Word of Encouragement

‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’– Acts 20:35

“…And I will bless you…so that you will be a blessing…And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” – Genesis 12:2-3

 

If you’re a believer, you are blessed! All who believe in Jesus are blessed by God with Father Abraham (Galatians 3:13-16, 26-29). We are blessed with Father Abraham because of God’s promises to him were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. We are all sons and daughters of God through faith in Christ! This means we are greatly blessed!

What does it mean to be blessed by God? What do we mean when we say “God bless you”? Or that “God has blessed me!” We often mean that God has given us some extra money in popular language. But God’s blessing is much more than that! What we should mean primarily when we speak of God’s blessings to us is that we are recipients of God’s grace in three particular ways: (1) Relationship; (2) Righteousness; and (3) Riches.

In Genesis, we are taught that “Father” Abraham was called out of darkness into God’s light by God’s grace and was granted precious promises that established a relationship with God, that gave a righteousness to him that he did not have, and promised great riches because of God’s love.

(1)   Relationship: God has been gracious in seeking out sinners and granting them a relationship to Him by His grace. We who were once far from God have been brought near through the blood of Jesus Christ, and this is what it means to be blessed.

(2)   Righteousness: God has been gracious in giving sinners a perfect righteousness that is received by faith alone in Christ alone. We receive Jesus’ righteousness that was earned from His perfect life lived, and we receive forgiveness of sins through the atoning death Jesus died in our place, and we are received as God’s forgiven children in Him, and this is what it means to be blessed.

(3)   Riches in Christ: God has been gracious in that he not only grants us a relationship with Himself, and a righteousness that is a perfect righteousness that forgives us our sins and equips us for heavenly life with Him for all eternity, but God also further blesses us with all of the riches that are found in our union with Jesus Christ (and there are so many!) and this is what it means to be blessed.

All good and perfect gifts come from God; all things that we enjoy in this life are blessings, but of all these blessings, the greatest of these would be a relationship with the living God, a righteousness from God that makes us acceptable in the Beloved, and all of the riches of God that are given to us because of Jesus.

We are to know that we are richly blessed, so that we will be a blessing to others. God says to Abraham: “I will bless you…so that you will be a blessing.” In Scripture we are taught that God abundantly gives so that we can give to others. We are called by God to honor others above ourselves, to seek to serve, to seek to give whatever we can of our time, talents and possessions.

Do you seek daily to be a blessing to others? Do you plan your day seeking to think prayerfully how you might bless another person, especially those of the household of faith? (Gal. 6:10). We are commanded when we meet together as God’s people to plan or consider how we might stir one another up to love and good works (Hebrews 10:23-25). We are naturally self-centered and focused only on ourselves, so God in Christ commands us to have our eyes fixed on Jesus who gave Himself for us, so that we will seek to stir up others to love and good works.

How can you be a blessing today? Pray that you better understand just how much God has given to you in Jesus Christ. Reflect daily, and meditate day and night on the relationship you have with God because of the love and grace of Jesus. Reflect and meditate upon God’s righteousness that has been given to you, that covers all of your sins, and makes you righteous in God’s sight (use Psalm 32 to equip you to bless others). Reflect on the riches that are in Christ Jesus, and that are yours in Him.

In the Old Covenant, the blessing of God was shown more outwardly in material blessings such as prosperity in land and possessions, fertility (or fruitfulness) in producing families and clans and tribes and peoples, security in dwelling safely and securely in God’s presence, and in victory over one’s enemies in battles. Prosperity, fertility, security, and victory were shadows, or types of the eternal blessings that would come and be fully realized in Jesus.

In the New Covenant, the blessings of God are revealed and realized in spiritual blessings in Christ (but they can also be in material blessings of course; both the Old and New Covenants warn against enjoying the riches and the blessings of God such as prosperity apart from a relationship with the living God, or trusting in one’s fertility, or security, etc; read the Proverbs and prophets for abundant examples of this! In both the Old and New Covenants one could enjoy all the blessings and riches, but be far from God within one’s own heart).

In Christ, we have all of the spiritual riches in the heavenly places we are taught in Ephesians 1:3-14. This means that all believers possess eternal prosperity, fertility, security and victory in Jesus Christ (this is one of the ways you can interpret the Letter to the Ephesians and gain much wisdom from your studies).  These spiritual blessings in the heavenly places can be enjoyed now by God’s people as they walk by faith. God’s blessings in Christ are a foretaste of the blessed eternal and heavenly life of the new creation that we enjoy now by the Spirit of Jesus.

In Christ, we are prosperous in that we will inherit the New Heavens and the New Earth; all that Christ has inherited, we will inherit as “joint-heirs” with Him (we are called beloved “children” and “joint heirs”, Rom. 8:17). In Christ, we can be fruitful through obedience to God, and from the Spirit’s work in our lives through sanctifying grace (John 15:1-11); we can be fruitful in building the church by making disciples of all nations through evangelism or adoption or support of missions and church plants, etc.

In Christ, we can be secure and safe in union with Him, knowing our lives are hidden with Christ in God, and He is our rest from all of our labors (Col. 3:1-4; Matthew 11:28-30; Hebrews 4). In Christ, we can know that all of our victories are because we are more than overcomers in Jesus, and that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

All of these truths of who we are in Christ Jesus should help us to realize how much we have been blessed. In fact, this is how the Apostle Paul tells the Ephesians to pray for one another (Notice how Paul desires them to know their hope, identity, inheritance and power- -all of these are Old Covenant blessed realities found in Jesus: prosperity, fertility/fruitfulness, security, and victory):

ESV Ephesians 1:15-23: For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Do you know how blessed you are in Jesus? Pray to know this better! Ask God to enlighten the eyes of your hearts so that you might know your hope in Jesus, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe! Ask God for a vision through a spirit of wisdom and revelation in your knowledge of Him to see by faith all that God has prepared for those who love Him!

“As it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”- these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.”- 1 Corinthians 2:9-10

 

May we pray as a congregation for ourselves, but particularly for one another that we would know our prosperity, potential fruitfulness, security and victory in Jesus! You might think to meditate prayerfully to God right now by saying to God in Jesus (in your own words, from you own heart): “I am thankful that you have blessed me in Christ that I am an heir with Christ of all your good creation, of every blessing, and every good thing you will do for Jesus, you will do for me!”

You might pray: “I realize that apart from Christ I can do nothing, but I am eternally grateful in Christ that I can produce fruit that will last; I can reach out to others in your courage and strength, making Christ known in my words and actions, and see many come to know the Lord Jesus.”

You could say to God: “I am grateful that I am secure in Jesus and a conqueror over all my spiritual enemies in the heavenly places- -I am invincible in Jesus; if you be for me, who can be against me?” (Romans 8:31; Eph. 6:10-20; Matt. 28:18-20).

Are you characterized as a worldly consumer or a Kingdom producer? Be careful that a worldly, self-focused, and self-centered mindset does not hinder you from realizing these great blessings that you have in Jesus (1 John 2:15-17; James 4:4)! Be careful that a worldly consumeristic mindset and culture that is set on taking and receiving does not hinder you spiritually from realizing these truths and the great blessings of God in blessing others!

You must remember that we live in a consumer-culture where almost everything that is advertised to us and is appealing to us is for instant gratification; we are often lured into living for self in our daily course. It is not hard for us to be distracted and to backslide in our hearts and minds toward self-service and consumers. Be warned!

As God’s beloved children, let us be wise and wary of being tempted to constantly buy and consume the “next best thing” or the “next version” or “upgrade” or “next download” etc. (We all have the same temptations; let’s help each other from falling into temptations and traps: 1 Cor. 10:12-13).

The worldly consumeristic mindset will focus you on yourself rather than upon others. This consumeristic mindset will indeed harm you spiritually and cause you to consume in a worldly manner that takes your focus off of heaven and of your blessed heavenly pursuits.  All that you have ever really wanted and desired can be fully found and satisfied in Christ- -He is all you need; God is your portion in Christ! One day we will live blessed forever, fully realizing for all eternity that God was all we ever needed, and we can learn this to a certain extent now by God’s grace and Spirit.

But be careful of seeking to satisfy your desires through consumerism like the world; it will make you worldly. Our Lord Jesus warned us of how we can all be so easily tempted to be devoted to purchase power and possessions and despise God. So he taught us to live to thrive by God’s grace in seeking first the Kingdom of God:

ESV Matthew 6:24, 33: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money….But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Do you despise God? If you are devoted to purchasing power and possessions you already despise God, and particularly God’s blessings to you in Christ. Why? Because you love your worldly “blessings” more than you love the blessings found in Jesus. If this is true of you, take a moment right now, to bow your head to Christ, repent and ask Him forgiveness. When we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive and restore us! (Amen!! 1 John 1:8-2:2).

As a congregation, let us for a moment think more deeply about how subtly, quietly and softly that we can be lured into being molded into the mindset of this present age as a consumer. There are at least two kinds of people in the world: worldly consumers and Kingdom producers (note: we all are both consumers and producers in this world, and to consume is not evil in itself, but we should think prayerfully what characterizes us).

Consumers are generally characterized as takers and receivers, while producers are givers, and seek to benefit others. Those characterized as consumers are not normally good producers. Consumers are often hindered from producing, especially producing for the Kingdom of God. Consumers very easily just keep buying and seeking to possess, not realizing that their life is passing them by and that they have been molded into the ways of the world.

Consuming can develop an attitude of immediate gratification and walking/possessing by sight (and cash!), while producing for God’s Kingdom can develop an attitude of delayed gratification and walking/possessing all things by faith (in Christ!). Those who are characterized by walking by sight and cash will not walk by faith and wait upon the LORD.

What is God’s answer to worldly consumerism? Giving. We need to be aware that giving is God’s answer to consumerism. Giving rather than receiving and consuming is God’s way of helping us to keep our heavenly focus on heaven more than the “next best thing”.  Learning to trust God with the riches we already have, and everything else we need to live well in this world, is found in giving. God teaches us to be producers more than consumers. Giving is God’s way of helping us to depend entirely on Him, to resist instant gratification, and to set our hopes on the delayed gratification of storing up treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy and thieves do not break in and steal (Matt. 6:24ff).

Consumerism at a deeper level also affects the way we worship, pray and serve. Be careful and aware of the deeper problems of consumerism. Not only will this world turn you into more of a consumer-taker than a producer-giver with the products the world advertises, but it will make you turn into more of a consumer-taker in God’s Church and Kingdom as well. Watch that you have not already been affected by this terrible threat to your good growth and production in Jesus’ church.

How do you know if you have bought into this worldly consumeristic mindset even within God’s Kingdom? One way to know is that you come to worship services thinking merely about how you might receive from God’s Word and others, but have not planned how you might serve and give of yourself. You have come to worship Christ but perhaps you are focused on yourself. You tend to only consume God’s Word, but you do not allow it to transform you into a willing servant and producer for God. In other words, you seek to be a consumer of God’s Word for mere knowledge, rather than knowledge through the Spirit that will transform you and make you productive in God’s Church. This can be an especially dangerous temptation of confessional Christians who love theology.

Another way is that you think that you think when you pray, that the prayers are for yourself only, and you approach God as if you know better than He what is good or best for you and what it is that you need. You might spend more time talking about what you need from God than about worshiping and praying to God and enjoying fellowship and His holy presence. You might seek Him for what you think you need rather than asking Him to search you and correct you and change you. You may have a list of things God needs to do for you today (not to be misunderstood, we should make our requests known to God, but let him also examine your heart and motives for asking, too!).

You might think that everyone else serves, but you don’t need to, or that you do enough. If you have been affected by the consumeristic culture you might not want to commit yourself to others, but you are willing to take from them (there are seasons where we need to be receivers of course, but this is to help us to think about what characterizes us most of the time; look at your heart).  The worldly consumer spends time thinking of self, and taking rather than receiving.

In your service, you might have forgotten that Jesus says that as our Master and Lord, he has set an example of service that all of God’s people should lovingly follow, so that all of us will be built up in our faith. Remember after Jesus washes the feet of His disciples (even of the one disciple who didn’t deserve it and would betray him?):

ESV John 13:13-17: You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

“If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” This is a very important truth to remember my beloved brethren.

If we are characterized by worldly consumerism in our lives and spending habits, then this will be what molds our minds, hearts, and actions in the church and local congregation as well. If we spend our lives seeking to consume and take, we will also spend our spiritual lives seeking to consume and take, rather than realizing the great blessings of God in Christ for those who produce and give, and seek to give more and more! Let us hear and heed the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 12:2:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

It is interesting that the spiritual blessings found in Christ alone that we can never lose such as prosperity, fruitfulness, security and victory are also counterfeited in our culture, and even drive much of our idolatry for consumption. We are tempted to seek prosperity, fruitfulness, security and victory often apart from Christ and in the things that we can do for ourselves, or what we can buy from others. We do not naturally trust God, and we don’t always believe that we have been blessed in Jesus! But we have! Let us be careful of the idolatry of our hearts! Do not let a day go by that you don’t ask God to examine and search you as David:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”- Psalm 139:23-24

Our first step in learning that it is more blessed to give than to receive is to ponder anew and realize all of the lavish love and blessings we have in Christ! Notice in Ephesians 1 that there is a storehouse of wonderful spiritual food to fix your focus on Jesus: We have been chosen; we have been adopted; we have been redeemed by Christ’s precious blood; we have been sealed unto the day of redemption; we have hope; we have an inheritance that no mind has even conceived, that is above and beyond anything we could imagine; we have power in Christ that we have yet to tap into.

In light of the blessings you have received in Jesus, go now in the Name of the Lord Jesus and ask God how you can be a blessing to others. Ask God to make you a brother or sister in Jesus characterized by producing for God’s Kingdom. Ask God by His powerful might and Spirit to transform your consumerism into being a productive son/daughter in God’s kingdom that gives of yourself, and seeks to worship God to give back to God, and to pray to God to enjoy God, and to serve God desiring to produce disciples and build His Church.

You will be greatly rewarded and blessed for all that you do in Jesus’ Name! God is so good to us that He wants us to produce great riches in heaven that we will enjoy with Christ for all eternity!

You have been blessed with a relationship with God in Jesus Christ! You have been blessed with perfect righteousness so that you can enjoy God’s favor, Jesus’ inheritance and eternal bliss for all eternity! You have been blessed with all of the riches in Christ Jesus- -riches that you will never ever be able to fully fathom.

All this has been lavished on you. Serve others. Seek to bless someone today, particularly those in the household of faith. Give of yourself. Give of your time. Give of your talents. Give of your money and possessions to bless.

“I will bless you…so that you will be a blessing.”- Genesis 12:2-3

Amen.

 

In Christ’s love,

 

Pastor Biggs

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