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From the Preacher’s Pen… As we conclude our look at some of the many gifts that God has given us, it’s time to see, realize and appreciate…

The Ultimate Gift, the Gift of Love

Think back at the many gifts that God has given us — given us that we might learn to be like Him here on Earth and eternal life might be truly meaningful in Heaven. God gave us the gift of labor, not as punishment for sin, but rather that we might grow and learn the true value of all things.

Friendship teaches us to be a part of a team, to work together that we might accomplish much more than any individual ever could. Money is a gift to teach us what we may accomplish in doing for and helping others rather than selfishly doing only for ourselves.

The gift of family gives us a glimpse of the Heavenly relationship envisioned by God for His people, while gratitude helps us to be truly thankful and enables us to count our blessings as we realize how rich and numerous they really are. The gift of laughter gives us a view of God’s own real joy and the gift of problems allows us to experience and truly see the challenges of growth.

God’s gift of learning shows that He treats us like adults as we mature to better know, understand and teach others. Dreams teach us of the beauty of hope and faith that we might aspire to greater things. The gift of a day, today, the time that God gives us that must not be wasted. Last, we saw the gift of giving that allows us to see the joy of sharing as we help others.

Each of these gifts helps us build more than just a passing knowledge or even a passing relationship with God. Each gift helps mold us into those that not only appreciate God’s grace and gifts but into those that reach out to others with the same joy that they might also be a part of God’s family.

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All this brings us to the ultimate gift. That is NOT just the gift of experiencing God’s love, but of becoming like God in caring for others more than we care for ourselves. Living in God’s love is not living for ourselves but for others!

Consider how God shows us the ultimate gift: But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. (1 John 4:16) We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19).

Did you notice how God moves from showing and teaching us about the ultimate gift to challenging us to do the same? We can never be stingy recipients. God’s gift is NOT for us to hoard; in fact, it becomes useless that way.

You may recall that the New Testament word most used for God’s love is actually about commitment. God LOVED us, was committed to our salvation even when we were unlikable, unlovely, contaminated by sin.

And He calls us to LOVE in exactly the same way! A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another (John 13:34). And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Ephesians 5:2). By this, all people will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another (John 13:35)

Let me suggest that you read two longer passages carefully: 1 John 4:7-12 and Ephesians 3:14-19. Why? Because without showing this love you will never see Heaven, you will never even really know God and His infinite love, grace, and mercy. Moses puts it like this: Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations (Deuteronomy 7:9).

Jesus says it this way: If you love me, you will keep my commandments (John 14:15). This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you (John 15:12). And John summed it all up like this: Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:18).

We are surrounded by God’s wondrous gifts. Let us learn and practice the lessons that we might live as heirs of the King, as those whose responsibility here on earth is to declare the glorious deeds of the one who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

— Lester P. Bagley