, this is exactly what Paul is talking about as far as it being a gift. It is the gift of eternal life; it is the gift of salvation through his Son; and again, let me mention to you that it was absolutely free to all. Paul, as he wrote to Titus in the book of Titus, chapter 2, verses 11-13, again talked about this great gift that God has given to us. He said, "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men." Unfortunately, that doesn't always apply as far as men who are willing to receive it. But it does apply because the Lord doesn't want any to be lost. The Lord wants everyone of us to be led unto repentance as you will see in I Peter 3, verse 9. But again he says, "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lust, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world looking for that blessed hope in the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ." And won't that, indeed, be a great day if, in fact, we are alive when he comes. But on the other hand, it will be a great day when we will be privileged to meet our Lord even after we leave this earth. The fact that this gift is a gift of salvation is mentioned again in another very familiar passage - the book of Acts, chapter 2 at verse 38, that perhaps most of us even know by memory. That passage says, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (which in my judgment is the same as the gift of salvation). We sing songs like "I Am Redeemed." We sing songs like "I Am Saved." I am just wondering sometimes if we can really focus in the way that God wants us to focus in on the value of this gift and the fact that we can have redemption from our sins through this precious gift, the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
The third spiritual gift that I want to mention to you this morning is the gift that is tangible. We cam hold it in our hands as I am here. It is the gift of the Bible. Now I mentioned earlier that the spiritual gifts that Paul addressed to the church in Corinth involved chapters 12, 13, and 14. Sometimes we forget about the reason for chapter 13, which is sandwiched in between those two and perhaps you know it deals with the subject of love and the importance of love. In that same chapter we find the apostle Paul talking about something that I believe certainly relates to this gift of God's word, the Bible. Let me read a passage or two from that great book of I Corinthians, chapter 13, beginning at verse 9. "For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." Well, as we think about the perfect things that have come into this world, the first thing we would think about was Christ. He was tempted in all respects, as we are, and yet without sin. Which of us this morning would deny the fact that Christ was perfect? I don't think any of us would. But at the time that Paul wrote the passage that I have just used from I Corinthians 13, Christ had already come. So, evidently he is talking about something else that is also perfect. James talks about it (I am talking about the word of God - the Bible). He says that it is the perfect law of liberty. Again, I just wonder from time to time if we are as appreciative of this gift as we ought to be. I know the world doesn't appreciate as much as they should, and probably not at all, and sometimes I wonder if we really appreciate what God has given to us. As I said earlier, we can hold it in our hands, we can read from its glorious pages the things that will help us, not only in this life, but will also lead us unto heaven when this life is over. We have the gift of his Son; we have the gift of salvation through his Son; we have the gift of the Bible.
The fourth gift I want to talk to you about is the gift of the church of his Son. I am so thankful that in 1953 I was baptized into Christ and became a member of the glorious body of Jesus Christ, our Lord. And for us to call it a body is very scriptural. You know that Paul talked about the church as being the body of Christ in Ephesians 1, verses 22 and 23. I hope this morning that you are so thankful, that is if you are a child of God and if you are in the church, I hope you can appreciate the church so very much because, like I have already mentioned, the church came at a very worthy price, a very precious price, and that being, of course, the blood of Jesus Christ, our Lord, as mentioned in Acts chapter 20, verse 28. This gift is where we really get into Christ, Galatians 3, verses 26 and 27. "For you are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ." The same thought is taught in Ephesians chapter 1 at verse 3 in regard to spiritual blessings. We get into Christ; we get into church; one equals the other. So, if our blessings are in Christ, then our spiritual blessings are also in the church. The most beautiful thing about all of this, brethren, is that all that the Lord asks of us are just a few simple things. The last time I spoke to you I spoke from Romans 12, verses 1 and 2 and this is one of the things that God asks of us early one. We are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, which is our reasonable service. That means that we give our bodies to him in our initial obedience - faith, repentance, confession of Christ and baptism - and then we also give that body as we live from day to day in this world. The Lord asks that of us number one on his list of preferences. Then he also says, and I quote now from James 1 at verse 27: "that we keep ourselves unspotted from the world." It is so very vital in this age that we live in with all the different things that are going on around us, what we see on TV, what we see in the movies. It is so vitally important. If we are going to be the light of Christ in this world, we are going to have to keep our bodies and our minds and hearts unspotted from the world. The Lord asks that of us. Another thing he asks of us is that we be present at his assemblies when we possibly can, Hebrews 10 at verse 25. And all the while he asking us to be faithful to the very end (Rev. 2:10) and that we also strive to do everything in our worship and in our actions that we can see laid out as examples in front of us in the New Testament.
One other thing before we move on. While we are doing all of these things, the Lord is asking you and he is asking me to do one very important thing as members of the church. That is that we need to love each other. I am going to express to you my personal view on what the church really is. I see the church as an extension of Christ himself. Now, again I have already mentioned that the church is his body and so how does Christ work in this world today other than through the church - each of us, for example? So then, we are saying that the church is an extension of the body of Christ, especially as far as his hands are concerned and as far as his arms are concerned and as far as his mouth is concerned. Those of us in the church become that extension. To me that makes it so much more precious and valuable in my own life.
I mentioned to you that I was going to give you a couple of gifts. I am going to give you one right now. I have wrestled with whether I should give these to you or not because they are personal but both of the gifts I am going to give you I am using allegorically as great lessons. In fact, this little gift that I am going to give you is probably saying in verse what I have already said. I just call it "Reflections On The Church." I hope you receive this gift kindly. "Years stretch out before us. We must understand that we leave what is behind. We pray that God will receive us kindly and that we will accept whatever mountains we have to climb. Our lives have a mutual interest as we all come together. Strong ties of love from God above in his church where we all gather. We have all had our ups and downs but we have tried to use them all. We have prayed to God above that we might never fall. The gifts which God has given are like stars in the heavens that shine. They light up our lives. They give hope to both yours and mine. Let us then go forth in life God's family to lead. Live by his word and to his commandments ever give heed. Lifting up our lives to God above and receiving each other in the depths of our love." Four gifts spiritually - the gift of the Son, the gift of salvation through his Son, the gift of the Bible, and the gift of the church. Those are spiritual gifts we cannot deny because the Bible teaches that.
Now for the rest of our time this morning, let's talk about some of those physical gifts God has given to us. He is so good to us, isn't he. I am going to just talk about three this morning. If I were to ask you "What do you think is the most precious physical gift that God has ever given to you?", physical gift now, what would you say? Well, you would probably say your own life. I really believe that. I am so thankful this morning to be alive, aren't you? Every day that we live is a blessing from God and we need to understand that it is a gift from God. That is, God breathed into the nostrils the breath of man in the beginning and that man became a living soul and we are descendants of that first man, Adam. We have to say that God breathed into our nostrils, too, the breath of life and we became a living being. In that regard, every life on this earth has a purpose. Sometimes people never find it. But as Christian men and women, we need to understand that our life has a purpose and the main purpose of that is to let the light of Christ be reflected in our lives. But physically, we must do everything we can to sustain life as we live here on this earth. In fact, the Lord himself has told us that in the Ten Commandments over in the book of Exodus, he says "Thou shall not kill." That would include the little unborn babies that have become a scandal to our world. God is the giver of life and he desires that we be happy with life, even in spite of the sorrows that come into our life from time to time. Let's utilize this precious gift of life that God has given to us as we go forth trying to help others in this world to be brought closer t the Lord.
The next physical gift I want to talk about would be the gift of our spouses, our husbands and wives. Men, we need to consider that our wives are gifts from God. In the book of Proverbs, chapter 18, verse 22, we find "Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing and obtaineth favor with the Lord." Now, being an Ozarkan, you know the old expression "What's good for the goose is good for the gander." If our wives become a gift from the Lord, then also the husbands would become a gift to the wives. And if not, why not? It is an honorable thing to be married, Hebrews 13, verse 4. But as you look at Ephesians chapter 5 at verse 25, what I want to do now is let us try to focus in on the way we need to handle these gifts, these physical gifts that we are talking about, that God has given to us. For example, we find in Ephesians 5:25, "Husbands you are to love your wives even as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it." Husbands, why should we love our wives? Simply because we want to be loved. Our Lord gave us that simple equation long ago. He says that we need to love the Lord because he first loved us. How can we expect for our wives to love us, or vice versa, if we do not show love to them. And don't we know that love in its fullest measurement is a two-way street. You can't fulfill love totally unless it is returned.
Let's take another passage from Ephesians, chapter 5, verse 23. "For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church." It is not the intent of this lesson to get off on some of the issues that are facing our world today about the man's or woman's role in the church. We simply see that the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church. But here is something else, men, that we have to understand that God demands of us, desires of us. And that is that as head of the family, we must learn to be fair. For example, we can't jump all over our wives for going out on a shopping spree and spending about $100 for some dresses and other things and the next day turn around and buy a new lawnmower for several thousand dollars. Do you see what I am saying? It is a process of fairness. So then we have the same thing as far as the wives are concerned. Going on down in Ephesians 5, "Wives submit yourselves unto your own husbands as unto the Lord and the wives see that she reverence her husband." That is great advice because this is a physical gift that God has given to you. On the other hand, men, we can't expect our wives to reverence us or respect us until we have learned to gain that respect.
Now the third physical gift that God has given us (and you are probably way ahead of me) is our children. Here again, we must not take it for granted but we have to understand that our children represent gifts from God. In Ephesians, chapter 6 at verse 4, God is speaking about our children as gifts. He says "I want you to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." You know something? Before we can ever bring our children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, we had better be sure we are walking in the admonition of the Lord. We can't expect our children to just knuckle down every time they do something wrong if we quote some passage of scripture to them. You see, they are smarter than we give them credit for. If we are one thing on Sunday and something else through the week, our children are going to see that. These little precious gifts that God has given us are going to see that. So we have to be instant in season and out of season. In other words, we cannot expect the best out of our children if we fail to do such things as provide for them. We become worse than an infidel, Paul says, if we fail in that category. If we fail to show gentleness, if we fail to show kindness, and if we fail to show to them a genuine love, we cannot expect our children to treat us the way we want to be treated or that we could bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. There is one thing, as we are talking about this category, that I think is so very vital as we thing about those precious little children that God has given to us. One of the most important as well as practical gifts that we can give our children is our own home, a place where they know that there is love and security, a place where they can always return when problems of life come into their life, and they know they can come even if the problems they are involved in are their own fault. Not that we have to endorse the fault, but they need to realize that they can come home to mother and daddy and they can talk about those things so that the father, like God, can sit down with them and help work out those problems to the very best of his ability. I have talked to you already about the church. Let me unite this thought with the church. I believe that the home and the church are equal in that respect. We must so maintain that degree of love and concern that when the children come back, we have a home for them to come to, physically as well as spiritually.
Now, here is your second gift that I am going to give you. It, too, is speaking allegorically. I am just speaking about one thing but it is covering a lot of others if you can see through the analogy. Let me set the scene for you. Most of you know that we have lived in the same house for forty years plus. When we built that house, we built it right out in the middle of an alfalfa field. We didn't have shade one. My little girls would have to play inside until the sun got over on the west side and then we would have shade for them to play on the east side. This next gift is all about that experience in my life. It is a little tender now, I don't mind telling you. I call it "I Walk Among The Trees." "Often of late I walk among the trees in the cool of the early morn. There in the stillness of a summer day I can remember when there were none. Out of the past the voices echo in my heart, 'We don't have any shade, daddy' as they huddle close to the house with dog and doll in hand. 'Just wait, girls. Someday we will have trees tall and majestic. You can rest and play with soft southern breezes ruffling the leaves and singing their song.' Now, it is a promise fulfilled. The trees are tall; the wind blows as promised; the leaves rustle a quiet and lovely tune. But no longer do I hear the little voices which I had learned to love but perhaps did not show it then as I should have. Now the years have turned my hair to grey; my walk is slower than before. Now I wait for the bell to ring in hopes that they are waiting at my front door. The trees are there and they majestically stand. Their shade covers most of my yard. I sit with coffee cup in hand and remember the hours of labor and a back so tired. Today, it is just as I planned in yesteryear. My mind's blueprints are completed. One thing, however, which the plans did not show was the drop of water on my cheek even though there was no rain. Memories are pleasant. They are bittersweet. Oh, I would to God that the little ones were still under my feet." The object of my reading that to you can be summed up, and again I am using this allegoric in many ways, sometimes it is too little, too late.
Now, let's go back to the thought of our lesson as we bring this to a close. God has given us precious gifts, those that are spiritual as well as those that are physical. I believe that everyday we as Christians should be just like we are born all over again. Whatever might have happened in the past must be forgotten. Paul tells us to do that. We must learn to renew our lives through repentance every day. We must learn to accept the gifts that God has given us but we need to return a gift to him somewhere along the way. What better gift could we give back to God, even this morning, than to give him our own self? Now again, I don't know who in this audience are Christians. I know a great part of you are. But if you have gotten anything at all out of this lesson about the gifts of God, we need to appreciate those gifts by returning our gift of our own self back to him. So if you need to come this morning confessing Christ, repenting of sins and being baptized, or if you need to come to rededicate your life, what a great gift that would be and I am sure God would be pleased with it. Consider those things now as together we stand and sing.