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The Gift Card
by Lyle Arakaki

[I remove from my wallet a gift card for one of my favorite restaurants and hold it up for the congregation to see.]

I received this gift card to Olive Garden as a birthday gift from a good friend. I didn’t do anything to earn or deserve this gift; my friend gave it to me out of the goodness of his heart and because he is a really generous and thoughtful person.

Is this gift card mine?  Of course it is. I carry it around with me in my wallet. Is it of any value to me?  Of course. But am I receiving any benefit from this gift card?  No. What do I need to do to experience the full benefits of this gift card?  I need to go to the Olive Garden and use it to enjoy a meal.

In a similar fashion, salvation in Jesus is a gift. You and I can do absolutely nothing to earn or deserve it. It is purely a gift of grace out of God’s love and goodness towards us. When we accept this gift by faith, it is ours. But are we experiencing the full benefits of salvation by simply possessing this gift?  I would suggest not. How can we receive the benefits of salvation?

We experience the benefits of salvation when we receive by faith the transforming power of the Holy Spirit which Jesus is wanting to impart to us. As Seventh-day Adventists, we believe that since October 22, 1844, Jesus has been ministering in the Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary. What exactly is Jesus doing there?  We commonly say that Jesus is interceding on our behalf before the Father. I would like to suggest that His Most Holy Place ministry can be compared to my using my gift card at the  Olive Garden. Jesus is helping me to experience the full benefits of the salvation He has given to me as a gift. He is helping me to receive the grace and power of His Holy Spirit so that my life will be transformed and begin to reflect His character of love more and more. In other words, Jesus is helping us to experience sanctification. Let’s make full use of His gift to us.

Lyle Arakaki is the pastor of the Forest Park Church in Everett, Washington