John 1:16 “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.”
Allyson attended Catholic schools for 14 years. Today she is a “none.” She is part of the growing number of Americans who claim no religion. She tells people that she went to Christian schools for 14 years to learn that she has no faith in organized religion. She regards religion as “death insurance,” and she isn’t willing to pay the premiums. Like many younger people, she believes that religion in general, and Christianity in particular, gives you less not more. It makes demands on your time, your money, your behavior and lifestyle. And for what?
In contrast to Allyson, there are the preachers who would like to convince you that Christianity will give you more right now. They host their own TV shows. They preach to tens of thousands in stadium-sized churches. They tell you that if you follow the right Bible principles, you can be wealthier, healthier, more popular and more powerful today. The only thing standing between you and a fabulous life is a big enough faith and a big enough donation to the preacher’s ministry.
The Apostle John assures us Jesus has something very valuable to offer, in spite of what people like Allyson believe. But it isn’t necessarily the “fabulous” life offered by the preachers on TV. “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.” “One blessing after another” is literally “grace upon grace.” Grace is God’s gift-love. The picture is that grace just keeps piling up. One gift comes right after another in a stream of gifts that never ends.
What do these gifts look like? Let’s unpackage a few of them. The foundational gift is God’s love itself. Jesus preached it. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” He lived it. “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Now remain in my love” (John 15:9). He finally gave up his life for it. “No greater love has anyone than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Isn’t this the one gift almost everyone wants most of all–to be loved? And isn’t this one of the hardest things for us to believe–that we are loved, just as we are, imperfections and all? How much sinful behavior doesn’t come from our insecurities about being loved and lovable? Young people become promiscuous because they want to create an illusion that someone loves them. But sex isn’t love.
We pile up more possessions, more stuff, than anyone can reasonably use. We shop without control, because we are trying to fill some hole in our heart. But things aren’t love.
We smoke something, or drink something, or pop something, or inject something to numb our emotional pain and forget our emptiness. But being buzzed or wasted isn’t being loved.
We criticize others and pick at their faults to feel better about ourselves. But pride and self-righteousness may cut us off from love more than all the rest.
Jesus gives us more than substitutes, counterfeits, and distractions. He gives us the genuine artifact. He gives us grace, the gift of love from God that we don’t have to deserve or earn. And from that gift, we receive so many more.
Because God loves us he forgives all our sins, and Jesus paid the supreme price to make it so. Because God forgives us, our fear and doubt are replaced by faith. Because we trust God and know that our sins are forgiven, we have peace in our lives. Because our hearts are at peace and God loves us, we can experience real joy, even when our outward circumstances aren’t so positive. When God’s love leads us to faith, the Holy Spirit comes and lives in our hearts. In addition to love, peace, and joy, he starts producing “kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22).
That’s more than death insurance. It’s part of a mighty river of gifts that never stop flowing over us from the spring of divine grace. And every one of them traces its origin back to Christ, who has come to give you more.