God’s gift in Christ comes in two packages. The first package is intimacy with God. In Christ, we can develop a personal relationship with God. The Spirit gives us the courage and desire to pray to God as a loving parent, “Abba,” “Father.” God is no longer an abstract concept, but one who walks with us, who listens to us, who cares for us. We no longer need to rely on a middle man, a priest or prophet to talk to God for us. We can talk to God ourselves. In faith, we can listen for God’s response and trust in our hearts that it comes in God’s own good time.
This gift of intimacy makes it possible for us to do good works not because we need to appease an angry God, but because we want to please our loving Father. When we act in kindness, when we promote peace and justice, when we comfort someone in pain, it’s like joining our Father at work in the world. By our words and deeds, we grow closer to God and feel the warmth of his embrace surround us.
At times, I marvel at how much some people of faith are able to accomplish. Sometimes I think I expect too little from myself and others because I forget how much God’s Spirit can do through us. When we tap into the energy and strength God provides, we spend less of ourselves and instead are filled to do even more. Sometime I forget this and try to conserve my energy when instead I need to be spending more, in the spirit of Christ.
There was a woman named Gladys in my Greek class at seminary. She was 72 years old. She rode her bike five miles to come to class and five miles to get home. Several of us offered her rides, but she politely refused. I was in a study group with her and it was clear Gladys knew Biblical Greek better than any of us. I was greatly impressed by this.
But what impressed me even more was the Sunday I was asked to speak at Gladys’ church. She greeted me at the door and introduced me to nearly everyone who came. As I spoke, Gladys sat attentively in the front row, taking notes. She smiled an encouraging smile which eased my nerves.
After the service, Gladys excused herself. She said she had to visit a friend in a nursing home. It was then that I learned more of Gladys’ spiritual character. Countless people came up to me in the fellowship hall with a story about how Gladys had prayed with a dying loved one, how she had visited them in the hospital, delivered groceries when they were short on finances. So many acts of kindness that flowed not out of a sense of a desire to impress, but a longing for intimacy — with God, and with God’s children.
The second package we open from God’s gift to us is an inheritance. In Christ, we are made heirs of God’s promise. This promise of forgiveness and the gift of new life are intended for the whole world. Those who believe are charged with the responsibility to share this good news by what we say and do. Being a Christian is not so much a privilege as it is a responsibility. You become an heir not of some material good, but of a mission, a purpose.
As heirs of God in Christ, we are encouraged to good works not because it is our job, but because we are part of the family of faith. Unlike slaves who are compelled to work, we are invited to join God as a child joins her parent, out of the joy of being involved together. We need to be careful not to look on our inheritance as Christians as a privilege, but instead as an opportunity to do more for the Lord.
Our spiritual inheritance at times draws us away from our families. I think of King Saul’s son Jonathon. Jonathon knew that God had anointed David to become king and that Saul was wickedly striving against God’s will. Jonathon was led to deceive his father in order to uphold his spiritual inheritance. Jonathon shows us that when our earthly inheritance conflicts with our Godly inheritance, we are to choose the way of the Lord.
God’s gift to us in Jesus Christ are intimacy and an inheritance. These bountiful gifts bless us in this life and into eternity.