Our Response To God's Greatest Gift

Recognizing That Jesus Is God's Greatest Gift To Us.

Arnaldo Soto
Dec 27, 2020    45m
Do you appreciate and cherish the gifts you receive? It's eternally important to recognize and accept that Jesus is God's greatest gift to us because, through Him, we receive the gift of salvation and eternal life. Video recorded at Grapevine, Texas.

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Arnaldo Soto: 00:03 Good morning 121, what a blessing to be here and share the word of the Lord this morning. And what a year for all of us in 121, huh? In Grapevine, in Dallas-Fort Worth, in Texas, in our nation, global, what a year for us. And everyone, like me, I'm sure we have high hopes for the new year. Yes everyone, like me, hope for movement toward a COVID free normalcy, hope for unity, hope for reconciliation, and hope for a better future.

Arnaldo Soto: 00:52 However, I am reminded that the only true and lasting hope is Jesus Christ. Emmanuel, God with us. And through this, we have received the greatest gift given to human beings, Jesus Christ. When I was a teenager, a friend of mine came to me to give me a gift, it was not a long time ago. I was so distracted, I was doing something, and when he gave me the gift, as soon as I received it, I put it on the side and I continue doing what it was doing. I really forgot about the gift, and I don't even remember if I opened that gift, I don't even remember if I went back to the office and did something with it. But what I remember, is I realized that I probably hurt my friend's feelings. And later I was thinking about that, and someone told me weeks later, hey, you never paid attention to that gift, and your friend was very, very sad. When I knew about what I did, I felt ashamed, and from that time moving forward, when someone gave me a gift, I paid more attention to that.

Arnaldo Soto: 02:29 Most of us have received at least one gift three days ago, and we have just passed that time of the year where people are trying to find just the right gift to give to someone that you love. Some people find a gift out of duty. We look forward to this year, these times, so we can give a gift to someone, because we love gifts. Now, what is the greatest gift we have received in our lives? We can ask that question this morning. It's not hard to see that all they get from God comes every single day in our lives. He gave us sun and rain to the unjust and to the just, he gives lives to every creatures on earth. But there is one gift above all other gifts, and that's Jesus Christ. God, he gave his life for us, the only Son, he came to earth as a gift for us to give us salvation. And we see that in the scripture, he is the greatest gift given to us. And the question for us this morning is, how do we respond after we receive that gift? How do we respond, do we put it on the side, like what I did to my friend? Or do we respond to that gift in the way he wanted?

Arnaldo Soto: 04:21 If you go with me to Second Corinthians, we see the context here. Paul wrote this letter, he had a vulnerable life in that moment, he was very, very, very connected with the churches. He sent this letter to this Corinthian right there, and he had learned that the church was struggling. And the letter is full of personal comments, right there, giving details about the persecution, details about his life when he was suffering for the sake of Christ, that kept him depending on God. In Second Corinthians chapter 6, verse 1 to 10, if you follow me, you will see how Paul speaks to our lives today, how God speak to our lives through this. I would like to unfold this passage verse by verse, and work through this, and see how God speaks to your heart and to my hearts in this journey.

Arnaldo Soto: 05:23 In here, Paul sees himself as who works with Jesus Christ. And verse 1 says, "Working together with him." And at first Paul was persecuting Christians, and we've talked about persecution during the last few months, and he was persecuting Christians. And then he was a worker together with Jesus. And I strongly believe that we all have a universal calling, and that is to work or serve together with Jesus, a universal calling. We have a calling. And I sometimes wonder why is it that God needs us to work with him? Why? And I like to think it is not that God needed Paul, or any of us, instead it's that God wants us to be workers together with him, for our good.

Arnaldo Soto: 06:34 And if you see that picture here, and you have your kids here, some of you have your kids with us here this morning. It's like when my two little boy, Elian and Milan, they got the bucket, they got the rag, and they follow me as I go to clean my vehicle. And for the sake of pure efficiency, I should ask my boys to go away so I can finish my job and do the next step, do the other duty. So I'm in a hurry, I want to finish this, but the reality is it is good for my boys to work with me, their daddy. And because I, as their daddy loves them, I want them to work together with me. So one day they can clean the car, and I just rest.

Arnaldo Soto: 07:44 Paul never said, God works together with us. It is not our work that God helps us with, it is his work that he asked us to do together with him. Are you with me? And as the neighborhood engagement minister, I need to ask God constantly this, what are you doing in our neighborhood? What are you doing in our city? And how do I, or how do you want me, to join you to be part of what you're doing in our neighborhood? Because sometimes I am tempted just to create my own agenda, my plans, without considering what God is already doing, that's a reality. God is already doing something, and when we watched the video, the [inaudible] family, there is a beauty in their journey. When they came from another country to Grapevine, not knowing 121, five, six years ago coming to our neighborhood, stay for a few days with his brother, and they can with nothing. They found a job in a restaurant, and in this process they have seen God's provision in their lives.

Arnaldo Soto: 09:14 Many of us, you know, as members of 121, especially for the Spanish ministry in the afternoon 5pm, many of them, they work in restaurants every single day, and it has been beautiful to see how they share the gospel with one another. I have visited some restaurants around here, and I see them cooking or just serving all the people and just like looking at us, and me, hey, I'm here, I'm here sharing the gospel. Last Sunday, a lady came to me and said, do you have more Bibles available? Yes, why? Yeah, we have it in the office. I want one or two more. Why? Because I have a co-worker, I just want to share the Gospel, she said. And I have tried to share the gospel, she's like avoiding me. But if I give to her the Bible I'm sure she will need to read it, because that's a gift, and find Jesus.

Arnaldo Soto: 10:18 It's beautiful to see how they invite one another to come to the church, and they know each other because they come from different restaurants in the area, and they support one another. The Hispanic communities are multicultural communities. Many come from many countries, eating different foods. If you go to Guatemala it's different, if you go to Mexico different, if you go to Salvador, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, we have people from all over the place. We don't eat the same food, I like tacos and burritos, but in Puerto Rico, we don't eat tacos and burritos. But it's beautiful, even when we don't have the same culture, we speak the same language, and we can be one church all together.

Arnaldo Soto: 11:10 In this video, we see 121 and Lionheart partners, working with their community, blessing the community, and see kids learning about Jesus, and family reconciled with Jesus Christ, with God, that's beautiful. So in this context, when we go back to the scripture right here, Paul mentioned that Jesus has given us the ministry of reconciliation. I love that The previous chapter, in chapter 5, Paul's talks about the two key words, right there, reconciliation and ambassador. Reconciliation and ambassador, if you go to Second Corinthians chapter 5 verse 18 says this, "All these things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Chris and gave us the ministry of reconciliation." And the word ministry here means work or vocation, work or vocation, right here. In this context, the picture of ambassador for Christ is especially helpful in understanding the nature of being workers with Jesus Christ, with God. And Paul said, therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal. An appeal through us, he said, we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled with God. Isn't that beautiful? So an ambassador can rightly be described it as working together with his King. The Ambassador himself has no power, or authority, or agenda, on his own, it is bound up in his King, Jesus Christ is King, so we follow.

Arnaldo Soto: 13:10 Do we have a clear agenda for 2021 after we experienced 2020? Let me know if you have it. We have four days left to finish the year. And my prayer is this. God, how can I join your agenda for 2021? You are to King, we work with you, we are the ambassadors, So the key delegates power and authority to the ambassador, and reveals his agenda, and then the King expects the ambassador, his workers, to fulfill that agenda. We have the ability to respond to that, we have a responsibility, we have to embrace that responsibility. The responsibility is a compound word right there, do you see two words right there? We have the ability to respond, God will not ask us to do something, without giving us the ability to respond, without giving us the tools to move forward, to do what he said that we should do.

Arnaldo Soto: 14:34 So in this verse Paul continues, saying this, "Follow me. We also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain." Now Paul will also urge, and other translations said, the word plead. To plead is to beg, and to ask someone earnestly and humble. Asking someone earnestly and humbly for something, and Christians have obviously received the grace of God, the greatest gift, and yet having received it, we can potentially be guilty of receiving that gift and putting it aside. Are you with me? Receiving the grace of God in vain, what does it mean to receive the grace of God in vain? It means to receive the goodness and favor of God, and yet to hinder the work of grace in our lives. I'm going to say this again, to receive the goodness and favor of God, and yet to hinder the work of grace in our lives. It means to be reconciled, and not become ministers of reconciliation, ambassadors, followers, workers.

Arnaldo Soto: 16:09 Paul said this, "But by the grace of God, I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain." Grace, by definition here, is given freely, but how we receive the grace will help to determine how effective the grace is in our lives. When grace is properly understood, the results in not being passive, but active, accomplishing what he intended us to accomplish with him and through him. He works in us, and through us, and many of us have wondered and maybe have the same question I had when I was thinking about this, the same very point, is God supposed to do it, or my supposed to do it? And the answer is, yes, God does it in me, in you, in me, and through me. That's the grace of God in our lives, working in our lives. He gives us the chance to serve him and serve him. well, walk with him.

Arnaldo Soto: 17:30 Now, there are seasons in life, there are seasons in life. When I came to 121 three years ago, I was very tired, mentally and emotionally tired. You probably can understand what I'm saying, some of you may be tired, burned out. In my membership class, I have the opportunity to fill the form. And I had this request, can pastor Ross meet me, I would like to have a conversation with him and share my heart. And then he kindly, he and his wife Lisa, accepted my request. And we went to eat in a restaurant, me, my wife, Lisa Ross, and we had a good conversation. We got to know each other, we shared our hearts to one another. And during the conversation I said this, I said, I am here, but I just need and want to rest. Rest in the Lord, re-energize, pray, focus again on him and my calling, discern the next step. I don't know where I am, I don't know where I'm going, I'm just here. It took me around a year to come back in mind, and think about, okay, let's go back to church and serve the church. And now I'm here serving the Lord in this wonderful setting with all of you, as a neighborhood engagement minister. The reality is the Bible says this, "For everything there is a season and a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born, a time to die. A time to labor, a time to rest. A time to plant, a time to harvest." And we can go on, there's time for everything. And that's beautiful, we want to trust God and rely on him, and then get to work and work as hard as we can. We have seasons in life.

Arnaldo Soto: 19:40 But this is something that got my attention the last few weeks, in John chapter 5 verse 17, this is what
Jesus said in here. Jesus said, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” So Jesus Christ was working, is working, and will continue working for us. How do we join him in this journey, when we received the greatest gift ever we can receive? So Jesus came to earth as a man with a goal in mind, he accomplished his goal on earth, during a specific period of time. We have a timeframe, and if we go to verse 2, it says this, "For, he says, at a favorable, or acceptable time, I listened to you, and on a day of salvation I helped you."

Arnaldo Soto: 20:41 And by quoting Isaiah 49 verse 8, Paul wants to give the Christians a sense of urgency. Warning, there is an urgency right here. We move forward, "Behold now is the acceptable time, behold, now is a day of salvation." God has a acceptable time, a favorable time, for us to work with his grace. God has a day of salvation that will not last forever. And as pastor Ross said, last Thursday night, we are going to see a new chapter, a new chapter in the future, and we will see everything perfect again. That was beautiful, we will see everything perfect again, but in the meantime, we need to be light. We need to be light. It's not the time to waste the gospel opportunity, or to vacillate, or to be deceived by false teachers, it is a time to hold fast to the truth, and faithfully embrace, it and proclaim it, that's what we are called to do.

Arnaldo Soto: 21:58 There are seasons in life where we cannot be consumed with ease, and comfort, and self-focus, we have to work and move forward with the Lord. Because someone said this, and I really love this, someone said the gospel is only good news if it gets there in time, only good news if it gets there in time. We're learning all about how to respond to the gospel, the calling from Jesus, the calling that he has placed in our lives, and we have to respond well. We will learn how to respond well in this process, Paul's passion was to be blameless as a servant of the gospel here. In verse 3 he says, "Giving no reason for taking offense in anything." "Giving no reason, Paul was continuing to make sure he gave no offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited."

Arnaldo Soto: 23:06 So if we see this, of course, Paul had people around him pointing at him and saying, who are you? He was discredited by people. But what Paul means is that our ministry may not rightly be blamed, our work, what we do so. Paul cannot do anything about false accusation, people will come around. The world will say a lot of things about us, the culture will say a lot of things about you and me as we walk with Jesus, as we serve Jesus. But what he had to do, is while he had control, to live in such a way that any fair-minded person would see much accusation as false.

Arnaldo Soto: 24:03 So Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, said this blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you, because of me. And the word, the keyword right here, is falsely. And then verse 4 says, "But in everything commending ourselves." And now Paul starts sharing his resume, "In everything commending ourselves as servants of God in much endurance." Moving forward, so we see a qualification right here that Paul was just sharing with all of us, endurance. We often think about endurance as something that is passive, but this is an active endurance, instead of passive waiting. First, it was because of the general struggles in life, trials of life, in affliction, in hardship, in difficulties. And as Jermaine says, a few weeks ago on a Sunday, he said this, finding joy in the fire. And this year has been like that, finding joy in the fire. And we can say finding hope in the fire, we can say finding peace in the fire, we can say finding love in the fire.

Arnaldo Soto: 25:35 What a year, 2020, I am a chaplain in the Air Force. I moved from Puerto Rico here to the United States, in 2007, I started to learn the language, move around, understand the culture of the United States. And one of my dreams was to be part of the Air Force as a chaplain. And at the beginning of this year, I spent two months in the military training in Alabama, it was at least 60 days over there, and I completed the officer training school. And what was the purpose of this training? When I was doing my research, this is what I found, I was trying to read, okay, what I'm going to expect in that training so I can be prepared for that particular training. And this is what I found, the purpose of this training is to educate and train officers of character, who are committed to the Air Force's core values, equipped to lead and ready to win.

Arnaldo Soto: 26:45 Love it, it sounds beautiful, until you get there. People start yelling at you from the first day, you're running all over the place. I thought, well, I am here, I'm just going to embrace it and move forward with it. But a few weeks later, when you have the physical, the mental, and emotional exhaustion, daily expectation that seems to be like very away from your reality, like humanly impossible. The stressors, harsh corrections, I'm not going to say what they said, but a lot of things, marching everywhere, you forget why you're doing what you're doing. And the purpose behind everything, why you decided to join the Air Force, you are tempted to give up, give up and go back home. I called my wife one night. I'm not going to say everything, what I said, but I was planning to go back home. God said, no. Training in the military service is to make people embrace, internalize, absorb the core values, the vision of the branch. If you are in the Marines, you're going to be in a training for that. If you are in the army, it's going to be interesting because you're going to go to Air Force or Space Force. Now, Navy, you embrace the values, and it's not easy. So the purpose is to meet yourself through hardship and [inaudible] to see if you're going to be consistent with the values. And when real life gets tough in the midst of pressure, in war, in disaster, the point of this is to rebuild your conviction and your values so you can work in this environment, in the military culture, and that could be painful for many of us.

Arnaldo Soto: 28:58 Deuteronomy chapter 8 verse 2 says this, "And you shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, in order to humble you." This is God speaking to the people of Israel, "To humble you, putting you to the test, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not." You receive the greatest gift ever by this grace, by the grace of God. You embrace it, you respond to it, you work, serve Jesus in this journey, in his agenda as ambassador, and you have unexpected difficulties in the journey. Then he tests your heart, and you will trust in his process, you will trust his agenda. Paul was often stressed, under pressure, and this is the idea behind the word, affliction or distress, in beating, in imprisonment, in mob attacks, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger. Paul knew the need of endurance in his life means the ability or strength to continue or last, especially in times of fatigue, stress, adversity.

Arnaldo Soto: 30:43 We have been learning at 121 about the persecuted church, this year we have been reflecting on this, we had a great opportunity outside and inside the building, and the worship center, to reflect this reality. In just the last year, there have been over 260 million Christian living in places where they experience high levels of persecution, that's a lot of people, the numbers are heartbreaking. But in James chapter 1 verse 2 through 4 says this, "Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance." And that joy is what we see, when we hear brothers and sister from other nations telling us what God has been doing in their lives, and how the church is growing in amazing ways in China, in other countries, in the midst of persecution, because they know what it means when God says this.

Arnaldo Soto: 32:06 The second quality we hear from Paul is an ambassador that wants to serve well is, purity. Verse 6 mentions in purity, in purity means a clean heart. This has to do with true motivations of my heart, my true agenda, why I do what I do. Taking the temptation out of my way of being the Lordship of my heart, of my life, and live my own life, and let him work in my life, in my heart, in the way he wants. Because the Bible says blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. So we have been assisting this year too, about memorizing the scripture, especially the last few months. Because one of the quality here is knowledge, and we want to memorize the scripture because it gives us the knowledge of the truth, so we can move forward. And this knowledge guides us, even in the midst of our emotions, when we say no more, when life gets tough, when we have the Bible verse in our heart, in our mind, the Holy Spirit reminds us in that specific time when we need to hear it.

Arnaldo Soto: 33:34 Paul continue saying this, as a good ambassador, he had a great list here. He says this, "In kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, and in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left hand." So we have the truth of God in our lives, so in concluding his resume, Paul listed his reference. And I want you to read this with me, if you can, from verse 8. And this is the picture of Paul, this is a picture of the persecuted church, this is a picture of 121, this is a picture of the staff of 121 as well. He says in verse 8, "By glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; regarded as deceivers and yet true; as unknown and yet well known, as dying and yet behold, we are alive; as punished and yet not put to death, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing and yet possessing all things." The word describes Paul as this, as dishonor, as evil report, a deceiver, a non-dying, punished, sorrowful, poor and having nothing. But God describes Paul, and you, and me, when we follow Jesus, as good report, as true, well known, alive, not killed, always rejoicing, making many rich, possessing all things.

Arnaldo Soto: 35:31 When my friend came to me to give me the gift, I was so distracted. I was busy, my mind was not there. As soon as I received the gift, I put it on the side. I learned a lesson, I don't want to do that again with no one, I don't want to do that with God. The greatest of all gifts was when Jesus Christ was given to us, the only son, how do we respond? We have a calling, minister of reconciliation, we are an ambassador; we have a responsibility, the ability to respond to God; we have a timeframe, this is the time of salvation; and we have to respond well. We can do that with our pure heart, fully moving with the Lord, checking our motivation. And do you know why? Because what he gave us, that gift, we don't want to have it in vain, we want to embrace it and live for it.

Arnaldo Soto: 36:45 Let's pray. Lord, thank you so much for this word, thank you for the opportunity for me to share this word to these wonderful people, online and here in present. I pray that you help us walk with you, embrace your calling, accept our life of jubilation, reflection, and just walk with you, knowing that you have a great agenda. As we have experienced 2020, we pray for a new year in connection with you even more deeply with our heart and with our soul. And we pray that you guide us in everything. In your name I pray, Jesus'. Amen. Amen.

Arnaldo Soto: 37:38 You can just close your eyes for a second, let God speak to your heart and seal this word. And thank you for the opportunity I have this morning to be here with you all. Bless you.

Recorded in Grapevine, Texas.
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