Try this experiment. Walk into your place of employment with a wad of one-dollar bills and try to give them away. See if people take them.. I tried it once. "Anybody want this?" It was hard to find a taker, but someone finally took me up on the offer, but then promptly handed it back. "What's the catch?" they asked. "Are these real? Why are you doing this?"
Finally I put a stack of ones in the kitchen with a sign that read: "Free. Take One." When they figured out that there were no strings attached, they got together and decided to use the money to buy donuts for the office. And I can't eat donuts.
People tend to be suspicious of freebies. No one goes around giving stuff away and expecting nothing in return. Or do they?
Parents give to their children because they want to, not because they have to. Friends help friends because they are friends. Jesus tells us, "If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back." (Luke 6:33-34 NKJV)
There is a certain expectation that kindness will beget kindness, that there will be a quid for every quo. Is it any wonder, then, that people refuse the gifts of God? Maybe God gives gifts, but surely he expects something in return. Jesus might have said, "Freely you have received, freely give" (Matt. 10:8), but does he apply that rule to himself?
We all know that eternal life is a gift (Rom. 6:23), but there is also another gift that mankind in general has refused to accept. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Some people naturally resist it (Acts 7:51). They even "grieve" it (Eph. 4:30).
Simon Magus saw the power of it and tried to buy it (Acts 8:20). God wouldn't just give such power away, would he? There must be some quid pro quo around here somewhere. But we read in Acts 10:45 that God poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit on the Gentiles, and they didn't even ask for it. In another place, Jesus tells us, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believes on me, as the scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." And the Bible tells us that he was speaking about the Holy Spirit. (John 7:37-39).
So why do people refuse this wonderful gift from God? Why do they refuse gifts in general? No son refuses a gift from his father. No daughter refuses a gift from her mother. Yet they will refuse a gift from a stranger - and from God. They refuse such gifts because they don't know the giver. If they had known the giver, they would trust the sincerity of the gift. They refused to take a dollar bill from me because they don't know me well enough. They refuse a gift from God because they just don't know and trust him.
There is one thing, though. "We are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him." (Acts 5:32 NKJV). "For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it?" (Luke 14:28 NKJV)
Obey? Count the cost? A father might give unconditional gifts to his children out of love, but he still has expectations. Our Heavenly Father has certain expectations of us. When I was new in my Christian life, I was told of someone who was inquiring about a free, high-quality Christian magazine. The question was asked, "What will it cost me?" The answer: "Not much. Just your whole life." That echoes the words of Jesus: "So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:33 NKJV).
Yes, God has his expectations of us. He expects us to become like Jesus Christ. (I John 3:2)
Excerpted from The Sabbath
Morning Companion, October, 19,2007, by Lenny Cacchio. All rights reserved.