************ Sermon on 2 Corinthians 9:14b-15 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on December 21, 1997
2 Corinthians 9:14b-15
"The Greatest Gift"
Church School Christmas Program
I grew up with St. Nicholas. My mother's side of the family would gather together the night of December 5 — St. Nicholas' Eve day. St. Nick would show up that night and hand out the presents to all 33 of us grand-kids and to the 18 parents and grandparents. Every year I hoped I would get as nice a present as some of my cousins. Every year my parents told me not to get my hopes up.
One year St. Nick called my name. In his hand was a card. That's all. That's it. I stared at it. I was trying hard not to cry in front of my all my aunts and uncles and cousins. "Go ahead," said my parents, "Open it." Inside was a note that said: THERE IS AN ELECTRIC TRAIN SET WAITING FOR YOU AT HOME. After that I could hardly wait to get home. When we finally did, there on the basement floor was a train with 7 or 8 cars, 30 or 40 feet of track, and a bunch of different switches. The train could go forward and backward. You could make it hook up to other cars or drop some off. It was fun to operate it in the dark because the engine had a headlight. I spent hours playing with that train set. I even set it up a few times when I came home from college. It was one of the best presents I ever got.
This evening, boys and girls, you reminded us of an even better present. In fact, you reminded us of the best present ever — a present far, far better than any electric train set.
I want to look with you this evening at "THE GREATEST GIFT." What is this present, who gave it, and why was it given?
I An Indescribable Surpassing Gift
A Paul calls the present an "indescribable gift!" Some things are indescribable because they are too awful to describe. This past week, for instance, the prosecutor was at a loss for words when she tried to describe the damage Terry Nichols did with the Oklahoma city bombing. The people of Paducah, Kentucky were at a loss for words on December 1 when 14-year-old Michael Carneal started shooting at school and killed three of his classmates and wounded five others. Other things are indescribable because they are so wonderful, so beautiful, and so exciting. For instance, one time Paul was taken on a trip to heaven. He was caught up to paradise and heard and saw inexpressible things, things that no man is permitted to tell (2 Cor 12:4). This is what Paul has in mind when he talks about the "indescribable gift." The gift Paul talks of is so wonderful, so beautiful, and so exciting.
B Paul uses one other word to describe the gift too. He calls it "surpassing." Surpassing means better than anything else. This word was used at the Greek Olympic Games to describe someone who threw the javelin or the discus or the shot-putt further than anyone else. When the athlete's throw was surpassing, he received the winner's crown.
The gift the boys and girls have been reminding us of this evening is a "surpassing" gift. Again, it is better than any electric train set. It is better than Nintendo 64, remote controlled cars, and Game Boy. It is better than Barbie. It is better than a puppy dog.
It is THE GREATEST GIFT.
C We all know what the gift is, don't we?! It is Jesus, born in a manger, suffered on a cross, buried in a grave, raised from the dead, and exalted to God's right hand.
This truly is THE GREATEST GIFT ever. This is the true "Meaning of Christmas" to quote from the title of tonight's program. This is THE GREATEST GIFT because this gift makes the difference between life and death.
Without this gift we all perish. We perish in sin, in misery, in evil, in hell. Without this gift we die everlastingly. Without this gift we endlessly burn and thirst and suffer. But with this gift we who believe receive life. We are set free from sin. We are put in the presence of God and fully enjoy Him forever.
II The Greatest Giver
A THE GREATEST GIFT came from our Father God in heaven. That's why Paul says, "Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!"
Of course, the gift of Jesus is not the only gift given by God. From Him we get life and breath and being. From Him we receive food and drink and clothing. From Him we receive grace and forgiveness and everlasting life. From Him we receive the Spirit, the church, and the Word. From Him we get everything that we have.
B Throughout history there have been those known for their generous giving.
The Columbian scientist who developed the first vaccine against malaria, Dr. Manuel Elkin Padaroyal, says that he will not sell his vaccine for the fortune it is worth. Malaria hits 300 million people a year and kills 3 million. Dr. Padaroyal says that he will give the vaccine to the world for free!
Or, consider the giving of many teenagers today:
According to a Gallup Poll, about 58% of teens say they did volunteer work in comparison with 54% of adults. Most started giving their time when they were age 13 and on average spend 3.9 hours a week with one fourth of the group giving over five hours a week. Teens give 1.2 billion volunteer hours a year.
Now, take history's best giver and compare him or her to God. It is clear that God gives more than any person. You know what all of this means, don't you?! It means that THE GREATEST GIFT comes from THE GREATEST GIVER. That's what God is. That's why we want to thank Him. That's why our children prais ed Him this evening. He is THE GREATEST GIVER. And, He has given us THE GREATEST GIFT!
III The Greatest Reason
A Why did THE GREATEST GIVER give THE GREATEST GIFT? What was the reason?
The first reason has to do with man. THE GREATEST GIVER had to give THE GREATEST GIFT because of sin. Man, you see, needs Jesus in the flesh and on the cross. Without Jesus there can be only death. Without Jesus there can be only hell.
Topic: SinIn the same way, falling into sin doesn't have to condemn anyone, but staying in it does. Jesus came so we wouldn't have to stay in sin — if only we believe.
Title: Staying Under Sin
A visitor at a fishing dock asked an old fisherman who was sitting there, "If I were to fall into this water, would I drown?"
It was a queer way of asking how deep the water was, but the fisherman had a good answer. "Naw," he said. "Fallin' into the water doesn't drown anybody. It's staying under it that does."
B The second reason has to do with God. THE GREATEST GIVER gave THE GREATEST GIFT because of grace. Grace: amazing grace, wonderful grace, beautiful grace. Grace means that THE GREATEST GIFT is for free. It cannot be bought, it cannot be sold, it cannot be traded. It is free, free, free.
Think of what this means. God did not have to send Jesus. We did nothing to deserve Jesus. Grace means THE GREATEST GIVER gave THE GREATEST GIFT for THE GREATEST REASON.
THE GREATEST GIVER is God. THE GREATEST GIFT is Jesus. THE GREATEST REASON is grace. That's the true "Meaning of Christmas."
And, there can be only one response, the response found in our text: "Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift."
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