At Christmas we “exchange” gifts. We feel embarrassed if we receive a gift from someone and we do not have a gift to give in return. We will go to great lengths to find some gift to give in return. This is rather a pity, but there is very little we can do about it, because there is something deeply instinctive in us which demands, that for every gift we receive, we must give something back to ‘correct the imbalance’ . This instinct is very powerful, and causes us much stress at Christmas time; but it has a much more far-reaching effect than we realise. In fact it is no exaggeration to say that it can affect our eternal destiny.
Multitudes are driven by this instinct to, unconsciously, enter into a religious relationship with God which is based on a ‘trading’ mindset. They seek to be good and to do good in order to please God. Their hope is that, at the end of their lives, when they appear before God, He will ‘reward’ them with entry into heaven on account of the great ‘credit’ of righteousness the have amassed. Sadly for them, their hope is not only vain, but it is insulting to God and to His gift of His Son Jesus Christ who suffered and died on the cross to save sinners. Both Old and New testaments warn against this ‘trader’ mind-set.
In Isaiah 64:6 God tells us how our personal righteousness appears before God: “All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags”. Also in Romans 3: 20, we read”By the deeds of the law shall no flesh (i.e. human beings) be justified in His sight”.
That is only half the problem of the ‘spiritual trader’. Much greater is the problem that their spiritual mind-set causes them to resist the gospel. This is because the gospel presents the Lord Jesus Christ to be freely received, by us not for the righteous, but for sinners. It requires us to abandon any hope in our own righteousness, and to simply receive God’s gift of His Son, without any eye to what we can give in return, because we have nothing to give. We are by nature spiritually bankrupt. We call this salvation by “grace”. It is bestowed on us by God on the basis that Christ has, on the cross, paid the full penalty for all our sins, and our responsibility is to believe on Him and receive Him as Lord and Saviour . This brings us into a different world from that of the ‘trader’. We might call it the world of ‘grace’.
By nature then we have a deep-seated resistance to receiving something gladly and joyfully when we have nothing to give in return. This often stands between us and getting RightWithGod. We must abandon this resistance no matter how dear it is to us, and no matter what loss of face we suffer among friends and family; and we must identify with Jesus Christ as one of His people. A man was once asked to describe how he became a christian. He said, “I gathered up all my bad deeds, and then I gathered up all my good deeds, and I put them on the same heap. I then freely received the salvation which God has provided for sinners in His great gift of salvation through the suffering and death of His Son Jesus Christ.”