Friday, December 19, 2008

Gifts


C.J. Mahaney is one of my modern day heroes in the faith. If you haven't heard his preaching apart from clips on The Atonement, you're missing out! A good place to start is his classic message on the ten lepers, where he used a phrase that has stuck with me ever since I heard it.

"All gifts from God are intended to direct our attention to God and create fresh affections for God" - C.J. Mahaney, More Desirable Than Gifts

According to James 1:17, every good and perfect gift comes from God. Those gifts are not ends in themselves, but meant to point beyond themselves to God. When we don't allow gifts to do this, we are easily susceptible to idolatry and ingratitude. Both of these things anger God. In fact, Romans 1:18-25 shows how God's righteous wrath is poured out on people in large part for not allowing His gifts to point beyond themselves to Him. It is to our shame that, even as Christians, we often see the Lord's gifts as ends rather than means.

In the gospel, God graciously gives us Jesus Christ as the all-sufficient object of our affections. Jesus indicated that all-sufficiency when He prayed for believers in John 17:24:

"Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world."

As we embrace and rejoice in the Savior's matchless character seen in His sinless life, substitutionary death and glorious resurrection, believers behold the glory of Christ by faith now (2 Cor. 3:18, 5:7). According to this text from John, beholding and enjoying the glory of Christ by sight in heaven will be enough to eternally satisfy our glorified souls. All other gospel gifts (forgiveness, eternal life, sanctification, etc.) are means to this great end.

Getting back to Mahaney's statement:

"All gifts from God are intended to direct our attention to God and create fresh affection for God."

In light of this, do you see how the triune God is glorified in our salvation? The electing love of God the Father is the source of the Gift (Eph. 1:4-5). The work of God the Son is the means through which we receive the Gift (1 Peter 3:18). The power of God the Holy Spirit works affections in us for the Giver of the Gift (Romans 5:5). And God Himself is the Gift (Psalm 73:25)!

We should labor to see God's lesser gifts perform the same function. For instance, we're used to the idea of people who have gifts from God, but I've been struck recently by the reality that people are gifts from God. Ephesians 4:8-11 shows how Christ's gifts to His church are actually people themselves (vs. 11). With this in mind, we should 1) Thank God for those who direct our attention to Him and help create fresh affections for Him. 2) Encourage them by making them aware that God is using them in our lives that way. And 3) Seek, by God's grace, to be people who do the same for others. I can't think of any greater way to be used.

What would be the implications if we evaluated all gifts in this way? (Is it from God? Does it direct my attention to Him? Does it help create fresh affections for Him?) How would that affect how we saw music, for instance? The exercise of spiritual gifts? Our entertainment choices? The things we purchase? The people in our lives? Just a few things to ponder in this season known for gift-giving.

grace and peace,
shai








12 comments:

urbanresurgence said...

shai,

Great reminder, bro. Much of what was said here reminds me of what I just read in Piper's book, "God Is The Gospel".

The Lord is our Portion!

Grace & Peace!

d.

Purple Soapbox Admin said...

Great article Shai, truly every good and perfect gift comes from above.

However I've always wondered why people keep wanting to communicate with the devil.

To some it seems like they have to "take back" what the devil stole as if the devil was our source or as if he can give anything to us that is actually good.

This has caused me to see the God of the Bible much differently.

msshaylaj said...

thanks so much for this...
i've been known to be a bit of a 'scrooge' about this time of year esp. toward the vain giddy traditions. not to mention fighting through airports to get home across thousands of miles. i find myself looking for anything amid all the noise that points me to the Cross.

gosh...i have been missing out on Mahaney...
i am so reminded...'WHAT A SAVIOR!'

Quincy A. Jones (a.k.a. Q of ChristCentric) said...

This is a great meditation bro...i'm going to use it for my Christmas morning family devotion time.

Hope you're doing well...hit me up.

Q

samurai said...

I still remember the day i was saved... in a rented auditorium (what? No "church" building?!?!), on a hot August Sunday morning (90+ at 10 AM), there was no air conditioning, people had their hands raised and they were singing... loudly! Then, it came time for the sermon... God used C.J. in a very powerful way that day.

Thank you for sharing this brother.

mattbrown said...

Wonderful post. Especially pertinent this time of year.

I also want to thank you and to thank God for the work that he is doing through you and your music. A friend just introduced me to your music the other day, and I have been extremely blessed by it. I feel that God is sparking a New Reformation through you and others like you with your gloriously prophetic music. Keep up the wonderful work, and I will continue to pray for you and for the work that God is doing. God bless you, brother.

Da' Sciple said...

WORD!

1) I thank God for you - for directing my attention to Him and helping create, in me, new affections for Him.

2) I'm not sure you realize how mightily God is using you to do this (1) in me but - Man - I truly thank The Sovereign Lord of Grace for your ministry shai... TSCP discipled me as a new believer in so many ways [soli deo gloria]- and that was just the beginning.

3) Use me Lord! for Your Glory. Amen.

dyork said...

Our entertainment choices... mmm... Something I've wrestled with. Especially in light of this blog, i'm provoked to RE-re-consider my selection of entertainment with respect to its ability or likelihood to direct my affections toward Jesus. Cats often cite our freedom in Christ when defending against assertions that might suggest a certain type of worldly exposure is perhaps questionable. Another popular response I hear is "It doesn't affect me" or "your being legalistic". But I wrestle with these arguments (although admittedly, my decisions would seem to support them more often than not). This mindset seems to lack prudence, especially in light of our overwhelming tendency to migrate toward sin. And I'm not advocating that we live in a tightly secured vacuum from all that is in the world either. For instance there is much value in being students of the culture and context God has placed us in. But in light of our tendency to be easily satisfied with trivial things, and create idols (especially with our spare time) and over-indulge in this world of instant gratification, it would seem wise to keep a short lease on our casual entertainment choices.
Thoughts anyone?

StainFreeMedia said...

Did I just hear "Soli Deo Gloria" on a rap record?!?!? WORD!!!!!!!!!!!! Peace to you and yours, Shai.

yunglion1224 said...

Good post bro-ham! So let me say thank you for turning my attention towards the Master!

Rob said...

Thank you so much. My wife and I were just studying this passage tonight and I immediately identified this passage as an exegetical work. I have often wondered about the fear and trembling part. At times we hear so much about God's love and forget that he is the great judge who has the capability to destroy everything! Thank you so much for your obedience, listening is always thought provoking and leads me into indepth Bible Study.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for pointing out the Psalm verse. Praise Him for your ministry.

Will you be coming to Cali anytime soon?

in Christ
Ephraim