The Unopened Gift
written by Jimmy Newkirk, Associate Pastor (October 29, 2023)
Our kids would ask every year, "can I open a present early?" Like most, seeing gifts under the Christmas tree made them excited about what was to come. It seemed they just couldn't wait for what had been prepared to actually be revealed. More than once, they would sit down with the pretty package in their laps and just hold it. They would rub the wrapping, turning it this way and then another to look for clues. Sometimes they would shake it, listen to it, and try to guess at what was to come.
The gifts were completely paid for. And, it was quite clear the gift was all theirs. There were presents for others as well, but no one could take what was set aside for them. The anticipation was hardly bearable.
Such should be our anticipation of being with God in heaven. We should be overwhelmed with excitement at the thought of what is to come: standing before the throne of God the Father, seeing Jesus face to face, finally understanding the relationship between Father, Son, and Spirit.
But in contrast to presents for our kids, God has told us what He's prepared for us. The most awe inspiring, most wonderful gift ever given is ours. It's just what we've always wanted. It meets our every need. We can't break it or outgrow it … it's just perfect.
There is a sense in which we've already opened the package. We have a seat now, with Jesus, in heaven. Take a look at the amazing truths of Ephesians 2. In verses four and five, we see that God has given us the gift of life - alive with Christ - because of His great love. And there, in verse six, even before it was a hallmark holiday, God gave us other gifts that we didn't deserve, "… He also raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavens in Christ Jesus …".
The definitive truth of Christ's resurrection is so true that, for those who are in Christ, we may speak of our own resurrection as though it has already happened. In many ways, we have begun to participate in the eternal glories of heaven because we are in Christ who is, even now, seated in heaven.
If that weren't enough, He has also given us a down payment. Just a few verses earlier, in Ephesians 1:14, we read, "The Holy Spirit is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of the possession, to the praise of his glory." God has given the gift of Himself, filling us with His Spirit to guide and comfort until He brings us to the home He's prepared for us in heaven.
And, given that we have already received such eternal blessings, we should live accordingly. Colossians 3:1-2 instructs us, "So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things." Notice the past tense “you have been raised with Christ” followed by the present tense instruction to live in light of that reality. Too often, we worry, we fret, we sin, and we keep our minds on things of this world. But that is leaving the present unopened.
We should rejoice now as though we are already in heaven, because in a sense, we are. We should rejoice as one who is forgiven. Rejoice as one who is made alive in Christ. Rejoice as one who is seated with Christ at the right hand of the throne of God. Rejoice as one who has been given the gift of eternity, even before life on earth is over. Rejoice as one who has been allowed to open the best gift early.