So let's face it shall we. All this talk about Christmas really being about family and good feelings, not quite accurate.
Not when you consider that in the United States of America over, I'm going to give you a number. Over 500 billion, that's billion with a B. Over $500 billion will be spent on Christmas gifts this year alone.
$500 billion, so sure we love to get together at Christmas but part of that happiness comes from the fact that we give and we receive presents right? The kiddos are maybe anxious to see Grandma and Grandpa but they sure are anxious to open those boxes under the tree.
So let's you know, let's kind of keep that in perspective. And we get to shop for stuff. What's not good about that? We get to shop for stuff and we get to open boxes with new stuff that we asked for.
We're at the point now with Christmas and the you know, being able to shop online, you just post what you want, somebody buys it, marks you you know, it's like a list. Like a shopping list and please don't be afraid.
It's not a harangue against Christmas here. I just want to kind of get something you know, in proper focus. Again, nothing wrong with all this. Nothing wrong with exchanging gifts and being happy to get them and gift them.
I'm just mentioning this idea of gift giving and the good feelings that it produces to introduce a parallel idea in our relationship with God. You see, our Father in heaven also enjoys the giving of gifts, that's my point.
Our Father in heaven also enjoys the giving of gifts and I suspect this may be why we, having been made in His image also enjoy the experience of giving gifts and receiving gifts. Now His gifts are varied.
Physical and emotional gifts like health or daily needs or contentment with our life. To be content with our life, this is a gift from God. A loving and faithful spouse. To have children, to have grandchildren and great-grandchildren, these are the type of gifts that God provides.
All these things are blessings or gifts that come from God whether a person acknowledges this or not. That's kind of the sad thing. Some people have all these gifts but they don't acknowledge the one who's giving them.
Thankfully as Christians we get the joy of receiving the gifts but we also know who gives those gifts and we're able to give thanks. Now God also provides, aside from these physical and emotional gifts.
He also provides spiritual gifts, spiritual blessings. And of these, the most precious is that of salvation because from this one gift comes so many other wonderful blessings. It's like a Christmas present that comes in a large box and when you unwrap it and open it up, there are a lot of other gifts on the inside.
You know, you think you're getting just one large sized gift but when you look inside, you find a lot of different gifts. Smaller in size but extremely, extremely valuable. We've all you know, tried that maybe at one time.
You know you're trying to fool your wife and you give her a box you know. The box is maybe that big and maybe you go get an old toaster oven box right and you get the toaster oven box but on the inside you know, you wrap that all up and you put a bow on it you know, and she says oh for me, oh thank you.
You know, and she opens that up and she sees the paper and you know, oh toaster oven for Christmas, how nice. And then she looks inside and whoops there are three other little boxes inside and one may be a pair of diamond earrings and another one may be something else.
Some other bling or, and all the women here are. Are saying to their husbands, listen up. But we've, we've had that experience. We've seen people do that you know. Hide like lots of gifts inside of a large box.
Well in the book of Romans chapter five Paul the Apostle unpacks the large spiritual box labeled salvation and he does this in order to reveal the seven precious gifts that God gives us through the blessing of salvation.
So the blessing of salvation, that's the big box and on the inside there's seven smaller boxes. Each very precious. Now before examining these, I'd like to give you just a little bit of background information on the book of Romans so that you can put this passage that I'm going to talk about in proper perspective.
A lot of people call this particular epistle Paul's thesis on the subject of Christianity. Because in it he takes great care in explaining the main doctrines of the Christian religion in a very concise and structured way.
Now one of the doctrines that he spends a whole lot of time explaining is the doctrine of salvation and he does this in a kind of a question and answer format. So there's a question that he has you know.
Why is salvation necessary? And he answers that question in Romans chapter three verse 23. Why salvation, because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Another question, well how is salvation accomplished? Answer, well through the atonement of Christ and he writes about this in Romans chapter three verse 24, he says being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith.
This was to demonstrate His righteousness because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed and he goes on and on on but right here he's saying, this is how this gift was obtained, through the atonement of Jesus and through the faith that we have in Christ.
Another question, well upon what condition is this salvation received? And Paul answers his own question. Well it's received by faith and not by the works of the law. Again, in chapter 23 this time in verse 27 he says where then is boasting? It is excluded.
By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith for we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Verse 28 and so let me get my page here. And so in chapter five, he's going to answer another question and the question is, what does this salvation give me? What's in it for me? After all, before Christ the Jews had the law and they had the prophets and they had the temple and they were God's chosen people.
Those are important things. Those were great gifts. And for Gentiles, well before Christ, before they knew Christ they felt that they were free to do whatever they wanted. They were a law unto themselves.
And so the question is, where's the benefit to salvation through Jesus Christ? What's in it for us? And Paul answers this question by explaining and enumerating the seven blessings that come with salvation by grace, through faith, in Jesus Christ.
Blessing number one is peace with God. Peace with God, chapter five now. We're going to the text itself and we begin reading in verse one. He says, therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand.
Gift number one, a clear conscience. Why, because we have peace with God. Freedom from fear, freedom from guilt, freedom from the shame that comes because of the disobedience we have experienced before God.
A saved person can talk to God without fear or guilt or shame. You know it's so strange that at this time of year, you know Christmas people are all saying, peace on Earth, peace on Earth you know. Peace between men, that's what Christmas is for.
That's why Jesus came. Peace between men, wrong. Jesus didn't come on Earth to create peace between men. What did Jesus say? He said, I've come to bring what? A sword, a sword. A man will be against his brother.
I've come to bring a sword, He didn't come to bring peace between men. He came so that there would be peace between God and man. That's what He came to do. And so the first gift of salvation is that we have peace with God and we have it eternally.
The second gift of salvation joy. Chapter five we continue in verse two. He says and we exult in hope of the glory of God and not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance and perseverance, proven character and proven character, hope.
Salvation brings joy, a joy based on the hope that Christians will ultimately triumph over suffering and death. That's where the joy comes from. The trials of everyday life serve to strengthen a Christian's character.
Not destroy it. And why is this? Because trials for Christians are always seen in a, in an eternal perspective, not a temporal perspective. If you have a trial, if you're only going to live the average 79.
5 years and you have a trial and you're 61 years old, I can't do the math but you know what I'm saying? You're saying man like this thing better quit. Stuff better get better because you know, I've only got this much time.
I'm not getting any younger. And so every moment, every day, every second you know that that trial persists and is in the way of us enjoying our lives, is a burden. Why, because some people have a very temporal view of life.
Because as far as they're concerned this is all there is and if this is all there is, well then I'm going to make sure that it's a good. So if there's illness or setbacks or disappointments or failures, boy that just spoils the little time that I've got.
But those who are saved because of their faith in Christ Jesus, they have a long view. I'm going to live eternally. Whether the last five, 10, 20 years of my life are filled with grief or disappointment or pain or whatever, that isn't the total of my life.
The total of my life is eternal. So I'm not worried, I don't get overly vexed over the idea that for a time, a year, a month, a day, whatever. For a time I am going through a trial. What seems hopeless for the unbeliever is only temporary reversal for the one with the promise of eternal life.
Perseverance you know, another way of saying perseverance? Proven experience, that's what perseverance is. It's proven experience. Perseverance creates hope Paul says, why, because we see over and over again how God sustains us in different ways through various difficulties.
This builds confidence, what Paul is talking about here he says hope, this builds hope or confidence that this pattern of God's help will continue and this confidence shows in our character. This is why Paul says that we exult, we take pride in, we boast in, the idea of our trials, that we can overcome these.
However, this hopeful view of life is only possible for the faithful believer. Why, because he sees the long view. She sees the long view. And also, we're realists aren't we? We're realists, we believe in sin.
We believe sin is the problem. We believe we're sinners and what does sin cause? Well sin causes death. All kinds of death. Illness, problems, violence, pain, separation, war. All these things are caused by sin and we're sinners and we live in a sinful world.
I mean, I would be surprised if everything always worked out okay. And yet some people are constantly surprised and dismayed because they live in a sinful world. Well what do you expect? That's what we live in.
Why do you think, you know it's not just a moral thing when Jesus is saying, you live in the world but you shouldn't be of the world. We always see that as a point of morality. You know, don't act in an immoral way.
You're in an immoral world, don't act immorally like the non-believers. Yeah it means that but it also means don't act with despair, don't live in a despairing way, with a hopelessness, don't live like that.
The people in the world, they live like that but you're not of the world, you're of the kingdom and in a little while, in a little while the trial will be over. The pain will be gone. The disappointment will be forgotten.
In a little while and Christians have this hopeful view of life but it's only possible if we're faithful, if we truly, truly believe the things that God has promised us. And so, the gifts of salvation, peace, joy and joy despite difficulty.
That's my witness, my witness is not that there's never any trouble in my life. My witness is despite the trouble in my life I have joy. And disbelievers are saying, I don't get it. This guy you know, there's no way this person should be happy or joyful.
I mean there's no way. What explains it? Well what explains it is the spirit of God living inside of me, that's what explains my joy. Not how well stuff happens in my life. Number three, in verse five he says third gift, love.
He says and hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Being saved does not suddenly enable us to be more loving and kind.
That comes with practice and maturity. No, being saved brings us to the realization that God loves us. This is the blessing. The blessing is not, I'm enabled to love more. That's good, no the blessing is that God loves me.
That's the blessing. Those who are justified become conscious of God's love toward them through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. How, well first of all through a strengthened prayer life. Romans 8 verse 26, the spirit prays with our spirit.
The spirit prays with our spirit. I recognize that. And also the comfort that we have during times of trial. In Acts 9:31 it says that the church was comforted by who? The Spirit. The Spirit, now the Spirit could've been working through one of the prophets or one of the evangelists or one of the elders but it was the Spirit giving them words, actions.
For unbelievers comfort comes through a sense of stoicism perhaps or an acceptance of the situation. Some sort of resignation to the inevitable. But for Christians, it is a conscious comfort and hope in Christ, produced by the presence of the Holy Spirit within us.
Why does Paul say you know, a peace that surpasses understanding, 'cause it doesn't make sense. 'Cause I can't logically you know, A equals B, B equals C, A equals C. You know, I can't figure it out that way, this peace that I have.
I just know I have it. I just know that there are times when I'm sitting there, doing nothing I have a sense of gratitude that overwhelms me, that pushes me to praise God. Right there in my own little living room or while I'm sitting at my desk.
Or if I'm waiting for a red light at a corner. Just a moment of ah. Just a moment of exultation. God I love you so much. Thank you so much. You found me, you found this guy from nowhere, from Montreal East who was so, so far away from you.
And you found me. And you loved me. How wonderful is that? Who gives me those words? What creates that feeling in my heart? The Spirit, not the flesh, the flesh. Well the flesh wants to sin. That's what the flesh wants to do.
And motivation, the desire to love other people and the desire to do good are prompts of the spirit. Not of the flesh. Someone says you know what, it's cold, it's dark and it's raining but why don't you get out there and go see brother or sister so and so who's sick and been in bed and so on and so.
I don't feel like it. Yeah but try anyways. Who's talking to you? That's not your flesh. That's not, the flesh never pushes us to be our best. Our flesh never pushes us to do something in the name of Christ, to deny ourselves something.
To say no to ourselves. Our flesh is never the one that says, you know why don't you just zip your lip and say nothing here. This person is offending you, say nothing. That's not our flesh that does that, that's the Spirit of God that does that.
In these and many other ways, we experience the love of God working in us, blessing others as well as ourselves. How else can some people say that their ministry is a ministry of suffering? I knew people back in Montreal who had been sick for years and years and years and years, could do nothing.
They couldn't knock doors, they couldn't you know, they had no money to give, they couldn't you know, come and clean the building, they couldn't teach at class you know. They were immobilized because of their limitations.
And one of them said, my ministry is the ministry of suffering. The idea was not that God loves to see somebody suffer but that in their suffering they were able to teach and witness to others patience, joy, perseverance, faithfulness, a love for God, a love for others.
All done from their hospital bed. A ministry of suffering, enabled how? Through the Spirit of Christ that lived within them. Gift number four assurance and security. Christ's death pays for all of our sins.
You had an abortion, paid for. You embezzled your company, paid for. You're divorced, paid for. You failed at living up to all of the advantages that you had as a young person and never took advantage of those things and you wasted your opportunities? Paid for.
Paid for. Paid for. His resurrection and continued presence assures us that we will continue to be saved. We read in Romans chapter five again in verse six he says, for while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
Who'd He die for? Well all those people I just mentioned, He died for those people. For one will hardly die for a righteous man, through perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die but God demonstrates His own love towards us.
What does He demonstrate toward us? Did He have to demonstrate His judgment toward us? No, we know about His judgment. But He demonstrated His own love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
While I hated Him, while I ridiculed Him, meaning Jesus, I remember there was a joke I used to tell about Jesus on the cross of all things. While I was doing that, thinking I was really smart, He was planning to save me.
That's His love. That's the kind of love that He had for me. We know how much God loved us and wanted us saved. He sent Jesus to die when we were at our very worst, when we hated Him. So I don't know about you but that confidence, that knowledge builds confidence in me.
I mean, if he loved me back then when I wasn't even trying, when I was hating him, when I was going away from Him, when I was trying to do everything against Him, when He loved me then, I'm pretty sure He loves me now.
When everything in my heart and mind is devoted to trying to do what He wants me to do, not succeeding always but I'm trying. In verse nine Paul says, much more then, having now been justified by His blood.
Remember, justified by His blood, not by what I did, not by all the promises I made to do better, do good, whatever that's not how I was justified. By His blood it says, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him for if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His son, much more having been reconciled we shall be saved by His life.
Now if He was ready to die for us when we hated Him, Paul is saying, imagine what He will do for us now that we love Him and He is risen from the dead. We have great security in the knowledge that our savior is alive and active in making sure that we remain saved.
I've mentioned this before. Please, please brothers and sisters, try to remember that God wants you to go to heaven. Even more than you want to go to heaven. Try to remember that, try to keep that in mind.
He wants you in heaven even more than you want to be in heaven. That's how sure the thing we have is. We have great security in the knowledge that our savior is alive and active and willing and does all that He can with all the power that He has to make absolutely sure that we remain saved.
We don't remain saved by our power, we remain saved by His power. Gift number five, reconciliation. Reconciliation, verse 11 he says and not only this but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
Now many Bibles use the word atonement or propitiation. It was an Old Testament word meaning to cover and it originally referred to the cover over the Arc of the Covenant, you know with the two angels it referred to that cover but the word, words evolved in meaning and it came to mean the actual appeasement for sin.
Let me give you an example. You get into a bit of a fuss with your wife, you say some ugly things that you shouldn't have said, you storm off and so and and so forth to work. Upon reflection you realize that wasn't right, you're in the wrong, you're going to apologize, but on the way home you buy some lovely flowers, something that you know your wife enjoys and you buy some lovely flowers for her and you're going to offer them along with your apology.
Those flowers, that's the appeasement and what you're doing is you're doing something, the appeasement to change another person. In other words, you're making an appeasement in order to change her mind, to change her attitude, to change the way she thinks of you.
'Cause she may be upset or hurt. Now in this context, here in Romans chapter five it refers to the sacrifice and the reason that that sacrifice was offered. And so in this passage Paul refers to an exchange or a change, the atonement, the reconciliation of a very special, a very special nature.
It is the change on one party induced or caused by the action of another. Now in the Bible, it is not man who does something to change God's attitude towards sin. I repeat that, I was given a little preliminary information but I want to really focus on what I just said.
In the Bible it is not man who does something to change God's attitude toward him. That idea is the basis of Pagan religion and magic. You know, all kinds of rituals and sacrifices and incantations in order to change or manipulate the gods or the spirits.
That's magic, that's voodoo. That's not Bible. In the Bible, it is God who does something to change man's condition. In other words, God's the one that offers us the flowers. He didn't do anything wrong.
He offers us something that will change us. So God changed His relationship with lost man from being the judge of lost man to becoming the redeemer of lost man. And He sent the flowers, He sent Jesus to eliminate the sins.
This action has changed man from being a guilty, condemned sinner to a righteous saint. This change, this reconciliation is a constant source of joy, exultation for both parties. Man will enjoy it for as long as God enjoys it and God has promised that He will enjoy it forever.
Number six gift, righteousness. Righteousness verse 12, therefore just as through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin and so death spread to all men because all sinned. For until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not Imputed when there is no law.
Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam until Moses even over those who not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam who is a type of Him who was to come. So here Paul goes into detail explaining further his comment in Romans 3:23, remember I read to you Romans 3:23.
All have sinned, fallen short of the glory of God right? Well he says in this passage that all are guilty because the judgment of God for sin was always present. Even before the Law was given through Moses and even if the sins of those who followed Adam into sin were not as great as Adam's sin.
What was so great about Adam's sin? Well Adam's sin led all men into sin. That's why his sin was so great, because of the impact it had. Even if subsequent sinners were not guilty of as grave a sin as Adam, Paul is saying here, they were nevertheless guilty of sin and subject to judgment and condemnation as Adam was and so Paul describes the gravity of sin and its results in order to compare it to the gift that God freely gives to those who are saved.
So in verse 15, I'll read again. He says, but the free gift is not like the transgression for if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift of the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.
The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned, for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation but on the other hand, the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification for if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the one Jesus Christ.
That's a kind of a long passage here. But basically Paul says that one action sin, by Adam, resulted in sin and condemnation for all. Now, he says, one action, the cross of Jesus by Christ results in not simply forgiveness or the avoidance of judgment but the gain of something even better that we had before.
And what is that? Justification, in other words through Adam, all sin. Through Jesus what do we get? We get justification, we get righteousness and so through the salvation obtained and offered freely through Jesus Christ, what happens to us? We are right with God and that's our problem.
We're not right with him and so through Christ we become right with God. A status that we could never achieve on our own, having a right standing with God and being acceptable to Him has been given to us as a gift by God.
We can't earn it, we can't work for it, it has to be a gift and so this gift is doubly important because it equips us to receive the seventh and final gift that Paul talks about in this section on the blessings of salvation and that seventh gift is eternal life.
Verse 18, to finish up the passage. So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.
For as through the one man's disobedience, the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one, the many will be made righteous. The law came in so that the transgression would increase but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more so that as reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
And so these verses are an extension of the thoughts in the previous thee verses and summarized in verse 21. And so in this passage, Paul reviews two possible life scenarios. The first is the life that we've led as a result of that in sin.
This life is filled with sin and ends in death and condemnation. And then this other life is the one offered to us in Christ. It begins with death to sin through baptism and results in eternal life. And Paul explains that eternal doesn't only refer to the length of time for this life but also describes the quality of this life.
In other words eternal refers to the experience that one has when one has eternal life. The experience of righteousness, the experience of grace, the experience of forgiveness and all the feelings that accompany these particular things because we feel these things.
We experience these things. They are not gifts or blessings if we can't experience them in some way. You know, if somebody you know, you don't give your child you know, if he's into LEGO, she's into LEGOs, you don't for Christmas just give them a picture of the LEGOs.
Merry Christmas, I got you a picture of the biggest most expensive set. Maybe you can put that on your wall and enjoy that. Well the kid sees it, knows what it is but what's the missing? The experience, well in the same way Paul says God gives us eternal life.
Not just a picture of eternal life, He gives us the possibility to experience eternal life and not after we're dead. Through the Spirit we begin to get a taste of eternal life that will ultimately be fulfilled.
That we will have a full, why do you think they call it a banquet? We'll have our fill of it when Jesus returns. Eternal life is the ultimate and final state that we will experience because of what Jesus has done for us.
It is the gift made possible by all the other gifts and so the great assurance that we have from our father in heaven, is that all of the gifts that we have received because of our salvation, all of these gifts are permanent.
The peace with God and the joy in our hearts, the love that fills us, the security that we feel, the change of our spirit and soul, the right standing that we have with God and the guarantee that this will go on forever, all of this Paul says is guarded by Christ who watches over these things at their source.
That is, in the very throne room of God. So brothers and sisters, let us be assured that no matter what time of year we happen to find ourselves in, whether it's Christmas or July 4th or Labor Day, our Lord in heaven guarantees that all of our gifts and our final heavenly reward are safe and waiting for all who remain faithful unto death.
So Merry Christmas and I say it with all sincerity. Merry Christmas to all who have and enjoy these gifts from God. And for those who have not yet obeyed the Gospel all I can say, what are you waiting for? What does God have to add to the package? What's missing for you to obey the Gospel? And so my final exhortation is come now.
And let the Lord bless you with all the spiritual gifts of heaven. As we stand and as we sing our song of encouragement.