The season of sales is upon us. But I don’t usually buy clothing as gifts. However, the stores where I occasionally purchase clothing for myself are continually sending me discounts, catalogs, and special “deals” on clothing at this time of the year. I would normally wait for the sales to purchase needed items in the past, but this year I am on a crusade not to buy any new clothing. Over the weekend, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I have resisted the borage of text messages and emails. Although I have some “extra” cash for certain necessary expenses, previously, I spent it on nonessentials and was strapped later when I needed the funds for a medical or other expense. This year I am determined to resist the temptation. I am trying to remember my convictions and pay attention to God’s provisions as a good steward. Fortunately, every day, from the time of our redemption in Christ, God gives us more mercy, grace, and power to overcome our sins as He sanctifies us. Jesus taught his disciples to pay attention to what he taught, according to the grace God has given them. And the more God gives, the more responsibility we have to be good stewards of it. The more money we have, the more we can give to charity or save for our children’s education. The more peace we have, the more we will reach out to others, and the more comfort we have, the more we can comfort others. And the more we confess and repent, the more we will recognize the gift of God’s forgiveness and transformation in Christ, for His glory, and in service to him and others.
Jesus taught his disciples to listen carefully to apply all that he taught with an abundance of grace and mercy. At least five times in Matthew and Luke, the apostles recorded Jesus’s admonition to listen carefully to what he said, implying that doing so includes applying his teachings to live out the gospel more effectively. “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Mark 4:24-25; see also Matthew 13:12; 25:29; Luke 8:18; 19:26.) “Measure refers to the attitude with which the word of Jesus is being received. If the hearer embraces Jesus’s message of the kingdom in a rich and profound way, then still more will be added–that is, God will take up residence in that heart and give increased understanding and blessing, both in this age and in the age to come…the person who welcomes God’s rule and presence will be given more of God’s intended fruit; the one who depends on his own resources without receiving the word (the one who has not) will lose even that (what he has will be taken away).” (1) My illustration, albeit imperfect, is a way for me to remember this principle; money that I spend on nonessentials is “taken away” from me for those times when it is required. “All true Christians are regarded as servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God…Moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy” (1 Cor. 4:1-2). Peter exhorted us ‘as each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace’ (1 Peter 4:10). Christ put a very strong focus on stewardship and on using whatever is given…With every increase of mercy your receive from God there will be an accompanying increase of responsibility. This principle is powerfully stated by Christ…As you grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and receive more and more of His mercies with each passing day, your repentance must keep pace. Any failure here is an open demonstration of a lack of love and appreciation for the boundless mercies of our Lord Jesus Christ. Tragic is the case of any individual whose repentance does not increase with the gifts and graces of God he daily receives.” (2) We ought to show our appreciation of Christ’s grace and mercy through our increasingly deep contrition and sincere repentance. Let’s not deceive ourselves into thinking that we have been good stewards if we don’t apply God’s daily mercies sincerely.
Materialism at Christmas Can Rob Us
We should not let ourselves be deceived, thinking that we can be materialistic consumers spiritually at Christmas. At no time did Jesus ever encourage his disciples to focus on material provisions as consumers, but always as grace from God. “Our hearts must go along with our confessions. The hypocrite confesses sin but loves it, like a thief who confesses to stolen goods, yet loves stealing. How many confess pride and covetousness with their lips but roll them as honey under their tongue…Repentance is a grace, and must have its daily operation as well as other graces…A true penitent has ever something within him to turn from; he can never get near enough to God; no, not so near him as once he was; and therefore he is still turning and turning that he may get nearer and nearer to him, who is his chief good and his only happiness, optimum maximum, the best and the greatest. They are every day a-crying out, ‘O wretched men that we are, who shall deliver us from this body of death!’ (Rom. 7:24). They are still sensible of sin, and still conflicting with sin, and still sorrowing for sin, and still loathing of themselves for sin. Repentance is no transient act—but a continued act of the soul.” (3) The Christmas season is an appropriate time to remember all that Christ did from his birth for us. During his three short years of ministry on earth, Jesus taught his disciples to listen carefully to him and apply all he taught for abundant grace and mercy. We can show our appreciation of Christ’s grace and mercy through deep contrition and sincere repentance.
Abounding in Grace
Jesus said “he that has Gospel light and knowledge, and makes a proper use of it, he shall have more; his path shall be as the path of the just, which shines more and more to the perfect day; the means of grace and knowledge shall be blessed, to him, he attending constantly thereon, that he shall arrive to such a knowledge of the Son of God as to be a perfect man…and shall come to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ, shall grow up to maturity, and be a man in understanding: and he that has the truth of grace, though its beginning is but small, yet that making and keeping him humble, as it always does, he shall have more grace, or that he has shall open and enlarge in its actings and exercises; his faith shall grow exceedingly, he shall abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost; and his love to God, and Christ, and to the saints, shall be greater and greater.” (4)
What Will You Give Jesus on His Birthday?
I often ask children this question to turn their thinking to Christ rather than themselves. After all, it is his birthday and not theirs. But I have also learned to ask myself the question as Christmas comes into view. This Christmas, I desire to have a more spiritual view of Christ, which I believe results from more repentance throughout the year. The more we repent, the more we can receive and put to use God’s mercy and grace. Our darkness from sin turns to light through his forgiveness and encouragement. “Whoever has the true grace of God implanted in him, has a saving knowledge of Christ, and a spiritual acquaintance with the doctrines of the Gospel, shall have more grace given him; he shall grow in the knowledge of Christ, and the Spirit of truth shall lead him into all truth: and he shall have more abundance: of grace, light, knowledge, and experience: all grace shall be made to abound towards him; he shall be filled with all the fulness of God, and shall arrive to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; and his light shall shine more and more unto the perfect day.” (5) This Christmas, do you want more stuff to give to others or more grace to share the light of Christ with them? Repentance won’t increase our material possessions but will dramatically increase God’s grace to overflow to others. “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)
Related Scripture: Psalm 51; Matthew 5:15; 7:2; 13:12; 25:29; Luke 6:38; 8:16-18.
- “English Standard Version Study Bible Notes,” Mark 4:24-25, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
- Roberts, Richard Owen, “Repentance: The First Word of the Gospel,” pp. 296-7, Crossway, 2002.
- Watson, Thomas, “The Doctrine of Repentance,” pp. 29-30, Banner of Truth Trust, 2016 (1668).
- Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Mark 4:25, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/mark-4.html
- Gill, Ibid, Matthew 13:12, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/matthew-13.html.
December 2, 2021