I would like to highlight three special gifts of God for Christians which I hope we can fully reclaim in our day. These are three gifts which the world does not possess but are graciously given to the people of God.
1. The Gift of Spending Time in God’s Presence.
The first gift is the power of spending time daily in God’s presence. There is nothing which re-orients your day, your faith and your practice more than spending time each day in prayer and in reading God’s Word. The world gets up in the morning and takes showers and eats breakfast just like we do. The world drives to work and fights traffic just like we do. There are so many ways our day is similar to anyone else’s. But, when we get up and spend time reading God’s Word and committing ourselves to God through prayer, this is a distinctive gift from God which revolutionizes the whole orientation of our lives. We sometimes forget how radical this is. We sometimes forget what a gift this is!
2. The Gift of Sabbath
The second gift is the gift of one day a week for rest or Sabbath. Our society values work, but has lost the value of rest and reflection. The Sabbath day is God’s way of reminding us what the world was like before the entrance of sin and toil. Work is, of course, a very good thing. We are created to do work. However, when we start trusting in our work and building our lives around our autonomous capacity to provide for our needs and the needs of our family, then work can become destructive and unhealthy for us. God gave us the gift of Sabbath to remind us that we can trust him for our lives. God has given us the Sabbath for renewal and regaining perspective on what is really important in life. We live in a world with nearly ceaseless work and endless labor. God reminds us that we do not need to live like that. We can enter into God’s rhythm of work and rest, of creative work and re-creative energy. Sabbath was never intended to be a restrictive “law” but a divine “gift” to us. What a gift this is!
3. The Gift of Holy Living.
The third gift is the gift of holy living. This is the gift most misunderstood by the world, and even by many Christians. The world sees holiness as ever-increasing restrictions on our lives. It is a list of things which we “can’t do.” In contrast, the lives of the world seem to be free and without boundaries, especially when contrasted with the constraints which we seem to advocate. However, this is an improper view of holiness. Holiness is actually the expansive life, because it is free from the bondages and shackles which the world can become so easily entrapped by. What appears to be the world’s “freedom” moves very quickly into “bondage.” Likewise, what appears to be narrow and restrictive turns out to be joyful and freeing because the world has no claims on our heart, our affections or our deepest longings. This is the power of sanctification. It is not merely that we are forgiven (that is justification), but that we are actually re-oriented to a whole new life and perspective.
Perhaps the most important task of the church in the coming decades is to become less concerned with the worldliness of the world and more concerned about the holiness of the church. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before others, that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven.” If we spent more time shining our light and less time cursing the darkness, who knows how much the Kingdom of God might advance?