The Gift Your Soul Needs Most
Dr. Jim Denison
Last Tuesday morning I needed to get a book at one of the local bookstores. I had not yet purchased Janet’s Valentine’s Day card, and knew time was running out and nothing would be left. Turns out I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The side of the Valentine’s Day card display which held cards wives would buy for their husbands was completely picked over. Scavenged. A few envelopes stuck down in the cracks at odd angles. The side which held cards husbands would buy for their wives was pristine. Undisturbed. Five o’clock that afternoon would be a different story–a rugby match, arms broken, blood on the ground, fighting for the last card with a pink heart on it.
I told that story to some of our staff at lunch that day, and one of them told me about the year when she got a card from her husband which read, “Happy Valentine’s Day on our first year together.” The problem was, they’d been married 25 years. He didn’t even notice.
Speaking for guys everywhere, we want you to know that it’s the thought that counts–if we had one.
At least with my Valentine’s Day habits, we don’t run the risk of gifts unopened. One year Janet bought birthday and Valentine’s Day cards so far in advance that she couldn’t find them when the days rolled around. I’ve never had that problem. Imagine buying chocolates and forgetting where you put them, so they sat there and grew rock-hard and moldy. Flowers still in the box, wilted and dead. Airline tickets in the drawer, unused and expired. Years ago the comedian Robin Williams remarked: the greatest gift is life. The greatest sin is to return it unopened.
In Colossians we’ve learned that Jesus expects us to live for the glory of God, in his fear, radically committed to him as the Lord of every part of our lives, not just our religious activities. This week we receive the gift which enables us to do all of that, to experience the victorious and joyful, radical and free life Jesus offers. Like all gifts, this one must be opened. Don’t return it today.
Open the gift of God
What is this gift? Think of it as four packages, one inside the next. The first package is the largest, because it contains all the others: “in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (v. 9). The first present is God himself.
“In Christ,” and in no other. Mohammed, Buddha, or Confucius never even claimed to be God. From the beginning, despite The DaVinci Code’s fabrication, Christians have worshiped Jesus as God.
“All the fullness of the Deity”–not just part. It’s found in him and nowhere else. Jesus claimed, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6); “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (v. 9). He was omniscient, omnipotent, sinless; every attribute of God the Father belongs to God the Son.
“Lives in bodily form”–God became one of us, that we might be one with him. We couldn’t climb up to him, so he climbed down to us. Traveling in England this past summer, I encountered a number of cathedrals with stunning architecture and artwork in their vaulted ceilings. Knowing that tourists like us wouldn’t be able to stare straight up for long, the church wardens placed large mirrors angled on the floor. Looking down, we were able to look up.
In precisely that way, Jesus is the mirror image of God, God come down for us. In Christ, God has come to present himself to us. If Jesus is your Lord, your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. You have God dwelling in you today.
The second package comes from the first: the nature of God, now available to us: “you have been given fullness in Christ…in the putting off of the sinful nature” (vs. 10, 11).
“You have been given”–this is a gift, something done for us, not earned but received at our salvation. “Fullness in Christ” means the full nature and capacity of Christ. His Spirit has come to replace the “sinful nature” with his holy presence. The former tenant has been evicted; the new owner has moved into the house. The same Spirit who indwelled and empowered Jesus indwells and empowers us.
Now we can experience the nature of Christ. Be “Christians”–“little Christs.” We can manifest his character to the world–his love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). We can conquer temptation and defeat sin. We can live the victorious, abundant life of Jesus. We can literally be the presence of Christ today.
The third package is contained in the second: the power of God. When we asked Jesus into our lives we received “the power of God, who raised him from the dead” (v. 12). The same Spirit who raised Jesus from the grave lives in us.
Jesus promised: “Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:12-14).
In answer to prayer, the Holy Spirit living in the first believers enabled them to heal the sick, raise the dead, stand with courage before the Empire, die in victory, and live in joy. Everything Jesus did, they did. That same gift is ours now.
The last package is contained in all the others: the forgiveness of God. “He forgave us all our sins” (v. 13), not just some. Not just the negligible ones. He forgave Moses and Paul their murders, Peter his denial, David his adultery and murder, the crowd their cross. He has forgiven every sin you’ve ever confessed.