“Re-gifting Jesus” by Rick Shurtz

This morning at Gateway Church in Austin, Rick Shurtz spoke at the McNeil campus, and I spoke at the South Campus. Here are some of the thoughts we shared:

“What are the BEST gifts or the WORST gifts to RE-Gift.

I actually think Re-gifting is a good thing.  It’s good for the environment. It’s good for personal budgets, but it’s a bummer if you’re the one who gave the gift that got regifted.

Over the next 24 to 48 hours, gifts will be given and exchanged, and let’s be honest, some of them will be lousy gifts, despite the fact that a great deal of time and attention will be put into them. Sometimes we struggle to hide our disappointment.

There’s a simple line in the Scriptures you’d quickly read over and miss it’s significance, if you didn’t pause to reflect on it a bit. It’s written about the many long years  before the time of Christ, before the gift of Christ was given from the Father to humanity, when the gift was still wrapped and under the tree, so to speak.

This simple line of Scripture gives the angels perspective on this gift.

Even angels long to look into these things. 1 Peter 1:12, NIV

It’s a fascinating little line revealing a bit of how things unfolded in the unseen world. The angels knew God was up to something, but they didn’t know precisely what it was he was doing.  God had made promises, but what exactly did those promises mean, and they longed to know.  They longed to know what God was up to. They could see the signs.

They knew the bits and pieces God had revealed. God was up to something, but the present was still wrapped and under the tree.  They’d pick it up. They’d shake it. They’d talk about it. They’d wonder and speculate. What is God up to?

Then there came a day the gift was opened.  They still didn’t know the entire significance, but they knew much more. It was Christmas. A child is born.  The gift under the tree is finally opened, and what do they do? What’s their perspective on the gift?

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests. – Luke 2:13-14, NIV

The angels, they have a view we don’t share. They see things we don’t see. They know things we don’t know. When the gift was opened, they burst into song. They were like the 10 year-old-boy with the Red Rider BB Gun. They know this one’s a winner. This isn’t an embroidered pillow. This isn’t socks. This isn’t one to re-gift to an unsuspecting cousin. This is the gift of all gifts, and they most certainly hope that humanity would get it.

The Christmas season can get lost in its busyness, but now’s the time to ask yourself an incredibly important question. It’s a good one to reflect on today, this Christmas season, and long after the Christmas season has past. It could be said a lot of ways, I’ll say it like this:

What does your life say about your perspective on this gift from God?

The angels longed to look into the gift of Christ. They wanted to get it. They wanted to understand it. When the gift was finally unwrapped, they burst into song and danced around the room.

Most prominently in our culture, I’d say is the re-gifting approach to Christ. We see this increasingly in our day. Christ is seen as a good gift for other people, for those that are into that sort of thing, but not so much as a gift for ourselves.

Or maybe that’s not exactly right. Maybe he’s a bit like the gift of socks. Yes, we need that gift.  We need socks.  Our feet get cold, but it’s not the gift we get truly excited about. “God, if you want to give me something I’d be excited about, how about a windfall of cash?  That’s what I really want.  Yes, I’ll take the gift of Jesus, but what else do you have under that tree.  You’re not going to see me burst into song over him.”

Now, I want us to be painfully honest today.   I say that, because my question is ripe for abuse. When we ask our perspective on the gift of Christ, it’s very easy to slip into SHOULD answers. I know the right answer is, “I value this gift greatly.” And I know I “SHOULD” say that. But what do truly think? What’s in my heart? What do I truly believe?

Does the gift of Christ truly do anything of great value for me?

The angels sure thought so! Why did they react like that? If I could boil down the benefit of the gift of Christ, if I could boil it down to one word, what would that one word be? In a word, I would choose…Peace

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests. – Luke 2:13-14, NIV

It’s very Christmas-y.  Peace on earth good will to men, right? That’s what this is all about. Peace on earth.

Which if that’s Scripture’s answer, or one of the answers, then I want to push back on it. I want to push back on it, for several reasons, not the least of which is it sounds like a religious platitude that means nothing in our real world. Christ came to give “Peace.” Well clearly, that’s not going so well.

There are wars. There is famine. There is hardship. There are 20 year old kids with guns who go on shooting sprees in Kindergarten classrooms. There are financial hardships. Medical hardships. Families breaking apart. There’s loneliness, anxiety, and fear. There’s addiction. There’s abuse. I could go on and on…

“Jesus, if you’re plan was to bring peace on earth, whatever strategy you implemented 2000 years ago, it’s not working.  You’ve had 2000 years to work this thing out, to implement this plan of yours, and these 2000 years, they’ve been filled with a great deal of pain.”

If this is some sort of gift from God, one wonders if it was a gag gift, some sort of cosmic hoax to make us think all is well when all is not really well. Take it seriously. Which is why, let’s be honest, which is why so often the gift is not taken seriously.

To meet the REAL needs, we need REAL solutions.

And after 2000 years, one has to wonder if whatever Jesus had in mind, if it really is going to work. Peace is a nice word, but it’s a bit lacking in a world so torn by grief.

Let’s add to the confusion. The angels announced peace when Christ came. What did Christ say about his coming?

He said this:

Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. – Luke 12:51

Over here, we have the angels bursting into song about the peace Christ came to give. Then a little further down the timeline, we have Jesus himself saying, “I didn’t come to bring peace.  I’m actually going to bring controversy.  I’m going to bring division.”

What’s TRULY going on this world. Hear carefully Scripture’s assessment of the problem.

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. James 4:1-2

Don’t miss this. Does the world have an external problem or an internal problem? What causes fights? What causes quarreling? Desires that battle within.

As you hold that thought, ask this question…Why might Christ say, “I didn’t come to bring peace but division.”?  Why would he say that, when in fact, other places of Scripture say he did in fact come to bring peace? What’s that about? Is there some sort of contradiction in Scripture? What’s going on here?  What are we missing? Consider this thought:

If you’re going to TRULY solve a problem…

If you’re going to get on the inside and into the heart of a problem…

Then that’s HIGHLY invasive, and when something is HIGHLY invasive, it feels ANYTHING but peaceful.

Let’s look at another clue from Scripture. Andrew, he meets Jesus. He’s convinced Jesus is something special. He runs to his brother, Simon, better known as Peter, and he says this:

The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ).  – John 1:41

What’s that mean? We have found the Messiah? This is a Jewish culture. They know the Scriptures. The Messiah is the one who will come and set things straight. The Jewish people are under Roman rule. The Messiah will set them free. No longer will they be oppressed. They will be restored to their sovereign status. “Peter, come and see, I’ve found the Messiah.”

Peter’s mind would have raced.  Might this be the time our world is set straight again? Fast forward to an incident much later when Jesus heals a man both blind and mute. We read:

Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see.  Matthew 12:22

When Jesus heals him, the religious leaders object. They say Jesus must be a prince of demons because the demons respond to him. Jesus says this to them:

 if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.  Matthew 12:28

This statement is jam packed with importance. If Jesus is the Messiah, if he’s bringing in a new kingdom, then the Israelites are thinking, “Great, no more Roman rule, let’s do this.” But here he’s saying:

The Kingdom I’ve come to bring first comes upon you, the individual.

That’s fascinating. Think about that, when we think about humanity’s true problem we just noted. Humanity doesn’t just have an external problem. Humanity has an internal problem.

Laws don’t heal the internal reality of lust and greed and coveting, and then Jesus comes along and says: “I’ll heal this man,” and when he heals him he says, “the kingdom I’ve come to bring has come upon this person.”

The kingdom doesn’t come by ousting Rome. The kingdom doesn’t come by a particular political party. The kingdom comes when we go deep. When we get to the heart of the problem.

Hear carefully this parable about the Kingdom.

“What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. 32 Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”  Mark 4:30-32

“What I’m doing,” Jesus said, “it’s going to start VERY small, and in time, it will grow very big.  It’s going to start in the heart of a person.  The Kingdom I come will start there, and it will work it’s way out into the reality of the world.  I’m working on the problem in a manner that will TRULY solve the problem.  If I don’t do this, then we’ll just be another solution in the rotation of solutions that really don’t work.”

What if Jesus really did come to bring peace? But what if he came to bring that peace, not by the signing of a political peace accord, or not by just giving us all a bunch of money, or not by just ushering in another political perspective, but what if his work was to first work miracles in our inner worlds, that will ultimately be expressed in our outer world? If that’s TRULY what he’s done, then this gift might be worth thoughtful consideration.

God gives us a gift. This gift will go deep. This gift will bring peace. A deeper peace. A lasting peace. A transformational peace that will work it’s way out from our hearts and into a world in desperate need of peace.

Humanity’s response has been a bit slugglish. “Socks” we think to ourselves. “It’s not the windfall of cash I was hoping for.” But that windfall of cash would not solve the true issue, the depth of issue, that wreaks havoc in our lives and havoc in this world.

We need depth of healing. We need a solution that doesn’t just remove Rome and bring in a new political regime. God was not interested in establishing a temporary peace.

He was interested in planting a mustard seed in the heart of humanity that will one day grow to a vast and plush garden.

How will you respond to the gift God has given you through His Son?

How will you live differently as a result of this gift from God?”

To listen or watch the entire message, go to www.gatewaychurch.com/podcast.

 

 

 

 

 

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