Sermon Illustration: How Do You Receive Jesus?
Tim Keller has written an outstanding book titled Hidden Christmas. In chapter 1, he gives a couple of thoughts/examples as to how one receives certain gifts. I have pasted a portion of it below. It is a great illustration to use at Christmas and one the preacher can tweak to his own situation and circumstances.
. . .When we trust in Christ’s work on our behalf, rather than in our own moral efforts, God forgives and accepts us and implants his Holy Spirit in us to renew us from the inside out. This great salvation, this light that flashes upon you with all its new life, truth, and beauty, comes as a gift. The only way you can receive it is to admit it’s an undeserved grace.
Christmas is about receiving presents, but consider how challenging it is to receive certain kinds of gifts. Some gifts by their very nature make you swallow your pride. Imagine opening a present on Christmas morning from a friend—and it’s a dieting book. Then you take off another ribbon and wrapper and you find it is another book from another friend, Overcoming Selfishness. If you say to them, “Thank you so much,” you are in a sense admitting, “For indeed I am fat and obnoxious.” In other words, some gifts are hard to receive, because to do so is to admit you have flaws and weaknesses and you need help. Perhaps on some occasion you had a friend who figured out you were in financial trouble and came to you and offered a large sum of money to get you out of your predicament. If that has ever happened to you, you probably found that to receive the gift meant swallowing your pride.
There has never been a gift offered that makes you swallow your pride to the depths that the gift of Jesus Christ requires us to do. Christmas means that we are so lost, so unable to save ourselves, that nothing less than the death of the Son of God himself could save us. That means you are not somebody who can pull yourself together and live a moral and good life.
To accept the true Christmas gift, you have to admit you’re a sinner. You need to be saved by grace. You need to give up control of your life. That is descending lower than any of us really wants to go. Yet Jesus Christ’s greatness is seen in how far down he came to love us. Your spiritual regeneration and eventual greatness will be achieved by going down the same path. He descended into greatness, and the Bible says it’s only through repentance that you come into his light. . .