Study Guide: The Gift That You Are

Sunday December 18, 2011 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

Christmas is a time of gift giving. In this sermon, Greg takes about the greatest gift that we’ve received, and he also shows how we can give back. Put on your thinking cap for this one.

Extended Summary:

Every good gift is from the father. In this time of Christmas, it is important to give thanks for the gifts that God gives us. Some people can get into the habit of living life and expecting good things to stay good things. They might think they’ve got good health, and so they don’t give thanks for it because it has always been there. All of the gifts that we receive from God are good, but some gifts are more important than others.

God gives us birth through the word of truth. This is a heavy theological point, but when its significance is understood, we know that it is the greatest gift that God has given us. This gift of a new birth, salvation, is a pure gift. Yet, as with other gifts, we cannot receive it except by the grace of God, and we have the choice to accept it or not to accept it. It is pure grace that is even given to us. This grace doesn’t make sense, but its uncompromising, immeasurable, and indescribable nature is the greatest gift that we can receive. But this grace is not the end of the story for us.

James goes on to say that this salvation was given to us so that we would be firstfruits of all God created. This firstfruits thinking stemmed from the Old Testament. The Israelites, when the harvest was coming, would go out and pick some of the ripened crop before the actual harvest. They would take these firstfruits and give them fully to the Lord as an offering. By doing this, they were saying to God, “We acknowledge that the blessing of the harvest comes from you and belongs to you.” As firstfruits, we represent the coming harvest and are to be fully offered up to God.

This reframes everything. While the gift that we receive requires belief, it does not stop at belief. The gift is given so that we would show the world what the coming harvest will look like. As firstfruits, we represent the world that God will bring into being. This world is void of hatred, violence, poverty, hunger, sickness, and disease. Because of what we believe, we purge ourselves of these things, and instead don the new creation. This new creations displays God’s love, beauty, and grace. By fully offering up our lives to God, we fulfill our purpose as firstfruits. Even more amazing, our destiny does not stop there.

It’s important to believe and accept the gift of salvation. It’s also important to live as firstfruits in this world, displaying the Kingdom of God. But neither of these are the end goal. The end is when we become the bride of Christ, when this world is gone, and we are presented to the Son as a gift from the Father. God gives us the beautiful gift of salvation so that we can be a beautiful gift. God gives us the gift of eternal life, and we accept that gift to become a gift back to God. We participate in the eternal gift-giving process of the Trinity. We receive gifts and give back gifts to God.

We are created and saved to receive and be an unimaginably, beautiful gift. We receive our unimaginably, beautiful gift. We become firstfruits and bring this unimaginably, beautiful gift to others. By the way we live our lives, we become an even more radiant bride for Jesus and an even better gift from God.

Every time we feed the poor or visit an elderly person or someone in prison, we increase the beauty of God’s gift to his Son. Every time we forgive a member of our family or reject the consumerism and individualism of this world, we increase the beauty of God’s gift to his Son. Every time we authentically love another person, we increase the beauty of God’s gift to his Son. Our discipline in life isn’t just so we deny ourselves and put others first. Rather, it’s about becoming an even better gift for Jesus.

Remember the reason for the season; that we are giving and receiving beautiful gifts. Believe and accept the gift of eternal life with God. Sacrifice and put on display the beauty of the coming Kingdom, and in so doing, become a beautiful gift to Jesus from the Father. Be a beautiful firstfruit of the coming Kingdom. Above all else, dance in the beauty of the loving trinity.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What additional questions and comments did you have about the sermon and supporting texts?
  2. If our purpose is to be firstfruits, completely given to God before the harvest, then how do you think we are doing in this church? In this community? In this world? How do you think you’re doing personally?
  3. How does knowing that you’re a gift to Jesus change the way you view Christmas?
  4. Knowing that God first chose us can be freeing for those that think they have to earn their salvation. How does this freedom change how you respond to God?
  5. Everyone wants to get a gift that is beautiful. While we won’t be without blemish until God completely restores creation, what is one thing that you can do now to make yourself a more beautiful bride? What is one more way that you can sacrifice or change to make yourself a better firstfruit? And who in your life can you have walk beside you to help hold you accountable?