A joyous holiday season to all readers! The giving and receiving of gifts is woven throughout our generation’s celebration of Christ’s birth. Many of us fondly remember childhood holidays, family traditions, and gifts.
What is the greatest gift you have ever received? I’m not thinking of the kind presented in wrapping paper. Christians joyously declare, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Cor 9:15). This gift is Christ Himself, who purchased for us the priceless blessings of salvation–past, present, and future.
As believers, we were saved in the past from the penalty of sin as a free gift. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the GIFT of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph 2:8,9) .”For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:23).
And when we anticipate the return of Christ, we praise God for the hope of a glorified body with all the blessings of heaven. Peter encourages us to, “Gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 1:13; Cf. 1:3-7; 1 Cor 15:35-57). This future aspect of salvation is also a gift.
Wouldn’t it be “a wonderful life” if victory over willful sin could also be a gift? Could it be that abundant life could really be a gift? Jesus did say, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
I’m the first to admit that the idea of partaking of an overcoming life as a gift seems contrary to our usual outlook on the Christian life. I recall–as a child in Sunday School–singing, “Climb, climb up sunshine mountain.” It was fun to sing, but its imagery left me with the impression that the Christian life was about my efforts to climb the mountain of holiness.
I’m so thankful, however, that 30 years of Bible study–enhanced by a variety of people, books, and conversations–have pointed me to the grace-oriented perspective of discipleship. It may sound too good to be true, but there are good reasons to believe that victorious life in Christ is a gift of God! Many respected devotional writers have been experiencing and explaining this good news for generations.
Consider this testimony from Charles Trumbull. After years of struggling, he appropriated Christ as his source of living. He could then identify with Paul’s affirmation: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). Trumbull wrote of the need to recognize abundant life as a gift of God:
“The great truth that so many earnest, surrendered Christians have yet failed to see is that salvation is a twofold gift; freedom from the PENALTY of sin, and freedom from the POWER of sin. All Christians have received in Christ as their Savior their freedom from the penalty of their sins, and they have received this as an outright gift of God. But many Christians have not yet realized that they may, in the same way, and by the same kind of faith in the same God and Savior, receive now and here the freedom from the power of their sins which was won for them by their Savior on the cross and in His resurrection victory. Even though they know that their own efforts have nothing to do with their salvation from the PENALTY of their sins, they are yet deceived by the Adversary into believing that somehow their own efforts must play a part in their present victory over the power of their sins. Our efforts can not only never play any part in our victory over the power of Sin, but they can and do effectually prevent such a victory.” 
We may wonder if such a radical, grace-oriented view overlooks the believer’s role in this process. Trumbull acknowledges the importance of the believer’s will:
“We are to use our will to accept the gift of victory; we are not to make an effort to win the victory. What should we say of children in a household who spent Christmas Eve agonizing in their desires and efforts to make sure that on the morrow they should have all the gifts that Christmas ought to bring them? Would this be pleasing to the loving parents who had been spending themselves to the uttermost of their resources to provide gifts for those children?. . . If a child chose to use [his] will to refuse the gifts, the gifts would not be his… But the efforts of the children can have no place in making Christmas Day a time of their joyous receiving of the expressed love of the father and mother. Our Lord wants our lives on earth to be one long Christmas Day of receiving His gift of Himself as our victory … The effortless life is not a will-less life. We use our will to believe, to receive, but not to exert effort in trying to accomplish what only God can do.” 
Does Trumbull’s case seem simplistic or exaggerated to you? Does it imply passivity on the believer’s part? Let’s give Trumbull the benefit of the doubt and look further at the definition of grace in the New Testament.
The flagship verse in Grace Notes reminds us of Christ’s promise: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). The Greek word for grace here is charis. Thayer’s Lexicon defines it as “the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.” 
Devotional writer, Selwyn Hughes elaborates:
“A definition of grace I like very much is this: ‘Grace is the strength God gives us to obey His commands.’ Grace is not just a kindly attitude but an impartation of power too. We can be sure that the people who speed past us on the path of Christian discipleship and seem to know God in a much deeper way than we do have received more of that power which God imparts ‘unmerited and free.’ It is by grace that they leap over all the impediments on their onward way.”
The major objection to this bold view of abundant life in Christ as a gift seems to be that it advocates passivity on the part of the believer. Let’s hear from an “Unknown Christian” who was in full agreement with Trumbull’s testimony of sanctification as a gift of God:
“Does this mean, then, that we need do nothing but sit down and sing psalms? Far, far from it!. . . When Christ comes into the heart, He comes with power (Luke 24:49). Power is a thing which makes itself felt… So Paul, who declares that salvation is all of faith, also warns us that we have a fight to wage, a race to run, a wrestling to engage in. [However] Never forget that even in all this outward activity it is fruitful only as Christ inspires it and empowers us.” 
When seekers asked Christ, “‘What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent'” (John 6:28-29). This is true of “the work of God” in conversion and sanctification.
The following analogy may help. If you drive a car, you know that it is not a passive experience. You are required to constantly make decisions: accelerate; turn the wheel; apply the brakes, etc. But from where does the power come to propel you from point A to point B? The engine gets the credit for that. (If you think driving is tough, consider how much harder it would be to push the vehicle yourself!) However, I’ve seen play cars for children that are powered by peddles inside. Let’s extend this analogy further. How many of us who have been given the gift of the car [salvation] and are assured of a free, new vehicle in the future [glorification], are “peddling our car” now? Are you weary of trying to serve the Lord, struggling to overcome temptation, and laboring to achieve spiritual results?
You don’t want to be stuck in the works-righteousness trap of the early Galatians: “O foolish Galatians! … Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” (Gal. 3:1-3).
Paul credited grace as the source of the believer’s salvation and spiritual victory: “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son [salvation from sin’s penalty], much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved [from sin’s power] by His life [Christ’s resurrection life]. . .”For if by the one man’s offense [Adam’s] death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:10,17). Grace equips us to “reign in life” with Christ!
Dear reader, perhaps you need to unwrap your gift of abundant life. When you received Christ, you received all of His resources (Eph. 1:3; 3:30). Appropriate this gift. Unreservedly surrender to God who loves you. Wholeheartedly trust in Christ who is your life. Be filled with the Holy Spirit and see that “it is God who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).
 Giving gifts can be a wholesome expression of love and gratitude. In commemorating the Feast of Trumpets, Nehemiah said to the people, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our LORD. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Neh 8:10). I’m not, however, endorsing the commercialization of Christmas nor commenting on the date of Christ’s birth.
 Charles Trumbull, Victory in Christ, (CLC, 1959), p.47-48. [emphasis original]
 Ibid., p.49-52.
 J.H. Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon, “charis”, definition 2.
 Selwyn Hughes, “Every Day with Jesus,” (CWR, [Waverley Abbey House, Waverley Lane, Farnham, Surrey, England GU9 8EP], Jan 10, 1995).
 An Unknown Christian, How to Live the Victorious Life, (Zondervan), p.73.
For a more detailed study on the past, present and future aspects of salvation see https://gracenotebook.com/three-tenses-of-salvation/
For further reading on this theme, see the article by Charles Finney at https://gracenotebook.com/category/classics/.
Copyright 2000 by John Woodward. Revised 2011. Permission is granted to reprint this article for non-commercial ministry in its entirety with appropriate credit given.
Looking for Bible reading plan? Check out www.BiblePathway.org . The flexible plan that John recommends is described here: https://gracenotebook.com/the-balanced-diet-reading-plan/