God's Gift To You
Community Questions and Discussion Guide

Sermon Summary
God’s gift to you, is a message about the amazing gift God gave to the world on that first Christmas. This message analyzes, piece by piece, John 3:16 and ends with a simple reading of John 3:17. The breakdown looks like this: The Giver of the gift, the motive behind the gift, the intended recipients of the gift, the cost of the gift, the actual recipients of the gift, and the benefits of the gift! The giver of the gift is God almighty. The motive is love. The intended recipients would be everyone in the world. The cost of the gift was the sacrificial death of Jesus. The actual recipients are those who believe. The benefits of the gift are never perishing and having eternal life!
Due to the tragic events of the previous week, the message has a rather lengthy introduction that deals with darkness of the soul which can lead to things like the school shooting in Connecticut, and the fact that God’s gift to the world is desperately needed today!

Discussion Guide

1. Besides God’s gift to you, what is the most memorable Christmas gift you’ve ever received and why?

2. Go back for a minute and think about the discussion of the last question. Some of the answers may have concentrated on the gift and some may have been more about who the gift was from. Would you agree that sometimes the person giving the gift and the motive behind it may be more important than the gift itself? Like a homemade gift from a little child to a parent. However, when it comes to the gift God gave to us on that very first Christmas, the giver of the gift, the motive behind the gift and the gift itself are all equally important. Why is this? We find a clue in the following Scripture...
2 Cor 5:17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
2 Cor 5:18  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:
2 Cor 5:19  that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. NIV

3. Who were the intended recipients of God’s gift and who were the actual recipients of God’s gift? What is the difference between the two? We find the answer in the words of Jesus and also in John’s introduction to his gospel. First, the words of Jesus...
John 3:16  "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. NIV
Now the inspired words of John...
John 1:9  The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.
John 1:10  He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.
John 1:11  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
John 1:12  Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God--
John 1:13  children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. NIV

4. The cost of God’s gift to us is beyond our ability to comprehend, the sacrifice of His One and Only Son, but the reason God was willing to give such a gift can be found when we examine the benefits of the gift. Read John 3:16 again and talk about the benefits of the gift. Then read the next set of verses and discuss why God would be willing to pay such a price and why Jesus would be willing to be the sacrifice.
John 3:16  "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. NIV

Ezekiel 33:11 Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?’
(NIV)

Heb 12:2  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.NIV

If we continue to reject God’s gift as a nation, we will continue to perish. Pray this Christmas would not be all about the gifts, but more about the gift, the Christmas gift that matters most! The Christmas gift that is found in the very name of the holiday, Christmas!




God's Gift to You

John 3:16-17

Today I would ask that we join together in prayer for the families of the children and teachers who tragically lost their lives in Connecticut on Friday! Let's pray for our nation and the moral and spiritual decay that is plaguing our nation.

PRAY!

 The last few days have been surreal, and heart breaking in every way! Millions of questions swirl in our hearts and minds!
How could anyone ever get to a place in their life where they would do such unthinkable evil?

How could anyone ever become so evil and so dark? The first thing the world thinks about is how to take away the tools that would allow someone to do something like this.

While this is definitely something we must be willing to discuss, if we don't begin to talk about the spiritual and moral degradation that leads to this kind of behavior we'll never solve the problems that lead to these kinds of tragedies.

As our nation moves farther and farther away from the foundations of our Jewish/Christian morality, we will see more of this  irrational behavior.

I'm not one of those guys that blames everything on modern media, but the irony should not be missed that the very networks reporting this tragedy are the same networks that create and promote some of the most vile, violent, and immoral programming on television.

Media techs in all areas have long sought to mimic reality as realistically as possible. This can be good and this can be very bad.

Movies, TV series, internet, video gaming, all have pushed the limits of what a person can experience in their minds without actually experiencing the real thing.

 But all too often, some are drawn to want to experience in real life what they've only imagined in their cyber world.

Some are able to clearly distinguish between fantasy and reality, others are not. However, all of us can be influenced, good or bad, by media. It is a very strong tool for communicating ideals, agendas, philosophies, morality, and principles.

If you doubt the influence, let me ask you to consider this...

Advertisers spend 3.5 million dollars on a 30 second add during the Super Bowl. Why? They know 30 seconds of well done media can influence the way you spend your hard earned dollars.

If 30 seconds can effect the way you spend your money, don't tell me countless hours upon hours of violence and sexual content doesn't have an effect on the way we think and live. It does!

While I have no idea what was going on in the young man's life who took so many lives, I do know something caused him to make a tragic decision with horrific consequences!

I think we must remember the words Jesus spoke...

19For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.
Matthew 15:19 (NIV)

Never forget, what you allow into your heart is what will come out of your heart! I don't care how stable you are, over time, if you let enough garbage come into your mind, that garbage will begin to come out in attitudes and actions.

We live today in a world that has become increasingly obsessed with me, myself and I! You've heard me call it the "unholy trinity!"

It's all about me! My feelings! My desires! My needs! My anger! My revenge! My rights! My comfort! My convenience!

How many marriages have been destroyed by this kind of selfishness?
How many families are in the throws of disfunction because of selfishness?

How many Christmases have been stolen from innocent little children by a young man who chose to be a real life grinch?

How many other Christmases will be stolen this year because of individuals who think Christmas is all about the gifts and what's in it for them?

Oh, maybe it's not a gift under the tree you're thinking about, but you've decided to put yourself first place and so the gift you want most of all is to get your way in everything.

You may be saying, "But Pastor, I'm not that bad really!"
Let me ask you a question?

What is the basis for the decisions you make? Is it what's best for you, or is it what's best for others? Do God and His principles factor into the decisions you make?

There could be no better time than now to examine this question. There could be no better time than Christmas to examine this question. Why?
Because Christmas tells the story of a decision God had to make.

It was a decision that would effect your eternity and mine.
It was a decision about a gift.

A decision that would bring great joy to those who received it, but would bring great anguish and heartbreak to the One who would give it.

It was a decision based on doing what was best for others rather than what was easiest for self!

It was a decision that would eventually bring joy to the giver, but the initial sacrifice was almost unthinkable!

Take your Bibles and turn with me to John, chapter 3 verses 16-17.
Let's read them.

16“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16 (NIV)

17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
John 3:17 (NIV)

Now we will examine verse 16 piece by piece.

The Giver of the Gift

"For God…

The giver of the gift was none other than God Almighty, the creator of all things.

28Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
Isaiah 40:28 (NIV)

And then there's these words concerning God and a prophecy about the gift He was going to give, also found in Isaiah...

5This is what God the LORD says— he who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it:
Isaiah 42:5 (NIV)

6“I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles,
Isaiah 42:6 (NIV)

7to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.
Isaiah 42:7 (NIV)

These beautiful words were written hundreds of years before that first Christmas. Words that were to point the Jews to the Messiah who would come to set them free.

Words that let them know that while they were the chosen ones, the good news was for everyone, even the gentiles. In fact, Jesus once quoted these words...

16He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read.
Luke 4:16 (NIV)

17The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
Luke 4:17 (NIV)

18“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed,
Luke 4:18 (NIV)

19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Luke 4:19 (NIV)

So the gift is from The Creator of the Universe, and the prophecy we just read, and which Jesus quoted, leads us to the next piece of John 3:16 we need to examine...

The Motive Behind the Gift

"For God so loved...

It's amazing to me that God would love us so much even though we rejected Him and chose to follow sinful ways.

Yet our Heavenly Father saw us being ravaged by our sin and decided to do something about it. Why? Because He loves His children!!
Listen...

3At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.
Titus 3:3 (NIV)

4But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,
Titus 3:4 (NIV)

5he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,
Titus 3:5 (NIV)

6whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,
Titus 3:6 (NIV)

7so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
Titus 3:7 (NIV)

Did you see those words? Kindness and love! He saved us! Because of His mercy!
Washing of rebirth! Renewal by the Holy Spirit! Poured out on us generously!

Through Jesus Christ our Savior! Justified by His Grace! We become heirs! Having the hope of eternal life!

The Intended Recipients

"For God so loved the world...

9The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
2 Peter 3:9 (NIV)

11Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?’
Ezekiel 33:11 (NIV)

 The Bible is clear! God loved the world. There's no one who ever lived on this planet, God didn't initially love! Why do I say initially? Some will reject God's love and become the objects of His wrath.

 Like Esau, Jacob's brother and numerous others in Scripture who decided to reject God's offer of love. The book of Romans describes this ...

18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness,
Romans 1:18 (NIV)

19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.
Romans 1:19 (NIV)

20For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
Romans 1:20 (NIV)

21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Romans 1:21 (NIV)

22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools
Romans 1:22 (NIV)

23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
Romans 1:23 (NIV)

24Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts...
Romans 1:24 (NIV)

 God wants to save us all, but He refuses to force His gift on anyone. God loves you, but He has given you the choice of whether or not you will receive His amazing and wonderful gift.

The Cost of the Gift

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son...

9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.
1 John 4:9 (NIV)

10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
1 John 4:10 (NIV)

I have a wonderful son and two amazing daughters. I can't even imagine losing one of them. I really can't imagine losing an only child, and I absolutely can't imagine sending my child on a mission if I knew it would cost that child their life!

But God loved you and me so much He was willing to send His one and only Son. And the amazing thing, the son was willing to go!

Folks, this is why Christmas is all about "The Gift." It was the most costly gift ever given! Isaiah prophesied about the gift and the cost of the gift in the Old Testament...

4Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.
Isaiah 53:4 (NIV)

5But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
Isaiah 53:5 (NIV)

6We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 53:6 (NIV)

The Actual Recipients

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him...

Whoever believes in Him!! If a person is willing to admit they've done wrong, believe Jesus gave His life on an old rugged cross to take their place, and are willing to call on His name, they will receive the gift!  

No where is it put more beautifully than in the book of Romans chapter 3 verses 21-25...

21But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.
Romans 3:21 (NIV)

22This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference,
Romans 3:22 (NIV)

23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Romans 3:23 (NIV)

24and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
Romans 3:24 (NIV)

25God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood...
Romans 3:25 (NIV)

The Benefits of the Gift

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

I see two major benefits listed here. First of all, there's the shall not perish. This has application not just for eternity, but for right here and now.

So many in our world are perishing. They are lost, they are deceived, they are searching, they are hurting, they are dying!

But this doesn't have to be! If they would only receive "The Gift!" The only gift that really matters. The only gift that will bring them forgiveness, peace, purpose, and real meaning in life.

The gift that's not for sale at any price, but is free to all who would believe. The gift we all so desperately need!

3His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
2 Peter 1:3 (NIV)

4Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
2 Peter 1:4 (NIV)

And the second major benefit, and it's not something to sneeze at is eternal life! So beautiful. We can live our lives here with purpose and know when our life here is over, we have an eternity to live in God's presence!

That part of the gift allows us to live our lives here without fear, because we know God has us in His hands for all eternity!

Here's how Peter put it in his first letter...

3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
1 Peter 1:3 (NIV)

4and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade —kept in heaven for you,
1 Peter 1:4 (NIV)

And we’ll end by simply reading John 3:17...

17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
John 3:17 (NIV)

Let's Pray!!