When I was in the seventh or eighth grade I asked for a German Shepherd puppy for Christmas. I think I desired that gift more than any other I ever requested as a boy.
Dad and Mom told me that I could have a dog if I earned enough “puppy points.” Points could be gained by keeping my room clean, helping with other household chores, doing well in school, wearing a tie to church (which my friends and I disliked doing at that age), and generally being an all-around well-behaved kid.
During the few months leading up to that Christmas I was transformed into a model child. My room was always clean. I had never been so eager to help with chores around the house. I worked hard in school. I not only wore a tie to church myself, but convinced my friends to do the same, hoping that through their goodness I might gain additional puppy points. If ever a gift was to be earned through one’s own efforts, I was determined to succeed through mine on that occasion.
I kept asking my parents exactly how many points I needed to accumulate. They good-naturedly gave me indefinite responses like: “Oh, we can’t tell you that. You just keep working at it, and we’ll let you know come Christmas if you earned enough.”
On Christmas Eve that year my folks presented me with the cutest, cuddliest little German Shepherd puppy I had ever seen. I was overjoyed and greatly relieved to have earned it.
Not until years later did it dawn on me that I had not actually earned that gift. My parents intended to grant my request all along. The puppy points game was just a ruse to keep me from knowing ahead of time what their true intention was.
The Bible teaches that God has the infinitely more important gifts of eternal life and salvation from sin which He desires people to have. Romans 6:23 states, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Ephesians 2:8-9 explains: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
These Scriptures make it clear that salvation and eternal life truly are God’s gifts given by His grace (favor that we don’t deserve). Many people fail to understand that and, like me with my puppy points, try to earn their salvation and their way to Heaven by their own good works.
Rather, to receive God’s gifts, we need to sincerely trust in His Son, Jesus Christ, as our only means of gaining them. When Jesus died on the cross, He received the judgment that our sins deserve, so that those who believe in Him as their Savior may instead have their sins forgiven and gain spiritual and eternal life.
Speaking of Himself and why He would be raised up on the cross, Jesus explained in John 3:14-16: “ … so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life. 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.”
Copyright 2023 by Vance E. Christie