Well, it has been nearly two weeks since Christmas. Have you made use of the gifts you received? One of the things we struggle with before Christmas is to think of a gift to give someone that they will actually use, wear, display, or whatever, not just put up on a shelf, or in a box in the garage, never to be taken out again until it is put into a garage or yard sale. I’m sure we all have some gifts that we have received that were put in storage never to surface again. Some we may even have forgotten we have or from whom they came. It is always gratifying to see that the recipients of our gifts are really putting them to use.
As I was contemplating that, I couldn’t help but think of what we, as believers, have done with the gifts that God has given us. First on the list, of course, is salvation–eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. That’s the greatest gift we could ever receive for it met our greatest need. It changed our whole eternal destiny. But, it is far more than “fire insurance” to keep us out of eternal punishment in the “lake of fire” (hell). It is the beginning of a whole new life. “Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold new things have come” (II Cor. 5:17). The grace of God not only justifies us before God, but also makes us “a new creation” which results in a changed style of life, as we read a couple verses earlier in Paul’s letter: “and He died for all, that they who live (i,e., those who have received Christ) should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (v. 15).
So, how do we “use” our gift of salvation? By continuing to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Pet. 3:17). By “…walking in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called” (Eph. 4:1). Paul challenged the believers at Colossae: “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord (i.e., by faith), so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude” (Col. 2:6,7). While there is a point, a moment of salvation, at which we “pass out of death into life” (Jn. 5:24), salvation is also a process which continues until Christ takes us home through death or rapture. In that process we are becoming more and more like Christ, being “conformed to His image” (Ro. 8:29). Scripture refers to this process as “sanctification.” Paul writes this to the believers at Philippi: “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (when we stand before Him at the Judgment Seat) (Phil. 1:6).
Another way we “use”‘ our gift of salvation is by sharing it with others, i.e., by telling others about our new life in Christ and how they too can have a personal relationship with Him. “Let the redeemed of the LORD, say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary” (Psa. 107:2). We are to “sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts, always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you…” (I Pet. 3:15). You won’t “lose” your salvation by sharing it with others. It was meant to be shared, not to hoarded
At the time of our salvation, we were also given spiritual “gifts” by the Holy Spirit who came to live in us. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul deals with the subject of spiritual gifts, writing, “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good…But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills” (I Cor. 12:7, 11). Note that these are “gifts” given by the Holy Spirit as He wills, not as we request, and they are for the “common good” of the body of Christ. They are not for personal enjoyment and edification, though they supply that, but are for the building up of the Body of Christ, the Church. Paul also discussed spiritual gifts in his letter to the Ephesian believers and concludes by saying: “from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love” (Eph. 4:16).
Again, these gifts are given not to be hoarded, put on the shelf or stored, but to be used in helping the church grow. “And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let each exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving, or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness” (Ro. 12:6-8). In other words, God has given us the perfect gifts to fit our personality and abilities and we are to focus on using those gifts and not envy what gifts others received. We are to discover, develop and deploy the gifts we have been given. Do you know what gifts you received? Are you using them to build up the body of Christ? The first verse of an old chorus goes this way: “When the Lord Jesus comes and asks you for your talents. What will you do with the talents you hid away?” Don’t hide your gifts away in storage. Use them for the glory of God and the good of others.