Monday, July 25, 2016

The Cost of a Great Gift

I love gifts.  It's fun both to give and receive good gifts.  It's one of the ways I feel loved, and it's definitely one of the ways I like to give love.

So when I found out I was getting tickets for the Ohio State/Michigan game for my 30th birthday, I was incredibly excited.

If you're unaware of why tickets to THIS game is so important, let me help you understand the significance.

First, there's the significance due to the game's magnitude.  It's (arguably) the greatest rivalry in all of sports.  Both teams are in the pre-season conversation to win both the conference and to make the playoff.  It's likely both teams will rank within the top 15 at the end of the season (maybe even top 10 or top 5).  It could essentially end up as its own playoff game on the way to a national championship appearance.   I was taught one thing as a buckeye fan: this game is everything.  You could lose every game, and if you won this one, the season was a success.  But if you lost?  It didn't matter how many games we won that season, it would feel like a failed season.

This game is huge.

Second, there's the personal significance.   It was my dream to go to this game one day.  But tickets to this game cost a lot of money.  So, going into ministry, I never thought I would get a chance to go.  I knew, at least in my own conscience, that I couldn't justify investing that much of God's money into a one game experience.  That's not a law, per se, I just knew that it wasn't something I could ever feel comfortable with.

But here I am, tickets in hand, for free.  My wife and I get to go to the best game, for free.  At least, it's free for me.

But it was a great cost for many others.

On Saturday, I found out that nearly forty people contributed to make this birthday gift happen.  FORTY!  That's incredible.  I'm not sure who gave what, but that's a lot of people to make something like this happen.   My wife Heather spent weeks, possibly months, organizing it so that I could feel loved and be able to do something that I've always wanted to do. 

Could you imagine if I turned around and said thanks for the gift, and then threw them in the trash?  For the people that gave to get me those tickets, they probably would be sad.  For my wife?  Devastated.  All that time, effort, and money, just so I could ignore it.

When we say the Gift of Christ is free, and don't act on it, we do the same thing to God.  We ignore that there was a deep cost to God's grace, and that we had great need of it.

You see, a relationship with God is the best thing any of us could have.  It's the reason why we were created, to have fellowship with our creator!  But we rebelled.  We sinned.  We hated him.  So God sent a gift.  The gift of His perfect Son.

The significance?  It's the matter between being reconciled to God and being separated from Him forever.  And the cost?  Invaluable.  Jesus gave everything.  If we do nothing with this gift, it demonstrates we don't actually understand what the Gospel is, or what it means.

The Gospel is so great a gift that it both saves us from God's wrath and makes us more into who we were supposed to be, comformed to the image of Christ.  If we just want it to save from wrath, but not change, we have missed both the significance of our condition AND the deep cost Jesus paid.  It's like saying, "Jesus, thanks for heaven, but I don't need anything else."

Have you missed the cost of the greatest gift ever given?  What would it look like for you to accept the gift with delight, allowing God to demand anything of you?  Because ultimately, the greatest gift we could have is to be able to rightly follow God and become more like Him due to pleasure we have in knowing Him.