If you turn on the news these days, you will most likely hear a great deal about benefits - social security benefits, Medicare benefits, health insurance and perhaps many others. Everybody has the answers, but no one has the solutions. People are losing confidence in their leaders as they receive notices that their benefits have been dropped. Benefits that were once viewed as stable are now found to be at best unreliable.
But amidst the uncertainties of life, Christ came to be born of a woman, born under the law. And it is by faith in Christ that we are assured great and everlasting benefits. There is a difference, however, between the benefits that we work so hard for and the ones that Christ bestows. For the blessings and benefits that God pours out upon us in and through His Son, Jesus, he does so freely of His grace.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism, as it summarizes the Biblical teaching on this matter of benefits, asks, "What benefits do they that are effectually called partake of in this life?" (WSC #32) The answer to the question is this:
They that are effectually called do in this life partake of justification, adoption, and sanctification and the several benefits which in this life do either accompany or flow from them.
In other words, these benefits are reserved for those who have looked to Christ in faith.
"Effectual calling" is defined in question 31 of the Catechism as the work of the Spirit of God by which we are convinced of our sin and misery, and are brought to an understanding of the work of Christ, and are given the ability to embrace Him by faith.
When we look to Christ in faith, we are justified (declared righteous), adopted into the family, and sanctified (purified from the corruption and pollution of sin). The amazing thing about these benefits is that they are not temporary, and no one is able to take them away from us. They are eternal benefits which we begin to enjoy in this life and continue to enjoy for all eternity. The Catechism also addresses the benefits we enjoy at death, and at the resurrection. Those who framed the words of the Catechism want us to understand that these benefits belong to us not because we have earned them or worked for them, but solely because of what God has done for us in His Son, Jesus Christ.
These benefits are only possible because Jesus Christ, God's eternal son, took on flesh. John tells us, "The word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14) Earlier in that same passage John declares, "But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." In His mercy, God has not treated us as our sins deserve, and in His grace He has lavished upon us what we do not deserve.
By granting to us the ability to believe in His Son, He adopts us into His family and gives the promise of life everlasting. Without Christ, we are without hope, but with Christ, we have eternal and everlasting benefits. Now that is something for which to rejoice.
My prayer for you in this season and throughout the year, if you have not placed your trust in Christ, is that you will do so and begin to experience the great benefits of being a child of God. If you do know Him, my prayer is that you will grow more acquainted with the extent of the benefits that are yours in Christ.
Think about it. When we receive a letter concerning our health benefits, we read it. We want to fully understand what is covered and what isn't. In the same way, we must eagerly turn to God's Word to discover all of the benefits belonging to those who have looked to Christ by faith! The more we know of them, the greater will be our gratitude, and our rejoicing, and the greater our service will be to Christ.
So friends, as you celebrate this season of the year, my prayer is that you would celebrate Christ. And no matter what happens in this unstable world around us, don't worry. If you are in Christ your eternal benefits are secure - so begin to live out of gratitude for the grace you have been shown!