Ephesians 1:3-6 – Blessed to Belong

blessed to belong

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” (NIV)

We tend to live up to how we view ourselves.  If we see ourselves as never getting ahead and needing to lie, cheat, and steal to obtain anything in this life, then we will view ourselves as common thieves.  If we think that the only way to have love and security in this life is to make ourselves as presentable as we possible can, then we will view ourselves as basically unlovely and search for love in all the wrong places by always trying to keep up appearances.  If we look at ourselves as stupid, then we will tend to make poor decisions even when it’s in our ability to make good choices because we see ourselves as unable to compete with those smarter than us.

The common theme in all these scenarios is that it is life lived apart from God.  Without him, we are like lost street children trying to just survive from day to day.  What we need, what we search for is to have a good blessed life in a loving home, a place to belong in a world of disconnection.

To be “blessed,” to have “blessing” in the Holy Scriptures is to have God’s stamp of approval on your life.  Let that reality sink-in for a moment….

The picture being painted at the very beginning of Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus was that they were like wayward children roaming the streets as orphans.  The Ephesians were ensconced in their idol worship of Artemis, the fertility cult goddess.  They were going about life without a whim about the true and living God of all.  In sheer grace God plucked them from their worthless condition and adopted them.  He placed his blessing upon them because of his love.

What’s more, the Ephesians were chosen and predestined for holiness and purity.  God set them apart for his blessing.  It’s as if he brought them into his kingly palace, provided lavishly for them, and let them have the run of the place.  They got to enjoy every blessing that came with being children of the king.

The focus and orientation of these verses is about how tremendously special the believer in Jesus really is.  And it has nothing to do with how presentable we are to a holy God.  Instead, out of the storehouse of his blessed grace, God chose and adopted.

On top of all that, God did it simply because he was pleased to do it.  God does not choose, predestine, and adopt with a begrudging attitude, but because it brings him great pleasure to do so.  My friend, do you see how God views you?  Do you know how special you really are?  Have you an understanding of the incredible position you have in Jesus Christ, as his follower?

As a child of the king, you live up to the position you know you possess.  Freedom from worry and anxiety don’t come from willpower, but from the understanding that our Father owns all things and we will never be in need.  Deliverance from the power of darkness doesn’t come by trying to do better, but through the knowledge that God has redeemed us and chosen us to live in his gracious realm forever.

The believer has every spiritual blessing in Christ.  God has your back.  You belong to him.  And to belong to Jesus Christ is to be blessed.  It makes all the difference in the world.

Gracious God, your loving activity has snatched me from the barren streets of sin and brought me into a realm of incredible blessing.  Thank you for blessing me and giving me a place to belong forever; through Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit reign forever and ever in a celebration of redeeming love.  Amen.

1 Peter 3:8-12

            Hard circumstances tend to bring out the worst in many people.  When difficulty arises in a group it is just human nature that they either try and run like a bunch of rats from a sinking ship, or they turn on each other and chew on one another, again, like a bunch of rats.  It’s what psychologists call the ‘fight or flight syndrome.’  But there is another alternative.  The Apostle Peter said that, when in the throw of suffering, Christians should be like-minded, sympathetic, love each other, embrace compassionate behavior, and humility.  They should not turn to evil in dealing with their frustrations, but ought to do the very opposite:  bless each other.
 
            If we want to be happy no matter what the circumstance, then we will listen to Peter and the psalmist who say:  “Do you want to be happy?  Then stop saying cruel things and quit telling lies.  Give up your evil ways and do right, and find and follow the road that leads to peace.  The Lord watches over everyone who obeys him, and he listens to their prayers.  But he opposes everyone who does evil.”
 
            Well, there you have it.  Now it is a choice of whether we will obey the Scripture, or give in to our sinful nature by devouring others whom we have issues.  Which will you choose?
 

 

            Gracious God, you have chosen me to be your child and inherit all your very great and precious promises.  Help me to live into my position as your son, and be consistent in responding to suffering by blessing others, through the power of the Holy Spirit for the sake of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Being a Blessing

Words are powerful.  They have the power of life and of death, of blessing and cursing.  And taking the route of not talking is a communication of no blessing and no commitment.  It is essential and vital to speak words of blessing, and to back those words up with an active commitment.
 
 
 
            God spoke to Abraham.  He said he would bless him, and God backed up his words (Genesis 12:1-9; 15:1-21).  The real question for Abraham, which is also the question for us, is not how we will respond to God’s commands, but how will we respond to his promise of blessing, and to be a blessing?  Abraham left the city of Ur because he believed in the promise that God was holding out to him of blessing.  It is the promises of God, not the commands, which change our lives.  It is the promise, not the command, which requires a decision and a change.  The world revolves around promise.  And promise is powered by blessing.
 
            The term “blessing” in Scripture is a powerful communication of God’s presence and approval.  God said that he would show Abraham the Promised Land; in other words, he would be with Abraham.  Abraham was not alone; he was not on his own.  God provided for Abraham a picture of a special future; he would make Abraham into a great nation.  And even more than that, he would bless everyone else through Abraham.  God’s approval was with Abraham – “I will bless you.”  God’s active commitment to Abraham was this:  he would bless those who bless him and curse those who curse him. 
 
            This blessing was passed from generation to generation, from Abraham to Isaac, Isaac to Jacob, Jacob to his twelve sons; a blessing of God’s presence and approval; a blessing of a special future, and an active commitment.  The promise of the blessing found its ultimate fulfillment in the person of Jesus, who extended the original promise to the nations.  We, as Gentiles, have come to faith because of the blessing.
 
            When we come to the New Testament, the Father blessed the Son (Matthew 3:16-17):  As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water.  At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him.  And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”  God communicated his constant presence and an active commitment through the Spirit; God spoke words of approval and affirmation; God the Father had a special future for Jesus the Son, which helped Jesus to reject the words of Satan.  If Jesus needed a blessing from his Father, how much more do we?  Earthly fathers stand in a very special position as those who have the power of bestowing a blessing on their children – a blessing of being with them, approving of them, affirming their gifts and abilities, picturing for them a special future of how God can use them.  Those words of blessing have the power to help children navigate the tons of decisions that they must make.  With a blessing they can filter-out the choices in front of them, and walk in the way of God.
 
 
 
            Jesus, in turn, blessed his disciples (Matthew 28:18-20).  We typically view these verses through the lenses of command.  But we need to see Christ’s Great Commission through the eyes of promise and blessing:  “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.   And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Jesus let his disciples know that his presence would be with them; he communicated an active commitment to give them the authority that he possessed to do the job of disciple-making; he pictured for them a special future of reaching the nations; he affirmed them and approved them.  This Great Commission is really a re-statement of God’s original blessing to Abraham.
 
God is with you.  He has given us his very great and precious promises in Christ.  He has demonstrated his active commitment to us by giving us the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit has gifted each believer for service so that every individual may be a blessing to the Body of Christ, and make disciples of all nations of the world.
 
            You have God’s blessing.  There is no need to try and earn it; you already have it.  Let that blessing help you to reject the organization of wicked spirits who seek to have you for their own.  And you have been blessed so that you can be a blessing in the world.  You have the privilege and ability to reverse the Fall of humanity by turning the world’s curse into a blessing.  If you have been blessed with money, be a blessing by giving it away.  If you have been blessed by growing up in a loving family, give that love to others who are unloved and need that special blessing.  If you have been given wisdom, give it away to those who need wisdom.  If you have been blessed with the mercy of God, be merciful to others.  If you have been blessed with a wonderful relationship with God, make it your ministry to pray people into the kingdom of God.
 

 

            It is never too late to receive blessing, and never too late to bless others.  The church ought to be the one place on planet earth that is full of a culture of blessing.  May the Lord bless you and keep you.  May the Lord make his face to shine upon you and give you peace.

Activate God’s Blessing

In a world of fear, in the darkness of the earth after the Fall of humanity, people tend to settle for not listening, or when they do, listening to the voice of political ideas, or propaganda as their hope.  We, as the Church, must not settle for less powerful words.  The speech of God is for his people to abandon, renounce, and let go – to depart from previous ways.  God’s Word, for example, to Abraham was to “leave” and “go” (Genesis 12:1-3).  For Abraham and his wife Sarah to stay in Ur of the Chaldees (a pagan land), afraid to move, and settling for retirement living, would result in barrenness and no hope.  To leave was to experience blessing. 
 
 
 
Jesus once said to his disciples: If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it (Mark 8:34-35).  Blessing from God happens when we give up everything to leave and follow Jesus.  God is still holding out this promise of blessing that can be realized through leaving and going. 
 
In order to experience marital blessing, God said in the beginning that a man must “leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife” (Genesis 2:24).  The writer of Proverbs has told us if we want to see blessing, to experience God’s presence and approval, you must “leave your simple ways” (Proverbs 9:6).   Jesus said that if you have relational problems and are getting ready to worship you must “leave your gift at the altar.” Then, we are to “first go and be reconciled to your brother” (Matthew 5:23-24).   Jesus himself has said that he, as the Great Shepherd, will leave the ninety-nine sheep to go after one lost one (Luke 15:4).  And he turns right around and commissions us to do the business of leaving:  “Go, and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19).  Jesus further has said, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven (Matthew 19:21).  To those who are too afraid or complacent to step out in faith and leave for God’s banquet of blessing, the invitation has gone out:  “Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find” (Matthew 22:9).  Not going ends in no blessing.  God said to Jonah “go” (Jonah 1:2), but Jonah said “no” to God and did not go because of his prejudice.  Leaving and blessing go together.  We must step out in faith as the people of God and leave behind our old ways and embrace the journey ahead that God has for us.  Where are we going?  God knows.  Leave, go, and trust. 
 
 
 
Let me “leave” you with some thoughts on stepping out of our friendly and familiar environment to know the blessing of God:
  1. Hang around with committed Christians who want the blessing of God.  Spend time with those who are eager to do God’s will.  I had the wonderful blessing of being around many people in the formative years of my Christian life with a passion for God.  One of those people was a man named Howard Bixby.  Pastor Bixby had a saying for me anytime I came to him contemplating whether I should step out and follow through with an idea I had or a person to talk to.  He always, without fail, would say to me:  “Go for the jugular!”  And I did.  And every time I knew the blessing of God on my life which kept me going back for more.  That advice has served me well.  So, I say to you:  “go for the jugular!”  If you spend most of your time hanging out with toothless Christians who have no spiritual bite, then you will be one yourself.  Light each other’s fire, and let the Holy Spirit kindle a fresh flame in your heart by being around passionate Christian people.  Abraham went to the Promised Land with Sarah, his wife.  Don’t be a lone-ranger.  Bring your family along the blessing trail by having bible readings together and talking about spiritual issues.
  2. Walk across the room.  God may not be calling all of us to leave this country and go to an unreached people-group, but he is calling us all to leave our seats and walk across the room to encourage another person in his/her faith; across the street to strike up a spiritual conversation with a lost neighbor; across town to a lonely or hurting elderly person; or down the street to hang out at the laundry mat to meet new people who need Jesus.  By all means we are to walk across the pages of Scripture to follow Jesus in obedience to the Holy Spirit’s promptings.
  3. You don’t have to be a super-Christian who feels blessed to leave and step out in faith.  We might all consider Mother Teresa, who died in 1997, to be a super-Christian.  She said:  “By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus.  God still loves the world and He sends you and me to be His love and His compassion to the poor to quench His thirst for love and for souls.”   Yet, at the same time, Teresa struggled in her faith for most of her life and often felt like her own soul was desolate.  She once confessed: “In my soul, I feel just the terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me, of God not being God, of God not really existing.”  Yet, her dark night of the soul was still the salvation for thousands.
  4. Don’t talk it to death!  There is always more research and information and counsel to obtain.  At some point you need to act.  We really have no need to create a sub-committee to investigate the findings of that other committee in order to make a decision.  Frederick Buechner has said “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”  Where does your passion and the world’s great need meet?  Leave, and go there. 

 

Activate the blessing of God in your life by leaving and going where the Spirit leads.  May we have the courage and the faith, despite our feelings, to respond to God’s sending.