When I was in high school our youth group attended a regional youth gathering. One night, one of my friends responded to the altar call, tears welling in his eyes. He shared with our group that he had been far from God, including drinking and having sex. He confessed his sins that night and committed to serving his Lord and Savior with his whole life. It was a powerful night. A few months later we attended another event. Once again, my friend went forward, tears in his eyes. He shared how he had fallen from God again, but this time was ready to commit. I witnessed this happen several more times with him in high school, and I have heard his life has maintained the same up and down pattern. He is so excited to unwrap and experience the gift of Jesus, but he struggles to actually live with Jesus’ gift.
My friend may seem like an extreme case, but I think he’s probably extreme only in how public he is about his ups and downs with God. If you are reading this site, it’s likely you’ve had that moment when you first experienced the power of God’s gift of salvation. You were filled with joy knowing you were forgiven, loved unconditionally, and promised the gift of eternal life. Yet, if you are like both my friend and myself, you’ve probably found living with and for God to not always be easy. It’s easy to unwrap the gift, but it can be hard to live with the gift in our broken world. Jesus deals with this in Luke 17.
And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:12-19
As we wrap-up this Christmas season, how are you going to live with the gift of Jesus this year? Will you simply live however you desire, chasing after the ways of the world? Or are you truly ready to be born again, living as a new creation of Christ Jesus? Here nine men simply returned to their lives, but one returned to Jesus full of faith, joy, and obedience. See, Jesus’s gift is more than salvation. It’s the opportunity to be blessed daily, to live a better story, and to bless others. I pray that we do more than unwrap the gift, instead choosing to follow our Lord and Savior each and every day.