It's really very simple, when you think about it.
Each year at Christmas, I give my friends at the nursing home small gifts – mostly mere one-size-fits-most tokens of my esteem. In 2014, that meant exotic (but attractively priced) hand lotions from our local Tuesday Morning store.
Everyone received these little gifts gladly that year, thankful to have been remembered, with one notable exception--a dear friend I’ll call Theresa. She was very apologetic, but said that she’d already received several enormous bottles of lotion from various friends and just didn’t have room for another.
It was perfectly understandable, storage space being in such short supply in a nursing home. I said I'd give her gift to someone else who had nothing more than standard-issue institutional lotion. She thought that was a fine idea, and a few minutes later I went off to do just that, thankful to have a friend who felt comfortable being completely honest with me.
It wasn't until some time later that it occurred to me: Theresa had not received my gift, so it had not become hers.
This is a fair analogy for what happens when people refuse the free gift of eternal life that Jesus offers every human being--that is, the gift of being transformed into His heaven-bound child, a metamorphosis made possible only because He paid mankind's sin debt in full when He died on the cross almost 2000 years ago.
If we don’t receive this gift, it does not become ours.
Unfortunately, there are many people who have rejected eternity in heaven simply because they have rejected this gift. That would include those who think they’re shoo-ins because they were born to Christian parents, or attend church when it’s convenient, or believe (oh so sincerely!) in a higher being who goes by another name--Allah or Kali or Bahá'u'lláh, to cite just a few examples. It would also include those who refuse to believe in the gift's existence or in its singular efficacy.
According to the demonstrably true Bible, if you want to become a heaven-bound child of God, you must receive the free gift of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross. As the apostle John wrote, “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:10-13).
Fortunately, receiving Christ is not as complicated as some would have you think. It doesn’t require a lifetime of good works, suffering and sacraments; nor does it require membership in any particular church. It simply requires repenting of your sin and trusting in Jesus to have paid your sin debt in full.
Have you received this most important gift of all?
If not, please don’t wait. Learn more about it here. Then grow in your new faith by studying the Bible faithfully, if possible getting help and direction from a Bible-teaching church grounded in solid biblical doctrine.
Theresa was sorry to have to reject my Christmas gift that year, but I’m glad she did. What an excellent reminder she gave me of the critical importance of receiving the only gift that really matters–the gift of everlasting life that Christians celebrate every day of the year.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." -- John 3:16