Sunday, December 9, 2007

A Gift Beyond Description

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. --James 1:17
My text this morning is in 2 Corinthians 9:15. It is a short verse, only 8 words long. The apostle Paul says, "Thanks be unto God for His indescribable gift."

This indescribable gift comes from God the Father!

This is the time of year when we are concerned about choosing just the right Christmas gifts to give to the special people in our lives. But let me ask you: Have you ever received an indescribable gift? Have you ever received a gift that was beyond description?

I thought about that for a while this week. What kind of gift would it have to be to be called indescribable? Would it be a gift that you open and look at and say, "This is just beautiful, and it is something that I've wanted all my life"? Or maybe it is a gift that carries a lot of emotional feelings with it. It was given to you by someone very special, and it was a complete surprise when it was given. Maybe it even has diamonds in it! You'll treasure it always because of the memories. Would that make it an indescribable gift?

Or maybe it would be a gift that you cared so little about that you wouldn't even bother to find words to try to describe it.

I found some gift ideas for the rich that might be called indescribable. They were extraordinary gifts that some of you might want to include on your Christmas gift list. One of them was a Jaguar automobile, the Jaguar 220. If you care to order one of these, go to your Jaguar dealer and put down your $80,000 deposit. Then when the automobile is delivered, you are expected to pay the balance of $507,000. The Jaguar 220 is a $587,000 automobile, and they only make 250 of them a year.

Now, if you should care to buy your pastor one of those to express your love and appreciation for me, I'll be a gracious recipient. But I warn you ahead of time, I may not be able to find words to describe my gratitude. It might be an indescribable gift.

You might also be interested in a new car wax that promises to give it the ultimate shine. It retails for $3,400 for an 8 ounce can. I guess if you can afford a $587,000 automobile, why not spend $3,400 for car wax?

A third item mentioned was a $300,000 gold and silver toilet seat inlaid with precious stones. Of course, there were cheaper gifts for those who have everything: an $18,000 frisbee, a $10,000 yoyo, a $12,000 mousetrap, and even a $27,000 pair of sunglasses. And for the proud grandparent who is wondering what to buy the new grandbaby, how about a $28,000 pacifier?

Such gifts stagger our imagination, don't they? But they are not indescribable.

Even though we may not be able to find words to describe them, I assure you the manufacturers can, and they will spend lots of money describing them in TV and newspaper ads. They will seek to describe them in such appealing ways as to entice you into believing that you simply can't live the rest of your life without them. You see, every human gift is describable by someone in some way.

In 2 Corinthians 9, Paul at first is writing about human gifts. The church in Corinth is taking up offerings to give to the poor Christians in Jerusalem. He commends them for their eagerness to help, and reminds them that those who sow sparingly will also reap sparingly, but that those who sow generously will reap generously.

Then he shifts his attention from human gifts to God's gift of sending Jesus to earth for us. And he cannot find words to describe that. He simply says, "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift."

Now at this time of the year we do our best to depict the wonderfulness of God's gift of Jesus to us. Musicians have composed some of their greatest music on this theme: Handel's "Messiah," and the beautiful hymns-- Joy to the World, Silent Night, O Little Town of Bethlehem. Some of the greatest music our ears will ever hear were written about God's indescribable gift. Poets and painters and sculptors have taken up the tools of their trade to pay tribute to Jesus, the gift of God's love.

Why does Paul call Jesus "indescribable?" I think that there are at least four reasons.

1. Jesus is the Indescribable Gift because of who He is.

I believe that Paul calls Jesus "indescribable" because of His nature. How do you describe Jesus? What words would you choose? How do you describe a baby born of a virgin? How do you describe God in flesh, walking upon our earth and reaching out to the hurting masses of humanity?

Isaiah said He would be called Emanuel, "God with us." How do you describe that? What words would you choose? How do you describe that which is spirit when all we have ever known is that which is either physical or material? How do you describe God who has all knowledge when all we have is limited knowledge? How do you describe God who is all powerful? How do you describe the eternal? How do you describe the indescribable?

Paul says that we can't. Words aren't adequate. Many of the wisest men in the world have tried to describe Jesus.

Listen to the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D. The greatest theological minds of the time came together and tried to describe Jesus. Here is part of their description: "Inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably and the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved."

Did you understand that? No? Neither did I. That's man's attempt to describe the indescribable. Even when we bring together our greatest minds and our most extensive vocabularies, we cannot adequately describe Jesus.

2. Jesus is the Indescribable Gift because of the reason He came to Earth.

I think Paul called Jesus indescribable because of His purpose in coming to earth. The angels announced to the shepherds, "Unto you is born this day in the City of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord."

What do we celebrate at Christmas? We celebrate the fact that Jesus came into our world to save us. God saw that mankind needed saving. He saw man's inhumanity to his fellow man. When God looked at our world He knew that our greatest need is not for more wealth, nor better schools, not even a better welfare system. Our greatest need is for a Savior who can bring peace on earth. But there will never be peace on earth until men have been lifted out of their sin, and their hearts changed, and their way of thinking changed, because the Savior has come into their lives.

How do you describe that? How do you put into words what God accomplished when He sent His only begotten Son into the world?

3. Jesus is the indescribable gift because of His great grace.

You know, every gift that I give this Christmas will be given because the recipient of that gift has some claim on me. I'll buy a gift for my wife because she is my wife and I love her! I'll buy gifts for my children because they are my children and I love them! I'll buy gifts for my grandchildren because they're my grandchildren and I love them!

We buy gifts for family members because they are family. If I give a gift to feed the hungry, or clothe the naked or to take care of the homeless, I do it because down deep inside I recognize that I have a debt to humanity, a feeling of obligation to them.

That is what makes God's gift so special. He doesn't owe us anything. Indeed, we are in constant rebellion against Him and His will for our lives. With that in mind, Paul says something remarkable in the 5th chapter of Romans. He says, "While we were yet in our sin, while we were yet the enemies of God, Christ died on the cross for us."

God gives a gift, not because He feels obligated to give a gift but because His love is so overwhelming. It's a gift of grace.

When you stop at the manger at Bethlehem and look at the Christ child, you must realize that He is a gift of grace. And there are no words adequate enough to describe God's grace towards us in Jesus.

4. Jesus is the Indescribable Gift because of what the Gift does for us.

What happens when I receive God's gift? What happens when I open the box He gave me?

When you open your gifts this Christmas will your life be different? When you receive the gifts that have been purchased for you by loved ones, will this change your life and make you different? Or will you be the same as you have always been?

The Bible teaches that when we accept Jesus, the indescribable gift of God, we will never be the same again because of how He affects our life.

The first effect of Jesus coming into our life and our obedience to Him is that we are forgiven of our sins. Now that may be so old and so elementary that you think, "So what else is new?" But don't dismiss it that quickly because when our sins are forgiven, God forgets them, will not remember them, and buries them as deep as the sea. Now that's indescribable!

Because Jesus is now my Savior my sins are forgiven. Cherish that gift with all your heart. Nowhere else can we find forgiveness.

When I accept Jesus I am adopted into His family and I am guaranteed citizenship in His kingdom. Before, I was a foreigner and an alien, separated from God. But now, because I have accepted Him, I am an adopted son of Almighty God. Everything that belongs to Jesus also belongs to me. We are brothers and sisters in God's family because we accepted His indescribable gift.

That's indescribable!

When I accept Jesus I receive the gift of His Holy Spirit to live within me. Now He will guide and counsel and protect and empower me. That's indescribable!

I am also given His peace. Not the peace of the world, but the peace that passes all understanding. Peace that allows me to cope with everyday situations. That's indescribable!

Because of Jesus my mansion in heaven is paid for, a dwelling place that will last for all eternity. And that's indescribable, too.

I knew when I started this sermon that I would fail in my attempt to describe Jesus because someone else failed before me, and he was better at it than I. The apostle Paul looked at Jesus and said, "I can't describe Him. All I can do is fall on my knees and thank God for His indescribable gift."

The thing that I am finding out about His gifts is the more I pull out of this box the more blessing I find in it. So not only is His gift indescribable but it is endless also.

Forever I will enjoy these great gifts! When God looked at our confused world nearly 2,000 years ago; when He saw Roman soldiers marching in the streets, when He saw people looking for peace and meaning and depth in life, He wanted so urgently to communicate His love.

Someone said about God: "If I speak, if they hear the thunder of my voice, they may never grasp the words of my love. If I send down legions of angels perhaps they will not know how to respond. Maybe they will never be able to experience my love." So how did God do it? He said, "I will send a baby. Babies don't frighten people. Babies are so tender and soft and helpless. Maybe they will hold the baby in their arms. Maybe they will touch the soft skin of a baby. Maybe they will hear the gentle sighs of a baby. Maybe they will experience my love if I send a baby." So in the fullness of time God sent His only begotten Son, as a baby.

Indescribable! But the good news is that you don't have to be able to describe Him to accept Him. You just have to be warmed and changed by Him. So make your journey to the manger with the shepherds. Take Him into your heart and accept God's indescribable gift for you.
Had I a thousand tongues to sing,
The half could never be told
of love so rice, so full and free,
Of blessing manifold:
Of grace that faileth never,
Peace flowing as a river
From God the glorious giver
To Him give thanks!
--Lilia Morris, 1906
I may not be able to describe this great gift but "Thanks be unto God for His wonderful gift." I accept it with great joy!

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