Ephesians 4_ 7-13      Giving Better Gifts

Rev. David Holwick  ZL                 

First Baptist Church

Ledgewood, New Jersey                            

December 9, 2001

Ephesians 4:7-13


GIVING BETTER GIFTS



  I. Gift-giving as a classic custom of Christmas.

      A. Abercrombie & Fitch catalog with outlandish gifts.

          1) President Bush - do your duty to revitalize the economy.


      B. Gift-giving in the past.

          1) Mary McMurtrie - grew up in a house at the head of a hollow

                   in Kentucky.

                She can't remember getting any toys.

                   Each year she got socks and one piece of clothes.

                Her mom made the clothes, sometimes copying the pictures

                   in catalogs.

                She made them too big so they'd last longer.

                On Christmas morning they got peppermints and crackers

                    under the tree, which was decorated with popcorn and

                       homemade paper chains.


          2) Jennie Decker got shoes and clothes.

                One year she got a doll.

                Her family also put popcorn strings on the tree.


          3) Sam Mino - his biggest gift was an Erector set.

                He still has the motor.

                He received more clothes than toys.


          4) Kathie Stark's best gift was from her boyfriend Bob.

                She was a sophomore in high school.

                It was the only gift she got that year.

                He got her a blue bowling ball.  With a bag!


          5) David Osborne got a sled, a remote-control car, a unicycle,

                   a baseball bat, a Daisy BB gun and a Big Wheel.

                One relative did give him sheets for his bed once.

                Is it any wonder why the current generation is the

                   way it is?


      C. Christmas has always been associated with gift-giving.

          1) Wise men brought gifts.

              a) Costly.

              b) Appropriate for a king.

          2) St. Nicholas of Smyrna = Santa Claus.

          3) Brought to a fever-pitch by American consumerism.

              a) Didn't really take off until 1860's.  (Macy's promotion)

              b) Sometimes it almost seems a burden.  So many people...


II. Jesus is the best Christmas gift-giver.                Ephesians 4:8

      A. Psalm 68:18 and the triumphant Messiah.

          1) In the Psalm he receives gifts from conquered people.

          2) In Ephesians he GIVES gifts to men.


      B. From his birth to ascension, in reverse order.

          1) Paul begins with his triumph at the Ascension into heaven.

          2) He then mentions Jesus' descent to the "lower regions."

              a) Past commentators saw this as hell.

                  1> Reflected in Apostles' Creed.

                  2> Not clearly taught anywhere in Bible.

              b) Modern scholars say it is earth itself.

                  1> We are lower than heaven.  A lot lower!

              c) He came down to be one of us.

                  1> The Master of the Universe stooped to our level,

                        that we might be saved.

                  2> This is the essence of Christmas.


III. Christ gives grace.                                   Ephesians 4:7

      A. "Grace" is the essence of a gift - it is free and undeserved.

          1) Acronym - "God's Riches At Christ's Expense."

          2) Billy Graham's description:


               Man does not come to know God through works -

                  he comes to know God by faith through grace.

               You cannot work your way toward heaven,

                  you cannot moralize your way,

                     you cannot reform your way,

                        and you cannot buy your way.

               It comes as a gift of God through Christ.            #8044


      B. God's grace means he wants to give us good things.

          1) Salvation.

          2) Daily bread.

          3) Warm fellowship.


IV. Christ gives people.                                  Ephesians 4:11

      A. Paul says Jesus gives the church its leaders.

          1) Their purpose is to build up the body of Christ, us.

          2) Other passages in the Bible stress what the leaders do:

                help, encouragement, healing, hospitality...

                                        Romans 12:4-8 and 1 Peter 4:10-12

          3) The spirituality and maturity of each member matters.

          4) And each of us has something to contribute to the whole.


      B. God blesses us so we can be a blessing to others.

          1) Extend the grace he has given us.

          2) God may use us in a way we can't predict.


               Lalia Winsett has a cousin who is a Baptist minister.

               When they were growing up, they only saw each other a

                  couple of times a year.

               Now they see each other even less.


               A few years ago, when she hadn't seen him for some time,

                  she suddenly began thinking about him and his family.

               She just couldn't get them off my mind.

               And for some reason, she felt compelled to send him a

                  check for $100.

               She thought about it for a few days and made more than

                  one aborted trip to the post office.

               She finally mailed it with a letter saying she hoped she

                  wasn't offending him, but she believed the Lord wanted

                     her to do this.


               A couple of weeks later she received a reply.

               Her cousin said it never ceased to amaze him how God

                  worked in his life.

               And now God had once again shown him, through her, that

                  he would always meet his needs.

               Her cousin said the only concern he had was that she had

                  sent too much.

               All he had needed was $97.56.

                                                                    #5557


          3) Point them to Jesus.

               Pat Riddle, a Lutheran pastor in North Carolina, tells

                  about an interesting event that occurred to him and

                     his wife on their honeymoon in Savannah, Georgia.

               They decided they felt like Chinese food for supper.

               They noticed a little Chinese restaurant across the way

                  from their room.

               It didn't look five-star and it seemed to be a little

                  tattered at the edges, but they decided to go.

               Once inside, they were treated to a marvelous meal.


               As they went to the door to pay their check, the lady

                  behind the cash register noticed they were newlyweds.

               She asked if she could give them a present.

               When they nodded, she reached under the counter, pulled

                  out a little porcelain Chinese house and handed it to

                     them.

               She said, "Always keep Christ in your home and marriage.

               This house will remind you of keeping him in your lives.

                  That is my gift to you."

                                                                    #2223


              a) Does your Christmas have anything to do with Jesus?

                  1> This season, will you do something that honors him?

              b) Society has done a good job of erasing & replacing him.

                  1> Only we can put him back in.

                  2> Do it consciously and prayerfully.


  V. Christmas gift-giving can be a mission.

      A. With your kids, emphasize giving more than getting.

          1) Don't get them everything their greedy little hearts desire.

          2) Train them in generosity.


      B. Give to someone not on your "list."

          1) Give your most extravagant gifts outside your own family.

          2) Give to someone who could never repay you.


      C. Give secretly.

          1) Each year we try to pick someone we can give secretly to.

              a) Like Jesus said, don't let your left hand know what

                    your right is doing.

          2) And we try to give them more than we give each other.


      D. Make your gifts meaningful more than money-ful.


           Jim Comstock and his wife had just finished the 150-mile trip

              home from their daughter's college.

           It was the first time in their lives that she would be gone

              for any length of time.

           It was an emotionally draining experience.


           Later in bed, Jim thought of the time he had started college.

              His father had driven him in their old farm truck.

           In the back was the trunk he had bought with money earned by

              pitching hay that summer.

           His mother had to stay behind to keep the cattle from getting

              into the crops.

           Jim, the fourth in a line of brothers, was the first to go

              away to college.

           He remembered how his father and he stopped by a stream and

              ate the sandwiches his mother had prepared.


           Jim's daughter's day was different, of course.

           They stopped at a classy roadside place and ordered fried

              chicken.

           It wasn't until they were passing through the next town that

              they discovered their daughter had forgotten to bring her

                 portable radio and record player.


           Jim remembered back to the farewell his father had given him.

              He shook hands with his father in the truck.

           For a long, haunting moment his dad looked straight ahead,

              not saying a word, but Jim knew he was going to make a

                 little speech.

           "I can't tell you nothing," his dad finally said.

           "I never went to college, and none of your brothers went to

              college.

           I can't say don't do this and do that, because everything is

              different and I don't know what is going to come up.

           I can't help you much with money either, but I think things

              will work out."


           He gave Jim a brand-new checkbook.

              "If things get pushing, write a small check.

           But when you write one, send me a letter and let me know

              how much.

           There are some things we can always sell."


           "You know what you want to be, and they'll tell you what to

              take," his father continued.

           "When you get a job, be sure it's honest and work hard."


           Then his dad reached down beside his seat and brought out the

              old, dingy Bible that he had read so often.

           It was the one he used when he wanted to look something up

              in a friendly argument with one of the neighbors.

           Jim knew his dad would miss it.

              Jim also knew, though, that he must take it.

           His dad didn't tell him to read it every morning.

              He just said, "This can help you if you will let it."


           When he finished school, he took the Bible back to his father,

              but his dad said he wanted him to keep it.

           "You will have a kid in school some day," he told him.

              "Let the first one take that Bible along."


           Now, too late, Jim remembered.

           It would have been so nice to have given it to his daughter

              when she got out of the car.

           But he didn't.

              Things were different.

           He was prosperous and his father wasn't.  He had gone places.

              Jim could give her everything.

           His father could give him only a battered, old Bible.

              Jim had been able to give his daughter what she needed.


           Or had he?

           He didn't really believe now that he gave her half as much as

              his father gave him.

           So the next morning he wrapped up the book and sent it to her.


           He wrote a note:

              "This can help you," he penned, "if you will let it."

                                                                   #19432


      E. With every gift, send a prayer.

          1) God can give to them better than you can.         2 Cor 9:15



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SOURCES FOR ILLUSTRATIONS USED IN THIS SERMON:


# 2223  "A Chinese Restaurant's Witness," from sermon "He Is Who He Says

           He Is," fourth Sunday in April, 1992, Dynamic Preaching,

           http://www.sermons.com.


# 5557  "She Sent A Little Too Much," by Lalia Winsett, Internet Chicken

           Soup of the Day, July 3, 2000.  Taken from Chicken Soup for

           the Christian Soul, copyright 1997, by Jack Canfield, Mark

           Victor Hansen, Patty Aubery and Nancy Mitchell.


# 8044  "Billy Graham on Grace," by Billy Graham.  From Fredericksburg

           Bible Illustrator supplement collection, 5/1991.101.


#19432  "He Could Only Give A Bible," by Jim Comstock, Internet Chicken

           Soup of the Day, June 17, 2001.  Taken from Chicken Soup for

           the Christian Family Soul by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor

           Hansen, Patty Aubery and Nancy Mitchell Autio.


These and 20,000 others are part of a database that can be downloaded,

absolutely free, at http://www.holwick.com/database.html

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Copyright 2017 by Rev. David Holwick

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