One of the fondest memories of my childhood was the annual Valentine’s Day party in elementary school. Usually, the day before the big event we would decorate our brown paper bags in hopes of seeing them filled the next day. I would meticulously glue on ribbons and decorations as best as my little hands would allow, in hopes of receiving the biggest and best Valentines the next day. At our school, the party was usually in the afternoon after all the lessons had been done for the day. I can still remember our teacher dismissing us all to walk around and place our handpicked cards into the bags hanging off the edge of each desk. I quickly made my rounds to each desk; although I could hardly wait to get back to my desk to sift through each of the love notes personally picked out for me. Of course, those that came with a sucker or candy received my full attention. We were allowed to have one piece in class, but we had to save the rest for later; so I would happily snack on the rest of the candy on my way home. I felt loved, and it made me happy. And there was nothing I did to earn any of it!
There’s just something about a free gift that makes us feel special. Well in the eyes of God, you are special! So special in fact, that He saw our greatest need and sent His greatest gift. John 15:13 tells us that Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Because God is holy, sin cannot be ignored, it must be paid for. And because we could never pay for it ourselves, God sent Jesus to pay it for us. No amount of money or good works can pay that debt. Only by accepting the free gift of love shown by Jesus on the cross, on our behalf, can we be forgiven of that debt. But for any gift to be enjoyed, it must first be received, and this one is no different. Yet this free gift goes unopened by so many.
In our human relationships, we often assume that love shown will equate to love given, but unfortunately it doesn’t always work that way. But I am so thankful that it is not that way with God. Romans 10:13 tells us that Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Not only did God show us His love when we were so undeserving, but He also showed it in the greatest way possible. Romans 5:8 tells us that God commendeth (showed) His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. When we were helpless, hopeless, and lost, God sent Jesus as remedy for it all. And because He did, I am found, and I am loved!
For those who have received this free gift, it changes the way we live. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, the love He has lavished on you must shine through in all that you do. Ephesians 5:2 tells us to walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us. Because of God’s love for me, my love for others must shine through as a testament to Him. But it was much more than love that was a part of that gift. Forgiveness, mercy, and grace were also on full display when Jesus died for me. This is why I’m thankful, this is why I’m blessed. So this Valentine’s Day, as you give gifts to others, don’t forget that the greatest gift has already been given to you, will you open it?
Pastor Gonzales has served as the pastor of First Baptist Church of Goodrich, Michigan since 2018. He has seen the church grow into a vibrant body of believers that love God and love others. The church has a passion for the community and is involved in many local events throughout the year. Pastor Ben and his wife Shannon have 3 grown children Michaela, Grant, and Brooklyn.